Farewell, Dub Land Underground

Rochester lost a gem with this one. Despite its imperfections, Dub Land Underground was home for a variety of local bands, a destination for niche national acts and a launching pad for some of our regions finest musicians. Those memories are now all a thing of the past, as Dub Land closed their doors for good Friday, January 10th after seven years in operation. But rather than fade away quietly, why not go out with a bang? That was precisely the MO for Dub Land’s Last Call, bringing together local favorites Haewa, Ocupanther, Neurocepter, Mosaic Foundation, Roots Collider and a slew of DJs for one last (BIG) party. With non-stop music for nearly eight hours straight, and people spilling out into the parking lot and streets, this ‘good-bye’ was one for the books.

Haewa kicked things off to an expectant, loyal crowd, complete with fresh dancing legs, hula-hoops and half naked bodies. If you haven’t seen these guys yet, you really have to. Their energy and balls-to-the-wall approach to improvisational peaks and valleys is straight up dirty psychedelia. I have heard Haewa called ‘punk-jam’ and while I certainly wouldn’t confine them to these two boxes (far from it), they do have the energy and musical chops to back up both. Their relentless fire and connection with the room was the perfect way to start out the evening and let everyone know they were in for a good night.

By the time Ocupanther took the stage, the audience was already loose and the room was filling in quickly. Ocupanther, known for their dark textures and complex rhythms, did not fail to disappoint. Sort of like reading Pynchon, or watching a David Lynch film, you feel a certain way from start to finish—but you might miss subtle details if you’re not paying attention. Luckily they didn’t appear to have this problem, as the audience locked in and stuck with them for the shadowy musical ride through their compositions. As soon as Ocupanther finished up, Riley Beats spun my favorite DJ tracks of the night, with fat dance and disco-infused lines.

Neurocepter took the stage shortly after to a nearly packed (or so I thought…) room that now contained people wearing costumes, Barney the dinosaur masks, and of course those gloves with the light up fingers. Having never seen Neurocepter before, I really appreciated their taste for smooth, danceable grooves while maintaining machine-like precision. These guys were probably the most electronic-infused band of the night, but with a sound so pure and atmospheric, even the most die-hard traditionalists had no problem getting down.

The chilled-out, feel good vibe captured by Neurocepter lent itself nicely to the next band, Mosaic Foundation, who brought their roots reggae tunes to a now jam-packed room. Of course, Mosaic Foundation sounded good and had the audience moving perfectly in time to their thick harmonies. Having seen these guys a few times now, and being someone who is easily bored by the repetitive reggae upstroke, I have to give it up to Mosaic Foundation’s consistency and connection with the audience; no matter what type of genre you prefer, it’s hard not to dance (or at least sway in time) when they take the stage.

At this point in the night, the room downstairs at Dub Land was so full you could barely move. It became quite clear that where you were is where you would stay until Roots Collider finished. Luckily everyone had just enough room to breathe and groove, because as usual, Roots Collider came out flying and ready to end things on a high note. These folks mean business when they take the stage and completely reinvigorated the crowd’s energy. Their thumping rhythm section combined with organically produced dance lines successfully pulls off the ultimate goal ofcombining the old with the new; a ‘traditional’ rock band evolving one of the fastest growing genres of music in the last ten years, while acknowledging all the influences along the way. When Roots Collider left the stage, Dub Land Underground was a sweaty, smelly mess (more smelly than usual, which is tough to accomplish) with bittersweet smiling faces making their final walk up the narrow stairwell and out into the icy Rochester weather.

With the closing of such a unique and significant venue for local music, the obvious question becomes, “What now?” For a city so rich with local talent and diehard music fans, the void is tremendous. The Northeast certainly has a long lineage of music history, and Western New York has a certain amount of responsibility in maintaining that. Wherever and whenever the next venue pops up, one thing is clear: Dub Land will be deeply missed, but with any luck, will be an important and fondly remembered milestone of things to come from Rochester’s music scene.

Please enjoy this photo montage video of some of the nights moments featuring the intro to Ghostless (I Want One) from Ocupanther’s Progressor album.