LIVE REVIEWS: April 2008



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The Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge, MA
Gotharama is a dungeon freak show for the perverse and afflicted—my kind of Americans! Dreamchild’s set begins with a harp—“Its time to listen up motherfuckers” the strings seem to sing. Cheryl belts out deliciously devilish lyrics over a brilliantly dark canvas of her harp and Frank’s manipulated guitar. The sounds meld into mental visions of blackened expanses, evil queens, and beheading. We come to a field of layered vocalizations that swell and burst into a raving lunatic of a song. The band draws the crowd in. People are coming out of cracks and corners like flies to a zapper, closer to the stage, closer to the scene that is unfolding. “This is the last song,” Cheryl speaks in a voice of a medium between channeled spirits. I scream to myself, what’s next? Heaven or hell? Paper or plastic? The end begins. Frank’s guitar tones crash in and out like rough waves or air raids as Cheryl’s operatic vocals work together for a common goal: conversion to the dark side. The sound turns into a red serpent of evil romance that spirals up the stairs and out into the night. I can’t help hobble after it—me, the moon, and these damn stray dogs. (Dr. Tumblety)

The Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA
I arrived at 9:00 and the club was already packed. Corin Ashley (The Pills) and friends do a great Wings tribute. I had forgotten how good those songs are. A long lost memory surfaces—hide and seek games involving kissing that I played with the neighbor kids, with the lights off and Wings on the stereo. The band starts with “Rock Show” followed by “Too Many People.” I love the stuttering drums/bass line and bluesy groove of “Let Me Roll It.” McCartney’s inventive song ideas and lyrics stick in my mind like super glue, however simple or even silly they may seem on the surface (“Let ’Em In” for example). “Maybe I’m Amazed” is beautiful. Corin plays guitar and sings a believable Paul, and also plays ukelele on the slight and tender “Ram On” (“Is this a song?” asked the drummer, rhetorically). They end with with the dramatic “Jet.”
The Lowest of the Lowe is educational for me as I am not familiar with Nick Lowe’s songs besides the hits. It is nice to see a cross-section of local musicians performing various songs. Corin mentions that Ed Velasquez (the Gentlemen) is also a great Spanish painter, to the crowd’s amusement, and then Ed sings “I Love My Label,” John Powhida (The Rudds) sings “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass,” and another that had a theatrical, music hall feel. Chris Cote (Upper Crust/ Rock Bottom) sings “Cruel to be Kind” and Jake Brennan sings “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding.” Members of the Bristols sing “Bay City Rollers We Love You” and Merrie Amsterberg sings “Heart,” accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. J-Po sings a rocking “Switchboard Susan.” It was interesting to hear Lowe’s various phases from roots-rock to new wave to country.
Finally, the Rudds’ Cheap Trick tribute blazes. It just gets better and better. They begin with “On Top of the World” and “I Want You (to Want Me).” “Oh Caroline” is a sweet love song that also rocks, with memorable hooks and guitar solos. Later on, mega power ballads “Voices” and “The Flame” have the crowd swaying in unison and holding up opened cell phones as if they were lighters. I tend to prefer the less sentimental rockers such as “He’s A Whore” and “Big Eyes.” It’s not easy to capture the powerful vocals of Robin Zander, not to mention Rick Nielsen’s mind-boggling guitar, but the Rudds nail the spirit and the power-pop chops of one of my all-time favorite bands. (Laura Markley)

Hometown Throwup
Harpers Ferry, Allston, MA
It’s night number, uh, I think four, of this year’s Hometown Throwup, and in spite of a scheduled eight o’clock start time, it’s past nine and not a note has been heard. Finally Jason Bennett & the Resistance make their way to the stage, kicking the night off with a familiar (but no less satisfying) brand of hard nosed anthemic punk rock that has always been well-embraced here in Beantown. Attendance at this point is still kind of thin, so the atmosphere in the crowd doesn’t quite match the intensity that Bennett and company are bringing on stage, but nonetheless it’s a nice start to the night.
Marc Orell’s decision to back out of the Dropkick Murphys in favor of starting his side band probably seemed like a questionable move to some, like a garbage man throwing out a lottery ticket. But as it turns out it might have been a good move after all. With Gimme Danger, Orell strips the music of the bloated theatrics that have followed the Dropkick’s bandwagon in recent years, favoring a more rootsy, back-to-basics rock approach that doesn’t sacrifice any of his former band’s fun or raucousness. Punk is still very much a part of the equation with Danger, but Orell shows surprising depth by opening up the doors wide enough to let hints of blues and classic rock filter into the mix. The band works the crowd well, bantering with audience some but keep to the task at hand for most of their set. Sometimes taking a gamble can earn you rewards, and Orell seems poised to reap the benefits.
I’ve just been clobbered by a renegade beer cup, which means it must be high time for the Buster. Anyone who has graced one of Darkbuster’s Hometown Throwup shows before knows the scenario: bratty, singalong punk rock, an amped crowd, damp clothing and a LOT of wasted beer. Tonight is no exception, as the band rips through close to 30 crowd favorites from their two albums, including “Stand and Deliver,” “Hometown Zero,” “Try to Make it Right,” and a whole host of others. Lenny and the boys are no doubt still hung over as shit from the nights before, but they’re in good spirits, gleefully chatting it up with the crowd and keeping their week long binge fest motoring along. When all is said and done, I feel fucking plowed, and it amazingly enough has nothing to do with all the booze I slammed. (Ryan Bray)

The Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge, MA
I’m anxiously waiting for Freezepop to take the stage. At about 11:00 they finally launch into their first song, “Frontload.” The room is jumping by the time Liz-E shouts out “Take me to the city, let me hear the crowds and the screams…” During the next song, the band playfully snatches cameras from the girls in the front row, take pictures of themselves, then hand the cameras back to girls’ delight. Someone in the crowd does the vogue hand dance—it’s worth a chuckle because I hadn’t seen it done so intently since Madonna. The fun insanity continues when Freezepop puts giant foam shark fins on their microphones. It’s nearly 1:30 when they finish the set with “Less Talk More Rokk.” Disappointment sets in when the lights go up because everyone wants to keep this party going. (Linsey Riera)

The Middle East, Cambridge, MA
It’s been about a year since Piss Poor Boys bassist Jon Johnson died, and this is the band’s first gig since. Not surprisingly, the place is packed and people are being turned away long before the band’s set. The crowd is warm, supportive and boisterous and helps the boys get through a bit of a stuttering start. By the time they hit crowd favorites “Cambridgeport Saloon” and “Two Robbers,” they’re locked in tight and the floor is shaking from all the foot stomping. Zeke from The Alrighters fills in on bass and does an admirable job, and Chris DeBarge is absolutely killer on the pedal steel. Lenny is the perfect host, sweetly reverent toward his friend’s memory, but also cognizant that this is a party. Some money is raised, and everyone goes home happy. I can’t think of a better way to honor a friend. (Kevin Finn)

O’Brien’s, Allston, MA
Soccer Mom is apparently playing its first show tonight, which isn’t surprising since they only have a few songs, not all of which sound fully-formed yet. Still, I’m impressed with how this trio doesn’t sound too obviously like anyone else. I hear an early ’90s indie influence. I’m thinking Superchunk, Jawbreaker and Fugazi. The vocals tend to get buried in the mix, which isn’t that much of a drawback as the guitar carries the noisy, catchy tunes. The songs need some sharpening, and I’m not sold on the rather pedestrian drumming, but there’s definitely something to keep an eye on here. And with the combination of the Chuck Taylors, the PBR and the drummer’s possibly ironic mustache, I think I just won the game of hipster bingo that I was playing.
I think I’m the only one over 30 here, ugh, maybe even 25. The Have Mercys, another trio, are up next, but this one has a much more decidedly power pop bent. The fuzzed out songs are instantly catchy but with enough wrinkles that I imagine they would still remain interesting after a few listens, which I’m not sure would be the case in lesser hands. This band is also still in its formative stages, which manifests itself in a few momentum stoppers such as equipment issues. But those problems are easily fixable. It’s much harder to come up with the ideas, and I think these guys and gal have them. I’m curious to hear how they will sound six months down the road. (Kevin Finn)

O’Brien’s, Lynn, MA
The Insiders start around 9:00 pm; there are ten people in a room that fits many more. Despite the turnout, there is excitement among the spectators. The band breaks into their thirty-minute set with a new-punk/pop sound that emulates Green Day and Blink 182. Between songs, the band talks with a familiarity that entertains the crowd. Early on, Zach (bass) explains, “We really don’t know the lyrics.” Then, Alex (guitar) exclaims, “Thank God for Scotch tape!” taping lyrics to his mic stand. As Zach switches basses after breaking a string (an audience member yells “He’s unaware of his own strength!”), Tim (drums) and Alex share memories of the Bahamas. Alex handles lead vocals while Zach adds tasteful harmonies. Plagued with feedback, the energy is such that these sound issues go almost unnoticed. The strongest song is “I’m Sorry,” played with compunction and authority. Also good is the Blink 182 cover “Dammit.” (Andrew Leader)

Ralph’s Diner, Worcester, MA
“Holy Shit.” Those are the only words that come to mind as I stand against the hard brick interior of Ralph’s Diner, and watch In Dire Need, the headlining band from Boston, tear up the stage. Their stage presence is like nothing I’ve ever seen, and they exhibit more fire, ambition, and determination than I’m prepared for.
But let’s start at the beginning. It’s cold, it’s bleak, and it seems that all the rain we’ve been pelted with lately has landed right here, in front of Ralph’s Diner. As I step from one broken board in the parking lot to the next, trying to avoid ankle deep water, I finally make it through the door, and upstairs. From my outside view coming in, Ralph’s Diner is everything I would have imagined. Graffiti filled walls, sexy drawings on the bathroom door, and an entire door plastered with various band stickers, not to mention the giant, four foot tall skull protruding out of the wall.
I’m content for a while, poking around and examining all the murals on the wall, but soon I’m anxious for the show to start. Luckily, it’s about this time that the first band, Finisher, comes onto the stage. Although they seem to be the odd band out this evening, with their sludgy guitar tones and doom metal sound, they certainly don’t disappoint. Their energy picks up around song number three, and with it comes the ever-popular act of head banging. Their sound is powerful, and the audience notices this, as they begin to pile in, coming up from the downstairs bar to check it out.
Soon enough, it’s time for Underlying Truth to set the tone for a night of hardcore metal. Though this band comes onto the stage with less energy than the first, and a much less powerful sound, the audience seems to love it. There is thrashing, mosh pit attempts, and even an encore at the end of their set. Of course this results in the band playing us a brand new song, which ends in a strong applause.
Next up: the Atomic Ballroom Calamity. The catchy name has me eager to watch their set, however when they enter the stage, I’m a little disappointed. Their sound is fantastic and their energy matches, but something about the teenage angst feel I’m getting from their poorly planned high-pitched vocals and constant random thrashing around the stage, turns me off. However, they are quite interactive and get the audience to clap along during the first song, and try to add humor into their set by joking, “This is hard for us, we’re used to playing acoustic,” makes me ignore my negative feelings, and keeps interested for the rest of the set.
Finally, at half past midnight, we get what we’ve been waiting for: In Dire Need. In their second performance since having recorded their new CD, The Blood of the Damned and the Waters of False Prophecy, the band politely introduces themselves before ripping into “Bathe in the Blood of the Lamb.” My attention is immediately caught. Their sound is phenomenal, and their stage presence is something to be envied. The audience responds to the music by not only forming a never ending mosh pit, but by getting right up to the stage, and singing (or should I say screaming) along. The band ends with their ever popular “Harbor Song” off their first EP Lost At Sea leaving the audience breathless, and begging for more. (Angela Mastrogiacomo)

Bands: please be advised that Noise writers are never assigned specific shows to review. Noise writers review shows they choose to attend.

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