Rat in a New York state of mind

The Rathskeller served up a double shot of Big Apple bands as the College Union Board sponsored its New York Indie Night last Friday.

The Red Romance, with its shoegaze guitar style, was the perfect opening act for pop-punk merrymakers Looker, as the Rat saw the Spring semester’s first batch of rock ‘n’ roll professionals.

Arising out of the dissolution days of its former band Ambulance LTD, The Red Romance continues in that spirit, taking elements from the noise-pop and post-rock genres. Even though the band hit the stage 45 minutes late, by the second song, the audience was hooked.

Matt Dublin and members quickly showed off their impressive musical skills by launching into fan favorites, “Kinda Feel Right” and “Hesitate,” both of which focus attention on the band’s furiously upbeat nature. While it’s obvious that this band takes some of its cues from older acts like My Bloody Valentine, the similarities to the Room on Fire-era of the Strokes are unavoidable, especially when it comes to the heavy use of keytar-like distortion heard on such tracks as “12:51.”

Kidding around with almost everyone in the room, The Red Romance showed an unpretentious side, something not often seen in groups of their caliber. By not giving into the pressure to be trendy, they’re helping to point true music lovers in the right direction, far away from the judgemental world of New York City.

And with a “1, 2, buckle my shoe,” Looker shot out onto the stage. Armed with its three ladies as well as Robbie Overbey on drums, this forceful foursome showed the crowd a high-energy performance.

Although Looker is made up of a majority of female musicians, it is not a “girl-group.” Still holding a strong sense of female empowerment, this ensemble doesn’t get bogged down with some of the more socially-conscious topics often found in bands such as Le Tigre or Sleater-Kinney. By cutting away from these heavier subjects, it leaves time for the group to have fun.

Playing at breakneck speed, Looker’s influence immediately became clear. Taking a little from Blondie and a snippet from The Pretenders, the only way this group can truly be summed up is if the Shangri-Las were actually the Leader of the Pack.

Shortly after beginning the set, a question was posed by guitarist Nicole Greco. “Do you wanna hear a fast one or a slow one?” she asked. When a Rat patron called for the former, Overbey replied, “That’s too bad. You guys were gonna hear ‘Heaven’ by Bryan Adams.”

Some of their notable original numbers were “Gates of the Old City,” a harmony-laden diddy, and their newest B-side, “Help Me Roada,” a song so charming and sweet it sounds better than most A-sides.

The most surprising factor of these tunes was the superior guitar-playing abilities shown equally by all three of the band’s female members. Lead guitarist/singer Boshra AlSaadi cranked out some speedy frets and riffs, guitarist/singer Nicole Greco made ideal use of her pedalboard and bassist AJ Lambert plunked away on never-ending bass lines.

“We’ve abandoned our set list, so we pretty much have no clue what’s going on,” Overbey quipped.

From the reaction of the crowd, they clearly did.