Just a few days before Christmas, The Happy Fits, supported by Jersey natives Shoobies and Deal Casino, rocked the House of Independents in Asbury Park in the first of two sold-out shows.
I shed my jacket and left it in the car despite the cold, but fortunately I was warmed by the sounds of Shoobie’s last-minute soundcheck; eventually I made it into the venue.
After taking pictures with my friends that didn’t end up being Instagram-worthy, Shoobies appeared on-stage and began their stellar set. They played older songs off their EPs Claude Monet, Cherry, and Mocean, some tunes from their most recent EP Vogue, as well as a few picks from their debut album, Cult. Shoobies never fail to create an energy that both encompasses their small town roots as well as a grooviness and chin-bumping tempo that makes everyone in the crowd dance without a care in the world.
My personal favorite from the set would have to be “Violet” since it was the first song of theirs I’d listened to back in 2017, and I haven’t stopped listening since. The quality of lyricism and sound has steadily increased and hearing their newest songs “Piety” and “Heavenly” live for the first time demonstrated how different and refreshing their new releases truly are. Their performance at the House of Independents was a reflection of their new style and transformation to make Shoobies even more unique.
Shoobies’ set was over, and the crowd shifted. Fans of Deal Casino shoved their way to the front, which is something you need to get used to with a longer line-up. I proudly stepped forward and set my elbows on the stage, waiting for the next band. Eventually, the lights dimmed and the various tube TVs that littered the stage started glowing, playing clips from old movies. I was immediately impressed with the stage design, but once Deal Casino started playing, I began to realize how special the combination of sound and visuals was; the energy in the room was out of this world. Deal Casino was playing a hometown show that night; they came together in 2013 in Asbury Park. I hadn’t listened to much of their music before the show, but after watching them perform I’d definitely say I’m a fan now.
Their popularity in the area was news to me until I looked around and saw everyone singing along with the indie pop outfit. Deal Casino performed tracks off their 2018 album LLC and their 2017 self-titled album, with my favorites being “Red Balloon” and “Color TV.” Frontman Joe Parella, donning a frilly cardigan that he was eager to show off, encouraged the crowd to sing along to the chorus of “Color TV”–”I’m upstairs in my room / You’re downstairs dancin’…” This moment was hauntingly beautiful, and the fleeting emotions I’d felt left an everlasting imprint that I think about whenever I listen to this song, or to Deal Casino for that matter.
After Deal Casino closed out their set, the pain in the soles of my feet was starting to get to me. But there was one band left: The Happy Fits. Hailing from Hunterdon County, The Happy Fits have steadily gained notoriety from their humble beginnings playing in New Brunswick basement shows to touring with This Wild Life. This was the second year of their annual Holiday Shows, which have been consistently sold out–and for a good reason. The set began with a cello-rendition of Carol of the Bells by vocalist and cello player for the band, Calvin Langman. Soon enough I recognized the intro to “Best Tears,” the first song I’d heard by them. I was taken back to the sweaty basement shows where I’d first seen The Happy Fits perform, and I became a little nostalgic watching them up on stage and seeing how far they’ve come.They continued with more tracks from their 2018 album Concentrate and their 2016 EP Awfully Apeelin’ (their obsession with fruits is pretty evident).
I was dancing, jumping, and headbanging–I attempted to mosh but it’s pretty hard to do when you’re in the front. Calvin continued to show off his cello skills, Ross Monteith belted lyrics and strummed the guitar with finesse, with Luke Ross on the drums playing some killer solos. The Happy Fits finished off strong with “Grow Back,” one of their more rock-heavy tunes. An abrupt end to an incredible show, so of course an encore was well-needed; they performed “Too Late” and “Jingle Bell Rock.” I was in marvelous awe after their set, but I managed to snag a setlist after begging one of the crew members to hand me one while I was in the midst of my exhausted stupor. Dehydrated and a bit delirious, I spent $50 on merchandise and attempted to beg The Happy Fits to come back to Rutgers for another basement show; hopefully they’ll listen.
Review By: Sarah Dowdy