LIVE REVIEWS: May 2008


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DUKE LEVINE
Atwood’s, Cambridge, MA
3/31/08
Tonight’s the final night of Duke Levine’s Monday night residency at Atwood’s. A capacity crowd gathers and shrugs off their responsibility to get a good night’s sleep for their job or classes, for tonight is about one thing and one thing only—amazing guitar. Duke Levine, is my undisputed heavyweight guitar champion of the world and he proves it once again tonight with contrasting beautifully plucked melodies and sizzling solos as brilliant and dazzling as fireworks in a midsummer’s sky. The night features some amazing moments, such as an instrumental versions of the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields” and Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them” as well as Duke Levine’s own “Mansquito.” Club d’Elf’s bassist and main conspirator, Mike Rivard sits in with Duke alongside Kevin Barry, an equally talented axeman picking away at the guitar and lap steel. Then they call in Peter Wolf from the bullpen to croon a few tunes and blow the roof off the place. I love every minute of it. (Kier Byrnes)


THE COFFIN LIDS, THE THROWAWAYS, THE SPRAINED ANKLES, GHOULS NIGHT OUT
Abbey Lounge, Somerville, MA
3/22/08
After last night’s arctic blast, the heat and testosterone level tonight is overwhelming! While Ghouls Night Out is a blissful relief from the latter, they’re doing nothing to alleviate the former (translation: hot broads, get it?). With the exception of a sultry cover of “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” (Clash? Sultry?), the ladies stick to their regular set list—given that they’re hard at work on a another album, you’d think they might take some of the new material out for a stroll. That’s the closest to a negative comment you’ll ever hear from me about the surfablilly vampire girls. They are, as always, wonderful… plus they make it through the set without being groped or molested, and that’s not always a guarantee!
You’ve read reviews for the Sprained Ankles here before—the routine, “dumb punk rock” observation—but let me lay some truth on yer ass: they mix more musical styles (roots, doo wop, oi, etc) than they will ever get credit for. Further, Sprained Ankles are a fast, furious, funny, party band that completely achieves their goal. They’re also BIG—seven of ’em, including keyboards and TWO background singers! Spiritually they remind me of the Revillos (not Rezillos) and the Sic Fucks—that’s top praise! The one misstep that holds them from total perfection comes in the form of “Andre The Giant,” an ode to pro wrestlers no longer with us. The unforgivable goof? Failure to include Bruiser Brody! That’s like discussing President’s Day without mentioning Washington or Lincoln. Sure, you hear a lot about the dire shape of the American educational system… but this is fuckin’ insane! Aside from that major (to me)/minor (to you) faux pas, Sprained Ankles are far from lame!
With the band only months old, it’s surprising to see the Throwaways playing in the showcase position. It’s almost as if they’ve simply inherited the Marvels’ bookings. So be it. Only the third time I’ve had the pleasure, but already the Throwaways are my favorite new toy. With the Marvels I liked the band more than the material—in this incarnation, I’m equally fond of both. Songs like “I’d Much Rather Be With The Boys” characterize them as a band for the drunk and depressed (and possibly male). While these guys are way ahead of me on both counts, it’s nonetheless nice to have someone to commiserate with! I envision some grizzled old lush at the bar requesting “Melancholy Baby,” but my imagination is better than real life. And for those of you leading happier lives, fear not—the Throwaways are loud and fast. I call ’em drunk and depressed, not drunk and stupid.
Closing the show are the Coffin Lids. It could be me, but they seem somewhat subdued tonight. Even Coffin Jay (perhaps the only bass player you can attach the word “explosive” to). Typically good performance, just low-key by normal Lids standards—no flying bottles, potential injuries, or hazardous shenanigans. What could be troubling them? Perhaps Melissa anticipates the Andrea Gillis Band getting robbed at the Rumble? Perhaps Mike read that stupid Noise review of the Almighty Terribles? Nah. My guess is they’re as bothered as I am over the Sprained Ankles snubbing Bruiser Brody. Just conjecture, but it would also explain the Throwaways being drunk and depressed. Ghouls Night Out? They stick to monster movies, not wrestling. (Frank Strom)


DAGMAR
Squawk Coffeehouse, Cambridge, MA
4/3/08
A faun told me to seek out a Thursday oddity, and since I always listen to fauns, I climbed a set of stone steps to a giant wood and steel door entering the ominous and inviting Harvard-Epworth Church that hosts the weekly event Squawk Coffeehouse. This is the type of thing Dick Cheney has sweaty nightmares about; you can smell free expression all over this place. The main lights go down and tonight’s featured performers, the eccentric operatic rock duo Dagmar begins. Suddenly we are at the theater! A man who can’t get out of bed and a bug goddess that saves him. Our plot is a sticky leg fiasco of song and story. Jim and Megan both sing and play seamlessly, bouncing off each other’s invisible rhythms. Meagan beats and blows on various implements of destruction including wind, wood and steel as Jim caresses guitar and piano. Megan’s vocals are as elegant as they are tempestuous, an operatic equation mathematically accurate and unsettling. Jim’s musicianship and lyrical savoir-faire act like a mad Ferris wheel operator jettisoning us to the top of the ride. Golden bugs dance and swirl as trails of sound and light; Dagmar is for those who like their music impregnated with theater larvae. The next time they perform in Boston I suggest you take a head full of honeydew and trip to the theater. (Dr. Tumblety)


THE NEW FRUSTRATIONS (CD release)
AbbeyLounge, Somerville, MA
4/4/08
This is only the second time in a year and a half that I’ve made it out for New Frustrations. What the fuck is wrong with me?!? These guys are great! This is the band that emerged from old favorites the Johnnies, whose sound always struck me as heavy metal and punk rock fighting for dominance. With the Frustrations, it’s punk rock all the way (hurrah!). You can call it power pop if you prefer (they do), but that’s nitpicking to me. They cover all-time Canadian punk classic “Out Of Luck” and match it with their own total winners like “Way Out.” They also cover The Who, which doesn’t quite fit the mix to my ears, but in the end it’s all to the good. On the whole, they’re reminiscent of the melody-oriented Boston hard rock acts of old, such as the Atlantics or Classic Ruins. And wonder of wonders, they even pull a couple of Atlantics out of their hat as special guests (Ray Fernandes and Fred Pineau, plus Stranglehold’s Jimmy Keough). Their self-awareness is frightening in its accuracy! Some shallow-minded critics will shrug them off as merely light fluff, but that’s the very stuff that makes rock ’n’ roll worthwhile. Thank God there are people like New Frustrations, who understand that truth. (Frank Strom)


THE BEATLE BUTCHERS
Toad, Cambridge, MA
Cambridge, MA
3/27/08
Toad is a great place in so many ways. The variety of music they host is incredible. Tonight is no exception. The vocal harmonies of The Beatle Butchers are so similar to John Lennon’s and Paul McCartney’s, that if you close your eyes, you’d swear you were a in the audience that fateful night on the Ed Sullivan Show. While The Beatle Butchers sound a lot like The Beatles, they weren’t afraid to jam it out a bit, such as on “She Said, She Said,” paying homage to the psychedelic side of the Beatles catalogue. I’m not even a big Beatles fan but by the end of the night I was out of my seat, dancing to old Beatles classics like “She Loves You” and “Can’t Buy Me Love.” (Kier Byrnes)


TRIPLE THICK
Abbey Lounge, Somerville. MA
4/12/08
Tonight’s version of Triple Thick features new bass player Elias on a fair number of vocals and sounding perfectly at home in this outfit. JJ Rassler has vanished from the lineup since last time I saw them, so lead guitar spots have been eliminated from the sound—and while I do miss JJ, I think this adds strength to the primitive cave etchings the band deals in. High art of the minimalist variety—not quite impressionism, so I can’t reasonably relate them to the very early Ramones… but that’s who I want to relate them to, because calling Triple Thick a garage rock band doesn’t quite serve them justice. There’s more to it than celebrating the primitive. The songs are short, striking, angry and funny. It all has a casual, off-the-cuff quality, but that’s misleading—it’s quickie toss-off material written by strong artistic minds (probably in their cups). Yeah, okay—sounds like so much bullshit. Core Triple Thickers Jim and Mitch are no doubt laughing. But I believe it, asshole! Gotta have faith in something. (Frank Strom)


MINDWALK, FOREIGN TITLES, SET IN STONE, RED SHIFT, SAM AND KATIE, CRUNGE, CASEY SULLIVAN & THE ALIBI, VIADA
14th Annual WBCN High School Battle of the Bands
Harper’s Ferry, Allston, MA
4/6/08
I’m judging this round of the 14th Annual Battle of the High School Bands. This younger brother to the Rumble features the same exact contest rules with the exception that each round features eight bands instead of your typical four bands. Judging is the same as well. High and low scores are eliminated to prevent cheating and eliminate biases. And while the prize packs for the winners may not be as glorious as the winners of the Rumble, there is some serious loot on the line, such as recording time in After Midnight Studios as well as scholarships to Berklee College of Music.
The first band is Mindwalk. They are a prog-metal band with a drum kit the size of a small automobile. The kid behind the kit can barely see over the snare but wails away like a madman. Factor in some crazy guitar solos and a power ball and this three-piece has me thinking the winner won’t be too hard to figure out.
Foreign Titles has a really cool sound that is a bit ethereal and dreamlike. The jams are good but I’d like to see more work on the vocal hooks. Overall not bad.
Set in Stone starts with a very cool Indian jam that sounds right out of Kashmir, then they go into party rock and end with a poorly done Aerosmith cover. Still, overall not bad.
Red Shift’s set begins with dialogue and then a false start. Very rough start. The set improves and they get over it but I don’t think their recovery will be enough to take them onward.
Sam and Katie are arguably terrible. This folk-rock duo’s best asset is the clever fact that neither of them are named Sam or Katie. Still it’s nice to see more females involved in high school rock. Last year I didn’t see any.
Crunge has the worst band name I’ve ever heard, since my high school band, the Chainsaw Surgeons, were around. Despite the bad band name, they immediately get the attention of Harpers Ferry’s cute bartender on duty, Katie. It’s fun rocking music that obviously gets the girl moving, so I approve. Plus Katie told me that she thinks they should win so I add an extra point. To the fellahs of Crunge, you owe Katie one.
Casey Sullivan & the Alibi are pretty good. It’s good to see another female involved with the contest. Casey is no shab either. She reminds me of Gwen Stefani in her punk phase. They bring up the lead singer of the Mystery Tramps, last year’s Battle of the High School Bands winner to sit in for a bit, and achieve the best harmonies of the night. They have some catchy songs and some good lyrics. This is a band to watch.
Viada closes the night with a six-minute epic journey of a song that draws heavily in influence from the band Tool. There is a lot of screeching and loud noises but the musicianship isn’t as tight and creative as Tool should be.
I head up into the balcony with the four other judges and deliberate. Who wins the battle? Exactly who I thought… Mindwalk. Congratulations guys! (Kier Byrnes)


LUCRETIA’S DAGGERS, MELT, FLASH IN BLUE
Anderson Mar’s Birthday Bash
Cantab, Cambridge, MA
4/10/08
This show is originally scheduled at the Paradise Lounge, but the club closes it’s doors on April 1st. Luckily, Mickey Bliss/the Cantab comes to the rescue to make a successful night out of what could have been a sad birthday for one of Boston’s most tireless rock ’n’ roll crusaders—Anderson Lynne Mar.
Flash in Blue, a four-piece, features Chris Morin on soaring vocals reminiscent of Rush’s Geddy Lee. He invites Anders up on stage to dedicate “Angie Baby” to her. He changes the lyrics to “Anders Baby” and fellow birthday drummer Zach (also born April 11) humorously stages a birthday wedding proposal to commemorate the event. Zach holds the beat with bassist Mike Rubin as guitarist Tony Russo turns out some engaging ’80s influenced licks.
Melt hits the stage with singer Rachel Drucker, the Pat Benatar of Boston, who executes a commanding performance with an infectious smile and energetic antics. Even a down song like “Empty on the Inside” cannot be resisted and has the audience singing along. Nils Freiberger on guitar, Paul Pipitone on bass, and Scott Maher on drums (his last night with the band) produce a danceable set of upbeat and engaging rock. The band dedicates a Siouxie & the Banshees cover to Anders.
Lucretia’s Daggers rounds out the night. Songstress Lucretia X. Machina has the moves and keeps the audience enraptured with the band’s dark lyrical electro-rock. Odetta Mo Excruior debuts on bass and operates the backing tracks via laptop—complete with heavy synth and extra vocals while Elucid’s guitar is a bit light in the mix. To Anderson’s delight, the band ends their set with her favorite top 40 hit, “Lost Lovers.”
The birthday bash goes off without a hitch despite that two of the five bands, Audible Crayons and Absynthe, were unable to reschedule to the changed date. (Mike Rubin)

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