River City Extension
w/ the Drowning Men and the Proud Flesh. $10 adv., $13 doors, 7 p.m., May 29. The Space, 295 Treadwell St., Hamden, thespace.tk
Joe Michelini does not claim to understand punk rock. He didn't grow up with it nor does he know enough about it nowadays to feel comfortable diving into the topic. "It has culture, it has history behind it. It's just one of things where you don't want to walk around and be like 'I know about punk rock music' unless you were there for it because some people were really there for it," he says. "Until I at least educate myself a little further on the subject, I'd never want to self-apply it at the risk of just being ignorant and not knowing what I'm talking about."
River City Extension, Michelini's solo project turned eight-piece that he started in 2007, carry themselves like a punk band who just happen to not play punk. River City enjoy spending time on introverted, carefully strummed folk tunes, but they can also play with the sincere giddiness of a destitute pack of buskers who've just seen a check for next month's rent glide into their guitar case. In a contradiction of his above quote, the Toms River, NJ-based River City have self-applied "punk" to themselves before — just not in an entirely earnest manner. "If you think about older chamber pop music being stuff coming out in the '60s ... I thought [our music] was like that but just maybe a little bit more aggressive, and so chamber punk was kind of a tongue-in-cheek term that we used," Michelini says, explaining the "chamber" part by referencing the instrumental elements — horns, strings, woodwinds — that make them "like a small orchestra."
Other signs indicate Michelini's latent punkness. His band's past indicates a firm familiarity with how any good young punk act should approach the concept of community. A while ago, Michelini would cook fans dinner as thanks for tour fund donations (he's especially into Italian food), and when I bring this subject up, he grows enthusiastic and mentions wanting to do more DIY-style shows that would encourage such setups in the future. In what's probably not a coincidence, River City are planning a pre-show barbecue for their Hamden date. "You eat with these people, you talk with them, you hang out with them and then you play the show," Michelini says, with his true punk colors finally coming into full bloom. "It's not a performer playing for a fan type of thing. It's a person playing for a person type of thing, and I've always hoped that our live shows would feel like that anyway."
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