By Mack Caldwell SPECIAL TO THE CHRONICLE
Cramped in a small, dark room with glow paint, black lights and fog. It was intimate, it was natural and it was an experience rather than a show.
Santos Party House is known to be a wild venue, with a bar and nightclub, located on the edge of Chinatown in downtown New York. Opened by the infamous singer-songwriter, Andrew W.K. in 2008, it has quickly earned a reputation for being one of the new hot spots for nightlife and music in the city.
This is what I thought about on my train ride there. I imagined this reckless, beat down shack of a stage where the early Ramones might have played, something DIY, reminiscent of the early days of punk in New York. But this venue was far from the cool, rugged depiction I had in my head.
I arrived upon a bleak, blacked-out wall of windows that reflected the neon signs of the Chinese restaurants across the street. At the door I was met with a bouncer who was trying his very best to look intimidating to the pre-teens and moms waiting outside. I’d say it’s exterior is more comparative to a run down gentleman’s club than a hip new venue.
However, when I stepped through the door I was led downstairs to a uniquely styled candle-lit bar and open, foggy floor with a small, low-to-the-ground stage. This setup would allow for interaction between the band and the audience, an ideal environment for a small band. But the headliner tonight was not a small band. They were Rivers Monroe, a colorful and energetic pop punk band from Phildelphia. This is a band that has recently been gaining a tremendous amount of traction by opening for world-renowned groups, such as, Twenty One Pilots, Fun, Paramore and Phoenix, just to name a few.
I got to the show early, standing feverishly in a relatively small crowded room composed of the bands themselves, friends and family of the bands and well, me. In most situations the wait before a show so small could be awkward, but it felt warm and inviting due to the friendly atmosphere given off both by the staff and the crowd. I was excited, eager and nervous to see the headliner but also cautiously optimistic about the performance of the openers.
The stage lit up as a skinny guitarist from the opening band, Six Stories Told, began to do a mic check. Six Stories Told had a catchy alternative/pop sound fit for the Disney Channel or the radio. Where they lacked in actual musicianship they made up with stage presence. These guys were able to interact with the audience. Their female lead would walk off stage with ease into the crowd to sing to different audience members, something rarely seen at small shows and without a doubt something that would make them unique.
After a few catchy pop songs, the headliner began to set up. A cloud of fog from an overhanging fog machine filled the room, blanketing the crowd in a neon glowing mist. This was all to set the stage for a band as colorful and vibrant as the lights they used. A pound of the bass drum and rip of the guitar set an energetic and wild ride into motion that would be a Rivers Monroe concert.
It was something that I had never seen, a huge band on a small stage. The charismatic, glow-paint-drenched lead singer belted his heart into the microphone as he bounced around stage entertaining and integrating the audience into their performance. With their catchy lyrics and riffs, it became clear that Rivers Monroe has the potential to make it big. Their show was intimate but exciting, they made do with what they had and owned every second of their performance.
The show was a great ride, nothing was perfect, but that’s not what music is supposed to be. The show was real, it was raw, the crowd was there for one simple reason, to have a good time, and that’s what happened.