Mac’s Bar in Lansing feels a little like The Bronze from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” It’s local and dark, and the closeness of the bar and the stage give off the impression that you’ve wandered onto a movie set just in time for an important scene. Every experience feels monumental, and every person seems like a character.
Earlier this month, Rozwell Kid took the stage at Mac’s, and it was quite an experience indeed. The West Virginia band is known for producing quality pop punk and indie rock music without sacrificing any of their core drive or identity — for better or for worse — and they both uphold and exceed this reputation in their live form.
The night began with impressive openers Dogleg and Slow Mass, both of which held nothing back and invigorated the growing crowd with impassioned rock sets. Then Rozwell Kid — a foursome made up of Jordan Hudkins, Adam L. Meisterhans, Devin Donnelly and Sean Hallock — took the stage. They launched into a set stuffed primarily with hits from their last two albums, Precious Art and Too Shabby.
This might have been expected already from their music, but Rozwell Kid constantly blends comedy with musicality. One of the most popular parts of the show was Keith, the stuffed teddy bear that the band had picked up only a few days previously at a show in Indianapolis. Keith wore a tee-shirt and sunglasses and was constantly deliberating, according to frontman Hudkins and to the delight of the crowd, whether or not to try and crowdsurf. The band also spoofed the idea of swaying lighters at a concert for their performance of “Michael Keaton,” when they asked audience members to instead wave the first image that came up when we searched “Beetlejuice face” on our cell phones. Only Rozwell Kid could have seen the crowded room full of people, waving back and forth the composite image of a heavily costumed Michael Keaton. Even the idea of it is funny in its own way.
The comedy slipped into slightly wobbly territory at one point, all of the band members aside from Hudkins left the stage, leaving him alone to deliver a vulnerable, acoustic performance — which turned out to be “Booger.” This performance ended with the rest of the band hurrying back to carry out the blaring smash of a final note. It’s a little tough to know how to react when a moment feels soft and gentle but is also punctuated again and again by the word “booger,” but then, that’s probably the joke to begin with. And for all their good cheer, the band pulled no punches, delivering a forceful, impressive, guitar-fueled performance through and through.
The audience’s enthusiasm and the band’s enthusiasm were clearly looped into a cycle, whether this manifested in the good-natured feeling on and off stage or in the audience’s calls out to Keith to start crowd surfing, yet Rozwell Kid also had no qualms about being themselves. Only two songs in, a mosh pit started to churn seemingly out of nowhere. After the song, Hudkins told everybody how much they loved to see everybody jumping up and down, but that to “just make sure everyone around you is cool with it.”
Everyone loved it. Hudkins later told us that Lansing was their second to last tour stop, and the first one where they’d been asked for an encore, though the encore felt completely natural. The set was constantly veering between genres and emotional states — from satirical to grave, from punk to alt-rock — and the performances never once felt jarring, because they were so anchored by the band’s technical prowess and jovial attitudes. Rozwell Kid did what any good live band should do: They told the audience a story about ourselves, invited us into a movie in which we could live out versions of ourselves that were fun and emotional, ironic and completely for real. Who could ask for more?