As the musicians were setting up for their show at Best Video Thursday night, a customer at the counter renting a movie asked proprietor Hank Hoffman what type of music would be played.
“Indie rock,” he replied.
“What does the indie stand for?” she asked.
“Independent” he answered.
“I don’t think I know what that is,” she responded. The four bands that played that night would soon show the audience that indie rock can be many things.
First to play at the video store and cultural center on Whitney Avenue in Hamden was Short Month, a four-piece band whose members, vocalist/guitarist Andy Dauphinais said, were “from all over Connecticut.” He welcomed new guitarist Matt to the band and noted that bass player Peter was with them “for the night.” Surrounded by an extensive amount of equipment from the remaining three bands, the band filled the place with a five-song set of hard, melodic, but also lyrically interesting rock.
Short Month played songs off the band’s EP, Two Weeks and a Bit, such as “Metro Station Bathroom” and “You Sound Like My Therapist,” as well as new songs — one live for the first time. The band had this reporter eager to investigate the lyrics a little more deeply after hearing such lines as “He’ll have his first kiss when he’s dead … it’ll be on his forehead.”
The second act of the night was Pinfinger, a four-piece band from West Haven. As Dauphinais had before him, vocalist and guitarist Matt Laydon shouted out Bonzo and the rest of the bands, noting that it was “always good to get a touring band through the area.” Pinfinger played its four-song set while the classic silent horror film The Hands of Orlac played on the screen behind it. With a more classic rock sound that also felt as if it could be a movie soundtrack in and of itself, the tunes included a couple of songs that the band mentioned were “really new.”
Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Bonzo came up next and played before the classic Dario Argento movie Suspiria. Vocalist and guitarist John Sciortino mentioned that he was pleased “to have the opportunity to play in such a cool and unique community space,” and then also said that was probably all he would say for the rest of the set. These words proved to be true as the four-piece band jammed through its set, filling breaks with pre-taped dialogue, possibly from films or television shows.
Bonzo had a more ethereal experimental rock vibe than the openers had, though there was a shading of sound reminiscent of Wilco in its A Ghost is Born moment. The sparse lyrics made an impact with such lines as “I’ll hold your breath, I’ll cut you off,” as the sound volleyed between heavier and more delicate moments on both rhythm and lead guitars, interspersed with moments of distortion.
“If you live in this area I feel like this is a place you should support. I’ve never seen a place like this,” Sciortino said. The crowd agreed.
The final act of the night, New Haven’s Bilge Rat, almost immediately tore into its four-song set with its usual exquisite ferocity. The beauty of Mike Kusek on guitar with Quinn Pirie on drums is their intuitive sense of each other’s playing. They played with effortless finesse, whether the sound was grungy or broke into moments of glorious distortion. Kusek’s vocals were never sacrificed for the music, lending a pleading sweetness to the mix and making you want to lean into both the lyrics and the sound.
Kusek mentioned early on that Bilge Rat had played with Bonzo over the summer in Ann Arbor and that it was “cool to see them again.” He thanked Thomas Shreve of Couch Yeti Productions who booked the show (and was present working the door). He was also thanked multiple times throughout the night, as was Best Video itself. The crowd responded wildly to Bilge Rat’s set, and many lingered after to talk and hang out with friends and fellow musicians.
Indie rock, on this Thursday night on the outskirts of New Haven, proved to be a musical category with multiple interpretations. It was a quilt made up of similar fabrics but in all different strengths and shades — with one strong thread of commonality and community running through it.