NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A Fifth Ward basement was home to an “only in New Brunswick” moment last night, as a pizza-themed cover band and its famous lead singer entertained a crowd of nearly 200.
While live musical performances in basements are common throughout the Hub City, last night’s show was unique because of the headliner: The Pizza Underground, and its frontman, former child star Macaulay Culkin.
Those in attendance, mostly young people who paid $5 or $10 admission, gathered to see an older version of the child star of several films they had grown up watching, including “Home Alone” and “Richie Rich.”
The band is known for their altered imitation of the critically-acclaimed Velvet Underground and its lead singer Lou Reed, replacing the lyrics with pizza-related imagery.
Shortly before 9pm, Culkin and the band’s four other members entered the basement performed a 15-minute set, changing the lyrics of several classics such as “Take a Walk on The Wild Side” (“Take a Bite of The Wild Slice”) and “Perfect Day” (“Pizza Day”).
A city with few affordable venues for live music, especially those for all ages, New Brunswick has a rich tradition of underground performances in residential basements.
In fact, The Velvet Underground helped to spark that tradition with a New Brunswick basement performance four decades ago.
Word of mouth, combined with an invite-only Facebook event, attracted the large crowd to a basement known as “OutWorld” according to promoter Alex Nyman.
There, The Pizza Underground captivated the audience with layered harmonies from microphones hanging from the basement’s water pipes.
One band member used a pizza box and a drumstick as a percussion instrument, while Culkin played a miniature trumpet-shaped kazoo during the Underground’s grand finale.
Event organizers said the group had expected a bit too much out of a New Brunswick basement.
In addition to five microphone stands, which were not provided, a rider shared on Facebook showed that the band had requested numerous amenities for their makeshift green room.
From bottles of expensive alcohol to plates of fresh fruit, hummus, and chips, the band’s requests were not met in most cases.
The strangest request called for: “one (1) poster of ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ hanging in the green room prior to bands arrival.”
According to sources, The Pizza Underground settled for tea, popcorn, cheaper alcohol, and naturally, pizza.
Although the crowd was rowdier for opening act Harpoon Forever, Culkin’s cover band elicited laughter while delivering an entertaining musical performance.
Although there were a few grumbles regarding the seriousness of The Pizza Underground’s renditions, ultimately people were happy to see a familiar face from the silver screen singing about pizza through Lou Reed’s musical landscape.
The crowd was undeniably pleased with the aura of Culkin, as well as impressed by the band’s tongue-in-cheek attitude towards Velvet Underground classics.
Nyman said, “Community really helped in all of this. We had a combined effort, and the show would not have happened without Alex Goldstein from Harpoon Forever contacting The Pizza Underground’s manager.”
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.