Live Review + Video: Opening night at the Rock And Roll Rumble delivers four sharp performances

When the nightly lineups for this year’s Rock And Roll Rumble were unveiled a few weeks ago, we immediately tagged Night 1 the “Group of Death.” Borrowing a phrase from soccer culture when a handful of great national teams are matched together in one division or alignment, it basically means that competition will be fierce and someone of quality will end up losing or fail to advance.

That shit held true last night at T.T. The Bear’s Place in Cambridge for the Rumble’s opening tilt.

When it was all said and done, all four bands — Mister Vertigo, the Rare Occasions, Band Without Hands, and Nemes — brought their A-game and could have easily been announced as the night’s winners without anyone raising an eyebrow or blazing out a few angry tweets at the judges. Ultimately, it was Nemes who took home the deciders’ approval, advancing to next week’s semi-finals. But as Jed Gottlieb of the Boston Herald noted this morning, don’t be surprised if the wild card from Nights 1 to 3 (based on the highest-scoring band that did not win their respective night) comes from one of the other three bands at Sunday’s opener. And just as the winner was still unknown come midnight last night, it literally could be any of the three.

Jonas Em of EmVision Productions did the night’s dirty work and caught video of each band, so you can relive the magic or see what you missed down below.

The Rumble continues tonight at TTs with Drab, Raw Blow, Duck & Cover, and Eternals.

[intro-text size=”25px”]Mister Vertigo[/intro-text]

Our first time seeing Mister Vertigo was a pleasure. Though they didn’t bust out their cover of Morrissey’s “Everyday Is Like Sunday (the right decision, even though it was Sunday), they did find a groove a few songs into their set and ended their theatrical, almost dirge-like hard rock effort with sharp precision and unbridled “thank you for having us” energy. Mister Vertigo are the quintessential “I might not have ever seen these guys play live but thanks to the Rumble I did and I’m glad it happened” band. And right off the bat they made everyone step up their game.

[intro-text size=”25px”]The Rare Occasions[/intro-text]

A guitar-rock band utilizing everything from EDM-style drops to a ukelele, the Rare Occasions showed off a diverse, high-intensity set that became more intricate with each layer of sound pulled back. They’re the kind of band that creates music that both slaps you and kisses you, sometimes within seconds of one another, with equal seduction and genuine ease. No surprise this band took Disclosure’s “Latch” to new heights, but a bit of a surprise they are not advancing (…yet).

[intro-text size=”25px”]Band Without Hands[/intro-text]

After the Rare Occasions were done flashing us bedroom eyes, Band Without Hand’s loud-noise orgy took us to a climax without any necessary foreplay. Their raw, blistering set was aided by megaphones, toy guns and matching white suits, but it was electric front woman Jess Jacobs who kept eyes front and center. They also provided the night’s highlight, a cover of the Atlantics’ “Lonelyhearts”, which is this writer’s most favorite song to ever come out of Boston. So, bonus points for that. It’s fine to play a cover at the Rumble, but only when it’s the most perfect choice.

[intro-text size=”25px”]Nemes[/intro-text]

Nemes had their work cut out for them following three solid sets from three solid bands, and the quartet delivered a polished alt-folk set with a buskers tenacity. We’re not even really sure how to characterize Nemes with silly genres tags; at some points their sound is straight-up pop, hopped aboard the hobo train through the land of Americana and dirty-dog rock and roll. But in the end, that train kept on rolling all the way to next week’s semi-finals. It’s pronounced “Nee-miss,” and it was a “no miss” performance.