“Never judge a band by its Myspace”, goes the adage– and rarely does it ring as true as it does in the case of Neon Dynamite. A quick online lookup promised a run-of-the-mill indie-rock-soul-funk outfit; not particularly sucky, mind you, but nothing to write home about.
I realized how sorely wrong I was about two seconds into their first song – by then they were already the taking venue by storm: with their undeniably charismatic stage presence and airtight, four-on-the-floor grooves, Neon Dynamite commanded an in-your-face stage presence, their music imploring a (somewhat nonexistent, this being a Tuesday night) audience to get on their feet and party. You could instantly see that this band is all about those live moments, about going on stage and laying a beat tighter than you-know-who’s-you-know-what. Here, at last, was an indie band that’s all about giving people a good time, damn it. Scott Laughlin’s drumming and Dave “Boxcar” Smith’s bass playing was masterfully glued together, and sprinkled with healthy doses of groove for good measure. Anthony Rubbo’s guitar chops and Kurt Thum’s synth wizardry did what audiences always wish for but rarely ever get – that is, they complemented the songs perfectly with killer riffs, syncopated hits and endless energy that served the music, rather than tried to take over. And as far as lead singers go, Nathan Lacy (the only band member who displayed a genre-appropriate fashion sense) is as energetic, committed, and engaging as they come; he lives inside his songs, and it seems that for him, every show is his chance of inviting the audience to come over and check out his awesome crib.
There are two things one needs to keep in mind in order to understand why Neon Dynamite are startlingly unique even at such an early point in their career. First, the nature of the music they play requires a seamless cohesion between all the members – and while it sounds as if they’ve been playing together for longer than their lifetimes combined, the current incarnation of the band is, impressively enough, only less than a year old.
The second point – and this is a touchy subject when it comes to indie bands’ live performances – has to do with the way they viewed the audience and the gig.
Imagine going on stage for soundcheck, taking a quick look at the room and realizing there are more people on stage than in the audience. What do you do?
For Neon Dynamite, the answer was clear: you plug in, tune up, and play the best damn show of your life. Even in a midweek, low-attendance gig, they’re fully aware of who they are, and more importantly, where they are going; and thus, they rocked a virtually empty Knitting Factory as hard as they would have rocked a full Yankee Stadium. Playing your heart out to empty venues is a clichéd rite of passage for new musicians; and yet, few are the groups who actually take it to heart and make the best out of every live situation. Neon Dynamite is one of those groups.
By the end of their set the place filled up a bit (good vibes have magnetic powers, apparently), and with a few dozen hipsters in the audience, Lacy saw fit to leave the stage and serenade an unsuspecting audience member, following with a short nap(!) on the probably-filthy floor. You could almost sense his itching for wilder stage antics, given a larger audience. I don’t think he’ll have to wait too long before he gets his wish; with their trustworthy grooves, musical cohesion and take-no-prisoners approach to live performance, Neon Dynamite is definitely a band to keep on your watch list. Catch a show while tickets are still cheap – there’s a good chance their relative anonymity will not last long.
-Reviewed by Indie Band Guru writer – Michael Hazani