The Jukebox Romantics
Darrow Chemical Company
Allow me to tell you about Calabrese taking over New York City. It was October 6th. The location was The Studio at Webster Hall in New York City. With three opening bands and a headliner already established in my mind as one of the best live shows of all time, this night was going to be one for the ages!
After having taken the subway to Saint Mark’s Place, hanging out there for a bit, and then walking on over to Webster Hall, something immediately caught my eye and nearly made me gasp. But moreso than a something, it was a someone. Bobby Calabrese, the guitarist and co-vocalist for the band, was standing outside of the venue hanging out. The first thing that came out of my mouth was, “Bobby?” He gave me a puzzled, but intrigued look and replied, “Friend?” We developed a quick connection when I told him right after that I had been in touch with him online about interviewing him for Journey of a Frontman. (Yes, you heard that right! A big interview coming soon!) We then chatted for a bit before he headed inside for soundcheck, which led to met waiting outside until doors officially opened, with the excitement and anticipation building and building.
Once I got inside, I was pleasantly surprised because not only was there a Calabrese merch booth set up, but the band’s bassist and other co-vocalist, Jimmy Calabrese was there selling items and hanging out with fans. I walked over to the table and was immediately sold on the sale special, buy Calabrese’s brand new album, Born With A Scorpion’s Touch, and a t-shirt, and receive a free poster. After making the right decision to buy that, I introduced myself to Jimmy and joked about nearly having a Wayne’s World-like reaction (“We’re not worthy!”). We talked about my first time seeing them last year in Providence, Rhode Island and because the show was so good, I had to go see them again. While the openers were about to take the stage, I found the drummer, Davey Calabrese hanging out by the merch booth. I proceeded to go over to introduce myself and have him sign my Calabrese poster. Davey noted that he loves meeting the fans and taking pictures and signing things. I can assure you that the Calabrese brothers are the coolest and most down to earth musicians that I have ever met.
New York City just feels so right for Calabrese. An authentic punk rock music scene located in the greatest city in the world. There were many punk rocker fans in the house for this show. Leather jackets, black denim vests, piercings, tattoos, big black boots, long-haired guys, and the killer vibe of a punk rock show. Bobby said that he loves the wild and crazy people in New York City and that the food is awesome, hoping to score a Papaya Dog while he was there for the show. Davey said that New York City is great and noted that they can play anywhere to at least one person and perform excellent.
The first of three openers, The Jukebox Romantics, started out the rockin’ evening. Even though one of the guitarists couldn’t make the show, the now power trio gave a great performance which included the band’s frontman, engaging the crowd as he and the bassist conversed back and forth and they were entertaining together. And also, during one of the songs, the drummer was playing so hard that a big piece of the drumstick flew off the stage and landed right in front of me! Despite being one member short, they gave the night a swift kick in the pants to get everyone going.
One of the other openers was Darrow Chemical Company, a punk rock band whose look and sound blended hardcore punk with 80’s thrash metal. This was the performance where the moshing began as they gave the fans an adrenaline rush. I feel that they blended well with Calabrese and were a fine choice for being on tour with them.
The opener that stood out the most to me was the sweet to the spicy of the other bands. I’m talking about the bluesy indie rock Brooklyn-based band named Graveyard Lovers. I was able to tell right off the bat that they were far more mellow than the other bands, but there’s no doubt that they brought their A-Game. What impressed me the most was that they reminded me of early Nirvana, which was especially appropriate because I was seeing them in a small club. The band’s frontman, Zach Reynolds, had a Kurt Cobain vibe to him, from his performance to his voice. Seeing them felt like a new take on a Nirvana show. Except it wasn’t Dave Grohl on drums, it was a beautiful woman. I chatted with Zach after their set and told him everything that I just said and he was genuinely happy to hear that. Remember, if you have the chance, chat with the opening band and tell them that you enjoyed their set because it really means the world to them to hear that.
And then it was time for the headlining brothers to take the stage! A cloud of trailing smoke crept from the stage as Calabrese got their game faces on and after hyping up the crowd, the horror punk band cranked the volume to eleven and started the show. They rocked the roof off as not only is their stage presence and charisma unbelievably impressive, but their music blends heavy-hitting Misfits-influenced punk with the poppy catchiness and memorable riffs of The Ramones. The band performed a very high-energy setlist, which not only included crowd favorites from past albums such as Coffin of Ruins, The Dead Don’t Rise, Red Slash, Vampires Don’t Exist, Midnight Spookshow, and Saturday Night Of The Living Dead. On top of that, they played several impressive tracks off of the brand new album. When I asked Davey about his thoughts on getting to play the new tracks live, he said, “I love it. It feels good playing new material because it’s fresh and I just enjoy it really hard.”
For their stage presence, fans would occasionally have a break from headbanging and moshing as Bobby looked into the crowd and shouted loudly and proudly, “Can I get an Amen? Can I get a Hallelujah?” The brothers were very glad to be playing in the city, consistently acknowledging the New York fans in attendance and making sure that everyone was having a fun time. That’s one of the many things that I love about them, they care just as much about their fans as they do about their music. This was exemplified when the band decided to pick a member of the audience to get up on stage and introduce the band members, as a lucky blonde punk rock girl was chosen to do so. A couple of times throughout the night, Davey stepped away from the drum kit, got to the front of the stage and hyped up the excited crowd. The New Yorkers certainly loved Calabrese, especially Bobby mentioning, “There was a crazy chick in front grabbing my legs. That was pretty cool.” He also said that his favorite part about a Calabrese show is the whole thing from beginning to end, as well as hitting every note and everyone’s freaking out on it. Davey noted that when he sees how the fans react in the audience, it makes him smile really hard.
After suddenly leaving the stage, the fans applauded and chanted for an encore. This led to the guys coming back out and closing the stellar set with their huge hit, Voices of the Dead. The band and fans were filled with good vibes and lots of sweat from the special night, The brothers got off stage and greeted fans as they posed for pictures, signed autographs, and engaged in conversation. There is seriously nothing like a Calabrese show and seeing them in a small club is the icing on the cake, an environment that they embrace wholeheartedly. Bobby described the show as, “Pretty rockin’. I think it was rockin’ because I know my left ear is completely numb, my pants are completely wet, my hair feels like somebody dropped pizza sauce in it. It’s all stringy, it’s nasty. So I think that’s telltale signs of a good show.” Davey wants everybody to walk out of a Calabrese show feeling loved and warmth in their heart because they truly love their fans.
As for what’s next for Calabrese, Bobby said, “We’re gonna be finishing up a tour, then we’re heading back. We’ll keep on touring, stay on the road, we’re a bunch of roadhogs. And then let this album (Born With A Scorpion’s Touch) sink into your bloodstream, let it go into your brain, let it blow your mind, melt your face, then we’re going back in the studio.”
When I asked Bobby what he wanted to say to his fans, he proclaimed, “We say thank you. We say it’s awesome that you guys stick with us through and through with every album. All you diehards, we love it. This is the Calabrese gang and you’re apart of it! And if we all had motorcycles, we’d ride into the night together because that’s the way we do it around here! We’re badass!”
Davey, Bobby, and Jimmy Calabrese in front of The Studio at Webster Hall stage