LIVE REVIEWS May 2007

AD FRANK & THE FAST EASY WOMEN
Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA 4/6/07
      Descending into the Lizard Lounge, I leave two of my unfortunate friends behind because Ad Frank & the Fast Easy Women have filled the place to capacity! Ad Frank (Noise poll winner: stage presence/ Phoenix nominee: vocalist) is looking debonair in a suit and Ned Gallagher (drums) wears a white T-shirt with “AD” scrawled across the front like a myspace stalker.  They start off the night with a new tune called “Patio” that sounds influenced by Guided By Voices. The set list also includes “Davy,” “Unspeakable,” “You are I,” “Man on Fire,” and “Timing.” Ad’s lyrics are cleverly written, his vocals are strong, smooth and sexy.  Perfected harmonies are achieved with the help of all the FEW.  Sean Connelly’s (Noise poll nominee: guitarist) guitar work is amazing and exciting to watch.  There’s a reason Ad Frank & the Fast Easy Women sell out venues consistently, they leave you wanting more.    (Kitty Speedway)

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HARRY & THE POTTERS
The Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge, MA  4/17/07
      There is something lovely about a band who can bring people from vastly different ages and social backgrounds together in harmony. Harry & the Potters are such a band. At their all-ages show, hipsters in skinny jeans and geeks sporting non-ironic fanny packs smile and bop their heads in unison. Female fans are clearly excited to see brothers Paul and Joe clad in Hogwarts-style uniforms. As the boys play songs all pertaining to the famed Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, ladies run their hands through their hair and make grasping motions towards the stage like Bon Jovi groupies. One woman, older than both of the musicians, screams out, “Take off your shirt!” The boys giggle, but to the disappointment of fans, do not comply. Harry and the Potters provide energetic, unique show experience—the kind you don’t mind sharing with a few 12-year olds.   (Kimberly Abruzzo)

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BINARY SYSTEM
Roger Miller’s art opening  Zuzu, Cambridge, MA  4/2/07
      Roger Miller’s visual art display has as broad a view as the different styles of music he plays. There are photos of objects that you can’t be sure of what they are—my favorite is a bottom view of a waving flag. It could as easily be a top view of a vanilla/strawberry soft-serve cone. Then there are his drawings—like “Mission of Burma Live”—scratchy looking creatures that are cute and creepy at the same time. The drawings make me feel itchy—like a case of crabs is looming too close to my underwear. Hey, there’s music here too. Roger’s on percussive synth and Larry Dersch is rappin’ on his trap kit. Together they create a primal jazzy jungle audio scene—heavy on rhythms, sprinkled with vocal and synth melodies. We could be in a ’50s beat café or a cyber bar on Neptune in 2034—it’s cool, it’s avant-garde, it’s timeless.   (T Max)

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THREE DAY THRESHOLD
The Paradise, Boston, MA 3/17/07
      Boasting an impressive wingspan, ornate feathering, and a deep piercing stare, Kier Byrnes is the red tailed hawk of Boston music.  Never has this been more evident than tonight.  No longer hampered by the thin shells of DDT laden eggs, Kier’s offspring burst from his nest onto the Paradise stage and display their  plumage.  Guitarist Colt Thompson, bassist John Stump, and drummer D.A. King have been holed up in a remote aviary for the past few months.  They’ve been fed a strict diet of bluegrass, whiskey, and Behind the Music: Motley Crue.  The effort pays dividends; though Colt Thompson might pass out at any moment, 3DT strut their stuff and own the Paradise stage. 
      The set features a mix of old favorites like Whiskey, You’re the Devilalong with instant classics from their new album Against the Grain.  The crowd sings along to the chorus of “Thrown Out.”  As St. Patrick’s tends to go, we slosh our black juice around, slap our glasses together, put our arms around each other’s shoulders, and shout our praise for the band.   (Kevin McDevitt)

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THE BELMONDOS, BLACK MOSETTES, THE BRIGANDS
Skybar, Somerville MA 4/13/07
      This is maybe only the fourth time I’ve been to the Skybar in my life (seemingly every time our own Nancy Neon has a shindig here)—I hear bad things about the previous incarnation, but the current Skybar sports good sound/lighting and a big stage that dominates the room… yet somehow seems intimate, too, which I can’t figure. This is a serious venue that could/should amount to something.        Yep, it’s another Neon night, and as usual, even when I’m not hip to all the bands, it’s a safe bet Nancy will put together a lineup that’s eminently listenable. Opening act The Brigands are certainly that—at least. Something of a Boston rock celebration, their set is a jukebox of late ’70s local hits—they soundcheck with The Neighborhoods, then run through La Peste, Boys Life, and The Atlantics (plus a couple Dolls numbers to boot). Sadly, no one ever touches my old favorites Pastiche and Luna/Berlin Airlift. Sigh.
      The real reason I’m here is for new favorites Black Mosettes.  They’re a bright shiny object that’s causing me distraction (“Ooh…pretty!”), so excuse my gushing. They’re seriously mixing a broad range of musical genres (funk, ’80s new wave, disco, a little punk and more), but the bottom line is they come off as a heavy (R&B-inflected) rock band with awesome soul/blues vocals in front. Each song ends with bassist Andy Mosette victoriously waving his fists like he can’t believe they pulled it off, which is nuts since they sound so accomplished. Meanwhile, vocalist Rona Mosette looks like a goddess! I keep expecting her to hurl lightning bolts or part the Red Sea (make that Charles River). Unbelievably, this is only their fourth show together. Honestly, Black Mosettes deserve attention!
      The Belmondos take the stage and I recognize most of the faces from other acts. Fronted by ex-Crybaby Artie Sneiderman, it’s little surprise they’re up to that ’60s garage thing. They play with total authority, not to mention rambunctious energy and a complete understanding thereof. Yes, there’s a Farfisa in the mix (they’re not fucking around, after all), but what I’m more impressed with is that they toss in some genuine surf guitar as well (courtesy of Mike Michaud from Electrolux), giving them an additional distinction from the many other bands working this particular territory. The crowd dwindles as it gets late, but the remaining faithful are appreciative for an extended set and… uh-oh. Nancy’s forcing me to dance. Apparently she’s not a very bright woman. Dancing (with no rhythm) and writing (with no rhythm) at the same time (or separately) is beyond my abilities, so this is where I sign off. Goodnight!   (Frank Strom)

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DENNIS BRENNAN, ANGELINE, PAVED COUNTRY
Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA 3/24/07
      Just like one of their songs, I guess I’m a “Sentimental Old Fool,” but as a fan of Paved Country’s regular shows at the Plough & Stars in the past, I was delighted to see Sarah (Mendelsohn) and Marjie (Alonso) back on stage.  They write great songs that play like scenes from a movie.  You sing along with some, cry along with others, and dance a lot through all of them. The only thing sweeter than their vocal give, take, and shake is the sheer joy they share in performing. The all too short set hit songs from all three of their CDs but Norm Hartley (drums), Ed Riemer (bass) and Andy Pinkham (guitar) make them all sound smoky pub familiar.  A newer addition to the band is Shaun Wolf Wortis whose guitar licks fit fine while his solos allow him to kidnap a song or three (and yet return them to their owners in a perfectly seamless manner).  His guitar solo on the final number, “I Wish Our Love Was New,” is one of the highlights of the set. And just like my favorite Paved Country song, I’m already having “Too Much Fun.”
      It’s the second night of the party that Angeline is throwing at the Lizard Lounge to celebrate the release of their new CD, Powdered Pearls. I’ve been waiting for product since I first heard them in Union Square a year or so ago and tonight I’ll finally get my grubby hands on something.  The band is fronted by songwriters Emily Grogan and Linda Viens and loaded with talent. The wily veteran rhythm section has the legendary Asa Brebner on bass (!) and back-up vocals, with Michael Guardabascio on drums. Meredith Cooper’s guest violin is the star of my favorite song “Happy Again.”  But the big surprise for me is what Cheryl Etu adds to the sound with her vibraphone—she drew rounds of praise from our bourbon-loaded table after any number of songs.  It all comes back to the front women though, and Linda and Emily deliver in every way with songs like “The Clearing” and “Girl of Opportunity.” I love the ending of the latter song with Brebner following the two women in repeating the last phrase “I’m just a girl.”
      Closing the show is the great Dennis Brennan and while I wish I could cite the lame excuse of a deadline, it’s the bourbon I’ve consumed that presses me toward calling it a night.  Yet I’m stopped in my tracks by his opener. One great song leads to another and then to another as I try to get out the door. I finally pry myself free in order to get safely home but on the way, I marvel over the wealth of riches here in our local scene where folk like Dennis Brennan (and Asa Brebner and Shaun Wolf Wortis) can be so often taken for granted.  You always think you can hear them some time when really you should hear them every time.   (Al Janik)

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THE SHEILA DIVINE   

T.T. the Bear’s  3/17/07
      Reunited for an ’FNX and Bushmill’s sponsored St. Patrick’s Day, Boston’s legendary The Sheila Divine tare through the entirety of their first record, New Parade, in order—to a packed house of loyal and adoring fans.  As soon as the set list becomes clear, the excitement rises as fans know their favorites, “Hum” and “I’m a Believer,” are on their way.  Bassist Jim Gilbert, tongue firmly in cheek, teases the audience in Bukowski fashion “So… what’s next assholes?!” playing each note with a wide, lovestruck smile. The audience sings as hard as the newly wedded Aaron Perrino, who flashes his ring at the audience and jokes that he couldn’t wait to get offstage and drink Guinness and then go home to make pizzas with his wife. Any time his raging screams leave him gasping for air the audience filles in the space.  After beginning the encore with “Ostrich,” they wrap the show, and their reunion, with a gorgeous reading of “Spirits,” with Aaron tearing into the lyric “lovers burn” to the bittersweet satisfaction of all.    (Glenwood)

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THE PRIME MOVERS, THE RADIO KNIVES
The Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, MA 4/12/07
      The Radio Knives rip through a twelve-song set, mostly smokers from their killer recording, Cursed. The Knives have added several new monsters to their set. Paul drums like  Pete Taylor (The Varmints)—with a nice loud CRACKING snare sound. You gotta notice Paul’s head is jammed into his shoulder. Moreover, his whole body seems clenched into pure concentrated force. Steve’s Gibson guitar gets a great sound through his Orange amp (it’s comparable to the Marshall stack that most guitarists count on for the ultimate crunch). Steve’s secret is that he uses P90 single coil pickups. He delivers the best fookin’ guitar sound—loud, dirty, SEXUAL!  Alan has a solid Ampeg rig that suits his bass playing. He has a cool style—not too minimal and never overplays. The Radio Knives are back-to-basics, primal rock ’n’ roll with an explosive sound designed for bigger, louder venues.
      The Prime Movers crank it to 11 on The Kinks “I Need You”—a great crowd pleaser. “Left In The Dark” is originally a Vertebrats number, but The Movers make it their own with a harp solo. Next the band pounds out the brilliant soul pop of “Back In Line.” Lead singer Cam dedicates “When He’s Down” to the socially handicapped Don Imus. Then they follow it with the gorgeous “Say Those Words” (a perfect amalgam of Paul Weller) and “Who’s Sorry Now” that shimmers with skillfully arranged and delivered harmonies. Guitarist Dick Tates’s harmonies are of such high caliber, it seems he could easily take on lead singing duties if need be.   (Nancy Neon)

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MINDWALK, THE SUPERHERO LETDOWN, INTERRUPTION, THE KITE RETURN, THE MYSTERY TRAMPS, HARBORLIGHT, THE KYMERA EFFECT, MINUS ONE QUARTET
WBCN Battle of the High School Bands  Harpers Ferry, Brighton, MA  4/1/07
      It’s tough to draw the opening slot of an eight-band bill but Minus One Quartet of Newton sets the bar high. The band combines textural rhythms with hard driving blues and reminds me of Boston bands The Colt Thompson Project and Morphine. My favorite moments of the quick set are when Nathan Burla switches from keyboard to saxophone.
      Up next is Kymera Effect. This is the band’s third trip to the Battle of the High School Bands. Unfortunately while the music is good, a blend of reggae and hard rock, singer Dan Halpern, with his tie die shirt and over the top stage presence, aren’t going to be enough to win this.
      Harborlight from Milton and Weymouth are up and rock pretty good in the traditional sense. It’s the first band I’ve seen pull off harmonies but the band, despite being very talented, just needs more hooks to catch this listener.  
      Lynnfield’s The Mystery Tramps take the stage and own it. Rancid and Sublime have nothing on these punks.  They can sing, they can play, they can write songs. They will be a hard band to beat.
      The Kite Return is up next. Their awkwardness is only enhanced by their superhero costumes. Looking like a cross between Superman and Harry Potter, they are a bit green to the whole rock thing and their nervousness shows. A little more practice for these guys and they’ll be fine, assuming puberty hits them in the next few years.
      Interruption from Newton also has a Sublime punk reggae thing going.  Their music is well played and features several memorable choruses, each one exuding at least one F-bomb, however they are also wearing goofy costumes, which in this case didn’t match their music well. Still, this band had balls and I like ’em.
      The Superhero Letdown is up. Also from Newton, the guys are the opposite from Interruption.  They are smooth with their elements of soul and reggae and have a great 3-piece horn section. These guys play actual harmonies.  It wouldn’t surprise me at all if at least one of them was a jazz prodigy. Overall really good.  The Mighty Mighty Bosstones would be proud of them.
      Mindwalk loads onto the stage as the last band. The drummer has a 22-piece set. One part metal, one part audio-visual club and one part dungeons and dragons. I have to say they are pretty talented. They have time to do about four songs and I’m left guessing to see if their drummer was even able to hit every one of the drums his parents carted around.
      Lots of talent in this round of the High School Battle of the Bands. The judges take a long time deciding. The winner? The Mystery Tramps.   (Kier Byrnes)

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COROLLA DEVILLE
Dodge Street Bar & Grill, Salem, MA 3/23/07
      These women played the tribute to Alpo about a year ago. It’s inspiring to see how much that they have progressed considering an impressive debut. Lisa Conolly (vocals) and the sisters—Patsy Bugden (bass) and Betsy Bugden-Sears (lead guitar) make their newness to the rock game work for them. Gay Hathaway’s talent and experience (drums) are the lynch pins that set off the band’s truly unique sound. While I enjoy the warm quality of Lisa’s deep sexy vocals, it’s great fun to hear Cindy Bugden chime in with Joan Jett’s “Nag” and Betsy with Eddie Cochran’s “Something Else”—the latter being a song I’ll do if I ever have my own combo. Betsy’s and Cindy’s pure pop backup vocals on “Get Ready” work perfectly. A definite highlight is a wave to Salem/Boston scenester/booker, Terry Brenner called “Terry-Go-Round.”  But I am absolutely knocked out by the band’s heart-melting version of Phil (The Dawgs) Haynen’s “Can’t You Hear My Heart Beat.”   (Nancy Neon)

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TIM MUNGENAST & HIS PREEXISTING CONDITIONS, THE LIMITATIONS 
Skybar, Somerville, MA  3/30/07
      I walk in the Skybar, meet the lovely host Anderson Mar, and The Limitations are already filling the room with sound. They’re a six-piece playing straight rock that sounds like ’80s covers. The vocals are solid, the playing is all in the right places, and the mix coming out of the PA is pretty much perfect. Lead singer, Jonny Wells, wears a black cowboy shirt and boots giving the band its only visual character. A third of the way through the set I realize they are definitely playing covers. “Don’t You Forget About Me,” “Pretty in Pink,” and “Mrs. Robinson” give you an idea of their repertoire. Momentum picks up with “Video Killed the Radio Star” and “Road House Blues” where Jonny gets to let it hang out a little more. I can tell he’s just dying to totally rock. The Limitations are a solid cover band with a couple of decent originals.
      Tim Mungenast wraps a sock around the mic as if he’s preparing for protected sex with his audience (maybe this preexisting condition is something to be concerned about). Tim is a strange bird—tentative in his vocal approach, eclectic in his odd song writing, subdued in his appearance. He’s not one to follow the rules and that’s what keeps me listening. He grasps from Syd Barret’s early whacked Pink Floyd days and uses jazz like Frank Zappa but without the showboating. Tim could be back in the Fillmore East with the kind of vibe he creates. The Preexisting Conditions are long-time Boston players Michael Bloom on longhorn bass and drummer-with-gong John Proudman (both ex-Cul de Sac) who excel when the odd jams come into play. Cheryl Wanner (Dreamchild) joins the band for some wide-mouth wailing in the closer, “Mersault’s Blues.” I affectionately crown Tim Mungenast Boston’s autistic genius child—always to be on the outside—and admired for it.   (T Max)

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MISSED DEPARTURE, MONOLITH, HEADED FOR THE SMOKE, SLIM JIM & THE MAD COWS
Baseball Tavern Basement, Boston, MA 3/15/07
      Missed Departure is just finishing their set as I come in to a wonderful little place; the door guy confirms my suspicion that this is their first show. I think these very young men should continue playing in their mom’s basement a tad longer. Speaking of basements, the lights in the one of the Baseball Tavern dim and brighten with the cycles of the bar’s dishwasher; but really, with an unusually attentive sound guy and a purveyor of cheap beer, Martin, who also booked the evening makes for a wonderful little place to enjoy an intimate show. A welcomed addition to the scene within the epicenter of my universe, Lower Allston.
      Straightforward, kick-in-the-teeth heavy American rock with really good riffs, Monolith is sportin’ exactly what I like in a band: rock so powerful that I can’t help move to the beat. The rhythm section is so tight and hard, then the dual Gibson guitars join them skillfully, diverge into technical excellence, and always returning.  I have a stupid grin throughout their entire set. Each individual really brings it; I haven’t seen such complete individual talent in a dog’s age. When combined, they snap into a perfect complement: a Monolith of rock, if you will. Classic, but somehow totally original.
      The drummer of Headed for the Smoke has a fantastic rock ’n’ roll look but the slight lack of cohesion in the early tunes gives my wandering mind time to speculate whether or not his hair actually comes attached to the bandanna. The singer has a nice voice. He, for some reason I would love to know, appears to be playing a left handed guitar upside down and backwards. Now this is distracting me. Don’t get me wrong, they are good, and they are growing on me as the set progresses. I think they have potential. “The singer is good,” I flash yet again. They have a classic AC/DC rock ’n’ roll thing with a splash of punk, maybe Ramones, flavor.
      Slim Jim & the Mad Cows are pretty much the greatest cover band ever. I am loathe to even refer to them as a cover band since they honor so delectably my cardinal rule of the cover: if you don’t bring any innovation, or dare I say improvements, to such tunes as “Breakin the Law” and “Ace of Spades,” then don’t do ’em. Slim Jim & the Mad Cows reveal and explore the sonic ingenuity of these classics with a heavy sauce of finger-lickin good country goodness. Every tune is a sonic delight. Beautiful, go-go booted girls join them singing and dancing, their ponytails so glossy they simply must drink cod liver oil by the pint. This band has great production values. They even bring their own disembodied cowhead Christmas light sign. They somehow bring originality to songs that are so deeply ingrained in the American psyche that it is almost shocking that there can be room for interpretation; you really have to hear it to believe it. It’s a good night even though the overhead pipes are dripping what I really hope is just plain water on my head. I think I’ll be back.   (Stace)

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ZIPPO RAID, THE SPOILERS, THE McGUNKS, OVER THE EDGE
Dodge Street Bar & Grill, Salem, MA  3/17/07
      Slimedog’s cat here. Slimedog wanted to drink himself into oblivion it being St. Patrick’s Day or maybe it’s Saturday night, same difference, so he snuck me into the club in a box. Don’t worry I’ve got air holes. Now, I hate new people, hate noise, leave my house about twice a year so I was not looking forward to this.
      Over the Edge delivers a good punk influenced rocking set with a surprise cover, “I’m Not Another Face In The Crowd” by an old, great Boston rock band, The Thrills. When Fred Evicci, the lead singer, stops by to pet me after the set he tells me it’s in tribute to Barb Kitson, the singer from The Thrills who passed away recently. Nice sentiment from a good guy and a great band.
      The McGunks are up next, appropriate for St. Patty’s Day as they play a catchy Irish/punk rock mix. Slimedog says he likes them better each time he sees them. Me, I like the song that goes, “Well, she used to be pretty, now, she’s pretty fucked up.” Looks like the crowd to me.
      The Spoilers consist of Chrissy Spoiler, who sings like I do in a catfight, all snarly and vicious—meow!  Chris Spoiler bangs his guitar like all hell, Kevo Spoiler pulls at and bashs his bass guitar like it did something wrong to him and Cindy Lou Spoiler lets her cymbals ring while beating her drums into the floorboards. I’m quite taken with their ferocious punk rock attack. I also believe they’re related just like that band The Ramones were.
      Last up is Zippo Raid and it is the last time up for them as after twelve years of corrupting the kids of America, they’re hanging it up so Joe Zippo can do missionary work in Chelsea. The rule earlier of not throwing beer on the monitors seems to have been rescinded as beer is flying everywhere. I’m too modest to repeat to repeat the song titles and subject matter. I will say that during “Show Us Your Tits” there were ladies on each side of the stage, two who were engaging in faux lesbian action and one who did follow through on the titties request. I did notice that Slimedog was looking like I do at dinnertime, salivating and such. Cindy Lou and Mrs. Slimedog look appalled. That Cindy seems so sweet; if I was a human I’d like to be her boyfriend. Slimedog has just come out of his beer/ black Russian/ Jägermeister/ pink squirrel fog to proclaim this a great ending for a great band and then proceeds to vomit all over the top of my box.
      I will say I had a good time. After seeing what humans do by watching TV—they work in offices, they kill each other for fun. (I mean I see the war and I know they’re not doing it for food like we animals do, so all I can figure out is it’s for sport. Isn’t it?) This is a much more fun, sane way to conduct yourselves and I’d go again. Just please, someone carry me besides Slimedog.   (Slimedog)

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THE VINYL SQUARES, BRIAN PERO & THE TIRED HORSES, MIKE MacDONALD
Kennedy’s, Boston, MA 4/10/07
      The atmosphere this evening upstairs at Kennedy’s Downtown is quite unlike that of most local rock shows. Walking in to the performance area from the front bar I am struck by sights and sounds of people who seem more to be waiting for a party to begin than for bands to begin playing. If a band’s crowd is any indication of the sort of show they put on, this should be interesting.
      Mike MacDonald opens the show with a pretty unremarkable (but not terrible) set of acoustic/vocal stuff. Nothing striking here, just some mid tempo, maudlin-in-a-drunk-frat-boy-kind-of-way tunes being played competently enough, but lacking spark. Perhaps if he were serenading a room full of shitfaced college girls, he’d wind up taking one or two home… but it isn’t making it here.
      Bryan Pero & His Tired Horses begin their set nicely with an alt countryish mid tempo rocker accompanied by Ben Edmonds on the pedal steel guitar. They play a decent set of pretty well written stuff that is less boring than The Jayhawks, but a bit less inspired than say an Uncle Tupelo or vintage Son Volt. With some decent backing vocals, and a little more energy from Mr. Pero and band this outfit could be something to see.
      So, as I begin to worry that all the pre-show buzz was for naught, (In this I am not alone, as most in the crowd are taking on a sort of ho-hum with polite applause aspect after these two openers.) on to the stage rumbles The Vinyl Squares. Singer Dave Haverty revives the room a bit with an off the cuff wisecrack or two, and rolls in to a great cover of “Lucille” (yes, that “Lucille”). On through a couple of energetic alt-country-rocker original numbers they rip, quite impressively. Mr. Haverty and drumming brother have an excellent lead/backing vocal dynamic that adds an element of polish without detracting from the raw fun to their songs. Rhythm guitarist/pedal steel player Ben Edmonds (the same from the previous act) fills out their material very competently with steel guitar runs, and or chord backing on his Telecaster a couple of times during the same song. This band looks and sounds like they’re having a hell of a lot of fun on stage, and while their brand of beer joint alt-country fun may not be the sort of stuff you’d expect to find on a Saturday night in Boston, it is absolutely a good time to watch and hear. I look forward to seeing them around town in the future.   (Flipper)

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