Live performances can be hit or miss. A multitude of factors can ruin a concert, and many times the experience doesn’t live up to expectations.
That was not the case at the Pearl Street Ballroom on Friday night. Co-headliners Reptar and Rubblebucket came to town ready to put on a show, and opening act Stepdad kicked the night off with a short but nonetheless sweet performance while the crowd began streaming in.
Although the band only played for about 30 minutes, Stepdad set the tone for the rest of the night. The group’s electronic/pop music got the crowd dancing, and once that happened there was no looking back. The band announced that Reptar would be taking the stage following its final song, and “Will I Ever Dance Again” ended Stepdad’s performance on a high note.
Northampton locals The Primate Fiasco provided the entertainment between performers. The band utilizes brass instruments like the sousaphone and saxophone while also employing drums and a banjo, and its New Orleans-influenced variations of well-known songs kept the energy level high.
After The Primate Fiasco’s 15-minute performance, it was time for Reptar to take the stage, and when the band did, the members asked that all the lights in the ballroom be shut off. The first couple of songs were played in almost complete darkness, with the only luminescence in the room coming from a string of Christmas lights and two lamps that flashed in synchronization with the music.
The Athens, Ga.-based band played many hits from both its 2011 “Oblangle Fizz, Y’all” EP and 2012 full-length debut “Body Faucet,” and the guys lived up to their reputation as an impressive live act. Lead singer Graham Ulicny seems to radiate charisma while he’s performing, and his stage presence entranced the crowd throughout the entirety of the set.
Older songs like “Sebastian,” “Isoprene Bath” and “Rainbounce” had fans of all ages dancing and singing along, but one of the highlights of the night came when the members of Reptar announced that they were going to play a new song called “In Through The Eyelids, Out Through The Mouth.” Ulicny took a break from his singing duties midway through to play sci-fi sound effects on an MPC, and the easygoing spirit in that moment perfectly encapsulated the congenial atmosphere of Reptar’s entire set.
Rubblebucket’s Kalmia Traver and Adam Dotson joined Reptar for the final two songs, and the fantastic set was concluded with a memorable and energetic performance of “Body Faucet” standout “Sweet Sipping Soda.”
When it came time for Rubblebucket to play, the room was once again in complete darkness. The band members took the stage wearing large LED lights around their necks and picked up right where Reptar left off. The band’s brass instruments sounded fantastic in the packed ballroom, and the crowd began dancing to the indie band’s music almost instantaneously.
One of the first songs the band played was “Ooh Wah” from its recently released “Oversaturated” EP. It quickly became apparent that Reptar’s Ulicny wasn’t the only person whose stage presence has the ability to mesmerize a room full of music fans, and before long the entire crowd was singing along with Rubblebucket’s Traver.
Like Reptar, Rubblebucket played songs from a variety of its projects. “(Focus) Oversaturated,” which is the title track off its newest EP, was one of the biggest hits of the entire night. The band played also played “Pain from Love,” an infectious pop song off its most recent release that defies its gloomy title.
The highlight of the night came right around the end of Rubblebucket’s set. Traver invited the members of Reptar, Stepdad and The Primate Fiasco to join her on stage, and at this point it was obvious what was coming next. As the band began to play its biggest hit, “Came out of a Lady,” everyone in the building started to dance.
The show had been going on for more than three hours at this point, and if members of the crowd were tired, they showed no signs of it once the song began; the energy coming from the stage seemed to revitalize everyone in attendance.
If there was one thing that the crowd came away with on Friday night, it was that all of these bands played their hearts out on the Pearl Street stage. They weren’t doing it for a paycheck or out of obligation. They were simply doing what they love. The performers transcended their roles as relatively new indie upstarts and provided the Northampton crowd with an unforgettable night of music.
Aidan Cusack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org