Concert Review – Jeff Rosenstock and Laura Stevenson at The Troubadour

The Jeff Rosenstock/Laura Stevenson Summer Tour made a stop in Los Angeles last Thursday, July 28th at The Troubadour. The tour, which began earlier that month, did a stint through several cities in Canada before hitting up the Pitchfork Music Fest in Chicago on July 15th (unfortunately sans Laura). Heading out across the west coast and back to the east, the tour will wrap up next week in Jersey.

The billing for this tour was a match made in heaven; the two musicians are great close friends, with Laura having played keyboards for Jeff’s previous music project, Bomb the Music Industry!. Bomb the Music Industry! has a dedicated following, but many may also know Jeff Rosenstock as the frontman for the ska punk band, The Arrogant Son’s of Bitches.

The ska kids were certainly out that night for the Troubadour show. Jeff’s musicianship is impressive and fun as hell, with fantastically discordant chord progressions punctuated by unpredictable vocal melodies, pop-punk whoahs, and occasional ska riffs. But for me, his main allure comes from his raw lyric writing. Jeff has a supreme talent for writing truthfully about the realities of depression, alcohol abuse, and self-hatred; and, boy, do I appreciate it. We saw this with The Arrogant Son’s of Bitches, but with Bomb the Music Industry!, and now his solo work, Jeff’s been allowed to express the feelings what many share — the nervous energy that brews up from the discomfort of, well, for those who have experienced depression, just being — all wrapped up into explosive pop punk songs.

Now, onto the show.

We unfortunately missed the opening band, Kitty Kat Fanclub, but Jeff had nothing but the kindest words for them. I encourage you to check out their music at the Asian Man Records bandcamp: https://asianmanrecords.bandcamp.com/album/songs-about-cats

Laura Stevenson took stage with her guitar, accompanied by her keyboardist and drummer. As she began her set, Laura made a point of letting the audience know that her songs were real sad. In the middle of her set she took some time to play a handful of songs totally solo, giving her vocals and light electric guitar playing an opportunity to shine. I must emphasize — she really is a phenomenal singer. I was struck by her very serious talent when I first heard about her, and she is one of a few vocalists (including the incredible Francis Quinlan of Hop Along) that can give me the chills with just their singing. Maybe she’ll do the same for you, maybe not. Much the same vein as Jeff, Laura’s songs are raw and emotional, truthful and upfront about being totally bummed on yourself. It’s great.

Jeff’s set was for the fans. While there were a few singing along with Laura during her set, the crowed roared along with Jeff and the band as they played. People who may have come to the show unfamiliar with Jeff Rosenstock’s music definitely missed out on what seemed like the show version of an inside…well, not joke exactly, but hopefully you get the gist; the lyrics were garbled by the sheer number of out-of-tune vocals from fans singing every lyric (me included). The setlist mostly comprised of songs off of his newest record, WORRY. (2016), and another few from his previous record, We Cool? (2015).

A major highlight of the set for me was “The Trash The Trash The Trash” from Jeff Rosenstock’s first album I Look Like Shit (2012) —  a track which is possibly one of the most relatable songs of all time for someone with depression (me included, again).

It appeared that a number of people close to both Jeff and Laura were there at the show from Long Island. Jeff dedicated two songs in the set to his niece and nephew. We think we saw them watching from the balcony with protective ear wear.

Jeff ended the set with my personal favorite song (yes!), “You in Weird Cities”. To this he added, an element NOTABLY MISSING from the studio recording, a rocking saxophone solo from atop of one of the side stage amps.

As a long-time fan of Jeff Rosenstock, along with all of the other fans who no doubt connect deeply to Jeff and his music because of experiences with depression, it was an exceptionally intimate night. It felt good — cathartic.

To get a feel for Jeff Rosenstock and his brand of music, you can watch his video for “Wave Goodnight to Me” below: