Not every show is going to be special. Not every artist knows how to connect. Lucky for me, Ne-Hi is not every artist.
Attending their show on Wednesday night was my first time at the Bug Jar. It’s dark and constantly pulsing with music, with two paper mache bugs rotating lazily on the fan above thebar. You get the feeling that you’re in a place that exists within itself rather than the city in which it’s in, which is exactly what a venue should feel like.
Ne-Hi is a band that made its name on the Chicago DIY scene, but the first time I saw them was at the legendary Bowery Ballroom in New York City’s Lower East Side. Although this time they were playing a much smaller city with a much smaller crowd, I still had a feeling that I would not be disappointed.
After two local Rochester bands, Doorway Talkers and CD-ROM, opened, the mood was definitely set. It was messy, and intimate (only 15 people!), and really forced you to be present. You can’t be on your phone when the band is right there, pouring their work into you, hoping that at the very least, you’ll bob your head or something.
Man, did I bob my head. When Ne-Hi came on, in this messy, intimate atmosphere, their status as a DIY band was made even more clear. Everything about them screams “basement;” they’re the sonic manifestation of what being a 20-something in the city sounds like. Co-vocalist and songwriter Mikey Wells literally shakes the ground when he jumps, while Jason Balla snarls into the mic, moving in a way that can only be likened to those floaty guys outside of car washes. It was amazing.
I don’t remember what song they opened with, but I remembered what I felt, which for many reasons, I think might be even more important.
There was an undeniable sense that I was watching artists, whatever that means.
People that take what’s inside of them and put it in you just by the way they perform. I don’t think many musicians have the ability to do that, and in the Bug Jar, this small, musical separation from the outside world, the impact of that rare ability is made that more amplified.
It also sounded really good. Ne-Hi was in Rochester on tour for their second album, “Offers,” a bopping, post-punk amalgam. Songs like “Prove” and “Stay Young” hit like pop rocks in your mouth. Bouncing, satisfying, maybe a little painful, but in the right ways.
Regardless, I left that night feeling like I entered someone else’s bubble, if only for a moment. The Bug Jar in Rochester, Ne-Hi from Chicago, me from Long Island. We all came together, in a dark, beer-stained room with 15 other people, and had an experience.
It’s a good feeling.