I'd been hearing about LVL UP for a while now. It seemed everywhere I went–Baby's All Right, SXSW, parties—people were talking about this band that I just had to see live. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect. I decided not to listen to any of their music until after I saw them live—a first for me.
When I got to the Bowery Ballroom just after the first opener, the room was more packed than I'd ever seen for a second band at this venue. Either everyone else had heard the same rumors about these guys that I had, or Bear Vs. Shark fans could not contain their excitement.
Opening for the post-hardcore icons who hadn't performed together for 10 years, LVL UP's guitarists Mike Caridi and Dave Benton, bassist Nick Corbo, and drummer Greg Rutkin were instantly greeted with a psyched crowd the second they took their spots in front of their instruments, and we all fell hard as blue stage lights hit them like the glow from an ice-colored Lite Brite peg.
It was shocking to me when the keyboardist told everyone they were a band from Brooklyn. Upon rocking out to their first song, I was hit with a totally different vibe: a rainy day in Seattle during the Nirvana era where a local coffee shop was tuned into the college radio station playing a lo-fi post punk group.
Live, I experienced the garage sounds of Burger Records bands, infused with all the emo I could ever remember from my high-school-in-New-Jersey musical glory days, wrapped in a fuzzy sweater a la Kurt Cobain during his band's infamous MTV Unplugged performance. These tracks would have been perfect alongside Lisa Loeb, Feeder, and The Meices on the decade's film soundtracks. After I listened to their records this morning, things felt a little more romanticized and heavy hitting—both sides of this four-piece existing as something refreshing yet favorite, and to be adored.
Later on, the group mentioned the night's headliners, stating, "We all grew up listening to Bear Vs. Shark, it's very cool to play with them." And just when we thought that would be the end, the Brooklyn musicians graced us with more, inviting us further and further into their world, one that we didn't want to stop spinning. With some tracks that were so grunge-inspired I needed to put my earplugs in, to slow jams seemingly focused on wanting to hurt people who stole away their girlfriends, to build-ups that felt a lot like a Japandroids single that eventually eased into something less noise-rock, LVL UP brings it all, including lyrics that feel like their first draft was scratched hard into a latte-stained journal.
Continuing on with Bear Vs. Shark to the West Coast, LVL UP are also currently celebrating the release of their own Sub Pop debut, Return To Love, and will play shows throughout the fall with Alex G and Brandon Can't Dance. Track them now to grab tickets to an upcoming show!
lvl up last nite. lov them. pic.twitter.com/eUOMBspFga— jackie yaeger (@moxiegumption) September 30, 2016