Holiday homecomings were the honors of the hour at Nietzsche’s on Saturday night, as a packed house was rocked out by bands returning from coast-to-coast in M.A.G.S. and Feverbox, with help from Rochester friends The Demos and a day-of addition in Smug.
The four-band late bill began at 10:15 p.m. at the Allentown landmark, with Smug singer Craig Perno in a Santa hat that flew off halfway through the punkish trio’s first song. “I was tryna be cute,” he said with a smile.
The Demos followed with polished power pop that’s poised for prime time, as the tenured quintet tore through a tight set of catchy melodies, soaring harmonies and slick riffs over rolling rhythm. The title track of the band's latest EP “If You Only Knew”reveals a modern yet timeless sonic vision in bloom with a bouncing bass line, ethereal synth splashes and an ensemble-sung wordless chorus. (The song was produced by fellow Rochesterian Dan Armbruster of Joywave, which brought the band on a cross-country tour this year.)
Back from Brooklyn, Kenmore-made quartet Feverbox brought the fam to the jam, as a reunion of sorts formed in front of the stage before they belted out a bevy of stiff-lipped lyrics and dual-guitar leads led by the trio of tracks on their headline-torn new EP “Political Theater.”
Home from Los Angeles with a hold on the headlining slot, M.A.G.S. mastermind Elliott Douglas made clear he was craving connection by calling on the crowd to sing along to the catchy chorus of his first song, “My Love.” A barn burner from his self-titled debut album, it was balanced by boisterous shouts and sunny falsetto between torrential riff and drums.
Backed by his brother Christian on bass and Deadwolf’s Tyler Mendola on drums, Douglas further pulled the audience in by falling to his knees during guitar leads between the dance beat of “Body” and dreamy ballad “Blonde Off.”
As the crowd kept calling for an encore despite Douglas’ admission that they had played all they’d rehearsed, he again offered “My Love” with a warning. “Y’all gotta go crazy, though, ‘cause I don’t know when I’m gonna be back around here and this is being filmed.”
With a visceral voice full of yearning, ferocious guitar chops and genre-jumping songwriting, Douglas wields some serious magic that’s still unharnessed - here’s to him going back to L.A. and becoming the next artist to break big out of Buffalo.
M.A.G.S with Feverbox, The Demos and Smug, Dec. 22 at Nietzsche's