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Live Recap: Trespasser’s ‘Play Games, Die’ Album Release Show

Words by: Hannah Morelli

If you happened to walk by Bushwick’s Highside Workshop on the evening of June 15th, it might have seemed like a typical Saturday night in Brooklyn, with the speakers blaring loud enough to be heard down the block and a group of twenty-somethings huddled around the entrance, sporting plain tanks and half-smoked cigarettes. At a distance, you might even assume this was just like any other show on any other weekend, but trespasser proved they’re more than your average Brooklyn-based indie band. 

The five members of trespasser officially introduced themselves on Instagram in 2021. Their first post on the page featured the band with an ironic caption: “this is a breakup post.”. They played a slew of shows across New York before releasing their debut album, it’s all a bit of a story, in 2022. Now, two years later, the band is set to release their sophomore album, Play Games, Die. And that’s what brought fans out on this Saturday night at Highside Workshop—celebrating the band’s sophomore album, as well as the milestone of reaching 1,000 Instagram followers (which occurred during the show).

The venue added a lot of character to the experience. Even before crossing the threshold, a white Mercedes-Benz was prominently displayed inside the door. Immediately behind the jarring car, a makeshift merch table showcased zines, stickers, shirts, and hats with a few people hovering around. Walking a few steps forward led to the an elevated stage where a neon red light, reading “HIGHSIDE” in all caps, hung above the projection of the band’s logo, (a squinting bear with an “x” for its mouth). The walls of the standing space were lined with motorcycles and plants, making the room feel like the quirkiest vintage auto shop imaginable. 

Arriving shortly after 9:00 p.m., a fairly diverse crowd gathered to see trespasser. The band members mingled amongst the expanding audience before the show, greeting familiar faces and listening to their electrifying openers, Dage and charliecomehome. When trespasser’s set finally began, guitarist Matt shouted out his family in the crowd. While many people seemed to know at least one of the band members, as the room filled up, it became evident that there were also many first-time listeners. 

The opening set mostly featured tracks from the new album. Although fans were not yet familiar with the lyrics, that didn’t stop anyone from dancing along and staying engaged with the music. Trespasser’s tunes are upbeat enough to keep you moving throughout the set, driven by the contrast between smooth guitar melodies and the rasp of lead singer Clay’s vocals. To cap off the first half of the performance, they played the two pre-released singles from the album, including “Man,” one of my personal favorites. The track is primarily carried by the bassist, Natalia, who sings about drinking beer and shooting guns—but don’t get it twisted; she clarifies she doesn’t know how her car works because she’s “not a man.” This moment truly ignited the crowd, with more people singing along and inching closer to the stage. In the front row, a few devoted fans jumped the highest and screamed every word. 

After a break, the band returned for their second set, facing a much hazier crowd. This is a challenge many small bands face: crowds thinning out after a pause. However, the group seemed unfazed. They knew what had to be done: keep the energy high and the crowd interested. So they had a jam session to drive the show home. Maybe it was because of how people spent their 20-minute break, but a new kind of energy filled the room. The entire set was relentlessly upbeat, yet not draining at all. Drummer Jack captured the attention, providing a stellar variety of driven beats and supporting each member during their solos. This also created some great moments from Hudson on the keys, who played away with a helmet over his head. 

As the final song approached, the band invited anyone who felt like it to join them on stage. A dedicated group squeezed their way between the guitar necks and mic stands, dancing together until the final notes hung in the smoky air. 

This show was truly unforgettable and fun, thanks to several standout elements. At the foundation, the band members had a great rapport, joking around with each other and the audience between songs. The banter was lively, sometimes feeling like eavesdropping on a middle school lunch table, but the second the music started they worked together seamlessly. 

One particularly memorable segment was their special interaction with the audience towards the end of the first set. There was a QR code posted at the bar and merch table that led attendees to a Google Form with a series of strange and nearly impossible to understand undecipherable questions. Matt read off a few responses before selecting one lucky fan named Spencer to join them on stage. After growling a prolonged lead-up for the chosen fan to tell the crowd their favorite color, Clay interrupted to say that this was really just a ploy to give away a free t-shirt. After even more buildup, Spencer finally yelled their favorite color into the mic: green, which was met with many cheers. 

There’s something about trespasser’s music that makes it easy to listen to. They have a versatility that allows their music to be either actively listened to or toned down as groovy background tunes, and both ways of experiencing it are equally fulfilling. Trespasser feels old school, nostalgic, and timeless, making them the perfect artists to have on repeat. One of the highlights of the show was putting on the album the next day and  enjoying it even more than before. The band did an excellent job of staying true to the originals in their performances, while also amping them up enough to get everyone dancing, whether they knew the words or not.

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