LIVE REVIEWS: December 2007

 

LYRES
Cavestomp Garage Festacular
Warsaw, Brooklyn, NY
11/4/07
It’s a blast rockin’ with Lyres at a party of 400-plus international cave stompers. My much better half, Billy Borgioli, says, “Except for The Sonics, all these bands are Lyres-in-training and they’ve got a long way to go!” Moreover it is Lyres, not Britney’s former boy toy, who are bringing sexy back with the horny dynamo “Soapy.” This one is supercharged with the entire Lyres lovin’ crowd singin’ backup with no coercion necessary from the band. Lyres honor Cavestomp performers, The New Colony Six and The Alarm Clocks.  As much as I dig NC6, since I heard Lyres’ live version of “Confess” at Maxwell’s circa 1983 and I’ve always preferred it. To put it succinctly, Lyres deliver it hotter and harder. As for “No Reason To Complain,” Lyres build more tension and create more of a groove.  And tonight Conolly seems reenergized by the enthusiasm of the audience, many of whom are long time Lyres fans who have traveled great distances.    (Nancy Neon) 

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THE ULTRASONIC ROCK ORCHESTRA
The Wilbur Theatre, Boston, MA
11/11/07
There are few local rock acts that you’ll shell out $25-35 to see, so it’s a breath of crescent-fresh air to see the URO packing the 1,200-seat Wilbur Theatre this time around. Arguably the best cover band ever, this extravaganza is comprised of a 7-piece band and roughly 18 singers, they cover venerated megahits by rock’s pantheon of gods—Queen, Bowie, The Who, The Beatles, and a bit of Jesus Christ Superstar with a closely-related original mini-opera for good measure (it’s complicated). The level of talent on display is immense—the URO makes use of every musician and vocalist present to capture the most complex of these classic songs live (Queen themselves pressed play the in the middle of “Bohemian Rhapsody”), and their newfound budget has allowed for a blazing light show that quite frankly makes you wistful for the days of LSD. A few silly moments onstage and a few hundred too many repetitions of the word “rock” can’t spoil the mood tonight. Only in retrospect do I realize that the lighting truss above the stage is in a distinctive “I O I” shape—but I doubt the crowd, from 5-year old kids experiencing these songs for the first time right up to the grandparents in attendance, would deny that this is indeed Rock 101.  (Jason H)

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DESOLATION BELLS, THE IN OUT
Church, Boston, MA
11/3/07
It’s my first time “going to Church,” the revamped Linwood.  Thankfully, the bar retains its original homey flavor, with the main difference being improved bathrooms with glossy new graffiti (New York City subway style).
A three-piece called Desolation Bells takes the stage.  Their style ranges from melodic ’60s sounding songs with ringing guitars and harmony vocals (The Who-reminiscent “Leopard Spots”), to an earthier, primal rock sound torn from the book of Stooges.  “Trepidation” and “Love is a Fire” are the highlights.
Next, The In Out, with Nick decked out in a ska outfit.  Someone heckles him and he good-naturedly throws his porkpie hat off to the side.  They deliver new songs that remind me of Link Wray’s primitive ’50s rock but skewed through a modern prism.  “Grim” has a chorus like a football chant.  In addition to the band’s trademark terse rhythms, metallic guitars and aloof vocals, I hear unexpected lyrics about “helium” and “multicolored feathers.”  Someone else hears the word “sandwich.”  “Poacher” has the chorus, “you turkey neck!” which would provoke laughter if the song didn’t sound so ominous and induce such paranoia.  They end with “Damn Shades of Gray” with its repetitive, anticipatory bass line and vocals alternating between hectoring and resigned.           (Laura Markley)

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REGRESSING TO APES, TOKYO TRAMPS
Dodge Street Bar and Grill, Salem, MA
10/25/07
The Tokyo Tramps have the unfortunate timing of having to play during game two of the World Series, which is on a TV in the back corner. Guitarist/ lead vocalist Satoru Nakagawa wears a Red Sox shirt for the occasion and brings “greetings from Fenway,” in this case meaning the neighborhood where he lives. This three-piece, whose shtick is that they’re all Japanese playing American bluesy roots rock, is just so much fun that I even stop watching the game for awhile. Satoru’s spare Telecaster sound is perfect for this classic rootsy style, which they interpret so well. Bassist Yukiko Fujii’s backing vocals are simultaneously bright and haunting. And Toshio Tanaka is simply an amazing drummer who kind of reminds me of Charlie Watts with his confident coolness. Of course, these three have a sense of humor about their origins: they even have a song about chicken teriyaki.
Regressing to Apes play kind of a jazzy-funky-rock complete with Hammond B3. Organist Kenny Clark is simply an amazing performer. He’s an absolute master of the B3 and supplies some killer lead vocals that seem to be transported straight from New Orleans. Despite Kenny’s sheer virtuosity, the focal point of this band is undeniably guitarist and vocalist Frank Presutti who appears onstage looking like an ersatz combination of Elvis and Darth Vader complete with black sequin trimmed cape and army helmet—with kind of a lounge-punk personality. Say what you will about him—he owns the venue—but he’s actually a very good performer (and I suspect he rather enjoys the flamboyance of it all), potty humor aside. I am genuinely surprised at how good this four-piece is, and judging from the crowd that has suddenly filled the place while the Red Sox play a World Series game, others have already been aware of this band.   (Robin Umbley)

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WILD BUSINESS
P.A.’s Lounge, Somerville, MA
11/7/07
The human remains of Shark Phone have surfaced recently as Wild Business.  After only a few shows they are carving out a powerful sound that doesn’t invite immediate comparisons.  John and Russ trade off songwriting, guitars and vocals, with JB on groove-laden bass and Dusty, a talented Berklee student, pounds the skins. “Spin in Place” features John’s laid-back vocal, a loping groove, and Russ’ authoritative guitar leads.  “She’s My Baby” is fast paced and adrenaline infused, with Russ’ shouted vocals. “Down is Down” is a slow, lovelorn epic reminiscent of Neil Young.  The highlight for me is “Who’s Got Your Back,” which builds slowly with tambourine and understated vocals, bringing to mind a Sergio Leoni film: “I see that you’ve got/your badge and your gun/but can you tell me, who’s got your back?”  The song then explodes with a searing, J. Mascis-like guitar lead before the dust settles, and you just wish it would last a little longer.   (Laura Markley)

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THE COFFIN LIDS, THE MONKEY BUTLERS

Abbey Lounge, Somerville MA
10/27/07
It’s Halloween and bands all over town are once again showing a rich wellspring of imagination by…. uh…. performing as cover acts of other bands. Yeah, I don’t get it either. How dull. Maybe if World’s Greatest Sinners performed as The Chantels…. or Muck & The Mires as a souped-up Petula Clark? Fuck, yeah!
Thankfully, The Monkey Butlers are performing as The Monkey Butlers. They soundcheck minus their normal simian-servant costumes, and for a split second I think they’re being exceptionally clever. A costume act performing out of costume on Halloween—you dig? But alas, one quick change in a phone booth and normality is restored. Pity. That aside, the MBs are all about the quasi-retro frat rock played with the level of primitive fury (or vice-versa) the style demands. Always good—with or without costumes.
The theme continues as The Coffin Lids perform as Bomp label-mates The Mummies. While Jay is holding the fort on bass, the rest of the lineup is juggled with Mike doing organ, Melissa doing guitar, and Kevin Pickering substituting on drums for an injured Mad Matt. As The Coffin Lids typically mine from the same musical territory as The Mummies, the show comes off as a normal Lids set (and that’s good). Before long, it’s chaos—an overly rowdy crowd, bandages everywhere, and beer starts flying. Mike is sliding around a suds-drenched stage (mostly on his back) and I’m braced for disaster, expecting to hear a big thud followed by “call an ambulance!” Nope—they manage to fight through ’til the last song and get the hell out of there. The Red Death does not hold sway this night…. but it was close.   (Frank Strom)

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JOHN POWHIDA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, MY OWN WORST ENEMY, LUCKY 57, TEMPER
My Own Worst Enemy CD release party 
Abbey Lounge, Somerville, MA
11/2/07
I didn’t expect food, but there are veggie wraps and scones to be washed down with a beer before we get to the music. And look, a bunch of my softball buddies are here for the event.
Bassist Pete Sutton (The Barnies/ Trona) is the mastermind behind Temper—he wrangles up three talented women—Carlene Barous (keys), Nancy Delaney (drums), and Skyla Fay (guitar)—to play and sing his music. They start their set and I can’t help but make a connection to Spinal Tap. Before you get the wrong idea—the connection is to that’s band first release “Listen to the Flower People”—Temper plays dreamy innocent pop. They have a cool tune that melodically spells out the name of the song—I had to check the set list to make sure “Enemy” wasn’t “Emmy.” (My spelling is a little rough.) I love it when they hit three-part harmony in “Bitter,” which brings Crosby Stills, Nash & Young’s “Helpless” to mind. Temper doesn’t flare—they soothe, without any bizarre gardening accidents.
I’ve seen Lucky 57 a couple of times recently and they are a consistent solid roots/country style rock band. Lead singer Kip McCloud (ex-Augusta Furnace/ Quivvver) fronts the band playing a 1960 sunburst Airline guitar. Sue Metro (ex-High Risk Group) accentuates the country twang with her soaring lap steel. Their delinquent lead guitarist, Chris Fitzpatrick, who shows up mid-set with his bastardized Strat, balances out both the sound and the visuals, and makes the transition without anyone hardly noticing. Kevin Mahoney and Nancy Delaney (yes, she’s still at the back of stage) form the rhythm section on lefty bass and drums respectively.  Jokes are made about the name of the band relating to the age of the players, but they can’t fool me—I can see they’re a bunch of urban/country youngsters.
The CD release trio, My Own Worst Enemy, sets up and is ready to mow(e) us down. They break out of the starting blocks with “Come On,” a Ramones-like rocker from their brand spankin’ new Total Action. Sue’s wearing the formal gown she had on for the inside photo for their story in The Noise.  Steve plays his Danelectro through two amps to create a wide sonic range to replace the lack of a bass.  A.J. supplies more than the beat—he’s a damn fine background vocalist, and he can blow a harmonic while drumming. Softballer Al Janik leans over and says, “ladies and gentlemen, Bob Dylan.” Okay, Bob doesn’t play drums. Must be something in Al’s beer—like alcohol. “Pay Attention” has a mellow start that has a mighty build to it with Sue belting out “I’ve been waiting all these years.” They follow that with my favorite MOWE tune—“Snowflake”—with is big guitar dynamics. And by sets’ end we learn that both Sue and John Powhida have crushes on David Minehan.
And who’s next on stage? John Powhida International Airport. While most airports are flat, this one is always right on pitch. John (also known as J. Po from The Rudds) starts on bass with his project of somewhat interchangeable members. Tonight two other Rudds join in—keyboard player David Lieb and drummer Nathan Logus. We also get Mark Chenevert on sax and Ben “birthday boy” Long on guitar/bass.  The band does one verse of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” but quickly jumps into the ’80s synth dance feel of their own “Dirty Bird and the Fuddy Muddy.” When the song modulates John quips, “Just like Barry Manilow.”  The dance beats are affecting my buddy Al, who is now gyrating his hips in my direction. The Airport plays The Rudds’ “F# Over C” and “Rock World”—the latter rolls into “Feelings” to end it.  J. Po duels with Mark’s sax doodles, rolls on the floor, and tops it off by dancing with Sue (the other person with a crush on David Minehan).  A fun night out at the airport.   (T Max)

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SMOKE OR FIRE, THE APPRECIATION POST
Middle East Club, Cambridge, MA
10/31/07
The Middle East downstairs has never been much for theatrics. But once a year on Halloween exceptions are typically made. Show openers The Appreciation Post, not satisfied with simply dressing up for the holiday, take on a whole new musical identity tonight by covering the legendary Rocket From the Crypt complete with glitter suits occasionally sported by Rocket.
Interestingly enough, I’ve never been much of an Appreciation Post fan. They’re music has slowly been spreading around the city, but I haven’t caught the fever. But kudos to the boys for tipping their hats to the Crypt, who have been sorely missed by this reviewer since hanging it up in 2005. And the Post does right by the band packing their 40 minute set with Crypt favorites such as “On a Rope,” “Dick on a Dog,” and “Sturdy Wrists,” among others. Personally I would have liked to hear more (or any) cuts from Group Sounds, but it’s a great set nonetheless.
Next up is Smoke or Fire, a band who, since forming in 1998, have moved their way up the punk rock ladder, is currently seated on the coveted Fat Wreck Chords roster. I’ve always liked the band, which, like tonight’s headliners Avail, have an earthier roots-oriented approach to their punk sound. Not to mention they’re a band best taken in live, and tonight is no exception. Sporting mock police uniforms, the band’s set offers itself as a good primer for the headliner by revving up the crowd with their energetic brand of melodic, homespun punk and sing-along choruses. I only take in a few songs before jetting across the street to Hi-Fi for a slice and a beer, but all eyes are fixed on the stage as I head out the door.   (Ryan Bray)

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CLASSIC RUINS, FASHION FAILURES
Jake’s Bar & Grille, Providence, RI
10/27/07
If you ever want to see a venue with a laid back atmosphere without pretension, Jake’s Bar & Grille is the place.
Providence’s Fashion Failures are a four-piece with a Stooges-esque sound and a singer who is not short on raw power or shake appeal. Blazing through songs such as “Nowhere Fast,” “Sad Boy,” “Mercy Fuck,” and a raunchy Johansen-styled cover of The Crystals’ “And Then He Kissed Me,” Fashion Failures frontman Eric really works the crowd. At one point, I turn to (original) Crybabies member (and Classic Ruins wife) Cheryle Crane and asked, “how do you give fellatio to a guy who’s uncut and hasn’t showered? She replies, “Keep a wet wipe on you.” That is the feeling of this band—dirty, raw, and uncut.
Classic Ruins return to Providence, Rhode Island, after a nearly one-year hiatus.  They kick in with their classics “Room Starts Spinning,” “Rocco’s Wake” (my personal fave), “Labbats” and even a couple Link Wray covers.
With the Red Sox winning game three on this night during Classic Ruins’ set, the bar is in an uproar of cheers and the debauchery continues.   (DJ Matthew Grifffin)

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SLIM JIM & THE MAD COWS
The Milky Way, Jamaica Plain, MA
10/19/07
It’s pouring out as my posse drips down into The Milky Way.  Despite the elements, lots of folks have come out in support of The Boston Derby Dames and to hear some darned good music from Slim Jim & The Mad Cows.  Soon as SJMC step on stage there ain’t no foolin’ an they kick the evening straight into high gear.  SJMC launch into a set of metal-reincarnated-country including: “Ace of Spades,” “Night Train,” “Foxy Lady.” And Jake Brake (lead guitar) even whips out a hawt mandolin on “666 Number of the Beast.”  Singers Honey Do and Lazy Sue have an Elvira-gone-country flair and the cowboys are lookin’ mighty fine in their western wear. The floor is packed during the entire set and there’s a dancin’ zombie-cowboy and a whirlwind of sassy pink tutu among the crowdies.  SJMC sound good enough to make a rabbit spit in a bulldog’s face.   (Kitty Speedway)

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THE ALMIGHTY TERRIBLES,
JAY ALLEN & THE ARCH-CRIMINALS
Abbey Lounge, Somerville MA
11/10/07
The expanded Jay Allen-as-band has only played a few shows now, but is already sounding sharper and tighter than previously. This concept is really working well. Most of the material is Jay Allen solo stuff, so they’re essentially clever and funny singer/songwriter pieces amplified into a rock band. That’s a description one could just as easily apply to the Mr. T Experience of old. No further similarities between the two, mind you, but I couldn’t resist. As none of the usual music mavens appreciate the genuinely clever (let alone funny), don’t expect this act to receive the attention (or ’BCN Rumble accolades) they probably deserve. Not to worry—I’ll happily be pissed off on the Arch-Criminals behalf. And I am.
The Almighty Terribles (2007 award winner for best band name!) is Skinny Mike Feudale and Jim Seeley joined by Kevin Wilson on second guitar. I was expecting it to be their “Blind Lemon Mike & Countrified Jimmy” act under a new name, but this is something else entirely. Best I can come up with is that it sounds like Triple Thick as performed by The Coffin Lids with a hair more Coffin Lids tossed in for good measure. There’s a certain off-the-cuff quality to what they’re doing, which sounds like a backhanded compliment, but is actually one of the charms here—after all, this is music to be unruly by, so better it doesn’t sound too polite. The set wraps up, the trio bust down the Abbey’s doors and embark on a head-stomping rampage through Cambridge, so they’re definitely doing their job right.   (Frank Strom)

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