Last night’s concert at the Grog Shop was a showcase for solo projects.
Kent band the Climate opened, followed by Brooklyn favorites Brian Bonz and the Dot Hongs. Bonz, who resembles a baby-faced Jack Black, was joined by keyboardist and tambourine man E.J. DeCoske and a bass player named Jinda. Bonz explained the absence of the rest of his bandmates: “Half of them are on tour with the Get Up Kids, half of them have swine flu and half of them are here.”
After Bonz and the Dot Hongs played their brand of airy, acoustic pop, Straylight Run's John Nolan took the stage. Once he started “’Til It’s Done to Death,” it was clear Nolan’s solo music isn’t just a rehash of his band's music. Instead of the quirky, piano driven rock songs he writes for Straylight Run, Nolan’s solo songs are relaxed acoustic gems. Joined by his wife Camille, Nolan played songs from his new album, Height, including the gritty and melancholy “Screaming Into the Wind.”
But the majority of Nolan’s set was made up of cover songs, including Elliott Smith’s “Waltz Number Two" and Primitive Love Gods' “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand.” Nolan ended his set with a cover by Straylight Run, “Mistakes We Knew We Were Making.”
When the Starting Line went on hiatus last year and eventually broke up, most fans weren’t surprised. While the band’s early music helped it stand out among other emo boy bands, its last two albums left fans wanting more. After listening to former bassist and singer Kenny Vasoli’s new group Person L, you wish the Starting Line had called it quits sooner so Vasoli could get to the good stuff.
Vasoli is no longer the blond, eager musician who wrote songs about girls and his hometown. Judging from Person L’s set last night, Vasoli is now a fan of experimental tracks with an old-school vibe (plus cowbell!). The band opened with “Wooden Soldiers,” a song that sounds like what the Starting Line could have been.
Several of the songs, including “Holy Hell,” are throttling, moving and shaking rock songs. Person L slowed down for a couple of cuts, most notably “Untitled” from Initial, the group’s first album. It’s a simple acoustic pop song that stands out not only for its simplicity, but because it makes you think the Starting Line should have written songs like this. Fortunately, Vasoli decided to pick up where his former band left off and make it better. —Brittany Moseley