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Ken Maiuri’s Clubland: Roolbunk’s new concept album, “Punked“

  • Northampton-based trio Roolbunk will play the Florence Community Center on Friday at 6 p.m. Jill Apolinario

  • Northampton-based trio Roolbunk will play the Florence Community Center on Friday at 6 p.m. Jill Apolinario


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I’ve heard the moaning and groaning from some people my age — you know, old folks.

“These kids today… they don’t care about live music. They just care about DJs.”

Roolbunk, average age 14, topple that argument immediately: they’re a passionate young band with an old-school rock lineup (guitar, bass and drums). They have self-penned songs with something to say, and even a goal, as they state online, wanting their music “to challenge electronic pop and change the way people think about the world.”

The Northampton-based trio celebrates the release of its new concept album “Punked” with an all-ages show at the Florence Community Center on Friday at 6 p.m. The concert is free, as are the pizza and non-alcoholic beverages that will be available at the live music party.

Roolbunk are students at JFK Middle School — 8th-graders Adam Ives (vocals, guitar) and Nate Jones (drums) and 7th-grader Caz Brown (bass) — who proudly write their own material.

“To make an original [song] requires a lot of work, not just a formula,” Ives said in an interview earlier this week. “We want to be a force that continues and innovates on real rock.”

Following in the footsteps of narrative releases by The Who and Green Day, “Punked” is a concept album, about a middle school boy in Northampton, with each track representing a different sequential chapter in his life.

The album’s nine songs are direct but not simplistic, sometimes making room for tempo and mood changes, and even drum and bass solos. Roolbunk don’t see punk as a style to imitate, but a foundation from which to build on, staying true to their own personalities and inspirations. For example, the band’s currently working on a new song that uses upright bass, and another one that includes Jones playing some saxophone (an instrument he’d played in a pre-Roolbunk collaboration with Ives).

Green Day was the band that first got Ives excited about punk — you can hear the attitude and enunciation of that band’s vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong in Ives’ singing, especially on album opener “Sleep Till Noon.” When Ives first heard Green Day, he really responded to “the musical aggressiveness and articulate nature of the lyrics.”

Roolbunk has some of both in their own original songs, with big power chords, growly bass and crashing rhythms, as well as words that wrestle with the biggest topics there are, like authority vs. freedom. All from the viewpoint of “one messed up kid,” as the album’s protagonist sings on the track “Just a Boy.”

The “Punked” album was initially inspired by an event at their school — a “not accidental” fire that caused damage to the boys’ bathroom, and smoke damage to an entire wing of the building. While writing the record’s songs, the band said they tried to imagine who it was they were writing about and write from their perspective, hoping to prompt people to view the world from others’ perspectives, to be more empathetic.

And there’s at least one other way the young members of Roolbunk want to change the way people think about the world.

“You don’t have to be a grown up and have the authority of a grown up to create and produce music,” the band said, adding that they hope to influence others to do some creating of their own. “A lot of people think they are powerless to affect change, but music is a powerful way to affect change.”

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Guitarist John Stowell will be the next guest musician to sit in with the Green Street Trio at the Northampton Jazz Workshop at City Sports Grille at Spare Time Northampton on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

The Portland, OR-based guitarist is deeply interested in harmonic detail and has some serious technique. Stowell plays a unique instrument, cradled on a pillow in his lap, angled up high against his often swaying head and closed eyes. His skilled fingers glide flawlessly along the fretboard and seem to have a wider reach than most (helping him create complex “stretchy chord shapes,” as one fan described them). He's not your average player.

Following the Stowell & Green Street Trio collaboration will be the regular open jazz jam session, starting at 8:30 p.m. Bring your instrument of choice, or your voice, and sign up, or just sit back and relax and enjoy the always unpredictable lineup of local players.