A night of post-rock at On Pop of the World

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The Kneads forge the post-rock future at On Pop of the World in Greensboro. (photo by Spencer KM Brown)

It was like being at a house party, one where everyone is all smiles, happy just to be there.

The $5 cover charge went to pay the bands for the night. The club had a comfortable feel to it, as if being in someone’s living room. Near the front entrance, shaded lamps lit the corners, illuminating a shelf of band merch and recent recordings from the studio end of this business. People milled around from room to room, occasionally on couches that line the walls beneath hanging artwork, as they waited for the show to begin.

The stage was lit only by strings of white lights tacked on the walls and ceiling, giving a bright, luminous glow to the performers. There was nothing glorious about any of it, no expensive lighting system or fog machines, no wall of speakers or sound booth in the back of the hall.

As house music droned, there was an air of camaraderie among the crowd as they gathered near the front. Punks stood by indie kids and old rockers cheered with their wives as the emcee for the night announced the lineup. There was nothing pretentious, no one keeping an eye out for posers, no one promoting a political agenda or selling something. Everyone had just come out to hear the music.

Firing the show off on March 25 were Raleigh indie-rockers Secretary Pool, who opened with a lean and terse set of garage rock. With a unique blend of new wave and rock, the band blended smooth melodies reminiscent of Weezer and Car Seat Headrest, placing them in good company for the night’s bill, neatly curated for a harmonious mixture of bands.

Chapel Hill indie rockers Knurr and Spell took the stage second as more fans piled into the small venue. As the group tuned up and slung guitars over their shoulders, the night suddenly lifted off to another level. Mixing an ’80s vibe of the Cure and Duran Duran with a new-wave feel of indie and surf rock, lead singer Sean Parker crooned into the set with a cool presence, a style similar to David Byrne. The four-piece has been performing across North Carolina for the past 10 years in separate acts before Knurr and Spell. The crowd was drawn close to the small stage as the four-piece proved their veteran status with a heavy and melodically textured set of songs from their debut album Ought.

Located in Greensboro’s Glenwood neighborhood, On Pop of the World Studios resides in a building that sits somewhat derelict and easy to miss, just a few doors down from Legitimate Business recording studio. A splatter of rust-red paint covers old graffiti on the front of the building. The windows are boarded up, with only one glowing along the darkened street with old records painted with On Pop’s acronym on them. Next door is an old gas station with broken down cars sitting in the parking lot.

All of this adds to the underground aesthetic and uniqueness of On Pop. One that feels like stumbling upon a treasure buried among the mundane. Since opening the current location in 2012, On Pop owner and sound engineer Randy Seals has provided a recording studio and performance hub for local and touring bands, and his venue places its main focus on spotlighting local talent seeking to begin their careers.

Closing the show were local Greensboro favorites the Kneads, who brought a punchy and badass close to the night. An eclectic group of musicians, the Kneads’ sound pays homage to post-rock bands such as Superchunk, with a touch of Pavement, yet giving the genre a new touch of their own. With killer guitar melodies and a skillful thunder of percussion pulsing in the background, frontman Michael Joncas performed with a slick, undulating style, mixing wailing guitar riffs with his punk-infused vocals.

As the Kneads’ set finished, a bray of applause and cheers filled the room. There was no rush to the door to leave, no one ready to move on just then. When the music was over, the crowd lingered and band members mingled in the audience and shared beers like old friends. It was a party, a show in its finest form.