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My night at Terrace watching Sam Spector ’24 and the Degenerates

A diary of a night on the Street

<h5>Sam Spector and the Degenerates perform at Terrace Club.&nbsp;</h5>
<h6>Hope Perry / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Sam Spector and the Degenerates perform at Terrace Club. 
Hope Perry / The Daily Princetonian

Written live as Sam Spector ’24 performed during one of the first nights out open to all students. Story edited lightly for clarity.

9:50 p.m. — We arrive early — embarrassingly early. Doors open at 10. We’re stranded outside with a feeling of not belonging. A bouncer with a cigar stands outside. The crowd collects. Suspicious onlookers peer down from Terrace Club’s second-floor window. They drink something from a mug. The opening is moved to 10:30 p.m. The news spreads through the throng. The smell of marijuana is palpable.

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10:05 p.m. — Cigarettes mingle with the weed as shouting from upstairs begins. I’m not sure what they yell at us, but they’re yelling something.

10:17 p.m. — We enter — 10:30 was a lie, too. We line up to have our PUIDs checked. The bouncers seem confused. Drums bang inside.

10:21 p.m. — Punk rock sounds like it always has: loud, sweaty, mean, but a little hopeful. The band starts its soundcheck with what sounds like a cover, but I can’t be sure. Spector’s hair falls over her face, covering everything but the microphone — the only mask in the joint.

10:25 p.m. — Nina Mae Green ’23, the bassist, sports what looks like a sweet Fender Jazz Bass, looking every bit like 2021’s Jaco Pastorious. The guitarist, Jeremy Yun ’25, plays what seems to be a Gibson with massive pickups that he’s strumming gratuitously. It’s screaming. The keyboardist, Ed Horan ’22, I recognize from my poetry seminar. He’s wearing socks and crocs and a fedora. This is college after all. He tries out a patch on his keyboard that sounds like Europe’s “The Final Countdown.” The drummer, Connor Belcastro ’24, looks like a frat boy’s frat boy. His hat’s on backwards, but his hands are precise and not too heavy.

10:36 p.m. — I use Terrace’s shockingly clean and empty bathroom. I round the corner back into the hall as the band is still soundchecking: I hear the opening strains of Olivia Rodrigo’s “Brutal.” They know their audience. It stops after three chords. Sound still isn’t checked.

10:44 p.m. — Still no music. Non-members are supposedly removed from Terrace at midnight. We’re still outsiders here, and it’s real hot. Doubts percolate.

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10:48 p.m. — I look around at the walls: wood paneling and a fireplace once handsome have been painted over, generations of students trying to throw off the one before. Rainbows cover everything.

10:54 p.m. — The lights go off. People scream and pack in. Spector’s got a leather jacket now. The guitarist sips a San Pellegrino. He strums gratuitously — haven’t they been soundchecking for an hour? The band takes videos from the stage.

“I haven’t played in front of a crowd this big in two years,” Spector says. “As a musician, I’ve been doing this since I was fourteen. That’s pretty fucking weird. Can I take a selfie with you?” The drummer points two hands to the sky like he’s playing Live Aid. The first song, called “Scalding,” was written during quarantine. A drum fill opens it up. The song’s got all the keyboards of Eurythmics and the guitar of a Nirvana B-side cut. Spector’s yelling, playing the crowd and her bandmates. She’s really trying. But something’s missing — we don’t feel comfortable yet, band or audience.

11:01 p.m. — “This next one’s called ‘Flames.’ It’s on my first EP that I wrote when I was a senior in high school. It’s about a stupid boy,” Spector says. This track is better: the band melds together, with timed hits and a killer key change. Spector has one of those voices that, for one reason or another, you can’t stop listening to. It’s not opera, but you don’t see Terrace fill up for “O mio babbino caro.”

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11:04 p.m. — They begin “Dear Maria, Count Me In” by All Time Low. Damn it, you can’t help but dance. Spector’s voice matches Alex Gaskarth’s in the original: a calculated democratic rasp, a Midwest nasal twang. Near the stage, someone dumps a clear liquid in their mouth. You can smell the weed here — not as strong as it was outside, though. I’m slowly nudged back by people crowding the stage.

11:08 p.m. — Spector skillfully takes over on bass to begin “Personal.” The bassline tries real hard to be cool, to cut the line between Jack White and Gorillaz — it just barely splits the difference. The guitar solo is a delightful splash in the face, if a little canned. Someone holds up a crushed La Croix can near the stage.

11:12 p.m. — “Terrible Sunday” is slow rock pop. Spector’s shredding voice wasn’t built for ballads, but she’s making a valiant effort. The twangy piano recalls The Grateful Dead, but the bluesy twang of her voice lands it somewhere closer to country. The song’s an acoustic guitar away from really working. It’s certainly got three chords and the truth, though.

11:16 p.m. — I’m sweating in all sorts of places, and somehow the bassist’s makeup still shines. It’s a work of alchemy. Next is “Heather” by Conan Gray. They’re going emo for this one: their happy place. I haven’t heard Spector's voice sound satisfied yet. She sounds mildly annoyed: Why’d you crash her party?

11:17 p.m. — I notice no phones. No one’s taking videos. Who’s here for clout? Your friends are all here too. No one’s here to show off. We’re just here.

11:19 p.m. — The band’s cover of “New Perspective” by Panic! at the Disco piles punk on punk. But its slower tempo and tonic bass makes it feel comfortable. We’re settled in. We belong here, for now, together. The guitar solo is adventurous, searching, confident. Comfortable, we branch to new places.

11:24 p.m. — They begin a tune called “Machiavelli” that sounds like a Pearl Jam track. It’s slow and sexy. When Eddie Vedder moans over heavy backing, it gets boring; when Spector does it, it thrillingly feels like she’s letting you in on a secret.

11:26 p.m. — The crowd’s thinned at the back, so I slide up the side. Closer up, I see the drummer shirtless and the guitarist dripping. The drummer is utilitarian and precise: he looks like a workhorse back there. The guitarist, at first glance, just looks happy to be there. Looking at him further, it seems he’s the soul of the band. Not only are these songs guitar-driven without exception — Yun controls the emotive force of the set. A longer guitar solo in this song lets him show off his expressive skills. This might be the best song so far. I slide far enough up that I’m next to an open window, and my sweat cools. I like it here.

11:30 p.m. — The band tears into “I’m Not Okay” by My Chemical Romance. Yun is finally allowed to do some complex rhythm work and excels. I dance. Two bold ones in the audience are on someone’s shoulders, looking tentative. Their nervous swaying seems to ask, “Are we allowed to do this?”

11:36 p.m. — I wanted a metaphor here: I wanted this to be the moment when it all felt back to “normal,” whatever that means. It doesn’t. We’re all in a club. The band is pretty good. The people are yelling. They have masks on their wrists. But there’s no metaphor here. There’s only a band, a night, a load of sweat. There’s nothing special about it. And that’s probably the most special part. There’s no new normal — there’s never been normal at all. Times change. But this — this is just tonight.

11:39 p.m. — The encore is “The Anthem” by Good Charlotte. We’re once again back to the emo wheelhouse. The keyboardist shreds this one — they should’ve let him play around earlier. The drummer leans into his ride cymbal. The guitarist stays low: he’s our best friend we can always count on. The crowd yells out one more time. “I don’t ever wanna be like you / I don’t wanna do the things you do,” Spector screams. This is their best track — maybe because it’s their last. The set ends. We shuffle toward the door. Less than an hour felt like a lifetime. What was this?

12:21 a.m. — What happened between 11:39 p.m. and 12:21 a.m., well, I plead the fifth. Some fluids get dumped on me. It’s time to go. I emerge into the cool night. Are we back? I’m not sure. But are we here? I’ve never been more sure of anything. We are here, we are here, we are here.

Gabriel Robare is a Senior Writer for The Prospect, co-Head Editor of the Puzzles section, and a Contributing News Writer at the 'Prince,' who often covers literature and the self. He can be reached at grobare@princeton.edu, and on Instagram and Twitter at @gabrielrobare. He previously served as an Associate Sports Editor.

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