photos by Mimi Hong

Citizen / Turnover

I showed up a little late to Market Hotel on Monday (4/18), and walked in to a packed house of kids singing at the top of their lungs to Sorority Noise. This was just the second band on a four-band bill on a Monday in an out-of-the-way venue that doesn't even have a sign, but the enthusiasm in the room matched that of a headlining set on a Friday night. Sorority Noise are a crunchy, mid-fi rock band from a town that's pretty removed from any major media hub (Hartford, CT), and they're signed to Topshelf Records, a niche independent label run by the kinds of true believers who would put out new Jazz June and Kind of Like Spitting records in the 2010s. This is all to say that without much NYC's Coolest Young Band-style buzz or Silent Majority Rock-style popularity, Sorority Noise have managed to reach people who genuinely care about their band. It's not hard to see why. Sorority Noise closed their set with the song "Using," and as frontman Cameron Boucher has done every time I've seen them play it, he prefaced the song with a speech about how the song is about his very real mental illness and about how he's come close to ending his life but decided life is worth living and wants all of us to know that our lives are worth living too. The room erupts into cheers during this speech, and by the time just about every person around you yells "I STOPPED WISHING I WAS DEAD" as the song kicks into full gear, it's hard not to get chills.

You could've called it a night right there, but again, this was just the second band on a four-band bill and really the whole tour was put together so well that if you like one of the bands, you'd almost certainly like the other three. That's actually a little surprising if you only base it on how the bands sound. Milk Teeth, who opened (and who we unfortunately missed), kind of sound like a rock band who would've had an MTV hit in 1998. Turnover play ethereal dream pop with hints of post-rock, shoegaze and jangle pop thrown in, and Citizen marry pop punk hooks to the abrasive sounds of Nirvana's In Utero and The Jesus Lizard's Goat. But what all these bands have in common is a good rhythm section, overwhelming sincerity, and the ability to connect with a young fanbase that wants to feel something when they see a rock show.

Turnover followed Sorority Noise, and though the volume of the guitars was lower for these guys, the volume of the audience singing was not. They're channelling similar influences to the ones bands like Real Estate and Wild Nothing were channelling on their early records, but their songs are discussing topics that make people want to obsess over their lyrics. Show highlight "New Scream" may sound upbeat and pleasant, but it talks about quarter-life crisis-induced anxiety and paranoia. Like most of their best songs, it's deceptively simple and effortlessly catchy.

Lastly, Citizen wrapped up the show, opening with "The Summer," the best and most popular song off their mostly-average debut album, which had a huge chunk of the crowd rushing the stage and another huge chunk starting the night's first real mosh pit. It was the most energetic the crowd would be for their whole set, but the show only got better as it progressed. Judging by this crowd, I guess their abrasive sophomore album hasn't totally caught on yet, but I hope it does because those songs were far and away the most interesting ones they played all night. They've got atypical chord progressions, unpredictable dynamic shifts, and a real level of musicianship that didn't seem as obvious on their earlier material. It's pretty out of step with most things things going on in rock music right now, and better for it.

All four bands had also played NYC's Bowery Ballroom two days before (which, like Market Hotel, was also sold out). Citizen will be back to play those same two venues on tour with Nothing, Culture Abuse, and the Mary Lattimore/Jeff Zeigler duo in July.

Pictures from Monday's Market Hotel show continue below.


Sorority Noise