December 20, 2010 4 comments
It’s sometime after midnight and I find myself in the back of a van with the Detroit-based group Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. We are blasting The Jackson 5 classic, “ABC” and are en route to an after party at a loft in TriBeCa.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. has just finished their premier show at New York venue Bowery Ballroom and are already on their way to a second gig, this time much more intimate and certainly more posh.
The classic Bowery venue was littered with hipsters as the band initially took the stage, following Brooklyn’s own Tony Castles. As Dale began, the crowd soon turned into a dancing frenzy.
Proclaiming that they hailed all the way from, “Day-twas” (Detriot), the delightfully unexpected part of the show was the banter between Epstein and guitarist/vocalist Daniel Zott. Genuinely hilarious, the band is a couple of guys who enjoy having a great time and they successfully brought the crowd along for the party.
Dressed in ironic trucker hats and adorning a giant American flag on the stage, Dale played their insanely catchy and melodic pop music. Each time the drums hit, giant lights behind the band lit up the words, “JR. JR.”
Although the band only has a four song EP: the exceptional Horse Power, they showcased several new songs that are on their upcoming album, It’s A Corporate World, which is to be released sometime in the early spring.
The true highlight of the show, musically, was the haunting, delicate, “Skeletons.” Joining the band, a group emerged onto the stage wearing homemade skeleton masks and providing a choir of background noise to the beautiful harmonies and sounds that the song provides.
Closing the set with a rocked-out version of their chill single, “Nothing but our love,” the band left the stage leaving the crowd wanting more.
Outside in the bitter cold of a December night in Manhattan, Epstein bummed a cigarette from a fan. “I’m probably only going to take like three puffs and then put it out, will you be offended?” The girl simply smiled as he lit the cigarette.
Daniel Zott, who looks a lot like 30 Rock actor Judah Friedlander while wearing a trucker hat, sold copies of Horse Power while professing the reason behind the knowingly ridiculous and ironic name of the group.
“There’s a million bands out there these days, ya know? So what does it take to get noticed? We think people take themselves way too seriously, so we figured why not dress up in NASCAR outfits and call ourselves this, and enjoy the sheer silliness of it all.”
Half an hour later, after discussions ranged from comedian Jim Breuer and whatever’s he’s been up to since Half Baked, as well as Coney dogs from the actual Isle of Coney, we arrived at a loft that would make TriBeCa king Jay-Z jealous.
Epstein laughed at his own handiwork, as he parallel parked the van. “That skeleton choir really was perfect. Spooky and ghost-like right? Two hours of stupid manual labor making those fucking masks, but it was worth it, I think.” And it was.
On the fifth floor, the elevator opened into an unbelievable downtown loft.
Cascading into a sea of the beautiful and wealthy, the band set up for a second time but not before Epstein took a break with a much needed and deserved beer.
“I’ve been playing music forever. I was in a band when I was 15, Call It In The Air, we were signed and everything. I was the singer. It was sort of Emo before Emo even existed.” He laughed.
Both Epstein and Zott have long been involved in music. Even now, both have separate bands, The Great Fiction and The American Secrets (Zott) and The Silent Years (Epstein).
After finishing his beer, Epstein joined Zott and touring drummer Ryan Clancey, taking the stage.
The host of the party, Buck, who was seemingly straight out of a Bret Easton Ellis novel, rotated around his loft explaining how the night had come to be. He had seen Dale at a club in Washington DC just the night before on a recommendation from his girlfriend. Buck claimed he knew ‘absolutely nothing’ about music but his girlfriend ‘knew all the great bands.’ After Dale finished their DC gig, Buck approached them to play his party and the Detroit natives gladly accepted.
As the liquor drenched New York socialites danced to their new favorite band, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. played with the same intensity that they possessed earlier in the night.
The larger than life loft filled with a 15-foot high mirror and lit candles scattered throughout the hardwood floor was filled with noise. The dancing and music went on for nearly an hour, until the infamous New York City police came and the soiree had sadly come to an end.
Most of the party attendees were sent whirling and swirling into the wee hours of a downtown night, with the sounds of a band on the rise still ringing in their ears. From the smile on his face and regardless of the ensuing noise violation, the host was more than happy with the night.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. had come to New York for one day and they did the city justice.
“We try to push ourselves really hard.” Epstein said. “I’m just really excited to see where it goes.”