Kick Rocks Kick Out the Jams on a Boat
A gentle breeze rolled in off the East River as water bound wayfarers walked down the dock to the Jewel for a New York City summer tradition – the Rocks Off Concert Cruise. Promoted pairings of like-minded musicians in uncommon configurations has long been a hallmark of the series, and this cruise featured one of the more recently formed super groups. Initially conceived as a VIP late night one off at Camp Bisco, Kick Rocks drew such acclaim that Philadelphia-based promoters Deathwaltz were compelled to take the act on the road for several select dates. This past weekend’s brief jaunt, the first shows of the year for the quartet, hit The Blockley and Disc Jam Music Festival before wrapping up on the roiling waterways of the five boroughs.
Up-and-coming DJ Mr. Bonkerz serenaded cruisers with disco beats as the boat readied for departure. Steaming buffet tables presented culinary options and friends chatted casually on the upper deck, as the waning Fathers Day sun cast a genial glow on the affair. Shortly after 8 P.M., the ship set sail amid a harbor filled with party boats of every ilk. Philadelphia trio Damn Right! kicked off the live music portion of the evening once the Jewel settled into comfortable speed, under bridges and past familiar skyline landmarks.
There really is nothing quite like dancing on the undulating deck of a seafaring vessel. The floor rolls and tilts, often seemingly in sync with the band, who feed off the motion as well. Damn Right! seemed to elevate to a higher gear when the boat started rocking. The trio stuck mainly to driving drumbeats augmented by multiple tables worth of sequencers and keyboards to create a crowd-pleasing version of the type of live electronic hybrid that was practically birthed in the City of Brotherly Love down the Turnpike, peaking bass heavy summer anthems with the rhythm of the wake.
While the dancers raged relentlessly on the lower deck, many availed themselves of the top deck’s various amenities, mainly pristine views of Lady Liberty and soothing breezes with just a hint of ocean air. As the sun set over a picture perfect eve, the band wrapped up a succinct high energy set and Mr. Bonkerz took over, sprinkling nu-disco numbers with genre favorites from the likes of LCD Soundsystem and Holy Ghost! Starting with Mike Greenfield on drums, the main act infiltrated the stage, blending nearly unnoticed with dusky disco.
The rest of Kick Rocks – Jon ” The Barber” Gutwillig on guitar, Clay Parnell on bass and Brian Marsella on keys – joined in and segued neatly into a mostly improvisational set highlighted by the kind of dexterous soaring guitar shredding that inspire an expletive enhanced refrain. Mike Greenfield provided a reliably steady back beat with fills and crescendos driving liquid jams underscored by Parnell’s throbbing bass lines. Marsella veered closer to funk territory than the key man in last year’s Kick Rocks incarnation (Eli Winderman), with organ licks augmenting the standard trance fusion soundscapes. Another change from last summer was the incorporation of vocals on a few songs, both original and otherwise, including a closing electro-reggae take on Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved.” Overall, the set exceeded expectations, rarely dipping into the repetition reminiscent of a practice session, and often achieving those ecstatic apexes characteristic of the players.