Prison Pretty and America’s Sweetheart team-up in Jersey City
Prison Pretty, y’know what just say it out loud… I’ll wait. DO IT! Ok don’t you feel like a creep? Good! Now that we have that out of the way, I first heard about these cats while talking to the lead singer and guitarist at my bar an undisclosed amount of time ago. I can’t disclose the time because I barely remember it happening. Shen and I exchanged info while talking about local rock music. I found in my wallet a card that said “prison pretty” on it scrawled in barely legible handwriting. What did this mean? I thought. Did I write this? Was this a commentary on some girl I’d met the night before?
It turns out that I’d get these answers this Friday morning when I check out what was going on is town. Then I saw that Prison Pretty was playing later on at 8pm. I checked out their Myspace. Yes I still own a Myspace, Although I’ve recently decided to delete all my non music/band related friends because I’m sick of finding out about what your girlfriend thought about her toothpaste in a forty-five question survey titled aptly: Important PLEASE READ new pics. That bitch hasn’t added any new pics in the past year….and yes to answer the question slowly forming in your brittle mind. I do stalk your girlfriend via Myspace and as much fun as that is, its time to move on. Isn’t it? Where was I? Oh, Prison Pretty! So at first glance and listen the term Power pop is almost an understatement. I mean that in the best possible way. It’s catchy up-beat and simple without being pedestrian. I dig it! I try to find out a little more about the band and that’s when I see Shen is the Guitarist and Singer. Rad! The mystery is solved! So I gear up, charge up, suit up and bust a move on out!
After getting out to the venue, I’m waiting for the first band to show I grab a brew and chill. Then I decide I really haven’t eaten anything today so I’ll grab a snack as well. Mini-burgers, they went fast but they hit the spot as John D’angelo and his friend Joe took the stage. John and Joe teamed up for a blues interlude, a few covers and and some original music. John takes the guitar and vocals while Joe rocks the harmonica. I took some video of their performance, and some pics as well. After their set I chatted it up with Joe and John separately. Joe was on his way to see Gregg Allman’s son’s set in New York City. There was a chance that his father might show up. So he had to get movin’. This was John’s first time playing in JC and he was anxious to feel out the scene. He was worried that the locals would be looking to hear cover band style music. I assured him that this wasn’t some rt 130 South Jersey crowd on a Wednesday night. John’s Band plays Manhattan a lot they’re on vacation right now, so I plan to hear more from these fellas in the coming months.
Shen and Mary of Prison Pretty take the stage. Miss Mary (drums, backing vox) greets the crowd and Shen bursts into their first song. I’ve known Shen for a little over a year. He’s a friend of my neighbor. In the time I’ve known him I think we’ve spoken about eight or nine times. I can’t remember those talks off the top of my head, but my estimation of him was that he was a quiet indie kid. Indie? yes. Quiet?…. Not on your life! He rips on the guitar, kicks into overdrive and belts out the song in a style that’s best described as Adam and his Package when soft and Violent Femmes when…..well violent. The song ends, Mary heckles him, after someone asks if that song was about his girlfriend. Mary tells the crowd “He doesn’t have a girlfriend!” in a tone that my little sister would have used when I was thirteen. They really play off each other like Johnny Carson (Shen) and Ed Mcmann (Mary). And that’s not even talking about their playing, just them messing with each other between songs! Like I was saying before it’s really catchy, and I could totally see dancing to it at a larger venue. Give it a listen! It’ll get your feet moving for sure.
So I hate to leave a show before the headliner comes out because there’s normally a good reason for the last band to be the Main Attraction. Tonight was no exception! America’s Sweetheart geared up and jumped onto the stage. Trish (drums/vox) shifted the band into gear as they started their first song. Paris (bass/vox) and Val (rhythm guitar/vox) filled out the sound which was a mixed of riot grrl, country rock and punk. Did I forget anyone? Heck Yes, I did! Chris (lead guitar/vox), grummets and all, rocked the ax with a revenge so keen you’d have though Death Adder had killed his dwarven brother. If you missed the Golden Ax reference don’t worry it just means you’re under thirty and/or you lack concept. If I were to say that this band brought the rock in tablet form like Moses to the people of the valley worshiping the golden calf only moments before they were all smited by God…. well you’d probably say “Interesting use of imagery” perhaps you’d put a smiley face on the top of the blog with exclamation points, followed saying “Wow Zac, it’s unsettling about how much you used theology to describe rock bands.” So I’m not gonna say that but you can infer that what I would have said would have been quite a lot like that.
So after the show I chatted it up with Chris and Trish, and during the talk we were subsequently invited to hang after hours with the club owner at another locale. So, we continued the conversation there. Now most of the time, a lot of you are reading this thinking, “Zac Clark, what a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ kind of guy!” Well, its a fine line I walk between flying by the seat of my pants and just plain old being caught with my pants down.” I say all that to say this: After all this video recording and picture taking I was both spent physically (ask any photographer, if you’re doing the job right you really are working) and electronically. My batteries were dead! Just as well, I could just talk with the band without shoving a camcorder into their faces.
I started with Chris, I asked him about the shirt he was wearing. you’ll have to look at the pics to see it. He told me he found it at a second hand shop saw it and new it had to be his. I asked him what it was like to be in a band with three girls, he just shook his head and smiled. So, after a while we talked about the first time he met Trish’s dad. I vaguely recall that her pops was fishing for coconuts in trees off a balcony in Mexico…. no i didn’t write that wrong, that’s something that actually happens. Anyhow, they get their line stuck in a tree and as he was going to meet her dad, there’s Chris IN THE TREE, trying to get the line out. I could only imagine this in the most cartoon and comical of ways. Talking with the band really made me feel like I was cool, cool in the same way the kid from Almost Famous felt. I’m not cool, Chris Isaak is cool. I’m just a guy with a camera and a pen.
So, then Trish asked me about what I do, I touch down on my wedding business, blog and bar tending. I mentioned I do a little bit of fashion from time to time. She told me that she was thinking about working on clothing for girl rockers. Functional clothes and accessories for female rockers. She stands up for a second and says, “No pockets…..where to I put my drum key?” We talked about GoGirlsNYC a resource for bands with at least one girl. As H2O once said ,”It’s not just boys’ fun!” There was so much happening and so many things we talked about, if I wrote it all down, I’d just dumb it down. Suffice it to say the Jersey Devil came up a few times. I looked at the time. Oh crap! It’s 5 o’clock in the morning. I excused myself (If I get hit by the morning sun before I get to sleep something about it really just messes me up for the rest of the day. So I head home secure in the fact that I’ve made stronger bonds with friends and made some very cool new ones as well.
Zac Clark, 3/23/2009