At Grooms‘ album release show in Brooklyn, NY, on July 9, DIY promoter Todd P may very well have plucked four people from the crowd at random and slapped them onstage, aesthetically speaking. Grooms is a young band of young people who are roughly the ages of their audience members. But in terms of performance and sound, lead singer Travis Johnson is like an early Isaac Brock, sweating and channeling that same kind of indie rock post-adolescent angst. “We’re just gonna play some songs, and then we’re gonna play some more songs, OK?” he tells the crowd before striking the first loud note of a surprisingly punk set.
Grooms has the feeling of a bright-eyed, energetic band that has logged many hours grinding out songs in a Brooklyn apartment. Bassist Emily Ambruso looks like the indie rock girl next door as she blinks into the crowd and waggles her fingers along the neck of her guitar, almost like she’s acclimating to having a gaggle of onlookers watch her play. No one band member hogs the spotlight; each member of Grooms knows how to command attention, whether it’s the drummer pounding out a loud and high-energy beat or the keyboard player crossing the stage to bash a tambourine against the cymbal of a drum.
The band’s egalitarian chemistry is by no means insular: The bandmates interact with the audience as naturally as they communicate among themselves, pausing between songs to chat with the onlookers. “Here’s a song about losing someone else’s virginity,” Johnson tells the crowd, mopping his brow. “Do it, man!” yells a hoarse guy from the middle of the room. Late in the set, a gangly fan who had elbowed his way to the front leans forward to tell Johnson, “You’re really good,” and Johnson easily establishes a brief rapport. “I like this guy,” he replies thoughtfully, tweaking his guitar. “I don’t know what it is. There’s something about him.”
By the end of Grooms’ set, many audience members feel the same way about the band. When Grooms closes out the last song, the audience hangs around to cheer and holler in an attempt to bring out an encore, but all Johnson and his cohorts can do is shrug as the band has exhausted all of its material.