“Kevin, no mosh pits tonight,” a woman in front of me told her husband, Kevin.
We were standing in the Bug Jar on Friday night for a triple bill concert. Kevin stretched and roared for the band that was about to take the stage.
“Yeah!” he screamed. “I love these guys!”
My friend Mekayla and I like to go to concerts and talk to people. If you’ve never been to the Bug Jar, imagine a mix of middle-aged indie men drinking beer and college kids with x’s on the backs of their hands. Girls in the bathroom asked me where I got my pants while men on the floor told me to “watch out” because they might knock me over while they “danced too hard.” Behind the bar, the giant bugs suspended from the ceiling fan chased each other.
Kevin was there to see the Dirty Pennies, the first band that played.
“Go Pennies!” he shouted, starting to thrash. The lead singer sat on stage with a broken leg, LED string lights wound around his cast.
“Ready, peg-leg Pete?” the bass player asked.
I like the Dirty Pennies. Mekayla and I had gone to their Bug Jar show in September, and we recognized some of the same people that were there on Friday, like Kevin. Their music is easygoing, and bluesy-indie tunes like “The Drinking Song” made me want to sway around and high-five the people next to me.
The band members didn’t move much when they were playing, but everybody else did. They drank Genesee between songs and, at the bar, the lead singer told us he had broken his foot on a meditative hike. “I’m a real trail guy,” he said.
The next Rochester band, the Stedwells, had a little bit more snap and pop to their garage rockness. It seemed like everyone knew those three very tiny, skinny boys wearing polo shirts. They called out their names and sang happy birthday to the lead singer, who I learned was named Ryan after everyone screamed, “Yay Ryan!” The man in front of us threw his arms around his friends and kept reaching for Ryan to take his hand. Ryan seemed bashful but happy, and so did the rest of his band.
But Mekayla didn’t take me to the Bug Jar to see these two acts. We were there to see the Demos, the last group that climbed onstage. Everyone else was there to see them, too, and by the time they took their place around midnight, we were shoulder to shoulder with everyone else in the room. I felt like Mekayla and I had been thrust into a weird music video. There was a girl that stood in the corner wearing baby sunglasses and a bomber jacket. A woman behind me in blond braids kept patting me on the back. A man next to me with an extra-bright phone screen was texting his wife that he couldn’t come home because, even though Dave had left, he had to stay to see the Demos.
The bassist, in dreadlocks, wore glittering eye makeup and cheered through every song. The drummer, in leggings and a tank top, kept discreetly flashing us his nipples. The guitarist and keyboard player wore a tiny hat, and the lead singer, in a leather jacket and shaggy black hair, kept his mouth pressed up against the microphone. I liked their live performance way better than their music on Spotify, I later discovered after Mekayla and I listened to them on the car ride home. They were so lively, stood so close together, that I was totally drawn in by their performance.
So was everyone else. Some of their songs, like “Lonesome No More,” sounded like something I might have heard in middle school, except the lyrics were punchier when they were sung right in front of my face. Their usually heavily edited tunes were stripped down to the instruments that fit on stage, which I liked so much better than anything of theirs on the Internet. They looked at each other before every opening note to make sure they were in sync, and everyone went wild when they covered The Strokes’ song “Hard to Explain.” They played old, atmospheric recordings of voiceovers between their songs, which made for a more seamless show than any I’ve seen at the Bug Jar. They sounded like the tinier brother of “Joywave,” Rochester’s indie claim to fame. Kevin did not listen to his wife. We moshed.
The lead singer told us his wife is having a baby. Later, at the bar, Mekayla and I asked what he was going to name it. “Jet Milton Morrison,” he said, “which is not too weird but just weird enough.”
“That’s like their band,” Mekayla said later. “Just weird enough.”