Toy Cars organized the show in a New Brunswick basement to celebrate the release of their new EP, Sleeping Patterns, which I reviewed last week. They assembled a lineup of three other incredibly talented and diverse bands to play the show with them: ManDancing, dollys, and Hodera. I had been looking forward to this show since I saw Toy Cars and dollys perform at the North Jersey Indie Rock Festival, so I decided to roll deep and brought two photographers with me (how many friends do you have?) to best capture every second of the action.
Of course, as N.J. Racket is a “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” operation, we got caught in that notorious Rt. 1 and Rt. 18 rush hour traffic and arrived in New Brunswick about an hour late, only to have to park about a mile away and take a hike through the suburbs before getting to the show.
Unfortunately, this meant we missed most of ManDancing’s set, but I was impressed by the few songs we were able to catch at the end. Stephen Kelly has a rawness to his songwriting that is incredibly engaging. It’s appropriate that they would play at the Toy Cars album release show and subsequently take off with them on tour, because while their music doesn’t sound the same, the themes and feelings conveyed definitely had a convergence in that they’re both very I wish we had been able to hear more of them.
Dollys was the next band up, led by drummer/lead singer Natalie Newbold. They were a nice change of pace, playing more upbeat and positive-sounding indie pop jams to raise the energy. I’ve seen them play a few times before in New Brunswick and Asbury in the past year or two and have always been a big fan of their sound and live performances. Dollys is a three-piece band that doesn’t rely on much flash and flare. Guitarist Jeff Lane isn’t showing off with face-melting solos, Natalie only plays a four-piece drum set, yet the music still manages to be tight and skillful in a way that really locks the audience in. I’ve never seen dollys play a show in which every person in the crowd wasn’t hanging on every note, that is truly impressive.
I had never heard of Hodera before this show, and judging by the response they received by the crowd, I was probably the only one. Yes, that is embarrassing for me, but I got acquainted with them quickly. They have a pretty hard rocking sound that had the whole basement . It was a pretty badass scene during the set. (I felt bad for our photographers, getting tossed around while struggling to focus their shot. Meredith and Cooper sure are fucking troopers though, because the photos they got that night were insane!) But Hodera brings more to the table than moshable songs to elbow strangers in the jaw to. Their lyrics were some of the best I’ve heard for a long time. They obviously know this about themselves, because they sell lyric books, and I was thrilled to be able to pick one up for $4. If you made the same mistake I did and missed the boat on these guys, you need to do something about it fucking immediately because they are a talented band that deserves your attention.
Finally, it was time for Toy Cars, the main event, to take the stage. But before they began the set, guitarist and lead singer Matt DeBenedetti, who organized the event, took a minute to thank all the other bands for playing and all of the people for coming out and supporting him and the band. It was a humble moment for a guy celebrating the release of his album, and one that was very genuine and heartfelt. DeBenedetti would maintain that tone as he started the set, playing mostly tracks off Sleeping Patterns¸ as well as a few newer songs that didn’t make it onto the EP. The performance was powerful and intimate with driving guitar riffs and lyrics you could really feel. “Albatross,” one of my favorites, makes me want to yell and cry and throw shit. I’m absolutely amazed by DeBenedetti’s ability to so simply convey the complete shit storm of emotions in that song.
DeBenedetti and Toy Cars paused again toward the end of the show to drive home how thankful they were to be able to perform for everyone, to spend the night with everyone, to feel so supported as they chase their dream and celebrate the achievement of releasing this album. These guys worked their asses off, and they are unbelievably passionate about their art. Toy Cars will be on tour for the next several weeks, continuing to celebrate and promote the album. I’d like to wish them the absolute best of luck, and already can’t wait for them to get back to New Jersey.
Adam gave man-birth to N.J. Racket and is as close to an "editor-in-chief" the site has. He's a god awful photographer.