Artistic liberties were taken with both the above photos, due to their blurriness.
Top photo: Nick Rattigan of Current Joys. Bottom photo: Jacob Rubeck of Gap Girls.

Sunday, February 24

By: Nick Marinelli

The crowd is made up of late teens, early 20’s indie kids. Circular lights adorn the sidewalls of the venue. A venue which is tucked away, behind the bar / restaurant area of the building.

In opposition to the previous Current Joys concert I attended at the Pike Room in Pontiac; the urban Grand Rapids’ venue – The Pyramid Scheme – is more populated from the moment my concert going partner and I arrive. Perhaps our fellow concert goers were attracted by the idea of seeing Current Joys perform with a full band.

The Pyramid Scheme is laid out in a chrome arcade, eighties style decor with blocky yellow arrows on the floor pointing toward and away from the stage. There is an artful playfulness to the place. This playfulness doesn’t last long as a grey-beanie capped boy, of whom had imbibed far too generously in a particular substance, is escorted out of the venue within minutes of my friend and I nestling against a side-railing, right of the stage.

    First opener, Perren, arrives on stage.

    “Hi, we’re Perren,” speaks the lead singer, Jonah, nervously angling his guitar.

    “Oh.. great.”

    Perren are tightly wired, yet lack charisma. A three piece: guitar, bass, drums setup. They hit all their notes perfectly, especially the ‘rest notes’. They deliver songs with no standout moments. Alternating between leaning against and sitting under the side railing… I was bored.

    LATER, IN THE CAR: “You can’t hate on Perren that much man. They are just starting out. Of course they are going to have an amateur stage presence.”

“Yeah, I know I’m being unfair,” I reply irreverently.

    Perren depart to a generous applause. I may be hating on them in this review, but I do genuinely admire the precision in which they played together. An extremely tight rhythm section.

    My fellow concert-goer and I decide to leave the side-railing and head towards the center of the floor, ten feet out from the stage. Jacob Rubeck (who alone comprises Gap Girls, and represents one half of acclaimed underground indie punk group, Surf Curse) arrives on stage shortly after to do further soundchecking. I lean over to my friend,

“I know something about Gap Girls that you don’t. Having to do with how he performs.”

“Oh really,” he responds, with a slight smirk.

“You’ll see,” I laugh dopely, fidgeting around.

    The soundcheck ends and Rubeck finally formerly introduces himself and thanks everyone for coming out. He has a sweet voice. Mothers everywhere must love him.

“I got some songs to play for you.” Rubeck taps his laptop, and the instrumental for “Good Enough” begins.

“This song is about- BSHHHSSSBHZZSSHHH”

The heavy reverb on his voice drowns out his last few words. Rubeck starts singing. I turn to my friend, seeing his rigid face, and the realization in his eyes that this set is going to be essentially Gap Girls doing karaoke to his own songs. Barely holding back laughter, I tell my friend,

“This is it, this is the thing I was telling you about!” I say with stupid energy.

“Yeah. Right. Right…” he exhales.

LATER, IN THE CAR: “This is the most disembodied music scene I’ve ever come across” – friend, as he looks forward, driving.

*idiotic laughter in the passenger seat from me*

Gap Girls, saddled with solid songs, gives a bemusing performance. Jacob Rubeck drifts around the stage, manically at times, and with hardly any rhythm. It’s odd, it’s endearing. Rubeck doesn’t appear to take himself too seriously. He’s clearly figuring out a new way forward within his personal musicality, testing out his songs.

Much can be said about his performance style, but one aspect that can’t be doubted is its memorability. Rubeck swoons about, singing, yelping, on his knees at times, looking heavenwards when he is not singing.

“What is he looking at!” my friend turns and yells over the noise to me.

“I don’t know!” I reply.

“Alone Tonight,” the lead track off Gap Girls debut (and recently released) album Street Desires evokes a reaction from the crowd, as Rubeck casts aside his light blue denim jacket.

“What do you think so far?”

“It’s not bad.. but I’d rather not see it,” my friend answers.

“I’m quoting you on that,” I laugh.

A fan screams from behind us, “WE LOVE YOU JACOB!”

LATER, IN THE CAR: “I drove two and a half hours to watch…. Jacob.”

“Yes, yes you did. But if I told you he was going to be doing karaoke to his own songs, would you have come?” I reply.

“Probably not.”

“Aw.”

    Gap Girls ends his set and while my friend and I trade one dumb joke after another, Nick Rattigan, the sole mind behind Current Joys arrives onstage with his accompanying band and they begin soundchecking. We are informed halfway through the gig that the band had been running late to the venue, thus hindering their ability to soundcheck. The group had also been dealt a devastating blow a few days prior at a tour stop in Montreal, where all their equipment was stolen from their van. Including Rattigan’s iconic cherry red Gibson guitar. A guitar he has used to record all of his albums & EP’s. Humorously, Rattigan had quipped onstage in his Pike Room performance back in November, “This is the only guitar I’ve ever used. It’s always going out of tune… My guitar is a piece of ****.” Although it was quite a beat up guitar, it clearly was special to Rattigan, and I feel for him in that regard. Apparently, he had busted up the instrument many times, only to piece it back together himself and use it at the next gig.

Current Joys opens with “Become the Warm Jets,” the lead song off last year’s critically acclaimed, self-produced album, A Different Age. ‘Jets’ takes on wide shape, echoing throughout the room. The band brings extra strength to the melodic break, which roars across the venue. Emotively powerful, Rattigan returns from the break singing the forever relevant. “The useless seems to matter more and more.”

“Desire” twinkles along with its piano arpeggios. The band’s new instruments do not seem to be phasing them. Although Rattigan remarks at one point, “My right wrist is killing me. I feel like I’m learning guitar again.”

“My Spotless Mind” is delivered with a cutting potency. “You’re a waste of me! Get away from me!” Rattigan screams. Along with “Become the Warm Jets,” “My Spotless Mind,” was the emotional moment of the gig for me. It’s a song that speaks to anyone who has had no choice but to escape the pain brought on by a person they trusted.

Rattigan, whom for most of his performing life has performed solo, continues to bring his inimitable vigor and is spurred on further by his band.

The band breaks out an older, little known tune titled, “The Breakfast Club (I’m Feeling Wild With You).” Featuring a chorus including the lyrics “I really don’t care.” It’s carefree and somehow likable.

The keyboard wails throughout “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” Proving to be an excellent instrumental addition to Rattigan’s live sound.

“Symphonia IX,” a fan favorite, and a song Rattigan had previously stated that he forgot how to play during his Pike Room performance, is delivered smoothly. One of the lesser deafening moments of the show.

New Flesh” and “Kids” (quite certainly Current Joys two most popular songs) are given equally passionate run-throughs.

“A Different Age” closes out the set. The title track is only the 2nd song played from last year’s album release. Perhaps the band would have played a few more songs under different circumstances, but you can’t fault them after having all their equipment stolen.

Current Joys rocked hard. Which is something I never thought I’d write.

LATER, STILL IN THE CAR: “It was good show. I wish we had seen more of the city though,” my friend states evenly.

“Well, I’m glad you liked it. And agreed. I owe you one.”

Links to artists recently released albums on Bandcamp (for those who don’t have Spotify):

Current Joys – A Different Age

Gap Girls – Street Desires

Perren – Apples and Peanut Butter