BY SHAUN McGANN | Asbury Park looks like a ghost town. It’s freezing out, snow is whipping around, not sticking, but not pleasant by any means. It’s a rotten Saturday night, the kind where you might veto any plans in favor of staying in and vegging out on basic cable and re-sorting your record collection. But Asbury Lanes is stuffed to the gills, packed in tight, and buzzing for local heroes Brick + Mortar. No one cares about the weather.
However, it’s hard not to notice a Flying-V bass, especially during a fuzz-drenched sound-check, but when you see two Flying-V basses one instinctively knows it’s time to stake out a spot near the stage. The basses—there were others, a lot of others—belonged to Kid Is Qual, what I guess you’d have to call a drum-and-bass band but it doesn’t feel right doing that.
Yes, they are two bass players and a drummer, but John Sullivan, formerly of Jack’s Mannequin, and a small robot army of pedals and processors at his feet (and a voice-box on his microphone) jumped into a set that bent industrial dance synth lines and stadium-rock guitar solos—except, you know, they were on bass. Playing most of the songs off their album Damn Son with Kevin Whilouby and James Seretis holding down thick, distorted grooves, Sullivan was free to sing and shriek solos. And all of this was before Schoolly-D showed up.
You might know Schoolly-D from appearances on Aqua Teen Hunger Force or from his hit from the ’80s “P.S.K.,” which no less an authority than Ice-T credits with creating gangsta-rap. He towered over the stage and wasted no time rapping over anything the band threw at him, even challenging a fan in the audience to battle him on stage. He closed with an updated version of “P.S.K.” and a joint-effort between the two acts called “Ass of the Year.”
But the guests weren’t finished, Jack’s Mannequin guitarist Bobby “Raw” Anderson jumped up on stage to sing Ministry’s “Just One Fix.” By this time the Lanes was packed and one almost forgot there was another band waiting to go on.
The crowd was properly primed for Brick + Mortar and lead-singer/ guitarist/ bass-player Brandon Asraf and drummer/ backup vocalist John Tacon burned through their set, leading the crowd in loud choruses on “Bangs” and “For Yellow Walls.” In fact, there wasn’t much the crowd wasn’t singing along with, and Asraf and Tacon matched their energy the whole way, pounding out their aggressively catchy catalog including songs off 2010’s 7 Years in the Mystic Room and 2011’s EP “Heatstroke.”
This was a loud show, maybe even one where you start thinking “Hey, maybe I’m too old to be here.” Kid Is Qual, was loud, but Brick + Mortar was more dynamic, and during those quiet parts you noticed that you might be blowing your ear drums out the next time the songs kicks in.
By the time they were done I was exhausted, and exhausted for them. This wasn’t a band taking it easy and sucking up the adulation of a local audience who would have screamed their heads off even if they’d half-assed it. It reinforced why you showed up on a rotten Saturday night when it’s freezing and snowing, packed into a bowling-alley-turned-rock-club, risking permanent hearing loss just to scream your head off. (And not being able to wait until the next time you get a chance to do it again.)