The Blurry Nights (fka Sonic Spank) Host EP Release Party in Philly
It was May 17 and the Blurry Nights, formerly known as Sonic Spank, were holding their EP Release Party at Philly’s Bourbon & Branch. In the final hours of my Saturday night, I found myself in the small-ish upstairs bar flanked by its modest stage, wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into. The venue, a restaurant and bar specializing in (you guessed it) whiskey in the city’s Northern Liberties neighborhood had recently replaced the thirty-year-old neighborhood tavern Liberties, and certainly had a charm I could envision myself enjoying. And the prospect of a couple hours of music from the Blurry Nights, celebrating the release of their new EP that evening, without a doubt provided incentive to stick around. But the initial crowd was another story. As I sipped my drink, a large group of drunken and aging long-ago-frat-boys screamed at hard-edged grunge opening act Taggart to cover Bruce Springsteen repeatedly, some barely managing to hold themselves up while others, like the thirty-something laying on the ground with his popped collar intact and feet in the air attempting to remove his shoes for some unknown reason, didn’t even make the attempt. This is not what I had signed up for.
However, my ears and sanity somehow managed to survive Taggart’s set and the flock of former-fratties that swarmed the stage as the band played. As did, with some surprise, Jeremy Worthington’s drum set despite the aggravated assault it sustained at the hands of Taggart’s drummer. As the opening act finished up and left the stage, the post-bros-in-denial slowly quieted and dispersed, most likely to find a bar with a jukebox stocked with an ultra-American, Boss-heavy, bro-tastic music selection they could drunkenly stumble over with slurred words and failed dance attempts. Yes, please, take your shenanigans to some nearby college hangout where you can relive your Glory Days. The rest of us were ready for some music.
The Blurry Nights did not disappoint. They played the tracks off their new EP without a hiccup, from the indie-garage-infused dream-like “Checked Out” to their self-proclaimed “progressive heartland” track “Don’t Need 3,” with a southern alt-rock flare bringing to mind the likes of Kings of Leon, in addition to a number of new songs, some of which will be released later this year. It’s not too often that you’ll find a band that incorporates the distorted instrumentals and raw edginess of Nirvana, the punctuated pop-punk of Blink 182, the raw new wave electro sounds of the Strokes, the psychedelic synth-heavy vibes of the Disco Biscuits, and the driving string and key progressions and near-robotic percussion of metal prog rockers Dream Theater within the course of a single album or live set. But the Blurry Nights did just that.
The jamming was perhaps the biggest surprise. The tracks on the EP are what one would expect from an alternative or indie rock band: shorter than six minutes in length, with an ABA structure that takes you from verse to chorus once or twice before moving on to the bridge and then back to verse and chorus. However, the band proved during their set that they will not be tied down by any specific genre or style, taking Stone Temple Pilots’ grunge tour de force “Vaseline” and, with a progressive keys jam that was perfectly accompanied by the rest of the band in dynamics, beat, and melody, easily transcended the song’s structure and made it something completely their own. They merged that “musical instruments falling down the stairs in perfect unison” sound, a sound I so often hear and love in the music of Phish, into a song where I’d never expect to hear it. I was later told that the cover was a last minute decision, making the performance all the more impressive.
I have no idea where these guys are going next, but it seems fairly certain that wherever it is will be uncharted territory, at the very least for them. The band chose to take on a new name as a reflection of their departure from their original sound. The name Blurry Nights couldn’t be more perfect. Nights spent checking out these guys will blur the lines dividing musical genres, eras, and playing styles, leaving you at a loss when it comes to classifying the resulting sound. The band refers to it as “Psychedelic Grunge meets Synth-Pop-Riff-Rock,” but this merely scratches the surface. I am not always a fan of change, but after last weekend I have a feeling that for the band formerly known as Sonic Spank it’s going to be a good thing.
Keep an eye on their Facebook page and website for information on the release of a second EP due out later this year, as well as on future appearances.