By Kimberly Ilkowski
The Rathskeller was packed on Tuesday, Nov. 4, as the audience welcomed dark-indie rockers Gin War and the electro-pop outfit Stepdad to the stage for a night of guitar shredding, bass blasting and, of course, great facial hair.
New Jersey natives Gin War started off the night, comprised of Brandon Rosenberg on vocals and guitar, Kyle Carrier on guitar, Mike Planko on bass and Chad Chammings on drums.
The band began its set with two brand new acoustic songs, “Trip” and “Cement.” The guys rounded out the acoustic portion of the show with a cover of “Out of Reach” by The Get Up Kids — a band they have always admired.
Launching into harder rock sounds, Rosenberg sang with a distinct, angst-filled rasp flanked by Carrier and Planko jamming out fast and loud by his side.
Gin War finished its set playing songs from its recently released EP, “Half of a Good Plan,” off American Scream Records, including the tracks “Wink” and “Disconnect.”
When it comes to songwriting, the band says location matters. “We practice in this shed in the woods with a raccoon, squirrels, a couple of chickens and a bat,” Rosenberg said. “We all have to learn to get along.”
With plans to release a new record soon, the band is recording at Silver Bullet Studios in Connecticut, working with Greg Thomas of Misery Signals and Chris Teti of The World Is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die. The quartet also has touring plans for January of next year.
The band has an unmistakable sound that’s all its own, yet it carries hints of bands that once dominated the emo scene like Motion City Soundtrack and The Hush Sound.
“We’re not trying to fit into a specific genre,” Carrier said. “We play what we like and what sounds good to us.”
When Stepdad took the stage, the Rat turned into an instant dance party, with students getting out of their seats to jump in on the action.
Each track opened with the sounds of nature and chirping birds before diving into soaring synths and booming bass.
The band, made up of vocalist Mark “ultramark” Tafel, keyboardist Ryan McCarthy, guitarist Nathan Klages and drummer Ben Weissenborn, played songs off its 2012 full-length album “Wildlife Pop” like “My Leather, My Fur, My Nails” and “Starfriends On Earth.”
Stepdad also debuted two brand new tracks, “Majesty” and “Harm’s Way,” which continued to showcase its large sound, high-energy hooks and Tafel’s killer beard.
The band left the audience with a cover of “Dreams” from the ’90s alternative group The Cranberries, where Tafel was really able to maximize his falsetto singing abilities.
Following a string of shows on the east coast, the group is headed to the mid west to wrap up its small fall tour with the space-glam trio Sphynx.