Like the state that produces it, New Jersey rock is essentially suburban, but some big-city attitude seeps in from New York and Philadelphia. This blend has yielded music — from Bruce Springsteen to Bon Jovi to “Jersey Boys” — that appeals to a broad audience. Two New Brunswick acts, the Screaming Females and the headliner Thursday, were among the five bands that performed on Tuesday night at the 9:30 Club. Could one of them be the future of Jersey rock? Well, neither writes the sort of jaunty numbers that climb the pop charts or inspire Broadway musicals. And Thursday, the more crowd-pleasing of the two, is about to go on a “hiatus” that chatty frontman Geoff Rickly made sound pretty permanent.
Playing “one of our last shows” on a sleepy Christmas-week evening, the 14-year-old quintet didn’t quite fill the club. But its fans were frequently ecstatic, screaming the shout-along choruses and flinging themselves onstage. The band’s 90-minute set included much of its richly textured latest album, “No Devolucion,” but also some rarely performed earlier material. Rickly explained the genesis of several older tunes the group played, including “This Side of Brightness,” which he identified as the first one he and his cohorts ever wrote.
Thursday’s style combines American punk and metal with such ’80s British phenomena as Celtic rock. (The latter was particularly evident during “Signals Over the Air’s” bagpipelike guitar solo.) Rickly sometimes screamed, but unlike many larynx-shredding vocalists, he doesn’t shriek for Satan.
Such songs as “Stay True,” “War all the Time” and “For the Workforce, Drowning” were as earnest as their titles suggest, and simultaneously prickly and anthemic in the manner of D.C. hard-core punk. Rickly acknowledged the influence before “Autobiography of a Nation,” which he dedicated to “all you D.C. kids who still believe.” Some of them were surely in the audience, along with many of the D.C. kids who still stage-dive and crowd-surf.
The Screaming Females drew less of a response than Thursday, in part because they played to a house that was still filling up. The trio is a showcase for its only female, Marissa Paternoster, a guitar hero who declines to strike dramatic poses. The band’s songs, energetic yet often shapeless, were mostly blues-rock shuffles, suggesting what the Yardbirds might have sounded like if they hadn’t agreed to record the occasional pop number. While her psychedelic vocal melodies recalled the likes of Grace Slick, Paternoster emphasized her guitar, which was powerful despite the band’s unfocused material.