The Friday night edition of the 2016 Rock And Roll Rumble, officially marked as Night 5 of the six-night preliminary round, played out a lot like the American Football Conference’s East division. You have the New England Patriots, played by Worshipper, seasoned veterans who know how to win and aren’t fazed by being expected to win. And you have three other teams rounding out the division — or in this case, the night — who are good enough to beat squads in other divisions but just can’t match up to the Pats’ juggernaut. Assuming the roles of the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and New York Jets Friday night at Somerville’s Once Ballroom were Junior Classics, the Longwalls, and Choke Up — a trio of bands who delivered sold performances and made us want to dig deeper into their catalog, but were ultimately taken out by the metal titans with a W on their helmets.
And for the fourth time in five nights, the band playing the third slot won Rumble glory. Though on Friday, we assume Worshipper would have scored a victory even if they merely played during soundcheck. The band, which has eight Rumble appearances among them — including four from bassist Bob Maloney and a pair each from singer/guitarist John Brookhouse and drummer Dave Jarvis (guitarist Alex Necochea joined Township a few years after they won the 2007 Rumble) — shook Once to its core, performing between a hypnotic swirl of psychedelic lights and a packed, fist-pumping crowd.
Worshipper now move on to next week’s semi-final, where they face off on Friday, April 15 against Night 4 winner Abbie Barrett and the victorious band come Saturday.
We’re hard-pressed to recall the last Rumble band to feature a cello and some brass, but Junior Classics weaved components into a swirl of indie-pop and alt-rock, falling somewhere between the Arcade Fire and The Color and Sound. We want to watch these guys (and gal) play at a house party sometime in the summer, where you can still hear them playing in the living room while you’re out on the front porch smoking a doob.
We mentioned this in the preview, but for some reason we always thought Choke Up was a crustier punk band, which makes no sense since we’re sure Luke O’Neil told us he likes them a while back. O’Neil loves his emo, and so do these cats, who mix plenty of off-mic vocal harmonies and screaming with whatever it was that Taking Back Sunday did so well. But wait! Just when their sound is settling in and you’re getting comfortable in your Brand New shirt, Choke Up find a new gear and punch out some ripping guitar punk. On Friday, they were also the loudest band of the night, in particular the bassist. Choke Up reared back and let it fly for a half-hour, and maybe we should get them on that Junior Classics house party bill and have them play the basement.
Before the night began I asked Worshipper what they thought of being favorites in this ’16 Rumble (and not just tonight), but they shrugged it off. Then at 11 p.m. sharp, they proceeded to rip everyone’s faces off. We heard there was even a Pink Floyd cover thrown in, but we missed it so who the fuck knows. Worshipper offered up maximum shredding, and their rendition of blistering standout “Black Corridor” nearly brought Once to rubble. Abbie Barrett and whoever wins Saturday night have their work cut out for them in next week’s semis (though as we mentioned yesterday, Barrett isn’t messing around, either; get stoked for a grudge match between two very different styles).
Tough draw for the Longwells, who were tasked with following up Worshipper. We all even joked about it in the Once green room interview beforehand, but the tough slot proved to be too much to overcome. Those that stuck it out, however, were treated to a slick brand of Americana-tinged power-pop that touched on The Ocean Blue, Guided By Voices, and even traces of Red House Painters. Bands that sing about zombies and New Jersey arcades in the ’80s deserve a better fate, but we’re sure we’re not the only ones who saw the Longwalls live for the first time and were nodding our heads to their catchy guitar-pop. So all was not lost.