I love seeing people in their element, and when it comes to musicians, that means seeing them performing their songs from their very core, where you can tell they truly love what they do and they are up on a stage sharing their passion with you. Last night at Bender's Tavern, I was lucky enough to see that happen four times.

It was my first time to Bender's, and it really is the perfect place for a rock show. Bender's is split into two sections. There is the main bar section to right - a cool space walled with local art for sale, pool tables, TVs, a jukebox - just about everything you need in a bar. But on the left, there's quite an impressive venue tucked behind double doors. It's not the largest stage in the world, and it is definitely an intimate space. The bar inside the venue sits right next to the stage - you are practically going backstage when you get a drink. It was the perfect setting to play host to four great local bands.

Amber of Screwtape Zombies

Screwtape Zombies were up first, and I was eager to see their set because I was unable to find any previews of their music before their show. The Screwtape Zombies are a trio - Amber (vocals, keyboard, accordion, melodica), Jared (bass), and Drew aka "Grammar School" (drums, vocals, guitar, keyboard). They have a distinctively dark yet whimsical retro sound and their songs are laced with plenty of humor. It's difficult to categorize these guys - it's a sight you have to see. It's exactly the kind of zombie band I would expect to be issued by Zomcon, for those familiar with the zombie comedy film "Fido".

Jimmy Nasi of I'm A Boy

Next on stage was I'm A Boy, a three piece band with a very throwback sound and attitude. Not only were they playing out a crisp sixties punk-garage sound, but they had the stage presence that went along with it - John on the drums, Whitney on bass, and Jimmy Nasi on lead vocals and guitar. Jimmy was everywhere on the stage truly getting down. He'd jump up on amplifiers and wile out during solos. He'd throw kicks in the air. He was practically on top of the crowd and really having a good time out there. It was apparent that this band didn't just want to be there - they thrived off being on-stage performers. I was really blown away with how hard these guys brought it - if you couldn't feel the energy, you must've been dead.

Number Station

Number Station came up next as the headlining band, and they certainly did not disappoint, despite having to deal with the last minute challenge of being down a guitar player. It was great to see a band adjust on the fly, and I was lucky enough to know how they sounded as a five-piece band having seen them just a couple days prior. They still managed to create that same, sludge-like sound that drew me to them initially and it never really seemed like anything was missing - Tom Mestnik just made sure to wail harder on his guitar, Adam Snook was crisp on the drums and Jay McBurney was his lovable self on the bass. I'm telling you, their brand of psychedelic sludge-metal is awesome and Claire Connolly's vocals and demeanor give the band a unique appeal. Check these guys out!

Victoria and Whitney of Nipples-n-Dimes

Nipples-n-Dimes came on the stage as closers, playing a high energy punk-garage set to end the night. Victoria came on stage with a coonskin hat and plenty of swagger, and the rest of the band seemed to feed off her energy. There were a couple of familiar faces in the band lineup as well - John and Whitney from I'm A Boy double-dipped on this one. John ditched his Clark Kent disguise glasses and continued to pound the drums, while Whitney traded in her bass to play lead guitar. Playing for two different bands in the same night made it apparent these guys were performance addicts. Overall, the whole band did an excellent job to end the show on a high note.

I'm starting to feel like a broken record, but the only thing missing from last night were more people. The venue wasn't desolate by any means, but there weren't enough people to crowd the dance floor and truly play off the energy that was beaming from stage. If you were out supporting something else that's OK, because there was a wide variety of events going on that night. I just hope now if you see any of these band names on a bill and you are into rock, you'll strongly consider checking them out. But if you were sitting on your thumbs last night, what a waste. For shame!

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