LIVE REVIEW: Badflower, Des Rocs, Tigercub in Portland, ME (06.03.23)
I don’t know shit about shit, except that Saturday nights are perfect for rock shows. Especially a three band bill like the Asking For A Friend Tour that the audience seemed to be all too familiar with, probably in part to the rotations of sponsoring local radio station 106.3 The Bone (an early supporter of Badflower in 2019).
British three piece Tigercub opened up the night with a sound that can be described as influenced by Royal Blood and Queens of the Stone Age; slightly generic but nostalgic and interesting enough to warm up the crowd. And they sure packed in plenty of gritty guitar to hold the crowd’s attention because, “That’s what we’re here to do.” With their third album The Perfume of Decay coming out the day before, they’ve become a tight group in their 10 years, who bring the right amount of noise and groove, and wit and charm, to their stage presence in their succinct half hour.
Direct opener, Des Rocs brought all of the energy and turned it up to 11. Strutting out to Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” spliced with treacherous riffs and looking the part of a 50s Greaser in tight black and red leather, Daniel Rocco canvassed the entire stage with exuberance and attitude.
Starting with “HVY MTL DRMR,” he came out blazing, with things only escalating from there. The heavy licks and trills and tricks of “Wayne” built the momentum while mixing revved up guitar with sultry vocals, his band matching the high octane pace. “MMC” brought the fun, sing-songy, Vaudevillian pomp with a metaphor of childlike innocence and adult plasticity, not taking himself too seriously in raw authenticity. The crowd almost seemed as excited to see them as they were for the headliner, singing along and seeming to know the material.
“Tonight we are your humble rock and roll saints,” he cooed before the bombastic “This Is Our Life” followed by moody, sexy, and bluesy “Used to the Darkness.”
Being from New York, he stated how Portland being in the northeast is almost like being home, and that the seagulls could be the soundtrack. (You get used to it..) Extending the familiarity, he gave the audience the choice between two songs he’s been alternating on the tour, “Maybe, I” and “Manic Memories.” They picked the former and delighted in the swooning falsetto and surging, stompy guitar.
Before breaking into newest single with Sumerian Records “Never Ending Moment,” he called attention to a young fan named Lily on the barrier, “Dressed item for item like” drummer Will Tully, and gave her a drum head. The new track isn’t just in your face guitar, it’s full of layers and dynamics, demonstrating growth in his new chapter.
Bringing on friends Tigercub and Joey Morrow from Badflower, they joined in the classic Beatles hit “With A Little Help From My Friends.” One might think he could be cocky, but he shows such camaraderie with his fellow musicians, and he can actually play, and play with a Flying V behind his back at that. He genuinely looks like he’s having fun up there.
Last track and the one that put him on the map, “Let Me Live/Let Me Die” got everyone amped as he ran around stage and spun around while playing, before ending like the dramatic showman he is “dying from rock and roll” and being dragged off stage.
It was a filthy 50 minutes of guitar that left the crowd wanting more, but also ready for what was to come. He proved why he’s opened for stadium acts like Muse and The Rolling Stones, and will probably continue to do so, while also garnering his own headline gigs.
Darkening the lights for the emo boy band resurgence, Badflower came out through the haze, pleading, “Don’t Hate Me” to fans who were hooked from the start. Having done this tour cycle a couple months ago, this was round two for a lot of traveling diehards who were prepared to live every song. “Johnny Wants to Fight” with the simple hook and quick, catching chorus had everyone chanting along saying, “Hallelujah.”
“Glad to be here in the Maine Portland,” lead singer Josh Katz quipped, “Tell me that joke doesn’t get made every night here. Ok, off to a good fucking start.” A little highlight of the awkward dad joke small talk that the band uses to connect on the road; quirky, but confident and funny.
Slick tongued “Fuckboi” is a sharp punch calling out toxic men in Hollywood over a steady raging riff that flowed into “White Noise,” the raw honesty ricocheting around his head projected in sound.
Emotional and chilling “Heroin” was a truly captivating moment of Katz laying his soul bare under bright lights with almost a stillness in the air. A certain vulnerable gentleness in his voice combined with a ballad of piercing instrumentals, carefully building and falling with swirls of loudness and noise then fading into the softest of lyrics, mimicking the highs and lows of addiction. “The Jester” kept the theme of soothing the anxiety with urges and pleas, tantalizing jingling and dancing.
The song that put them on the map, “Ghost” is probably one of the most heart on your sleeve songs to come out in the past several years, being entirely candidly honest with intrusive thoughts and creating a bond through music that is a genuine sense of community. Continuing the show of despair, the beautifully solemn”24″ started slow and calculated before building up piece by piece and tapering off with more of Katz’s gentle tone.
Being left solitary in the spotlight, he started “Move Me” alone and acoustic before one by one, the band came back into the light. The intricate cracks in his voice were highlighted in the chorus of “Drop Dead,” a very mid 2000s rock feeling track with snappy verses and clever comebacks.
The chaotic “x ANA x” was a fast paced rampage of galloping guitars and Katz’s manic monologue testifying to his showmanship and the carnival inside his head, “ready or ready or ready or not.”
Slowing things back down for the cinematic “Promise Me,” they relaxed the mood for a heartfelt love song. Then picked it right back up and took it off the track for the frenzy that is “Stalker.” Katz jumped off the stage to hand the mic to someone to hold while he sang into it, before running through the crowd and disappearing to leave bassist Alex Espiritu and drummer Anthony Sonetti to jam. Leaving Sonetti to go hard on a drum solo, the crowd ate every second of it. Then one by one, the other members joined back in, leaving the question of, “Where’s Katz?” who had made his way around to the balcony to sit on the railing, wailing on guitar and singing into the mic held by a fan to finish the song.
While waiting for him to come back on stage, guitarist Joey Morrow asked the audience if they knew any good dad jokes, and recited a few back, because who doesn’t love puns?
Ending the main set on more sensitive notes, “Machine Gun” and “Family” left a different kind of sadness, a more collective than personal experience to his writing.
Coming back after a short time off to, “Go pee and even wash our hands,” they launched into “Girlfriend” where Katz and Sonetti switched instruments to finish the song. Rounding out the night was “30,” the culmination of their anxiety and jokes and coping mechanisms in one song. Sharp juvenile humor, quick lyricism, and catchy hooks make it the banger to end a set on a not so serious high.
For other chances to see them, Badflower will be opening for Incubus at Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford on Aug. 9 and Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT on Aug. 13.