COUNT ZERO, VAGIANT
Abbey Lounge, Somerville, MA 1/12/07
I may be late for That Handsome Devil but the band’s lovely Ms. Plaural is right upfront for the opening of Vagiant. I wasn’t sure what to expect from these buxom females. Two longhaired voluptuous gals are on guitars—the blond (Hellion) jubilant lead singer plays an old vintage crap guitar, the brunette (Elena) bangs a heavy metal axe. Then you’ve got the stylish flop-topped Cleopatra-like (Leeanne) on bass and the spike-haired and tats rockabilly drummer (LoWreck). They’ve perfected a sloppy punk/pop style and engage the audience constantly. Their fans are a big part of the show. Elena executes an exceptionally lifeless solo and the audience responds wildly with exaggerated screams and applauds. Hellion is a great storyteller between the band’s mix of covers (“Angel of the Morning,” AC/DC’s “T.N.T”) and interesting originals (“FTK” sounds like “Fuck the Kow”—but it’s “Fuck the Kells”). This band is as funny as they are fun.
Count Zero has been a favorite of mine even before the charismatic Izzy Maxwell took over the complicated melodic bass lines. Joel Simches is the latest addition to the band on keys and backing vocals. He’s a jack-of-all-musical-trades and a master-of-all. Come to think of it, the band is full of masters. Bandleader Peter Moore has more musical imagination than your average Mozart—but Peter doodles with writing hip breathing rhythmic grooves that can get a room shaking—as I bare witness in “Shake.” Spastic guitarist Will Ragano is always ready to pull a solo out of the stratosphere to electrify a groove. Drummer Eric Paull is fluent, technical, and can rock the crap out of his drums—check out “Go Go Go” or “Good News” on count-zero.com. While there, listen to some song clips (try “Indulgences” from Robots Anonymous). They’ve got cool remixes, too—“Sail Your Ship By.” All these songs rock tonight with electric energy.
Regrets to Garvy J, who start their cool sounding set as I have to take off. (T Max)
FACES ON FILM, TINY WHALES, THOSE WHO WAIT
The Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, MA 1/11/07
A diverse crowd of onlookers gather for tonight’s upstairs show at the Middle East, where openers Those Who Wait kick things off in a blaze of indie/ prog rock glory. No bullshit, these guys are one of Boston’s best-kept secrets. Ripe with pulsating drum work, an ear for guitar-driven melody, and a taste for things outside the norm, the band keeps the crowd buzzing with one foot in the post-punk door and another stepping out into more adventurous territory. While the band’s sonic experimentation between songs at times turns tedious, it’s not enough to override the music, which in an age where mainstream America seems hell-bent on reducing emo to little more than ridiculous cliché makes fans remember what many first came to love about the genre so many years ago. The band’s quick set (five songs) draws largely from the trio’s seven-song EP, but the band closes with a cut from their soon-to-be released full length debut, leaving many in attendance ready for more.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s Tiny Whales step to the stage with a short set (a theme of the night) of keyboard driven indie rock that calls to mind the Get Up Kids with a harder, more distorted edge. The set itself is a mixed bag. The band moves casually from slower, synth-tinged indie pop to disco breakbeats without any real transition, which, combined with mangled, indiscernible lyrics leaves listeners with little recourse than to scratch their heads. Not all that bad, but still a little too jumbled and messy for this reviewer’s blood.
Alas, Faces on Film round out the festivities to much anticipation from the indie-rock faithful in attendance. Much has been made about the Faces in recent months. Some have tagged them with the ever so popular “next big thing” label, while others such as The Dressden Dolls’ Amanda Palmer have openly suggested the band has the potential to break ahead of their Boston contemporaries into larger arenas. And with almost complete disregard of all the hype plopped squarely on their shoulders, the band takes the stage tonight without so much as a word and gets right down to it. The Faces’ music, which treads even terrain between indie rock’s outside-the box mentality and the more stripped down, folksy approach of many a singer/ songwriter, is as exciting as it is often times somber and bittersweet. Guitarist Mike Fiore is a captivating presence, an old-soul of a frontman whose voice carries like a young Bob Dylan, while the rest of the band carries their lazy, folk-tinted indie sound into cool, almost hypnotic arenas, providing for the perfect nightcap to a great night of music. (Ryan Bray)
Worcester Palladium, Worcester, MA 12/27/06
A couple of days after Christmas, Overcast (Central Mass. devilcore legends) storm the main stage at the Worcester Palladium and provide the direct support to Bane on their 10th anniversary show. Without a barrier in front of the stage, the feral crowd claws, kicks, and stomps to one of the bands that wrote the book on bridging the gap between hardcore punk and metal. From one classic tune to the next, the five-piece slays with piercing riffs and terror filled screams. Lead singer Brian Fair (Shadows Fall, Transient) throws his four-foot long dreadlocks around like tree branches in a hurricane while guitarist Pete Cortese (Seemless) elbows him out of the way to dig into the solo on “Bleed Into One.” Like victims drowning in the great Atlantic, the audience holds their breath and swings each and every limb for cathartic safety. This is all. We take it all. (Duncan Wilder Johnson)
CAMPAIGN FOR REAL TIME
Great Scott, Allston, MA 12/31/06
It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m descending into the rowdy crowd at Great Scott with my cohorts in tow to join The Campaign For Real-Time. The countdown begins and crescendos while I’m squeezing my way through the mass of revelers across slippery floors in precarious heels to the stage. The C4RT crew has attached their own catwalk allowing them to reach out and touch someone as they charge out huge amounts of energy. The audience is dancing in an altered state throughout the entire set. The ladies are all a flutter and making eyes at the stylish Dr. Hemnesphere (bass) in his sleek burnt-orange corduroy suit. I’m pleased to hear my personal favorite, “Song for New Amsterdam,” among the arsenal of originals. During a well-deserved encore, C4RT turns out a fantastic cover of “The Weight” by The Band. It’s a good move, ringing in a new year with professional time travelers. (Kitty Speedway)
MUCK & THE MIRES, RED INVASION, THE KILLER ABS
T.T. The Bear’s, Cambridge MA 12/30/06
This is something like the third time I’ve seen Killer Abs, and I realize how easy it would be to dismiss them as a minor amusement—a ladies-only punk rock cover band. But here’s the thing: they perform with more genuine soul and love for the art style than many bands playing originals. They deserve some sort of spiritual credit for their good work. They deserve some sort of credit for their version of “Love Love Love” which is surely a thing of beauty. It would be aesthetic heaven to see Killer Abs playing a hotel bar, Holiday Inn, or bowling alley! Please, Lord—let me experience that one before I die!
I’ve heard much ballyhoo about Red Invasion, so I’m happy to finally see them for myself. Funny thing is, I’m repeatedly distracted during their set. Funnier still, each and every time I wander off, their playing draws me right back stageside. Red Invasion is a young bunch of kids mixing parts of Alice Cooper, New York Dolls, Iggy, and Dead Boys (amongst others). A product of their older brothers’ record collections? The last time I heard young pups playing with this sort of contagious energy was The Lombardies, who were deserving of great love and devotion. I can easily say the same thing of Red Invasion.
Triumphantly returning from another Euro-swing, Muck & The Mires sound especially sharp tonight. Must confess that I miss bassist Frankie Mire, but that’s absolutely no comment on new guy John Quincy Mire. Sporting new stage duds/uniforms, it makes me wonder when Evan will finally break down and spring for those matching gray suits? Usually a Muck set seems to fly by in seconds, but tonight we’re treated to a slightly longer version, capped off with a convincing cover of The Ramones’ “Commando.” They jump from an early Beatles sound to an early Ramones sound as natural as can be. It’s amazing. The myth and majesty that is Muck & The Mires! (Frank Strom)
THE BRETT ROSENBERG PROBLEM, THE IN OUT, MY OWN WORST ENEMY
Abbey Lounge, Somerville, MA 1/11/07
It’s Thursday night and I’m having my socks rocked off at the Abbey. I’ve never been here before, actually, and, while there is a crowd of frat boys hanging out in the corner and making me very nervous, there is also a solid Jack and Coke in my hand making me very, very happy. Enter My Own Worst Enemy, comprised of Sue, Steve and A.J.—yeah, that’s right, just three. Sue sports a Courtney Love-style semiformal dress and enormous black boots, and she splits the vocals and guitar with Steve, whose fashionably floppy hair makes me want to hug him immediately. A.J. on the drums breaks out some admirable vocals on a Guided By Voices cover—he also gets a thumbs up for excellent use of the cowbell. The songwriting is strong and earnest, the sound is remarkably full for a band without a bass player, and, overall, they make me want to dance.
Next up is The In Out, and I don’t know what to say about them. I’m confused. Is this the ’80s? Is David Byrne in the room? There’s this really detached, corporate rock thing going on here. I can’t say I don’t like it—I can only say I’m not sure I’m cool enough to really get it. Todd Nudelman on vocals and guitar reminds me vaguely of Johnny Cash, which is throwing me for a loop. Nick Blakey’s bass is simultaneously percussive and unobtrusive. Most notable is Tim Morse on the drums—he might be insane, but he’s an impressively original drummer. How he is coming up with this noise is beyond me, but the set ends with an intense sequence at the end of which he throws his sticks and storms off stage. It makes me uncomfortable, but I’m intrigued.
The headliner this evening is The Brett Rosenberg Problem and I’ve spent a good portion of the night trying to pick Brett Rosenberg himself out in the crowd. My money has been on an adorable, baby-faced boy with an impressive mop of curly hair. To my delight, this denim-clad teen dream takes the stage and proceeds to rip the place apart with some no-nonsense shredding. He has this sort of Yardbirds-esque arrogance that makes me really want to believe him. Thankfully, he also has the skills to back it up. I’m put in mind of a New England version of Ryan Adams, which makes the whiskey I’m drinking seem even more appropriate. I like it, in spite of the aforementioned frat crowd that seems to be part of the package. I’d go see The Brett Rosenberg Problem again, but maybe next time I’ll wear my varsity jacket. (Danielle Cotter)
THE SPACESHOTS, SENOR HAPPY, STATES AND CAPITOLS
Abbey Lounge, Somerville, MA 1/4/07
States and Capitols is about halfway through its set when I arrive, which clearly proves to be my loss. They have a countryish/ Americana thing going, but aren’t afraid to crank it up and rock out a bit, either. The harmonies are tight; the bass lines are buoyant and the lead guitarist’s warm tone is simply phenomenal. Once again, the sound in the Abbey is stellar. I’ll have to make sure I catch an entire set from this band really soon.
Fresh from signing to CBS records, Señor Happy apparently decides it might be worthwhile to actually play a show. There’s trouble at first, as some technical glitches with Derek’s guitar get things off to a bit of a rocky start, but with that behind them, the set takes off. For the most part, the music is high-octane hook-laden power pop, but my favorite song of the night is the more laid-back “Love if You’re Real,” a song with a gorgeous melody and shifting dynamics that come across much stronger live than on record. Tom on drums and Joe on bass (who actually uses the entire instrument) are one of the better rhythm sections in town, and the entire band has locked in much more than you would expect from a group that plays so infrequently. The crowd eats up every minute of it, and I know I’m not the only one who would like to see them play a lot more often.
The Spaceshots are up next, and the idea of the ‘shots and Señor Happy, two bands that have played infrequently, if at all, the last couple years has me checking my butt to see if monkeys are flying out of it. Fortunately, they are not. It becomes clear pretty quickly that this isn’t your father’s Spaceshots. Frontman Patrick and drummer Ben (whose name should come up in any discussion of best local drummers) are the only holdovers, and the noisy chaotic power pop has been replaced with much mellower fare. But it’s still pretty darn good. Patrick’s songwriting is so strong and so distinctive that he could probably write a polka tune and I’d be into it. The set is a mix of new stuff and reworks of older tunes like “The Oldest Excuse,” which is winningly recast with a country twang. Although I wish at times they would crank it up a bit more, it’s just nice to have them back. (Kevin Finn)
SAM REID & THE RIOT ACT
Atwood’s Tavern, Cambridge, MA 1/3/07
If you‘re anything like me, each time you see Duke Levine, Boston’s long-time guitar ace, your jaw drops. While, Sam Reid will modestly insist he’s no Duke Levine, I still had to pick my jaw off the ground more than a few times watching Sam buzz around the fret board. Sam’s band is sharp, too, held in place by left-handed bassist and vocalist, “Riot Act” Johnny Ransom, and secured even more so by mandolinist Aaron Goff and drummer JC Campbell. I could go on and on about how unbelievable a group of musicians this is—nailing songs in the bluegrass, country blues, and funk genres but honestly that would take more space than I’m allowed. What I will say is that if you haven’t been to Atwood’s yet, you should really check it out. They have really stepped it up a notch in supporting local music plus they have tied it in with a bunch of cool events, like pub trivia, which is going on earlier tonight, and every Wednesday night. The menu is pretty good too if you are looking for some late night grub. Overall, a cool show and a great place to hang out. (Kier Byrnes)
THE LIGHTS OUT
Skybar, Somerville, MA 1/4/07
Though an overbooking snafu put The Lights Out on stage early tonight, the room is cheerily full and there’s a palpable festive energy. When this trio starts their set, all I know of this band is what I’ve heard on myspace and the fact that the members were formerly involved with such crowd-pleasers as Ms. Pigeon, The Halogens, Moki, and Sparkola. By the end, I also know that this supergroup hammers out unapologetic, big happy rock, and if tonight’s Skybar crowd is any indication, the people are digging The Lights Out big time. Mining the same brash, dynamic hard pop gold as That Petrol Emotion or 20/20 (or, am I allowed to go all the way back to L.A. Guns for reference?) these guys play fleshed-out rock with spiraling, repeating melody lines, big drums and soaring guitar lines. Add intense vocals from frontman Rish Green (tonight wearing a non-ironic Dio T-shirt) and overall good looks, and the appeal factor of The Lights Out is a given. Can’t wait to hear more. (Lexi Kahn)
SEEMLESS, THE PEET GOLAN DISASTER
The Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, MA 1/16/07
The Peet Golan Disaster isn’t here tonight to prove they rehearsed their vocals seven days a week, or that they are some creepy sounding indie undiscovered super-talent. They have come to rock! The three guitar wall sized crunch coming off the stage is mind numbing. Everyone is out tonight and Peet Golan brings the big rock vibe. Every song they play has a hook and every story they tell makes sense. The song “Agro Mutant Monkey” sends me to the bar for another. Hey, is that Dave Pino running lights? Throughout the set the only part of singer/ bassist Peet Golan I can see is the tip of his sweaty nose peeking through his mop of hair and his janitor-like ball of keys hanging off his jeans. The band plays on with their heavy three guitar driven power rock and closes with a Kiss cover. The room is rocking! The Peet Golan Disaster has done its job!
The road weary madmen of Seemless come out swinging. The mix could be a bit brighter but singer/ frontman Jesse Leach makes up for it. Jesse, with his thick, Grizzly Adams-like beard, croons and screams—keeping all in attendance pleased. Drummer Derek Kerswill, also heavily bearded (did I miss something?), puts it down with earthshaking vengeance. Unfortunately, guitarist Pete Cortese is having a tough night. His guitar goes down (off) for way too long. Finally, Seemless fires back up and continues with a shortened set. They tear into “Lay Your Burden Down” and make us all forget the mishap. Their lack of frustration and ability to recover is impressive. After blowing the roof off with their biggest song, Seemless gets the hook from the house sound engineer. Jesse politely agrees without a fuss and bids us all goodbye. (Lance Woodward)
Tir Na Nog, Somerville, MA 12/14/06
The Nog is one of Boston’s rarest jewels. You can walk in off the street, any night of the week, and consistently catch a great roots band for free. Tonight is no exception as Ronan Quinn takes the stage. A rugged man blessed with the Irish blood, Ronan has a voice that others would kill for. He has a wide vocal range; at times it’s so smooth it could melt butter, other times it’s so tough and strong it’s as though he could drive iron spikes into concrete with a mere bellow. The music varies in influences—from funk, blues, and reggae to, of course, traditional Irish. Tonight Matt Glover is accompanying Ronan on mandolin. Matt’s a fantastic mandolin player with skills that rival Jimmy Ryan or Sean Staples but with his own distinct style. The rest of the band is just as solid and chops away, keeping pace with Ronan. In particular, drummer Neal Cadogan plays with the heart of a lion, crushing the skins, pounding out beats and good vibes—all while providing a solid back bone to the unit. Rumor has it that the Nog, at least in this location, is closing soon; I’m glad I caught one more show at this legendary neighborhood music venue. (Kier Byrnes)
The Kirkland, Somerville, MA 1/14/07
This is an afternoon pre-Pats playoff game show. My experience with The Tullamores up to this point had been listening to an MP3 of “Twang ’em High,” a lovable instrumental spaghetti western that struck my inner cowboy. I hop on Lizzie and gallop on over to a saloon that was once called Studleys. Aficionados of classic electric guitar sounds are in attendance—all waiting to be special guests for the day. The bandleader, Dewey Tullamore (a.k.a. Drew Townson) is proud of his Texas roots and shows them off within the band’s first rockin’ set—the highlight being a character-filled version of Hank Williams’ “She Walks the Night.” These guys sound best when they let their geetars do the talking—and frequently doubled up on solos. The second set is the material that Drew, err, Dewey, brought up from the south 20 years ago. He introduces each special guest (Brad Page, Pete Sutton, Jim Pelrine) by also acquainting us with the make and model of the guitar they play. Highlights include Jim Pelrine’s killer solo in Little Feat’s “Ball & Chain,” a nice version of Dick Dale’s “Miserlou,” and yes, my cowboy favorite, The Tullamores’ own, “Twang ’em High.” The Pats later pull out a 24-21 win over the Chargers. (T Max)
THE McGRUNKS, THE SPOILERS, ZIPPO RAID, OVER THE EDGE
Bulfinch Yacht Club, Boston MA 12/13/06
Greetings, Zortar here. Recently, I went to my first music exhibition and my experience I wish to relate. It takes place in a large room with neon-lighted fixtures on the walls advertising fermented yeast beverages. These seem very effective as people are consuming as many of these as possible. The provider of these beverages has a hard time keeping pace with the orders. I’m greatly disheartened to see that milk-derived substances are not available.
It is Kevo, bass utilizer of The Spoilers tenth anniversary of his 21st birthday, the age legally required to purchase such beverages. In honor of this, they provide pieces of cake shaped in the size of Kevo’s penis for people to consume. They are quite large, in fact. I don’t know the significance of this, but I believe it is religious, being it near to Christmas, as such.
Next, the bands do what is called a sound check. I believe this is to make sure that the music would be too loud for human endurance. I am right in my assumption as people immediately started plugging their ears with tubes of foam once the music starts. The first band is Over The Edge, who play energetic, aggressive, punk while people consume their penises and yeast. They bring joy to my audio sensors with great songs that sound like they could have sprung from 1977.
Next band is Zippo Raid, whose songs like, “Show Us Your Tits,” “Greg is Still a Pussy,” “Drink Fight and Fuck,” I take as metaphors for man’s alienation with modern society. There is spraying of fermented yeast from the mouths of the musicians, as they stand atop platforms, onto the crowd and the fans follow in fashion. A member of the McGrunks, dressed in black wig, bandanna and eyeliner, gets up to sing “Kids of America” with the band and rip his T-shirt and throw it to the crowd. The band does a song with them, chanting for four Jägermeisters which the yeast dispenser is quick to bring. What a wonderful idea for a song, I think. The drum utilizer, who later recites a touching, poignant poem about vaginas, is unable to grasp the Jägermeister glass while playing, so the helpful singer tosses it into his mouth and it drips down his chin onto his shirt. During the last song, a rap tune, ladies are invited onstage, and a young lady is spanked by the bass utilizer.
The Spoilers follow with more fermented yeast spraying, more loud punk and is considered by Slimedog to be one of Boston’s best bands. These bands seem to take fun more seriously than music. The McDrunks, I mean, the McGrunks are up last. Another fine sounding punk band with a little Irish influence tossed in. But I have to leave and catch the moving transportation vehicles. Right before I go, the singer of Zippo Raid asks if I’m going to review the musical exhibition. I reply in the affirmative. “Make sure you tell them we’re assholes, say we’re assholes.” And since he is such a nice guy, I feel compelled to do so.
So off into the night with two female acquaintances who discuss male reproductive organs and sing songs about monkey poop along the way, tonight I believe I witnessed a typical human music exhibition. I pray this review makes more sense to you than me. I imagine it will. (Slimedog)
LADY KENSINGTON & THE BEATLORDS, THE CRYBABIES, THE COME AROUNDS
Kirkland Café, Somerville, MA 1/13/07
We get started tonight with The Come Arounds—they’re new to me, but having a full CD for sale suggests they’ve been around for at least awhile. Decked out in classic striped rugby shirts, they’ve got me flashing on 1970s episodes of Zoom! That’s it for insight on my part, unfortunately, other than to say they’re playing a pleasant sort of pop-rock without any big obvious influences. Good deal for them (admirably non-derivative), but a bad deal for me (can’t come up with anything to write).
It’s with great regret that I learn tonight’s Crybabies set is their second-to-last before calling it quits. When I first saw/heard them two years ago, they struck me as the real deal: traditional R&B informed rock ’n’ roll with even the occasional hint of country. Tonight, they sound remarkably tight, which results in guilt (for those us who didn’t pursue them enough) and dancers (including one Chris Horne doing the Swim and the Batusi in the corner!). The Crybabies’ rendition of “Knock On My Door” is one of the finest investments of two and a half minutes of your life as you’re gonna find. One last chance: their final show is at the Skybar on February 10.
I cannot write with even remote objectivity about the artistic endeavors of Chris Horne—to me, she’s a New England rock icon whom I’ve loved for the better part of twenty years. Her former act, The Brood, was my singular favorite ’80s/’90s band, and her current Beatlords vehicle is much in the same vein, playing letter perfect ’60s era garage rock. Sadly, she’s toned down the overblown melodrama that was the Brood’s forte, but it’s still of that “96 Tears” variety. I don’t wanna say that it’s a religious experience, but…well…Chris Horne tearing through Buddy Holly’s “I’m Gonna Love You Too” IS a religious experience! Oddly, a good portion of the crowd has cleared out after the Crybabies—they must have missed the fact that the Beatlords are whooping it up in high fashion. Buncha dopes. These guys don’t venture out of Maine often, so why not take advantage? (Frank Strom)
KALVIN KOOLIDGE, SHAYS’ REBELLION
The Paradise Lounge, Brighton, MA 12/7/06
This is the first time I’ve seen Kalvin Koolidge since they’ve came back from their European tour. It’s amazing what 18 shows in 16 days does to a band. They look a million times more comfortable on stage, not to mention they sound a lot tighter. The songs are energetic, kind as if Green Day jammed with The Who, or Bon Jovi fronted Kiss. The crowd is bobbing along agreeably, even when lead singer Tom Jewett goes into his semi-psychotic rants between songs. Unaffected, bassist Jon Clancy and drummer Kevin McDevitt just smile on, nailing one song after another.
Shays’ Rebellion is another of my favorite up-and-coming bands. Treading in the footsteps of Sublime and The Clash, Shays’ Rebellion mixes punk rock and reggae and takes it to a new level, developing a refreshing new sound. The crowd is stirred up from the get-go and the drunken buzz in the air is only heightened by the good times the band is having on the stage. Bassist Chris Field looks and sounds like a young Sting and temporarily steals the spotlight from Josh Mallon and Brad Kent with a Police cover. It’s getting late and Shays’ does a few more tunes, and progressively wows the crowd song after song. Here’s to another good night and a great show. (Kier Byrnes)
T.T. the Bear’s, Cambridge, MA 1/3/07
This Antisocialites, I quickly come to realize, are about as awkward a band as I’ve seen in a long time. The combination of the guitarist’s fez, the singer’s micro-miniskirt and the bassist practically falling out of her dress makes me think the band is trying a wee bit too hard to make an impression. A cynic might suggest that it’s a ploy to take the attention away from the music—a subpar power pop concoction that, while by no means offensively bad, fails to justify its existence in a world where I can just listen to a Fuzzy record and hear this kind of thing actually done well. The biggest problems are with singer Acadia whose thin voice is, as Randy Jackson would say, a bit pitchy, and drummer Randy, whose playing lacks any subtlety whatsoever. Their version of “Hanging on the Telephone” only serves to make me want to go home and throw on some Blondie. (Kevin Finn)
IVORY & VOODOOSOL
The Center for the Arts in Natick, Natick, MA 1/13/07
We walk into a room full of middle-agers, small children, awkward teens, and occasional 20-somethings. Strange. Seems to me like a bad sign. Hors d’oeuvres float around and little social circles mingle quietly—until the lights dim, and a bassist walks onstage and begins playing, not concerned with the unfocused crowd around him. Then, the drummer… then, the guitarist… then the keyboardist. And the pseudo-jazz continues, uninterestingly pleasant, until Ivory saunters onstage. The crowd falls silent, and this powerful man takes the mike, screams and sings in an absolutely perfect, flawless voice. The entire crowd, ages 2-55, dances wildly on the concrete floor; we are all completely and totally taken with rock-jazz, jazz-blues, rock-blues, anything and everything. Ivory & Voodoosol work like an incredibly soulful well-oiled machine. For the encore, Ivory reappears in a tuxedo and sunglasses—dressed to the nines as Ray Charles. He leads the entire crowd in a rowdy call-and-response and then guides a gigantic conga line around the room until every person in the building is on the tiny rickety stage, jumping and clapping. A perfect show with a slow start and a bad first impression just proves to me that appearances can be incredibly deceiving; this crowd can party, and this band can play. Man, can they play. (Elise Largesse)
THE CHARMS, MUCK & THE MIRES, RED INVASION, KILLER ABS
T.T.The Bear‘s, Cambridge, MA 12/30/06
Celebrating the new year a day early seems appropriate with a lineup like this. Killer Abs bring together The Go-Gos and The Ramones and kick it off with an ancient classic, “Calfornia Sun.” There are lots of female voices on top of a very boomy mix. Lead vocalist Tammy Long can stand to eat the mic to help us hear her over the rest of the gals. Their set is light fun—they throw one cover of The Neighborhoods out to people who don’t get what they deserve (in the good way), but what’s with changing the lyric of “Jet Boy Jet Girl” to he gives me “hell” instead of “head”? Do they really need to be that PC in a club setting?
Red Invasion punks up the energy a few notches. Five skinny boys extending the life of The Ramones and New York Dolls (without the feminine overtones), they flaunt their attitude and punk visuals. Lead singer Joey Boy regurgitates wretched vocals and manic energy to match the image of his tight black pants, studded belt, red sleeveless top, and a punk hairdo that flops in his eyes. The rest of the band contributes to the punk fashion and attitude. The guitars may go out of tune but the show doesn’t slow down to fix such a trivial matter. These guys are out to entertain.
Muck & the Mires return from a successful European tour and instead of being tighter than usual (wait a second—they couldn’t be any tighter than they’ve been in the past) they develop more of a ruckusy feel. “With A Little Twist” kicks out of the starting gate showing all in attendance that Muck & The Mires are defined by that ’60s British pop R&B sound. They extend the pause at the end of the “Caught In A Lie” intro, and hold the entire audience in silent hostage. They add more to the untruth theme with The Knickabockers “Lies.” They dedicate “I Never Got Over You” to Killer Abs. And ’50s pop legend Leslie Gore has the song “Leslie” sent out to her. With the refrain “Girl I’m missing you,” I make a note to google her to make sure she is still alive. Lead guitarist Brian Mire’s sings a couple of leads—and these songs stand out tonight—mostly because his mic sounds better. I hate knockin’ on soundmen, but the sound tonight is less than it should be.
The Charms know how to put on a rock show. Flamboyant frontwoman Ellie Vee is one of Boston’s best exports. She’s in a red leather jacket, a feather boa, and white bellbottoms that have big stars running up the side of her legs. The band has pumped the show up since I last saw them. Ethan Jon Kreitzer, their latest keyboard player, adds to the show with his rough handling of his vintage Compact organ, tilting it back and forth as if it’s his dance partner. The band lives by the lyric of “Action” from their Pussycat release of 2005—“I want it, I need it, I gotta have the action action.” Luckily people all over the country have been seeing this band a lot—The Charms’ extended touring will hopefully build a nation fan base that they deserve. (T Max)
COUNT ZERO, VAGIANT
Abbey Lounge, Somerville, MA 1/12/07
After yet another round of the idiocy and aggravation that is parking in Somerville, I finally arrive at the Abbey a few songs into Vagiant’s set. The first thing I notice is that the place is PACKED. Those who can’t fit into the main room are trying to peer around to the stage from the bar area and Helen is singing at them with a huge grin on her face. Vagiant finishes the song while the crowd is still yelling lays into “Fuck the Kells,” which just might be the best song of 2006. During “TNT,” the audience does its duty by yelling the chorus as loudly as possible, and LoWreck puts some extra muscle into her drumming. A few songs later, the set ends despite demands from the back of the room for one more. I’m hoping the next band keeps the club’s energy level up this high.
Nope! Burned again. Count Zero is kind of interesting but that’s about it. A girl in front of me looks around, says, “I’m confused” to no one in particular, and wanders over to the bar. The band has some cool beats and the keyboard player with the crazy hair puts some nice sax-like bits into a few songs, but nothing’s really moving me. I can tell that some people are specifically there to see them, but not a whole lot. Many who were crammed in to watch Vagiant are at the bar or outside for a smoke by now and it’s only the third song, but others are giving the guys a shot and even bouncing around a bit. Count Zero knows what they’re doing; the playing is tight and the music’s pretty detailed. The problem here is that these two bands should never have gone on back-to-back. (Seth Cohen)