Tyler Derryberry (Ho-Ag as DEVO)
Photo: Just Bill

Halloween Show The Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge, MA 10/31/06
Yes, it’s Halloween night and a number of bands are paying tribute to other national/ international bands, but I specifically came to see Devo. Ho-Ag jumps into “Beautiful World” wearing the classic yellow plastic jumpsuits sporting the diagonal Ho-Ag where Devo would be written. They’ve got the jolted Devo sound down, they look great, and they pull off some of Devo’s moves, including the jumping in place during “Uncontrolable Urge” and the right hand movements for “Praying Hands.” The analog synths are the hardest part to duplicate because those old synth settings can be so touchy, but Tyler Derryberry does a great job at handling the instrument in a live setting. Their old bassist, Dave Dines, is back in action for the show. “Smart Patrol/ Mr. DNA” is one of the few songs where the quick hand-off lyrics get lost during the Mr. Komacozi section, but the band never lets it get away from them. The members strip out of the yellow suits and they’re wearing Devo’s summer wear underneath—black shorts and T-shirts with red bike helmets. The classic “Jocko Homo” gets the entire audience answering the lines, “Are we not men?” with “We are Devo!” What a show! Great job on a complicated dimensional task. (T Max)


THE RUDDS (as Hall & Oates and The Rudds),
THE WORLD’S GREATEST SINNERS (as Sly & the Family Stone),
Halloween Party T.T. the Bear’s, Cambridge, MA 10/28/06
I will readily admit that I have been not-so-patiently waiting for the T.T.’s Halloween show to occur since I previously heard The Rudds announce that they would be playing a set as Hall & Oates. Tonight I’m ready to soft-rock and I know The Rudds will appease me.
As I sip my first raspberry Stoli and ginger of the night, The Silver Lining take to the stage as The Who. First impression is that I’ll be disappointed with a woman heading up The Who, but Anna Price wins everyone over, including myself, immediately. She’s engaging and appropriately sports a British flag on her dress. Anna passionately pours out solid vocals while essential Who harmonies are provided by Matt Rhodes (lead vox, guitar, keys). The Silver Lining masters hits like “Baba O’Riley,” Pinball Wizard,” and “I Can See For Miles.” It wouldn’t truly be Halloween without some guy walking around in a gorilla suit: clichéd, but amusing none the less.
Next up is the groovy smooth stylings of r&b legends Sly & the Family Stone as portrayed by The World’s Greatest Sinners. Although the band lacks a certain amount of soul-power, they get everyone dancing and singing along with the expected classics like “Hot Fun In The Summer Time,” “Dance To The Music,” “Stand,” “I Want To Take You Higher,” and “Family Affair.” I’ve got a dancing and singing Sly enthusiast next to me, a devil with lit-up red plastic horns talking to me, and Klaus Nomi has just been spotted at the door.
We all head to the stage for the headliners. The Rudds are cleverly introduced by a literal manifestation of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. The scene is thrust into high gear as The Rudds confidently launch into a set of Hall & Oates crowd pleasers including “Rich Girl,” “Kiss On My List,” and “Sara Smile” along with a couple lesser known but equally well done B-siders. Lead singer John Powhida is in perfect range as Daryl Hall. Guitarist Brett Rosenberg has a John Oates look. Guest sax player Paul Ahlstrand lends some great sound for several of the tunes including “She’s Gone.” Everyone is completely convinced that The Rudds are indeed Hall & Oates incarnate including first name Mister, middle name Period, last name T. The Rudds take a short break to allow us all to catch a breath and refreshment of choice. Then they pick up right where they left off with a fantastic set of soul/ pop originals, including “Something Great,” and my own personal favorite, “Roslindale.” As always, great vocals and crowd control by John and Andrea Gillis (lead vox). This set of originals is proving to be just as successful as their jaunt as Hall & Oates. The Rudds are truly engaging and the crowd loves it. T.T.’s is still packed when the lights come on.
(Kitty Speedway)

THE RUDDS (as Hall & Oates and The Rudds),
THE WORLD’S GREATEST SINNERS (as Sly & The Family Stone),
Halloween Party T.T. the Bear’s, Cambridge, MA 10/28/06
It’s 9:00 and the club is already crowded with Halloween revelers. I see an elaborately costumed Martian man flashing a blue light, a Venusian lovely on his arm. Johnny Damon and Freddy Krueger are here, and Daryl Hall works the room wearing an ’80s print shirt, his long blond hair in a ponytail.
The Silver Lining kicks things off with an explosive set of hard rocking Who songs. They start with “I Can’t Explain” and then do several songs off Tommy. “Christmas” has the poignant “See me/ feel me” section, “Pinball Wizard” features a great bass line, and “I’m Free” sums up the forceful yet lyrical intensity of The Who. I was wondering how a woman would pull off mid-period Roger Daltrey’s throaty, macho vocals, but Anna Price belts them out with convincing gusto. She’s wearing a red flowing shirt with a Union Jack, and when she raises her arms the sleeves float down, reminding me of Daltrey’s famous fringe. Matt Rhodes provides guitar windmills and sweet vocal harmonies, and the drummer does a bang-up job smashing his kit like Keith Moon. “Behind Blue Eyes” is lovely then anthemic and there’s a rollicking version of “The Seeker.” The majestic “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is a perfect ending song with those last hard notes played in unison.
The Who set has left me bowled over and breathless but there’s little time to relax. The World’s Greatest Sinners are up next, with seven members including two female vocalists, horns and keys. They pump up the energy even more with a set of Sly & the Family Stone’s funky party rock. “Dance to the Music” and “I Want to Take You Higher” are ecstatic and life-affirming, inspiring some approximation of booty-poppin’ up front. “Stand” is a socially conscious call to action while “Everybody is a Star” highlights Sly’s smoother side with its pretty, tandem vocals and bittersweet horn melody. “Underdog” was the first song on the debut album and its devilish, hard funk demands dancing. Other highlights: “Love City,” “Family Affair” and “Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin.”
Finally, “Daryl” and the bushily mustached “John” take the stage, with sax and keys filling out the usual Rudds lineup. Like The Rudds, Hall & Oates marry pop with Philly r&b and even gospel influences. They start with “Private Eyes,” a 1981 #1 hit, with the band dressed in trenchcoats and fedoras. The Rudds sound tight and powerful and easily capture the bouncy, upbeat sound of these ’70s to ’80s hitmakers. If you were a rocker back then, much less a punk, this was one band you loved to hate. But underneath the mullets and the sherbet-hued suits were some solid songs. I remember “Rich Girl” from pre-teen slumber parties, where we relished the line “it’s a bitch, girl.” “She’s Gone” is a pure R&B ballad, with passionate vocals, horns and moody synth highlighting lines like “let the carbon and monoxide choke my thoughts away” and “my face ain’t getting any younger.” “Sara Smile” sounds gorgeous, simmering lazily and then rising on a wave of synths as Powhida turns the swoon factor to 11 with his soulful vocals. The lesser known “You Must Be Good for Something” “rocks as hard as anything Cheap Trick ever did,” according to J-Po. They end with “Kiss on My List” which features a duet between John and Andrea. All around, this is one of the best shows of 2006. (Laura Markley)

The Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA 11/9/06
I’ve got a vodka on the rocks in my hand, I feel like I’m in someone’s living room, delightful women are rubbing up against me and there’s this band in the middle of the room blowing everyone away. I’m downstairs at the Lizard Lounge and the band is Club d’Elf. Its members are putting on a clinic of musician magic and everyone in the room is swaying to d’Elfs hypnotic grooves. Band leader Mike Rivard goes from stand-up bass to electric and even to some bass instruments that I’ve never seen before. Tonight’s lineup features some local legends including Duke Levine (guitars), Allan Mallat (keys/ sequencer), and Dean Johnston (drums). The band works many influences into their music and plays for hours. There are no vocals tonight and nobody cares. The steady flow of monster rhythms and improvisational prowess keeps all in attendance as happy as Bohemian clams. Need to cleanse your local rock pallet? Club d’Elf is a must see. (Lance Woodward)


Jimmy Ryan’s 50th Birthday Party The Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA 11/3/06
The Lizard is jammed tonight, I am glad I got my ticket ahead of time. It’s a special night and there’s a buzz in the air. I guess it’s not everyday that one of the city’s most talented musicians turns 50. Jimmy Ryan, birthday boy and super-sick mandolin player, has been a hero to the local music community for decades, starting with The Blood Oranges, Beacon Hill Billies, and contributing to Morphine. He has a cult following that spans generations, young and old alike are awed by his mastery of his instrument. I grab a cold beer from Casey, one of the sweetest bartenders in town and get a good seat. Tonight is going to rock.
Friends, family and fans of Jimmy Ryan are all pouring in to pay their respects. As I order my second beer, Merrie Ambsterburg takes the stage. Right off the bat, I am impressed by her arrangements and soothing vocal melodies. Merely a three piece, the band is sounding as big and clear as an orchestra. She jokes about how some songs seem to stand the test of time while others including hers, just fade away into obscurity. She immediately pops into some classics with a take on “Streets of Laredo” and “Clementine.” Merrie finishes with a really slow, groovy version of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison” that’s breathtakingly inspiring.
Christian MacNeil’s group takes center stage next. His band is sharp and his voice is strong. He does a couple of tunes from his other project, Hybrasil. One of those tunes, “The Kicker,” is received with thunderous applause. That isn’t to say the other tunes didn’t floor the crowd, I just think that everyone seems pretty hypnotized by Christian’s performance. This guy can really belt them out. His band is great too: tight as a drum and really into what they’re playing. It’s an enjoyable performance not only to listen to but to watch.
Last up is Jimmy’s band. They look like a bunch of regulars as they calmly take the stage. Of course, Jimmy Ryan, Billy Beard, Andrew Mazzone, and Duke Levine are no strangers to The Lizard. Many people consider them the best session players in town and not surprisingly, from the get-go, this band is spectacular. Duke Levine continues to boggle my mind with his guitar playing. His fingers are so quick but his hand hardly moves. He is one of the most efficient guitarists I have ever seen. Jimmy’s on fire, too. The guy solos on the mandolin like Shakespeare writes a play. As things wind down I can’t help but think how special this night is; not just for Jimmy, who hit the half a century notch, but for everybody else who got to see some of the most talented Boston musicians ever to jam out on one tiny stage. (Kier Byrnes)

The Abbey Lounge, Somerville, MA 10/21/06
It is heartwarming to see John Felice back in action, particularly with his longtime soul mate, Billy Cole. Felice plays with such fire and intensity that it is evident he felt like a caged wild cat that has just busted free. John sings and plays guitar with unbridled fury. On the opener, “She Don’t Take It,” Felice positively SEETHES! When the packed house ROARS in approval, the whole band grins maniacally, RADIATING their love of rock ’n’ roll. “Down To You” keeps the momentum pumping and the fans jumping. The Kids deliver “Common At Noon”, the flawless pop masterpiece. New bass player Dickie complements the number with his melodic bass lines. A recurring highlight is Felice’s amazing bursts of genius leads. He delivers these stunning 10-20 second rock ’n’ roll symphonies. The Kids surprise us with by playing “Every Day Is A Saturday” for the first time in 20 years! Their return exceeds all expectations and makes everyone from new fan, the ravishing Smitten Kitten to stalwarts like Bob “The Boob” Colby SHAKE OUTTA CONTROL. (Nancy Neon)

A Night at the Rock Opera The Regent Theater, Arlington, MA 11/10/06
I’ve got a great bird’s eye view from front row seat in the balcony. When the lights come up, the stage is cleanly laid out (amps are hidden) with the seven musicians on different level risers forming a backdrop for the 18 well dressed vocalists who gather around background mics and take turns coming to stage front to show off their vocal talents. The set list is really impressive—mostly made up of songs that your typical four-piece band wouldn’t be able to handle. Try The Beatles’ “Because,” Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Somebody to Love”—all complex compositions that are amazingly beautiful songs. The group captures each song well, musically and vocally. Leader Sal Clemente could be running a game show with his hosting talents, but awkwardly takes liberties when he overrides the randomness of the Wheel of Rock (spin a wheel and they’ll play what ever song the arrow points at). At the low point of the evening there’s weirdness in the air when the group performs their own songs that slag Andrew Lloyd Webber—I don’t get it, they’re selling their Superstar remake CD and they’ve already performed three of Mr. Webber’s Superstar classics. I’ll forgive them for that because the Queen songs make up for it. Then you’ve got guitarist Tony Savarino stealing the show with his beautiful solos—and it’s hard to stand out with all the magnificent voices grabbing for attention. The entire show is impressive—the lighting, the sound, the stage design, the talent—it all works together like a slick Vegas rock show. (T Max)

ENERGY (as Body Count),
PFEFFIFUFF (as Tommy Lee & Friends)
Halloween Show P.A.’s Lounge, Somerville, MA 10/31/06
Pfeffifuff is advertised as Tommy Lee & Friends, but in name only. I suppose this band’s free rock/ prog / jazz/ what-have-you musical template does not fit well over boneheaded, Hollywood hair metal. The singer’s face and hair are covered in a gloopy white substance that I realize is Fluff when I notice the jar at his feet. The drummer is supposed to look like Tommy Lee but more closely resembles the Unabomber. A guitarist noodles with abandon, bouncing off the multiple rhythms and squawking, bleating vocals and synth. They’re out there, meandering all over the map but impress me with skillful improvisations. It’s clear they are listening as well as playing. At the end, two members wheel the drummer around on a rolling platform as he plays, twirling his sticks like a majorette.
The experimental rock band Energy is next, playing songs off Ice-T’s all black, speed metal/ hip-hop band Body Count’s first LP. They’re dressed as “the Po-Po” in authentic cop hats and badges, except for Ernie C. who wears a hoodie and a Jason mask. He’s kicking and yelling as they drag him out of the bathroom and onto the stage. “Body Count’s in the House” is the intro song. Ben growls “Body Count, Body Count,” as Russ’ machine gun guitar and John’s slamming drums drive the song home. The band sounds tight and well rehearsed as they rampage through “Bowels of the Devil,” “Voodoo,” “Evil Dick” (hint: not about Nixon), and finally a powerhouse “Cop Killer,” which was the crux of a pop culture controversy in 1992. These songs are menacing and deal with heady subjects like gang warfare, drug addiction, and lighting your mom on fire then cutting her up into little pieces because she doesn’t like your white girlfriend. Dave’s heavy bass keeps it real while Steve’s incongruous sax (note: he’s dressed as Frank Zappa) adds a bit of Hawkwind to the mix. It’s a fiery, punishing yet danceable set that has several fans in the audience (including me) going mental up front. (Laura Markley)

Guitar Hero II release party the Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge, MA 11/18/06
I’m running up and down the stairs tonight to check out the new video game being played upstairs and the bands downstairs. Guitar Hero II looks more three dimensional than the original and the in-game guitar players are full of character. There are lots of bands playing downstairs but That Hansome Devil wins the prize of the only band I’m going to review. They’re a six-piece with a lot going on. Like Guitar Hero II, this band is full of characters. The guitarist looks like he stepped out of The Strokes. The bass player (who is filling in tonght) kinda reminds me of Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island. The keyboard players could have been pinched out of a ska band. The pretty Asian female vocalist is fun because she rarely sings a word—she just fills in parts here and there as if she’s an instrument. And then there’s the singer guy who I’ll call “that handsome devil”—he looks like a rough-edged college bum who could entertain you at the drop of a hat. There’s a drummer too—but he’s always hiding by the drums. Visually the band kinda reminds me of a cross between the Black Eyed Peas and Kid Creole & The Coconuts, but audibly the band’s sound is not developed as either of those bands. Still, their strange-edge fun rock does enough to keep the audience boppin’ throughout the set. (T Max)

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