The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer


Just Friends’ Performance at Racket Was ‘Supersonic’

The funk-inspired punk-rock band’s tumultuous summer made way for a revelatory show at the Chelsea venue
Sam Kless and Brianda Goyos Leon perform at Racket on Sept. 23.

Just Friends’ took the stage on Sept. 23 when they headlined at Racket NYC, a venue in Chelsea. The self-described “band from the Bay” has accrued acclaim over 10 years as a band and four LPs — “Rock 2 the Rhythm” (2015), Nothing But Love” (2018), “Hella” (2022) and their most recent album, “Gusher,” which was released on Sept. 1, 2023. 

The band is composed of seven members: vocalists Sam Kless and Brianda “Brond” Goyos Leon, guitarists Brandon Downum and Matt Yankovich, bassist Kevin Prochnow, trumpeter Avi Dey, and drummer Ben Donlon. The road to the funk-rock band’s show was nothing short of rocky, however, as changes with who would tour with the band occurred.  

On June 5, Just Friends announced a co-headlining tour alongside Canadian group Bearings, with Young Culture and Youth Fountain serving as openers. Two months later, on Aug. 11, Youth Fountain announced their withdrawal from the tour due to “scheduling conflicts.” On Sept. 8, just one week before opening night, Just Friends announced that Bearings had withdrawn for the same reason.

“We were informed a week ago that @bearingsband would be dropping Coheadliner run due to scheduling conflicts with another tour that they wanted to accept,” Just Friends wrote in a statement on X (formerly known as Twitter). “Their decision puts us in a pretty difficult position. We decided to RALLY continue on with the tour as a JF headliner tour!!”

Nevertheless, by the time the doors opened at 6 p.m., the lineup had been finalized as Sad Park, Save Face, Young Culture and Just Friends — and as the show began at 7 p.m., it was clear that all had been for the best.

With pulsating guitar riffs and ground-rattling drums, Sad Park ignited the venue as the small crowd began to loosen in anticipation, and unified screams of “I feel like shit” and “Why can’t I be glad, why can’t I be good” solidified the DIY punk energy in the room. By the end of their 30-minute set, Sad Park had undoubtedly earned new fans, as evidenced by the line that formed in front of their merch stand. 

The following performance from proud New Jerseyans Save Face took the stage to a chorus of “Wawa!” Donning matching jumpsuits emblazoned with “SF” on the lapel, the band jokingly referenced their late addition to the lineup (as well as winkingly referenced bands who “forget who their friends are”) and expressed gratitude for being able to open for “the greatest live show in the world,” Just Friends. Lead vocalist Tyler Povanda leapt around the stage, bringing an infectious energy and building excitement as the night progressed. 

After Save Face’s set, the one remaining opener from the original lineup, Young Culture, took the stage at 8:30 p.m. With a much more evident pop influence than the previous openers, Young Culture elicited the loudest screams of the night, and lead singer Alex Magnan’s vocals were nearly drowned out by those of the crowd. A particularly zealous audience member opened the floodgates of crowd surfing, and nearly every subsequent song ended with a fan on stage shaking hands with Magnan before leaping back into the crowd. 

As Young Culture’s set drew to a close at 9:15 p.m., the room was packed with excited, eager fans. Right on schedule, the headliners took the stage at 9:35 p.m.

Just Friends’ funk-inspired sound was on full display at Racket through old fan-favorites like “Shots Fired” from their debut studio album “Rock 2 the Rhythm” and newer songs like “Jump” and “1-800-SEXY” from their third studio album “Gusher.”

During Just Friends’ performance, Kless did not mince words, scathingly criticizing Bearings for their last-minute decision when referencing the lineup changes. 

While Kless repeatedly thanked the audience for choosing to attend the show regardless of the changes in lineup, the gratitude seemed unnecessary as the joy and excitement in the room was palpable. 

Given the success of the band’s earlier works, Kless and Leon expressed trepidation at playing their recently released music. The audience, though, embraced the new music wholeheartedly: When sultry fan-favorite “I Wanna Love You” from “Nothing But Love” was dropped from the setlist in favor of “Cream & Sugar” from “Gusher,” the audience screamed the lyrics and danced along even harder than before. (Luckily for the long-time fans, though, Leon performed a stripped-back version of “I Wanna Love You” to close the show.)

Despite the adversity, Just Friends’ biggest headlining show in New York City indeed proved to be a display of “love and friendship,” with the bonds between the musicians and the audience fully embodying the character of indie punk music. The small venue fostered an intimate interplay between musician and audience, with both groups feeding off each other to craft a singular, lightning-in-a-bottle energy — or, to use the title of a standout track from “Nothing but Love,” supersonic.

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About the Contributor
ANA KEVORKIAN, Former Managing Editor
Ana Kevorkian (she/her), FCLC ’24, is the former managing editor at The Fordham Observer. This is her third year with The Observer, having previously served as head copy editor, and she is so excited to serve the organization which has given her so much in this capacity. When she’s not doing Observer-related tasks, you can find her watching movies (see: “Fordham Cinephiles Can Finally Know Peace”), listening to Taylor Swift, reading and wandering the city aimlessly.

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