>>The Bug Jar hosts a late-night multi-genre smash featuring hip-hop, punk, and post-hardcore acts.
Despite a severe ice and snowstorm that started late Thursday evening and carried into Friday morning/afternoon which resulted in multiple school district closings and unsafe road conditions; Western New Yorkers showed out for a late-night at the Bug Jar for the launch of Billy Lyon’s artwork and a multi-genre show. Billy Lyon’s art features colorful graphics depicting the harsh realities of growing up in the inner city of Rochester, NY and will be featured (and on sale) for the rest of February in their lobby.
The show began with hip-hop artist and producer, KZA K’Lee. KZA K’Lee played a short, but sweet set on the floor with the audience donning a large jacket, backpack, and a black hat that covered a good fraction of his eyes. KZA K’Lee makes it clear it isn’t about an image; it’s about dropping impressive and thoughtful verses. His ability to play without a backing vocal track and still layering vocals and switching to different flows is a feat that is flat-out hard to come by in live hip-hop performances today. Tracks such as “Deaded” couldn’t help but to have the crowd nodding along and making the universal stank face of agreement a rapper is going off. He brings about a sound that is reminiscent of early 90’s New York hip-hop acts such as Nas, yet also brings to mind contemporary NY hip-hop revivalists such as those on Pro Era Records or Buffalo, NY behemoths Griselda. A lot of hip-hop criticism and negativity today stems from the condescending views on “mumble rap”, but local and sincerely talented artists like KZA K’Lee are here to show the importance of verse and live performance are going nowhere.
The second act to take the stage was punk-rock act Kodachrome. A four-piece with fun and fast-paced riffs and hard-hitting drums the band changed up the vibe, but still got lots of cheers from the crowd after every song. Kodachrome hosted an impressive set whose music reminded me of the viciousness of Circle Jerks paired with the playfulness and fun of The Ramones or Misfits. Switching the vocals between the guitar player and bass player between their set, each vocal performance had a different, but fun vibe which was able to capture and maintain the attention of the audience. I don’t believe they have social media or anywhere to listen to their music so if you see them on a flyer to a show you are going to, you may not be able to listen to them before, but be prepared for a fun punk rock treat.
The third act to take over the floor and embroil in it absolutely energy defying chaos was hip-hop artist and producer, Donny Murakami. Murakami opened his set with his new song “Mad Man” whose beat reminded me of the absolutely thumping and uber-aggressive “Black Skinhead” by Kanye West. The second Murakami started the floor erupted; with the audience moshing, jumping, headbanging, and dancing around along with him in unison. A crowd member also joined in between verses yelling ad-libs which was equal parts funny and honestly fucking awesome. It truly felt like a collaborative experience between audience and performer, which is often not the case at shows today. Murakami fired through tracks such as “Bloody Murda” which find him launching aggro verbal assaults against naysayers while songs like “Secret Super Space Kush” offer chiller vibes about escapism. One of the most impressive parts of Murakami’s music was his production which seemingly borrows from multiple genres without sounding clumsy and demands attention. Murakami also has no problems offering or delivering lyrics and shows a solid pen game. Donny Murakami definitely had an enthralling performance and is someone you should be on the lookout for in the future.
The next band to take the stage was Rochester alternative rockers, Pomelo. Pomelo offered a set of their experimental post-hardcore vibes from their self-titled EP I speak about at length here while also debuting new material which built upon and expanded the sounds they set forth on their EP. It was my first-time seeing Pomelo live and after listening to their music on multiple occasions I was thoroughly impressed by their live performance. They carry themselves with a professionalism and maturity that leaves no questions about their musical abilities. The build-up and flows of their songs had the audience nodding along throughout. Definitely be on the lookout for more shows and music from Pomelo soon as they are just getting started.
Closing out the night was post-hardcore Rochester champions Druse. Their performance had a special vibe to it as it was the bands 100th show (congrats guys!) and their first of the new year, after taking a brief break from playing shows after releasing and supporting 2018’s Honey from the Rock. Druse is unquestionably one of the best bands to emerge from the heavy music scene in Rochester in the 2010’s. Their pairing of extremely intricate guitar playing and effects by Joe Clark, absolutely monstrous drumming from Joel, poetic and thoughtful lyrics from Alex Jones, and solid bass chops from Ryan Maher offered a sound not attempted in Rochester before. It built upon the intensive post-hardcore sounds imagined by United Nations, Touche Amore, and La Dipsute while also creating something entirely fresh. Although, they didn’t hit the stage to almost 1AM it didn’t stop the audience to screaming along and moshing to old jams such as “They Have Me on Camera” and “Presents at Home”. The band touched upon more recently released tracks and even debuted some unreleased material which I can’t wait to hear recorded. Definitely be on the lookout for more from Druse in 2020!
Mutli-genre shows in even the slightest amount are something than a lot of people are afraid of dabbling in and for solid reason; just look no further than Tyler, The Creator’s Camp Flog Gnaw Festival last year which found his fans booing possibly the biggest artist in the world, Drake, off the stage, even though he was headlining. I have to give a lot of credit to the audience for having an open mind and to Billy Lyon’s to curating a lineup that had me excited for the rest of the weekend. As music lovers, nothing can ever go wrong with a bit of unity! Cheers!