AL JANIK, BROTHER MOSLEY/ GUSTER
Kirkland Kissoff Kirkland Café/
Earthfest The Hatshell 5/26/07
Right after Saturday Morning Softball—No Matter What I rush over to the Kirkland Kissoff and catch the end of Brother Mosley’s set. They’ve got a jammy/college party feel—“Dancin’ In the Streets” sticks in my head. The new bass player, Rob, has his friends hi-fivin’ his performance at the end of the set.
Fellow softball player Al Janik is a wonderful spirit who performs because he has to. He admits he ain’t got no voice, but that doesn’t stop him—he’s all personality. He brings up his nine-year-old son Kalvin to play The Stones’ “Time is on My Side” on his three-quarter sized acoustic while Walt Bostian clangs the xylophone duct-taped to the toy fireman’s hat on Al’s head. Everyone joins in singing—a touching moment to be remembered. Throughout the set Al strips off five T-shirts exposing the joys of his Kirkland experience. He honors Mikey Dee, Joe Hernon, Slide, the polka celebrations, and Rattle Heatre. I polka with his lovely wife Katherine—man, I’m exhausted. Al flies around the club like a low flying plane as I finish my pitcher of beer. He appropriately plays “We Gotta Get Outta This Place”—and Kevin, Matt, and Walt (the rest of the band) scatter back into the audience.
After some dudes get up on stage and give us the figures for number of dead in Iraq, Tail takes the stage. They’re a folky acoustic-sounding band with good vocals, but the fresh air outside the club is calling me and I know where I have to be. Farewell to the Kirkland—I’ll be catching up with Mickey Bliss’s new Club Bohemia at the Cantab soon.
Next stop—the Hatch Shell, where Earth Day has been blessed with the most beautiful day of the year. WBOS publicized this event well—I’ve never seen this field so crowded. I’m selling my peace trinkets far from the stage but I can still see the action provided by the big screen stage left. It’s Guster filling the speakers and they break into one of my favorite movie songs—“Brazil”—complete with all the words I don’t know. In keeping with Earth Day, lead vocalist Ryan Miller lets the plastic-bottle-tossing members of the audience know that technology has not come up with a method to recycle flying bottles yet. The band pleasantly sucks me into their easy-going melodies. Their songs are catchy—listen to “Satellite” on their myspace page—I bet you can find it without me giving you the URL. My two hours (meter limit) is up and I’ve got to work my way through the sunburned masses. (T Max)
JIMMY RYAN & HAYRIDE
Toad, Somerville, MA 5/23/07
Combining lightening-quick bluegrass, hell-bent country, old-time gospel, and folk tunes, guitar god Duke Levine and mandolin champion Jimmy Ryan can rip solos like nobody’s business. They tear through their opening song, “Face Up,” and I feel as though I just had a religious experience. Have I seen the light? Is this perfection? It feels like it just can’t get any better than this. “Oohs” and “ahhs” could be heard throughout the crowd, captivated by the band on stage. Every few minutes the band crescendos and the crowd erupts into full out yee haws, alleluias, and other cries of joy, spurred on by the two virtuosos setting fire to their fret boards. I left thinking how a Jimmy Ryan and Hayride show is not just a show, it’s a spiritual experience that I just can’t walk away from without feeling slightly changed for the better. Go see them and get baptized yourself. Word has it that you can even ask Jimmy for your own gospel shirt. (Kier Byrnes)
WHO SHOT HOLLYWOOD
Middle East Cafe, Cambridge MA 6/8/07
How to begin? Who Shot Hollywood takes the stage and I am stunned—I’ve no idea how old they are but they look like junior high school students! I am stunned further by the fact these kids are doing that ’60s garage thing, sounding not unlike…oh…Chesterfield Kings, let’s say. In the immediate crowd, jokes are flying—references to ABC Afterschool Specials, Brady Bunch, and even Paul Williams! But despite the jokes, everyone seems suitably impressed. And so they should be—WSH sounds great. While clearly building off a ’60s garage core, their sound broadens, allowing more generalized pop elements as well. It’s that strong sound that’s going to carry them when the novelty (being a bunch of very young kids) wears off. In one song, they rhyme “ice cream cone” with “Dee Dee Ramone”—how can one hate that?
And once again, another national headline act asks Downbeat 5 to open for them. Maybe The Knitters and Hoodoo Gurus and Fleshtones know something. So why aren’t YOU here? (Frank Strom)
THE PUBCRAWLERS, PARIAH BEAT, THE CRUMB SULLIVANS, RED SAILS
The Bulfinch Yacht Club, Boston MA 5/26/07
The Bulfinch Yacht Club is steamy hot after a gorgeously summer-like spring day in Boston—the kind of day I guess that makes a bunch of people decide to go to Hooters, which is a hotbed of activity next door. There is a pretty good turn- out here and nearly everyone is pressed to the stage as I arrive to Red Sails playing their last song, which, judging by the crowd, was an electrifying set. They are fronted by one of those super-talented musical wunderkinds. I catch about 60 seconds but can tell that they are good. I realize that conveying this quickly and assertively is an accomplishment in itself. I remind myself to pick up their EP.
I am giddy with excitement knowing that I am finally going to catch in person, the wonderfully illusive duo, The Crumb Sullivans—a true gemstone. Their very first tune needs no musical accompaniment as, almost magically, the instant connection they make with the crowd incites standoffish Boston to clap, whoop and stomp to the beat. Bobby Diggs has a voice that really needs no amplification— wonderfully edgy, slightly mournful, always intense. This mostly hard-of-hearing punk-stylish crowd is paying attention, erupting into dance, getting inspired. An integral part of the diamond that is The Crumb Sullivans is the rough; like the inspired, spontaneous music of yore played on porches or around the campfire where sometimes the only percussion available is a hand clap or a foot stomp—a beautiful unpretentious way to make music to feed the soul and entertain. They are deciding structure on the fly and discuss mid-song the direction they want to go. If one is feeling it, he will simply let the other know he wants to jam a little solo. “One more time for the people!” becomes a rallying cry.
I love how carnally and spiritually raw this band is. The in-between song banter is tremendously entertaining, the admission by Bobby, “…the married of the two, you may have noticed all of my songs are about running away, and Slippery Lips (a harmonica reference, my drunken companion had asked) Manning, the single boy’s songs are all about killing hookers.” One performing booted, the other barefoot, the song ‘The Fighter’ is a semi-autobiographical yarn about Bobby’s big chance in the Golden Gloves 50 pounds ago when he fucked up, “Like I’ve fucked up everything else in my life.” Something about The Crumb Sullivan’s thought-provoking (and audible) lyrics makes me suddenly truly value music that is a little different, a little deeper, a little less self-important. I get their T-shirt, their EP, and I would take them home, lock them in a box, and force them to invent me a personal soundtrack, if I didn’t feel an uncomfortable twinge of selfishness at the plan. I am officially totally spoiled. The Crumb Sullivans: Hear them. See them. Do it now.
Next up: Pariah Beat. They’re trying for a folk sort of punk feel but sound muddled—although one haircut is better than the next. The smell coming from the singer practically demands that their music not stink. The solos are meandering, the uninspired songs lack clarity yet they have loads of friends who seem to generally enjoy; but at the Bulfinch, pitchers are cheap.
A seven piece with tin whistle, bagpipe, and accordion, The Pubcrawlers hit the stage. Irish wakey punk with a dose of rock in style, they are definitely a step up song-wise. The drummer Andy is a tank whom I witnessed drinking directly from two pitchers of Guinness (Celt-style) yet is still somehow excellent. The singer has a great bassy rattling voice. They’re good. The tunes credited to their piper seem extra well done. I like the punk flavor; they can really pull it off. An impromptu tribute to their new guitarist shows a glimmer of classic rock ’n’ roll ability before they jump back into their Irish New England Celtic romp. The band can sure play, the singer can sure sing, the piper writes a mean song, and the drummer can certainly drink andstill perform exceptionally well; it’s a rip-roarin’ good time. (Stace)
DREAMCHILD, TWELTH OF NEVER, HAPPY THE CLOWN, COBER
15th Anniversary for Bats in the Belfry
Skybar, Somerville, MA 6/9/07
It’s the 15th anniversary celebration of Laura Wilson’s WMBR Bat’s in the Belfry radio show. Besides the music, there’s clothing, jewelry, and art on display and for sale. There are yummy coconut skull cupcakes, ginger bat cookies, and lots of dark chocolate available for the taking.
Sheila Bommakanti is Cober. She plays an Epiphone SG double neck with two Marshall amps that bookend her dramatically lit stage presentation. Her guitar parts are doubled with loops and her smooth dark vocal melodies swim in a sea of reverb. Her long black hair curves like waves of snakes—the visual balance of the music created. She expertly executes changes between the guitar necks with calm control. You could say she’s a goth version of Bleu’s e-band—a very soothing sensual experience.
The volume explodes as Happy the Clown smears the room with echo and feedback from their guitar, bass, and keyboard. A drum machine keeps the beat and a slide show offers a range of images from warping little shapes to the pope, to Mexican pyramids, to Hitler, to Charles Manson. The mood is dark while the calm vocals drift over the band’s insistent drone. I have to admit I thought I’d be bored by this, but the show works, and the audience pays attention ’til the end of Happy the Clown’s half hour set.
Twelfth of Never from western Mass. looks a little unsettled as their soundcheck takes longer than expected. They’re a split gender six-piece playing goth folk that sounds medieval at times. Aurora Grabill’s violin has almost an oboe quality to it. They remind me of Mistle Thrush with Katie Bunting’s soaring melodic vocals. Extra voices join in on “Shades of Grey” adding extra dimension to a band that already has nice depth—the cello adds warmth to the low end. Things get lively with their last song, “The Tiny Draw” (from their second CD, Things That Were), where the keyboard player Matthew Davis picks up a guitar and wails for a while.
Dreamchild, a dramatic two-piece, sets the stage with Japanese curtains masking the electronics on either side. Centered is a harp sitting rear center. Frank Gerace plays a synth guitar that lets him sound sometimes like a small orchestra, as in their performance of a French opera. Cheryl Wanner’s drawn expressions, heavy black makeup, and laced dress enhance her cabaret-type acting as she sadistically pours the phrase “You fear my touch, come feel my touch.” She goes back to the harp for a rendition of Peter Gabriel’s “Here Comes the Flood” while Frank conjures up a group of flutes. Next he creates angelic voices for “Weeping Willow.” A show highlight is “What Lizzie Took,” a musical tale of the 1892 Fall River brutal ax murder—it’s monstrous and marvelous. If you’d like to experience a European cabaret—we have it right here in Boston. Frank and Cheryl work together as if they’re spiritually making love.
Congratulations to Laura Wilson for tonight’s nice mix of dark talent. May bats continue to occupy her belfry for many full moons to come. (T Max)
WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE
Model Cafe, Allston, MA 6/6/07
Brothers Scott and Jim Healey are playing their first show with new bassist Jesse tonight at the Model, and Model regulars LOVE to see other Model regulars (and staff too) play here. So when the band starts the first song, the audience quickly piles up front to check out the new lineup. For having just learned the material, Jesse doesn’t show it and lays into it full throttle. He’s turned way up, and his sound adds a nice crispness to the bottom, which separates the guitar and bass clearly. Jim’s vocals start out too soft, but that’s quickly remedied although his guitar should still come up a little. Scott’s playing a louder drumkit and the toms and kick punch really hard, especially on “Paper Asshole.” An hour of heavy, heavy rock rattles bottles and glasses off the counter but in the end it’s worth losing a beer for. (Seth Cohen)
ANDREA GILLIS, HRT
T.T. the Bear’s 6/1/07
HRT is that mom band from Sharon, MA, with its own Canadian reality TV show—Rocker Moms. Lisa Yves is the dominating force of HRT. She easily wails through octaves while bouncing rhythms out of her keyboard. Her songs tend to have a jammy bar band feel, which you’d expect out of songs titled “Tequila” and “Coffee Jam.” Then there are the more sophisticated Emily Grogan tunes that get mixed in. The band doesn’t really have the chops to conquer these songs, but I have to give them an A for effort. As far as pre-show promotion, most bands would be happy with a line in The Noise. HRT brings their following into T.T.’s with some help from a Fox TV morning spotlight. Gotta love these moms.
Andrea Gillis is the closest thing this city has to a modern day Janis Joplin. She’s raw in her delivery and despite her band being two members down, they prove quantity isn’t essential for quality. Greg Steinbaugh fills in on bass (with only a tape to rehearse the tunes), Bruce Caporal (Auto Interiors) is the confident smacker behind the kit, and the guy who comes close to stealing the show from Andrea, Asa Brebner, who has got this freekin’ beautiful tone coming out of his Strat, echoing early days of Hendrix minus the feedback. They’re in your face with “You Can Jump into the Fire”—the Harry Nilsson screamer. “Mr. Bartender” gets sultry. The title of the gospel-ly “Hand on the Plough” plays to Andrea’s day gig. And “One Eye Open” is destined for the A-side of a piece of vinyl that will be flying at us in July. They bring the house down with Ike & Tina Turner’s mega hit, “River Deep – Mountain High.” Wooo—what a workout.
Couldn’t stick around for The Silver Lining—but I know that they pop perfectly with rock. (T Max)