For anyone who is unfamiliar with Sussex County, or has only passed through it, it is truly like no other place in New Jersey. You know that meme that’s like “when you think you’re from the south but you live in Pennsylvania” well it’s like that, but worse camouflage, worse pickup trucks, and nothing but mint skoal long cut everywhere. Honestly, MTV should have capitalized on this. Buckwild could have totally taken place in Sussex County and then The Jersey Shore and Buckwild could have had a cross over episode. I’d watch that shit. Anyway, sorry for that tangent, but I just felt there needed to be some context to Sussex.
Fuhgawee Hunting Club (FHC), Sussex’s unlikely surf rock band, released a four-track vinyl last month called Mirrors. The songs are fast, powerful, distinct, and full of energy. My favorite song off Mirrors is 18 Wheeler, a song that touches one of the three golden topics of song writing – driving (lovers and addiction are the other two). Unlike your standard highway songs of going on a peaceful, long drive to forget about all your troubles, frontman Joe Chegwidden sings about the fear of driving on a highway filled with 18-wheelers and thinking one of them is going to run you off the road. He screams the lyrics with such intensity. I can very vividly see him getting boxed in by a bunch of trucks on route 80 and screaming THIS COMMUTE IS KILLING ME as he tries to escape.
This past weekend, Friday the 13th (fitting) was their record release show. The show was at a venue in Rutherford I had never been to called “The Nest,” which is this really cool warehouse at the end of an alley. The stairs to get into the space were tree stumps, the room was big and dark, and there were rope swings hanging from the steel beams. There was even a piñata, for some reason. Honestly, it had all the aspects you want in a D.I.Y. venue. After a small power outage, Table, from philly, started off the night. I felt bad though, because after the power outage, I felt like they were rushed to set up and you couldn’t really hear the vocals during their set, which sucked. But, that’s part of playing shows in places like this. There isn’t always someone doing sound, so you just gotta go for it, which they did, and it was still a great set.
Next up was another Sussex native band, Michael Ironside. For anyone who’s seen em you love em, and if you haven’t, your initial reaction is just straight up “what the fuck?” It’s two dudes, Adam (who produced Mirrors) and Jeff. Sometimes they both play guitar. Sometimes it’s just Jeff. Adam is taking his voice in every direction he can while not staying in any one spot for too long. They have a percussion track playing through speakers that they play over, which is something I am not really a fan of unless its cheesy in all the right ways, but Michael Ironside is gruyere, baby. I can’t stress enough how much fun they are to see.
As the Michael Ironside set continues, I notice people breaking down the drum set and taking away the amps. I started to wonder what was going on because Fuhgawee hadn’t played yet, but someone had just cracked the piñata so I was distracted by tootsie rolls and continued to watch Michael Ironside. As the set ends, they announce that everyone must go to the basement for FHC’s set. By this point, the hype for Fuhgawee is high. The elusive dungeon is on my mind. I’m hearing people talking about how there’s no way we can fit this many people in there. I didn’t know where I was going. I was just following the crowd of people going through room after room after room, until we get to one that was probably only 6 feet by 10 feet. Barley enough room for a band to even set up. Not to mention all the people they were about to make flail their arms and dance around, but that’s exactly what happened.
It’s impossible to watch FHC without moving. There’s too much energy not to. The band has an unlikely trio set up, two guitars and a drum but yet they still manage to sound just as full without the bass. Joe is usually the most mellow dude I know, but, when he is playing, he’s a fucking Rockstar. He gets up there with his hollow-body guitar, screaming these really loud songs and he fucking owns it. Then there’s lead guitarist Marc Autorino, bringing you all those classic surfy riffs that define the genre and finally there’s the drummer Chris Carr, responsible for all the dancing people, bouncing off the walls of this tiny ass, pipe-filled room with nails sticking out of the walls.
In hindsight, I’m glad that FHC played in the Dungeon. It’s the coolest place they could have possibly played, and thankfully no one got hurt and we all had fun. A major “thank you” to Fuhgawee, Michael Ironside, Table, and The Nest for putting together this badass show. It was the kind of show where everything goes wrong but in the end, it’s just all right.
Photos by: Jason Rusnock
Cozz is a local musician, artist, and skater, who decided that he wasn’t doing enough cool shit and decided to join the N.J. Racket team.