Words by Bill San Antonio | Photos by Nick Karp
Seeing Glassjaw these days is a lot like having a chance encounter with Bill Murray at kickball or Trivia Night at the bar – it only happens on very rare occasions, but you damn sure better stop and take recognition of the moment’s significance.
Glassjaw doesn’t play these parts as often as they used to. They don’t play that often to begin with, though they raise questions about a third L.P. each time they poke their heads out– it’s coming, just buy the next printing of the Coloring Book E.P. first. They’ll play a festival here and there, a few low-key California clubs or a one-off in Mexico City. Fans will worship and pay tribute. The set lists stay the same, the pits are fiery, and vocalist Daryl Palumbo’s screaming will ring out in the night, menacing and violent and beautiful.
And then, just like that, they disappear.
Of course, nobody ever expects to see Bill Murray; he is omnipresent, seemingly lurking behind every corner. His sightings are always similar – Murray appears, you reach for your camera, and he is gone by the time your mind can process him – but the experience lingers in the shadows, living beneath your skin and haunting your dreams. Bill Fking Murray. Always consistent, never a disappointment.
And suddenly the club music stops and the stage lights blacken and instantaneously everyone standing around you shrieks with excitement. Tension fills the air. This is it. The Converse Rubber Tracks Series welcomes YOU to the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Balance & Composure kept the crowd interested, playing “Reflection,” the first single off their forthcoming album “The Things We Think We’re Missing,” for the very first time live, in addition to a batch of angst-ridden grooves from 2011’s “Separation” and past E.P.s. Queens’ own World’s Fair brought a hip-hop sensibility to an otherwise rock-and-roll affair.
Palumbo stalks around the stage as the band revs up the start of “Mu Empire,” a slow but onerous introduction for one of the few moments Palumbo shows off his singing voice. The singing is more terrifying than the screaming, lulling you into a false sense of security. It’s this voice that reminds you of your girlfriend from 8th grade because her favorite song back then was “Beating Heart Baby,” which Palumbo made with Head Automatica after Glassjaw went on hiatus.
Kids bounce off each other like pinballs, attacking each other like pitbulls. Some are pushed onto the stage, only to be thrown back by Palumbo, who’s also moshing. For the most part, the band stands rigid in their positions onstage. Glassjaw’s power is strong enough to make you step back and brace yourself, enough to make grown men rush home to kiss their wives and hug their children. The songs are long and plod along sickeningly, like a car crash in slow motion, “Pretty Lush,” “Tip Your Bartender,” “Miracle in Inches.”
Seventeen total, 17 songs and the band storms offstage. The lights brighten and the smell of sweat hangs as kids filter out. And just as you think you can process what you’ve just seen, Glassjaw is gone, as if they were never there at all; omnipresent, haunting, like Bill Fking Murray.
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