Horse Jumper of Love came to Rochester for the first time this past Thursday, and their show at Small World Books didn’t disappoint. If Small World Books isn’t Rochester’s best music venue, it’s certainly its most literary. As shows proceed in the spacious basement, the cozy shop upstairs — overflowing with secondhand titles — remains open for business. (This was the set of circumstances that led to me finding and purchasing the greatest book of all time, “Rocky I & II: The Photo Comic,” which consists entirely of screenshots from both movies with the dialogue typed into speech bubbles.)
But for all the bibliographic excitement upstairs, the real show was, of course, downstairs. Bike lock shenanigans made me miss all but the very end of a set by newly-formed Jem (a quasi-supergroup of members from Rut and Full Body), but the fuzzy indie rock I heard sounded incredibly promising — a rock-solid rhythm section and sour-edged vocals.
Then came local rapper Ewtonio. With spooky production that made prominent use of rain sounds (which may also have just been electronic hum, Small World’s sound system being more than a little barebones), Ewtonio rapped dexterously and evocatively, at one point spinning off into a freestyle about GPAs that brought cheers from the crowd. It was a surprising choice, genre-wise, to drop Ewtonio into the middle of an otherwise by-the-book indie rock show, but a rewarding one. As with Jem, I look forward to future shows.
As is often the practice at these shows, the touring headliner, Horse Jumper, played the penultimate set instead of the final one to ensure that all us locals stuck around. A self- described “slow rock” band, HJOL drew more or less evenly from June’s “So Divine” and their self-titled 2016 debut. They swayed back and forth between bass-heavy noise and shimmering, echo-heavy clean tones, the sonic equivalent of hammering away at a mountainside to reveal a bed of diamonds below. The on-stage patter was witty (lead singer Dimitri, after encouraging the crowd to buy books after the set, revealed that the band was currently reading “a book about Batman… not a comic”) and the audience was as enthused as one can be at a rock show where the tempo never rises above 90 BPM.
Local favorite Carpool rounded at the evening with a 180 degree turn in energy (though only about a 45 degree turn in sound.) A proudly local, defiantly silly emo-shoegaze band, Carpool took a few broken strings in stride, often joking about band members breaking edge to smoke weed and parking lot-based salesmen hawking porn and drugs to passerby. One new song, thus far untitled, boasted a crazy double-time, twin guitar riff, while another used the reverse reverb setting on a Electro-Harmonix Cathedral pedal to excellent effect — it was the ideal basement show sound, equal parts virtuosic and amateur. I can say the same thing about Carpool that I can say about the other three bands — I look forward to more shows.