Reflection: Who did I really see?
What turned out as a spontaneous, nearly three hour drive from New York’s capital region to Jersey City to catch Doylestown, PA natives Balance and Composure for a low key night of alternative rock, grunge and some newfound shoegazey material, quickly turned into what can be described as a Balance and Composure after party, an appropriate nod to a popular track on their latest album. I’ve been to my fair share of B&C shows and lets just say this one does not conventionally belong among the rest.
Queens of Jean and From Indian Lakes opened up the second Monty Hall gig of the weekend on April 23 before the three groups took the reigns of their US. Spring 2017 tour. Frontman Jon Simmons took to the stage to prep for the set ahead–along with two other non-band members, which quickly generated buzz among the loitering fans. Simmons guitarist Andy Slaymaker and drummer Bailey Van Ellis, took their respective spots on stage, however, guitarist Erik Petersen and bassist Matt Warner were nowhere to be seen.
Taking a glance around the tightly packed venue, it was evident that the calmer and probably older Balance and Composure veterans sat toward the back while the younger crowd channeled their energy and pushed their bodies to the forefront of the room. The two unknown members turned out to be members of the Doylestown, PA group on hiatus, Superheaven, bringing an evident “pop punkier” sound throughout the set.
Without lineup explanation or further ado, Simmons briefly addressed the crowd, thanking everyone for coming out for night two at Monty Hall in Jersey City– a place they’ve yet to play or “even knew existed.” It was clear Balance and Composure 2.0 was ready to kick things off for a night of fun, even with the unconventional or unexpected lineup. Making cryptic jokes and spewing one-off phrases and interjections throughout the show such as “well, let’s uh have some fun tonight” and “the band and I have taken a consensus…” I wasn’t sure if I had walked into the alternative rocker’s edition of The Twilight Zone or if Ashton Kutcher reprised Punk’d just for me, but confusion danced in the air as did I. Although not the run of the mill B&C show, there was only one thing to do– embrace it. (I later found out that Erik and Matt are in the midst of planning their own weddings. Congrats, guys!)
The group’s third and most recent studio album, Light We Made, stirred up some fan controversy and genre expectations. With the help of producer Will Yip, they took a leap away from the grunge and angst given off on their debut album Separation and implemented auto tune and electronic drumming. Their sophomore release, The Things We Think We’re Missing, blended said genres with more wistful sounds and whimsical lyrics until their third album completely strayed away from their original angered disposition. Diving into Light We Made’s inaugural track for the opener, “Midnight Zone,” Simmons’ threw his hands in the air and began to groove, as the crowd followed. He began to sing through a mic which crafted his voice into the exact way it sounded on the album, certainly Kanye West-style auto tune, but airy and intriguing all at once.
“Spinning” came next, further conjuring fans to dance and get movin’ before TTWTWM’s “Tiny Raindrop” and “When I Come Undone.” “Void” awakened the violent finger pointing, mosh veterans and long-time fans of the band, conjuring nostalgia and angst from their very first studio album which segued nicely into “Fade,” another heavy hitter. “For A Walk” definitely sits in its own category, as it uses mainly electronic sounds and beats and only makes sense it was delivered to the Monty Hall crowd during the band’s most electronic set to date. “Postcard” was fun to see in a live setting, as Bailey originally tracked the song with electronic drums. If you’ve ever heard of Balance and Composure, you know “Quake,” which was instantly proven as all sang along and rocked their heads to the classic fan-favorite. Next, the group executed “Run From Me,” giving fans another opportunity to hear their latest Record Store Day project before a bust out of the calming and emotionally charged “Stonehands.” “Notice Me” found the most audience praise and participation as the ending lyrics and title were shouted loudly in repetitive unison with Simmons.
“Afterparty” came next to accurately sum up the night’s theme. With a group of what seemed to be intoxicated high school girls screaming “well that was fun!” rap music blaring over venue speakers between sets, the makeshift lineup and the care-free, party mentality that Simmons displayed, it truly felt like the song’s namesake. A penultimate deliverance of “Reflection” and a final encore of “I Tore You Apart in My Head” found all fans pushing directly to the front. Whether you entered the Balance and Composure fandom at the grungy, ground level, jumped in during TTWTWM’s experimentation or just came into their new-found electronic explorations, all fans found themselves layered against one another for the final track of the night.
I’m not sure if it was the atypical line-up, or the self-preparation before the show that shaped this one of a kind experience, but toss all factors together into a neat package and the hour and ten minute set proved to be quite a unique one– and one I’ll never forget. Balance and Composure never fails to deliver.
Setlist: Midnight Zone, Spinning, Tiny Raindrop, When I Come Undone, Void, Fade, For A Walk, Postcard, Quake, Run From Me, Stonehands, Notice Me, Afterparty, Reflection, I Tore You Apart in My Head