The first thing I heard from the Brooklyn based band Ben Franklin was their record, Optimist. The recording has a great sound. It is no shitty demo. There are big sounding drums, present vocals, and each instrument sits in its own clear spot in the overall mix. On the other hand Optimist isn’t over produced like 95% of the major releases today. The songs are catchy and clever post-punk with a taste of indie-rock. They make me think of bands like Cake, Weezer (Blue and Pinkerton only), Cursive, and Sunny Day Real Estate. After hearing Optimist, I knew I had to go to a show and see if the band live stood up to the recording.
I saw Ben Franklin at 11pm on a Wednesday at Bruar Falls, one of Williamsburg’s not so underground, hip spots. The club was packed. It took about four songs for the band to get warm, but once they got it they were on fire. Their vocal harmonies are well planned and spot on. I find the riff based sections of their songs to be where the band thrives. Billy Gray is not only the main vocalist but also the lead guitarist. His modesty on stage is dichotomous to his masochistic style songwriting. While speaking to the crowd he comes off as vulnerable and sincere. Bassist Eddie Garza does most of the talking for the night. His banter between songs is too long for me, though he does a great job of playing, singing and dancing during the songs. He is the designated fun guy in the band.
The lyrics are cynical and sarcastic with a touch of anger. Their fans connect with these emotions and have the uninhibited desire to party that is inherent to rock music. What I mean to say is: the crowd freaked out.
The song, Drink to Forget, was the turning point of the night. The audience members knew the song by heart. While singing along, they really started to move.
As the night went on more drinks were consumed both on stage and off. I think I caught a glimpse of a flask
in Billy’s hand at one point. All this partying and the music led to a great and wonderful thing, STAGE DIVING
AND CROWD SURFING! It came on like a storm. First there was moshing. Then the momentum grew and some people were being lifted quickly here and there. Next thing I knew, it became like an underground VFW show
in 1991. A small girl got up on stage and just jumped. The audience caught her and carried her around. That was it. Now it was “okay” for every dude to get up on stage and jump. The more people freaked out, the harder the band played. The harder the band played, the more the floor shook. At the end of the night all the instruments and people fell to the ground. As the band left a massacred stage Eddie picked up a mic and suggested a list
of priorities yelling, “Really, smoke weed and buy our shit!” He dropped the mic with a thud and the band walked off to greet fans.
Check Ben Franklin out at wearebenfranklin.com where you can “buy their shit,” Optimist, for free or name your price. They are currently finishing up the mixes of a new 7″ to be released on Killing Horse Records in January. It will be called Urgency.