Guitarist Mario Cuomo has got gusto, and he knows it quite well. The 20 year-old frontman of The Orwells, the David Letterman-endorsed punk rockers, sold out the 550-capacity Bowery Ballroom on Thursday night with a set of fuzzy slack rock. Guitars drenched in reverb, ambling singalong choruses and raucous onstage antics sounds like the party we were hoping to see. But they're already missing the bright-eyed energy (and humility) of young rockers —and that's just simply not worth undervaluing.
The five-piece rockers follow closely in the footsteps of LA garage rockers FIDLAR, fellow young down-and-dirty rockers who broke through the garage rock noise last year with their self-titled debut. Cuomo and his former high school friends aim for a similar spirit with The Orwells. They've been on the grind since early high school, though, and it may already be taking a toll on them.
The five guys do have fun onstage, and the radio-ready rock jam "Mallrats (La La La)" encapsulates the party. It's a party that did begin in garage rock's best venue, rowdy unlicensed spaces, and one in which Locally Amped first caught them last May. Since, Cuomo has expanded his repertoire live, but the Bowery Ballroom gig shows that it's definitely a still a work in progress. Most tellingly, in one haphazard part of the show, their mix of punk and disregard brought a parade of teens to the stage to stage-dive.
They're the sort of band that has good retro-leaning guitar rock songs and occasionally turn their energy up live, but hang tight behind cuts that just don't have the same intensity live (see: "Live No One Else, "Halloween All Year"). Diversity in musical style is a necessity, sure, but diversity in energy is a turnoff.
On "Never Ever," from their 2012 debut LP "Remember When," Cuomo sings "Damn I feel lazy, but don't forget to wake me… we're living in a daydream." We love the track and we're all for The Orwells living their daydream of fame, but they'll need to stay awake first. Maybe a whirlwind of shows in Austin this week will teach them a thing or two.