There aren’t too many places I can say that feel like home in this unforgiving city, but Rockwood Music Hall has become one of these places over the years. When it was announced that the New York chapter of Communion, a monthly club night founded by Ben Lovett (of Mumford & Sons), Kevin Jones (of Bear’s Den) and famed producer Ian Grimble, would hold a monthly residence at the venue, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I’ve been a patron of Communion NY since their humble beginnings at the now defunct Public Assembly in Williamsburg, and to see the growth in popularity of the night is truly astounding.
Tuesday night ushered in the Holiday edition of Communion NYC, complete with ugly holiday sweaters, festive Christmas lights, mini cupcakes, and a stacked lineup occupying all 3 venues of the space. I started off my night at the Stage 3 to see singer/songwriter Bay Uno kick things off with his version of songs about love, hope and longing. He played to the crowd mostly with eyes closed, pouring his heart into his songs, which came across very heartfelt and genuine. Addressing the small, intimate crowd who were nestled in at their tiny tables around the cozy space, Bay thanked everyone graciously for checking out his set and set the perfect mood for the entirety of the night.
Back upstairs in Stage 1, Elijah and The Moon, a folk/rock quartet from Woodstock, were just beginning their set. Fueled by the hearty crowd, the lead singer, Elijah, engaged in just the right amount of banter to draw everyone in, while soul-stirring drums and tight harmonies kept everyone’s attention.
Next door in at the much larger Stage 2, indie-rock band Fort Lean were setting up for what would be my favorite set of the night. The band had unbridled energy, and tons of stage presence, with front man Keenan Mitchell providing some of the best onstage antics I’ve seen in a while. He was content to ham it up for the photographers in the house, as well as give the crowd tons of eye candy to look at while his crisp vocals rang through the speakers. The band was cohesive and their songs were catchy and anthem-like in the best, non-annoying way I could describe. They played their set like headliners – leaving everything onstage. If that is how they play all their shows, you’d be sure to find me standing front row for all of them.
With such a hard act to follow, indie-pop band Ski Lodge took the stage, losing a bit of momentum from the previous set as their synth-heavy sounds enveloped the crowd. Lead singer Andrew Marr’s vocals immediately gave me an 80’s “Morrissey-type” vibe that I eventually appreciated as their set wore on. They definitely managed to keep the crowd engaged, with danceable tracks and upbeat piano melodies.
Next up was the night’s “very special guest,” Magic Man. I’ve seen this band a number of times on much larger stages, so getting to see them on such an intimate stage at Rockwood was a real treat. The crowd was packed to the doorway in anticipation of their set – the girl next to me was visibly bouncing and vibrating before they took the stage. Lead singer Alex Caplow never ceases to amaze me with how much energy he packs into his performances. The band played their crowd favorites, “Paris,” “Out of Mind,” and “It All Starts Here,” with a fun treat in the form of a killer cover of Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle,” that whipped everyone into a total frenzy.
The final set that I caught was The Stationary Set, who surprisingly had throngs of fans at their feet the entire night, belting out each song with fervor and ease. I had the lucky/unlucky spot next to a girl who overzealously kept whipping her hair into my face, but I was smack dab in front of keyboardist Joshua Hoisington who was super animated, and had a perfect view of lead singer Andrew Lutes as he passionately sang each note. Their set seemed to build to an intensity that everyone seemed to feel because by the last song, the room was almost exploding with sound and energy. Their sound was hard to pin down – part electronic, part pop, part alt rock – but it all melded together and worked.
Communion NY has grown leaps and bounds in only a few years, with no signs of stalling. I just hope as the popularity of the night increases, the intimate atmosphere is able to remain.
Article by: Lesley Keller