The Foster Portfolio, Rowco, Air Sharks at The Mel, Dec. 21 

Booyah Achieved! Productions put together a benefit show Sunday night to help buy Christmas gifts for a Warren Township family who lost their father in the last month. Any questions about donations are welcome at booyahachievedmusic@yahoo.com. Now, on to the music, generously provided free of charge by The Foster Portfolio, Rowco and Air Sharks.

The Foster Portfolio play a post-Fugazi emo-tinged hardcore mix that's fallen largely by the wayside in recent years. As emo veers further from its Sunny Day Real Estate roots, bands like The Foster Portfolio have become increasingly rare.

They're not blazing a new trail, but they've got a handle on dynamics, style and cohesion that few bands of their genre that I've seen have. In that sense, The Foster Portfolio might have been the best band to play Sunday night.

They've got heart-on-the-sleeve sentimentality in spades, a heavy, grinding rhythm section reminiscent of Brand New and a sleekly melodic sound.

On the flip side of that coin, Rowco's probing mix of hardcore and metal was a mess. It's difficult to criticize Rowco's singer for his faults - after all, unrepentant screaming is part of the territory with bands like this. But he's a distraction.

Which is unfortunate, because Rowco has the makings of a good metal and hard rock outfit. From the assaultive hard-rock riffs to the band's powder-keg rhythm section, the band can really bring it. But ultimately, a weakness like the band's lead singer can't be overcome.

Towards the end of their evening-closing set, Air Sharks seemed to find a groove, showing signs of finding a Built to Spill-esque high and riding it. The band's tastefully arranged, and sparsely adorned indie rock was somewhat oddly placed after The Foster Portfolio and Rowco, but they made the best of it.

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