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Thursday, August 20th 2015

I always like going to see my friends’ bands play live.  Whether the result is good or bad, its always cool to see someone you know up on stage rockin’ out.  When the show is great, however, it can change the way you see someone you have known for years.

Although I haven’t known him for years, lead singer Jon Babin is someone I had the pleasure of getting to know this summer.  We worked together most days and even got to see a few shows together.  He’s a nice, polite young man who shares in my insane passion for music and, more specifically, all things Noel Gallagher.  I knew he was in a band, Lever, but, since he wasn’t flakey or arrogant in any way, I had a hard time imagining him as the lead singer of a band (burn!).

As my fearless leader/station manager, Todd Michaels, and I made the climb up to Subterranean’s balcony on a beautiful August evening, I wondered what I would witness (now THAT’S alliteration!).  I had Lever’s album, the very cleverly named Hover Bored, and I loved it.  Still, playing live is a totally different animal.

I wasn’t even facing the stage when Lever kicked off their set, but they very quickly got our attention.  Jesus H. Christ these guys were loud, tight and playing their absolute balls off!  Jon, guitarist Jeff Aquino, bassist Ariel Nebel and drummer Michael Reinhold were going apeshit in a way I hadn’t experienced in a while.  Aquino’s guitar slung to his knees, Nebel bouncing along crushing the low end and a shirtless Reinhold bashing the fuck out of his kit let me know I was in for a high-energy set.  Leading the charge was my buddy Jon, head-banging and swinging his guitar around like he was going to fall off stage at any moment.  It was killer!

I didn’t know the opening track, “Brainwashed”, but I was nodding along all the same.  Next came “Identity Crisis”, one of my favorites from the album for sure.  Its super dynamic in a very Nirvana-ish way with an explosive intro, melodic sing-along verses and an ass-kicker of an ending.  “Who Cares” featured some nice ride cymbal work from Reinhold, more Waaves-eque blasting guitars and a melodic chorus that made me positive that these dudes also dig the Beatles.

At this point, Todd and I had to leave our too-cool-for-school seats in the balcony and get a front row gander.  “Lucky”, my absolute favorite, reminded me of a Libertines tune.  Joyous, danceable and, incredibly catchy while still rocking quite hard.  I noticed that the ladies like that one!  Later in the set was “Nickels & Dimes” a super grungy blaster and “McFly” which is incredible for no other reason than the Back to the Future reference “great Scott!”.

Lever’s set, which was only about 30 minutes, contained 9 songs which put them at a Ramones pace.  Rather than try to banter with the audience, a common mistake for unseasoned frontmen, Babin would simply say “thank you” quickly before jumping into the next tune.  They looked great, they were loud as fuck and they simply played their shit REALLY well.  You can’t ask for more from a rock band and Lever left the crowd wanting more.

As I stood outside Subterranean with Jon, who looked like he’d just run a marathon, he was transformed back into the polite, friendly dude I’d known all summer.  He kindly thanked everyone who came up to tell him how much they liked his set and was very gracious when I told him I would be covering the show for Alt 360º.  It was great to watch Superman change back into Clark Kent for a moment but, as I said, I won’t be able to see Jon quite the same again.

Sometimes nice guys “finish last”, but sometimes they’ll rock your face off!

Written by Alt360º Blogger: Jason Polakowski

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