Story by Nicole Calascibetta
Photos by Michael J. Trojan

River City Extension knows how to keep it classy.

Walking into the Stone Pony the night before thanksgiving in a black dress and faux pearls, I entered into a crowd mixed with those rocking their sunday’s best in wool vests and cocktail dresses and people who missed the memo asking what was up with the dude in the top hat.

Just missing The Front Bottoms set, I arrived as Prairie Empire, were making their way on stage followed by gritty folk rock group Wild Rompit and the eclectic band Waking Lights. After each set, Praire Empire, Wild Rompit and Waking Lights expressed how thankful they were to be opening for River City Extension, there was definitely a strong appreciation for everyone in the room, on and off the stage.

Not only was this River City Extensions second annual homecoming show, but right by coat check were two huge containers filled with canned goods for the food banks of Monmouth and Ocean county. In one night of being back, these NJ locals played a huge part in giving back to their community.

Just before RCE took the stage, a quirky character with a festive sweater and top hat got on the microphone to make an opening speech.

“…and this band, they live in that van and they learn how to get along, with little elbow room!” he continued to introduce the 8 group members Joe, Mike, Jenn, Nick, Dan, James, Pat and Sam as they finally made their way on stage donning in their “sunday’s best” attire. Finally, the introducer threw his hands in the air and exclaimed “Everybody’s family here!”

Immediately the audience connected and realized this was going to be a long, crazy night.

Acoustic guitar in hand, Joe Michelini approached the microphone and greeted us with a soft smile, “Thank you guys so much for being here…we missed you”.

“South for the Winter” and  “Adrianne”  had the crowd turning into a sea of clapping hands and jumping bodies, stomping their feet and screaming along with the lyrics everyone could connect so closely with, “Sometimes all I want is a job, and a god, and a wife! oh lately I’ve been thinking some stability would probably be nice!”.

RCE performed other favorites off of  And The Unmistakeable Man and we were even lucky enough to preview some new songs off of their upcoming record. Other than to thank the audience and announce the progress of their upcoming album, the band left very few moments in between songs for random chatter, trying to compile as many songs as possible into their set.

The band made the high energy performance seem effortless. Some members, such as Jen (bass), would even juggle multiple instruments during the course of one song.

And because we knew River City Extension wasn’t leaving anytime soon, they were called back for an encore. It didn’t matter if our bodies were exhausted or if our feet throbbed from the constant jumping, we still wanted more.

“You guys still hangin in there?” Asked Joe Michelini right before their encore.

The audience softened as the first couple of notes of “Today I Feel Like I’m Evolving” began. Finally, the night was coming to a close.

River City Extension was back just in time to kick start our holiday celebrations and to remind us the importance of family, music and giving back to the community. And for that, I don’t think the audience could be more thankful.

River City Extension’s next show is a New Year’s eve bash in Philadelphia with Good Old War. Get tickets for the NYE show and stay up to date with their touring here.