As I approach the outdoor beer garden, my anxiety creeps in, like a time-lapse video of moss or maggots consuming a desiccated mammal. I relieve my under-inflated bicycle tires of my 225 pounds of person and inch closer to the performance venue, a handful of concrete benches in a subtle slope pointing at the band Arc Iris, who have the rowdy crowd simultaneously enraptured and giddily enjoying one of the final days of summer, chaotically barking and cross-talking each other, a din, which from a distance, sounds faintly like heckling.
However, once I’ve conjured the necessary reassurances to myself, I make my way through the entrance, a large beer stall with no food that gives way to the grassy stage. I decide on a spicy cider, noting to the bartender that while I love heat, I may start hiccuping and crying at a moment’s notice ,and not to worry. As I pay, the person next to me suddenly asks, “What’s a dongle?” in the tone one uses when trying to win an argument. “It’s uh, a, like a USB thing, right?” I gesture with my hands, in a way that I hope should indicate something concrete and technical, but ends up looking like two flimsy tortillas in the wind. “Exactly! They don’t believe me!”, the inquisitor gestures at the cashiers, who grin back expectantly. “It’s different than a dingus”, I politely confirm to the arbiters, although nobody asked.
The crowd seems slightly older than the normal college crowd, which is a mild surprise. The grumpy old man in my twenty-something psyche is heartened by the discovery, the same little voice that grumbled “none of this was here a few years ago” while I coasted past new condos, a Trader Joe’s and hip bars. I settle in quite quickly when I find a place to sit where I can hear the music clearly. It’s a song about an apocalypse caused by the floating trash heap in the ocean consuming New Jersey, and it’s insanely danceable. Who would have thought the apocalypse could be so fun? Right when it’s over, they announce they’re about to play their final song, “Piggies II”.
“Piggies II” at times invokes something quite Floyd-ian, evidenced by it’s dense synth-driven feel (and possible homage in the title?) and at other times Robert Palmer’s precise stage visuals, with a synchronized shoulder glance that highlights the jittery nature of the 5/4 rhythm it basks in throughout the refrains. The band was super-cleaned up with their matching pink blazers, but it’d be a mistake to chalk their appeal up to aesthetics, everyone is in command of their instruments, sometimes serving the role of multiple parts via both bass and melodic synths.
When the set ends, I make my way over to the merch table. Between the t-shirts and vinyls, I see a pile of plastic cards slightly larger than a business card and covered with art, and a perforated edge cut into them. Next to that a couple of peanut shaped pieces with a small lanyard attached. “What are these?” I ask the drummer. “That’s our first album on a USB drive, and the peanut is a couple songs that wouldn’t fit on the last record.” Dongles indeed.