LIVE REVIEWS: September 2008

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Great Scott, Allston MA
I’m not often out here Allston way, but how in God’s name can I pass up this line-up?
Truth be told, I came here looking for a fight—with those goofy punk rockers the Sprained Ankles. Y’see, these heathens had cleverly written an ode to late lamented pro wrestlers (“Andre The Giant”), but in the most heinous of offenses, they excluded the legendary Bruiser Brody! Such a crime is impossible to overlook, so I’m prepared to rush the stage and clobber frontman Drew Kazoo with the stiffest lariat shot this side of Stan Hansen… when the band abruptly revises the song to include Brody! Disaster averted, I can sit back and enjoy the rest of the set, which is plenty fun indeed. The large Great Scott stage allows background singers the Brides of Tankenstein to really shine, striking campy poses to enhance the drama of “The Grandma Song,” and “Randy the Rock & Roll Pizza Wolf.” The big standout is new song “Sweethearts At The Mall”—delicious Brill Building glory. Sprained Ankles return to the studio soon for a new album, so hopefully they’ll get out at play more shows to go with it.
The crowd picks up for the Curses, which is a good sign—for years now these guys have been one of the most dependable but overlooked bands in town. Unsung heroes, they always strengthen an otherwise so-so lineup. Whether The Curses drew the crowd tonight or not, as soon as they get going with their loud sweaty power-rock, the audience is in love with them. It’s a phenomenon I’ve seen over and over with them. Beforehand, frontman Brian Hammond apologetically predicts a sloppy set, but the Curses have their material down cold, so it’s another confident winning performance. Might I suggest some of the local music radio shows (rumor has it they exist) take note…
Lastly it is with a tear in our collective eye that we say farewell to Muck & the Mires. Farewell for the next month or so, that is—they’re off on a West Coast jaunt, so we’ll have to buy a Muckotene patch and muddle through as best we can. At this point, with four albums, Muck has so much material that there’s no guarantee you’ll hear all your favorites every show. But tonight they manage to deftly cover many of the bases, including favorite covers “Lies” and “This Town.” I could suggest “Caught In A Lie” and “Girl Next Door” be permanently reinstated, but that’s like demanding caviar after being served filet mignon! (Unless you’re vegetarian—then it’s completely different.)    (Frank Strom)

Lollapalooza, Grant Park, Chicago, IL
If this year’s Lollapalooza festival proved anything to me, it’s that our beloved Allston homeboy Eli “Paperboy Reed” missed his decade by a long shot.
In spite of his, ahem, whiteness, Reed seems to channel the spirit of old guard soul singers like Eddie Floyd and Sam Cooke with almost effortless ease. Decked out in what could best be described as a Mr. Rogers-influenced wardrobe, Reed leaves it all on stage today, belting the living shit out of his vocals while his stellar backing band, the True Loves, follow his every cue.
Tucked away on one of the tiny side stages, Reed is far from the main attraction. But the upside to playing to a festival of 80,000 spectators is it’s almost impossible not to draw a crowd, and those who made a point of taking in Reed & the True Loves’ Memphis-style soul sound seem to appreciate they stopped by.   (Ryan Bray)

Johnny D’s, Somerville, MA
Okay, so I’m admittedly behind the times since I’ve never seen Superhoney live but I’m determined to rectify this shocking folly by heading out to Johnny D’s tonight.  Superhoney takes the stage and their high energy funk and soul works like a magnet.  The Euro guy soaked in white leather can’t escape the vibe, grooving hard as he bumps into a dude with dreadlocks down to his ass who just bounced off an Asian chick who moves like Gumby next to the ghostly pale gamer… everyone is dancing. You can’t stand still to this stuff.  Joan Pimentel fronts with a resilient voice and incredible poise. Doug Sherman’s (guitar) too-kewl-for-school grooves are awesome to watch.  This amazing seven-piece performs a couple oldies but goodies like “Super Duper” and “Taste My Wine” along with a few new ones. If you wanna shake yer tail feather, go see Superhoney.   (Kitty Speedway)

Cantab Lounge, Cambridge MA
There’s gotta be something off-putting about Triple Thick these days. I can’t exactly put my finger on what, but there must be—they’ve been playing around a lot in recent months, yet not attracting any attention. Their sound is a stripped down fury of 60-second bursts of angry and funny expressionist art.
They’re kind of a less poetry-oriented version of Television! While that’s more than enough to amaze and amuse this critic, I’m further astounded by drummer Jim Seeley’s leg. Seriously. It’s a total blur—like an optical illusion—that’s how frenetic his drumming is! They struggle with some serious feedback, but these are capable people—technical problems or not, they still completely bowl over the audience (all ten of ’em).
While I’m by now accustomed to the general apathy that greets Triple Thick, I’m surprised by the very cool reaction that New Frustrations get tonight. Last time I saw them, they drew a hot and (deservedly) appreciative crowd. Strange as it sounds, this revved up power pop the NF spew out is very serious business. They work hard to make it sound as breezy and affable as it does! I confess that I’m still confounded by their dubious Who cover (“Substitute”), which doesn’t fit them well. But that’s nothing compared with the deviltry they’ve got up their collective sleeve—they audaciously close the set with a cover of Paul McCartney & Wings’ godawful hit “Jet”! Jaws have hit the floor throughout the room. When the Dickies handle a cover, they either soup-up a wacky selection (Banana Splits theme) or trash some absolutely hideous composition (“Nights In White Satin”). This, however, is something different. Kudos to New Frustrations! It is the most singularly galling musical moment of 2008!
The problem with writing about the same bands all the time is that I eventually hit a creative wall. The first time, I simply describe them. The second time, I describe them with a better perspective. After that, I laud them… then extol their myriad virtues, which the uncomprehending public are missing… then I write diatribes on the bands’ behalf and insult the local music scenesters. From there, I can either continue with that schtick or go back to square one and start over. I can’t just write, “Wow, man—they are so awesome!” and leave it at that. I wouldn’t be doing my job. So here I am writing about the Andrea Gillis Band again. What’s left to be said? Wow, man—they are so awesome! Also the set is way too short at forty minutes. We expect three-hour marathons from AGB.                         (Frank Strom)

Lollapalooza, Grant Park, Chicago, IL
Lollapalooza has always been about bombastic grandstanding, but it’s only gotten bigger since its reinvention as a three-day Chicago based festival in 2005. So how do they decide to kick off what many have come to call the most kick ass Lolla in recent years? Hair metal. Shitty wannabe hair metal at that.
Organizers may mean to draw a few ironic laughs and smiles out of booking Bang Camaro as the opening band of the 2008 festival, and by that measure they’ve succeeded. But having seen these guys before, I already know better than to expect much else. Sure, when the band’s 20 or so lead singers storm the stage, there is a momentary rush of excitement that comes from such a what-the-fuck moment. But it all quickly subsides when I realize I’m left to sit through roughly a half hour’s worth of schticky Warrant and Ratt inspired pseudo metal. I’m actually getting bored as I write this   (Ryan Bray)

The Middle East, Cambridge, MA
When you’re a local band no one knows, having a gimmick helps make a good first impression—which is just what Faces on Film pulls out to kick off their set opening for Bon Savants.  As the crowd grows antsy wondering why the stage is still empty, a faint acoustic guitar begins to chime through the room.  As people quiet and look around, they find lead singer Mike Flore, having made his way into the middle of the packed floor, strumming his guitar to begin “Natalie’s Numbers.”  As he pushes his way forward to the stage, the show was just beginning, but the impression was made.
With a full band behind him, organ shimmers and drum thumps propel songs that often have only one chord and no discernable verse-chorus structure, but stay bouncy enough to stay interesting.  Like a more sincere Decemberists, he sings rogue ballads that could be from this century or any other, and the suspenders and newsboy hats the band wears complete the image.  The group is tight and focused; no one fights for air time or soloing showcases, content instead to create swirling backdrops for Flore’s melodies.  As his voice soars over the crowd, these indie kids prove they’re more than a gimmick.   (Ray Padgett)

T.T. the Bear’s, Cambridge, MA
The in going crowd is promising and lively as I approach the entrance of T.T.’s on a Sunday evening around 9:30. To my surprise, there is hardly a soul standing around the bar as forty-or-so fans are front-and-center by the stage in this rather small room, patiently awaiting the next band. During the moments it has taken to order my drink, an additional 10 to 12 fans walk in and scatter about the venue. Just minutes after 10:00, the next band takes to the stage and introduces themselves as the New Collisions. Female-fronted, the band kicks off with “Losing Ground” and seamlessly begins “Ones to Wander.” Vocalist Sarah Guild, whose voice is a cross between Deborah Harry and Kim Gordon, rocks hard with husband Scott on guitars and their bassist named Alex, who blends perfectly with Mike and his tonitruous drumming. The room cheers along during “Underground” and “Sharp Citizen” and is rewarded with the quartet’s  rendition of Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield.” They wrap it up with “Names” and forty-five minutes later, take to the floor to receive some well-earned handshakes and high-fives from satisfies listeners.   (Rob Watts)

Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge, MA
Shows that have a unifying concept beyond just an assortment of bands are usually worth checking out, and this show has a theme better than most: summer camp.  For what was billed as the Unlimited Enthusiasm Expo musicians wear pigtails and headbands, costumed lizards and lobsters roam the floor between acts, and fruit punch flows endlessly. Families run around after their young children while the thirty-somethings chill by the bar; a true all-ages show.
The bands fit the theme perfectly, none traditionally “good,” but all with enough energy for even the cynical bar crowd to have some guilt-free fun.  Brooklyn three-piece Uncle Monsterface kicks things off with Popeye shirts, Madonna covers, and a sock puppet show to accompany their frenetic A.D.D. pop.  The synthesizer showdown continues with Providence’s Math the Band.  Coming onstage to a choreographed dance routine, they bounce around as much as they actually play, jumping and parading about while a MacBook does most of the musical legwork.  Lasting about a minute and a half each, the songs end before the audience can get sick of them, though a rave-bop “Home on the Range” sing-along keeps the hyper crowd going for a little longer.
It’d be nice to say that local heroes Harry and the Potters are more than a novelty act, but they seem content there.  Though I consider songs about Ginny Weasley and Albus Dumbledore funny but stupid, I am in the minority.  Most of the crowd seems to know all their lyrics, taking the group quite seriously.  Luckily the band itself doesn’t make the same mistake.  Dressed as two Harry Potters, the group rocks broomstick-shaped guitars backed by a werewolf drummer, bouncing around in their vests and glasses for such classics as “Voldemort Can’t Stop the Rock.” Like the Sex Pistols via Hanson, the songs are absurdly danceable for a crowd crazy with enthusiasm.  By not taking themselves too seriously, the band compensates for lack of talent with abundance of energy.  An indulgent night-out for anyone sick of “respectable” music.    (Ray Padgett)

Abbey Lounge, Somerville, MA
While arriving late may be the height of fashion, every now and again the early birds are rewarded. Case in point: the Sour Candy Orchestra playing the pub stage! No, I’ve never heard of them, but like all Noise writers, I’m psychically linked to the Internet, so let’s check their myspace page. Hmmmmm. Says here they’re Ian Schwartz leading an all-girl band. Obviously inaccurate—the guitar player’s a dude. Regardless, there are a whole lotta instruments in play—guitar, cello, trumpet, flute, and clarinet! The songs are great—they mix pop with classical and even some vocals in español. Some of the tunes are sad, some quite funny, and all of them pretty. One even sounds like a Muppet song, with singer Beth Goodman doing a more than reasonable Frank Oz impression! If you get the opportunity, don’t miss ’em—they’re charming as hell.
After a nearly year-long hiatus, Black Mossettes are at last back in action. And I do mean action. As before, singer Rockin’ Ronnie is a godlike force with powerhouse voice, bassist Andy Mossette acts as band rooting section, and the rest of the guys more than keep up with them. They’ve picked up exactly where they left off, playing a very eclectic mix of soul, disco, R&B, new wave and more—the only new element is the addition of a second guitar, and that’s working out fine. Actually, the serious debate is whether they sound as good as they did last year…or better. While mulling that over, I’m struck by another mystery: what can Black Mossettes do to find an audience? They are absolutely one of the very notable bands in town, but no one has figured that out yet…   (Frank Strom)

Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, MA
The twenty or so people at tonight’s Darfur benefit concert probably didn’t raise enough money to do much for the troubled region.  Heightened awareness doesn’t seem on the agenda either, since no one’s speaking more than two or three words about the crisis.  But when the line up consists mostly of area high school bands, not much more can be expected, and though the benefit aspect seems largely ignored, awareness of local talent is running high.
Opening with the Inspector Gadget theme song helps the Spotlight Crisis make that ever-important first impression, but their own tunes keep the crowd’s attention without needing the novelty.  Though they betray their age, nervous and unsure on a stage larger than their parents’ basement, their brand of psychedelic metal shows promise that with a little more practice and confidence could evolve.  Though the mix is off, one too many guitars cluttering everything up, close listening reveals tight melodies amidst all the thrashing and headbanging.  Clearly the most talented musician of the bunch, the lead guitarist’s thin cascading lines recall Black Sabbath, so it was a shame they’re so hard to hear over the enthusiastic strumming of the two rhythm players.  They finally come into their own on a Coheed and Cambria cover, forced to tackle a song that requires delicacy and precision amidst the noise.
On first sight, it would be easy to compare ITtheVerb to fellow two-piece groups the White Stripes and Black Keys.  However, this guitar-and-drum duo owes little to those bluesy sounds, taking far more inspiration from ’80s pop.  Displaying talent far beyond their age, the off-beat jangly guitar riffs duel with furious improvisational drumming for air time.  The item missing in that equation: vocals.  Taking minimalist to the next level, the group performs tight instrumental suites that jerk and swing in turns, the boys seeming far more comfortable playing together than their eight months experience would indicate.  Spastic and erratic, the guitarist breaks three strings over the course of the thirty-minute set, but his constant instrument-changing only provides an opportunity for the drummer to bust out wild solos, little songs in themselves, to cover the downtime.  With fellow instrumental pioneers Explosions in the Sky making blog waves, it could be IT’s turn soon.
An assortment of unheard-of high school bands is bound to be hit or miss, and following IT’s hit comes the big miss of Palacios.  Punk at its most generic, the singer screams and growls his way from one loud banger to the next, with nothing to distinguish between songs besides the level of my headache.  Though covers of better-known punk tunes appease a crowd itching to mosh, the group seems largely unable to play their instruments.  Though admittedly that is sometimes the appeal of punk—see the Sex Pistols—in this case volume does not make up for lack of talent.
By the time the decidedly not-in-high-school Forest Henderson comes on for the headlining set, the floor is all but deserted.  Apparently unfazed, the band’s set shows the advantage their maturity gives them over the earlier groups, playing as a tight unit comfortable enough to tease and challenge each other without losing focus.  Playing southern rock in the tradition of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Drive-By Truckers, the band wears their influences on their sleeves, copping Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” guitar riff for a song titled “Tom Petty.”  They’re clear on where they came from, but the music avoids being labeled derivative.  High-energy and jumping, Billy Hubbard’s soulful voice croons and yelps through big choruses built for singing and fist-pumping along.  Though heavy on guitar solos, the instrumental forays are never indulgent, the sprawling band serving the tunes even at their most jammy.  “We appeal to the over forty crowd,” Hubbard sings as the empty room underscores the point, but the high school upstarts should have stuck around to learn a thing or two.   (Ray Padgett)

Passim, Cambridge, MA
I’ve been more interested in the folk side of rock lately, so I head over to Passim, Cambridge’s iconic folk club that’s been around since 1958. I walk in and the show is in progress. Four musicians (two of each gender) are on stage, each sitting with their acoustic guitar. Alastair Moock on far right sits lower than the rest, who are up on stools, has a gruff Tom Waitts-ey voice and sings about sewing up his mouth because it always gets him in trouble. His interesting personality makes him very likable. After Alastair’s one song the floor is handed to Thea Hopkins. She places a capo on the seventh fret and leads us through the country-twinged “Medicine Line” from her latest CD Chickasaw. She possesses a strong yet vulnerable character in her voice and hits me with piercing but sweet eyes. Then Jud Caswell from Brunswick, Maine, with his boyish face and Sox cap, talks and sings about how moving surveyor’s marks is the best way to screw up what they’re planning to build, when what they’re building is unwanted. Susan Levine is next in line to finish the first round of songs. Her parents are celebrating their 45th anniversary and she proceeds to play a song about gratitude. Her nasally voice distracts me from her song presentation. A repeating theme in all four’s banter is that they’ve each been through songwriting contests and basically met each other at these events. They continue their round robin performance where we learn that Alastair is currently putting together a kid’s CD—his masculine vocal approach doesn’t lend itself to this genre—but he’s a new dad and that’s where his music is taking him. Okay—“Cow Says Moo” is a fun sing-along. Thea shares her experience of getting a phone call from the tall bald guy who stand in the middle (that’s how he introduced himself) of Peter Paul & Mary. He called to ask permission to record her potent song, “Jesus on the Line.” Jud steps up with “the Insurance Plan” a wonderful take on marriage and later lashes us with a song for his mom (who loved a political writer from Texas—Molly Ivins)—“Man Behind the Bushs”—and ups the anti with tonight’s songs. Susan adds a touching song about a boy with autism. Overall the round robin approach to performance is excellent in that it offers variety—and it works great when all four artist are talented songwriters.   (T Max)

Kc’s Tap/Cat’s, Pawtucket, RI
Supported tonight by Boston’s the Luxury, the Crash Society comes on with a quick guitar burst that fades into feedback, as the bass and seductive vocals enter. “You and Your X” tempts me to piss caution to the wind with the animalistic line, “you really are a dirty girl.” It’s got a retro Bowie-esque swagger with an immediate hook laden sensibility driven hard by the rhythm section. Other songs feature soundscapes of analog machine noise, interwoven rhythms, tasteful guitar, and strong choruses, while questioning your purpose. It’s obvious that this band is not the flavor of the month or a one trick pony.
The Crash Society is not afraid to let their ’70s, ’80s and ’90s influence shine through like the Ranconteurs, Wolfmother, and others of this genre of retro-flavoured energetic rock. With a charismatic front person and a band focused on good songwriting, let’s hope that their influence will be broad enough to keep this new wave in motion.  (DJ Matthew Griffin)

Church, Boston, MA
For Brian McGee & the Hollow Speed, the crowd in Church is grouped in the back of the room by the bar.  The area directly in front of the stage is empty.  The band consists of Brian on lead vocals and acoustic guitar accompanied by a fiddle and drums.  The band plays a mixed set including elements of rockabilly, folk, and punk.  Brian’s distorted acoustic guitar, played through the dirty sound of his Fender amp, allows this group to be more versatile than one might expect.  The band is tight, and McGee’s baritone does fit nicely with the arrangements.  Lacking their regular bass player, however, the group does not achieve as high an energy level as they seem to be capable of.  Nevertheless, the trio achieves some great dynamic changes, keeping the attention of the few who are watching the band.
By the time the Lights Out start to play (their CD release party), the crowd has made the migration from the bar to the area in front of the stage. The band gives away free copies of their new EP ¡Heist!  They’ve got great energy as they tear through their songs in rapid fire.  The rhythm section is tight, and the guitar and vocal hooks are catchy.  As I check out their merch stand, I notice their large three-ring binder, full of press clippings about the group.  I could go on and on about these guys, but since, evidently, they’ve already been well covered, I’ll just recommend Googling them.
Aloud starts at about midnight.  The crowd has thinned, but they play a strong set nonetheless.  They open up with “Fan the Fury,” the catchy title track off their latest release.  Henry Beguiristain and Jen de la Osa, co-lead singers, guitarists, and keyboard players, share an interesting dynamic.  At times, they sing together in super-tight harmony that leaves little to be desired.  When Henry takes the keys midway through the set, Aloud transitions from their regular indie/mod-rock sound to a Jefferson Airplane feel, showcasing the vocals of Jen, whose voice is comparable at times to Joan Jett and Ann Wilson.  The energy builds steadily until the end of the show.  Although the band is extremely tight, there seems at times to be a disconnect between Henry and Jen and their rhythm section, who seem less passionate and energized.  Overall, though, a great performance.  (Andrew Leader)

Rock the Runway Fashion Show

Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge, MA
I love when bands come up with a new take on putting together a concert.  While rock and fashion have been closely tied since day one; the mod look inspired by the Beatles, the baggy pants of Rappers MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice of the ’80s, even the flannel look made it big thanks to Grunge bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, it’s very rare that local bands team up with local fashion designers to create their own night.
Kicking it off was a rap band called True2Life Music. Despite what seemed a late start, the guys quickly get things going and providing a level of energy that was to set the tone for the night.  The crew of True2Life has their hip hop down but seems like they could work on their promotional/marketing aspect. While they have a great performance, they draw almost nobody to come see it. In a room as big as the Middle East Downstairs, that’s a big rock and roll faux pas.
Next up is Aloud. I’ve seen this band before and been very impressed. Tonight is no exception with lots of catchy tunes, poppy hooks and songs that kick ass. Overall, they’re a great band, unfortunately the crowd seems a little standoffish. Many are still hovering by the bar, distracted by the Celtics finals playoff game that is showing. It’s too bad as Aloud is on fire tonight. Swapping lead guitar licks and trading off vocals, Jen de la Osa and Henry Beguiristain, prove that the only thing better than one great frontman, is two great frontmen.
Meanwhile, between the craziness of Aloud’s rock and roll show, the models from Bank Clothing are struting their stuff. The clothes, designed by college students/indie rock fashionistas Nani Stoick and Sophia Sunwoo, feature mostly ornate hoodies and t-shirts that possess a flashy, edgy look that is certain to win the wearer some indy rock street cred. Though, I don’t plan giving up my cowboy shirts anytime soon, I can see these clothes being a big hit in the 16-23 year old age demographic.
It takes a while for the buzz to wear off from Aloud and the Bank Clothing show, but the models from Don’t Say Bingo have no problem creating a buzz of their own.  With Boston’s popular DJ, DJ Shyne spinning tunes and dropping beats in the background, the whole room comes alive with a groove of its own.  The clothes from Don’t Say Bingo were created mainly by NU Alum and local fashion icon, Alvin Carter and have an urban, hip hop theme. He’s designed everything from boutique hoodies to skateboards. It’s a pretty impressive collection and I start wondering maybe it is finally time for me to re-evaluate my fashion sense.
Rogue Heroes take the stage and immediately catch the attention of the bar. The Celtics seem to have a win firmly in place and the Rogue Heroes are already celebrating.  This three piece, made up of Tom Jewitt, Jon Clancy and Kevin McDevitt, are as good a punk band as you’ll find, combining musical elements of Rancid, The Clash, Buzzcocks, Suicidal Tendencies and The Jam. To lighten the mood, a little funk and pop are thrown in here and there for good measure.  The music inspires me to go up to the prettiest girl in the bar, grab her hand and drag her out on the dance floor. It’s a great time as the band rocks out and we dance up a storm.
Last up is Lannen Fall. Full of rock n roll and piss and vinegar, these guys do an excellent job as well of stirring up the crowd.  They are a bit indy rock, a touch emo, one part rock and roll and the other part swagger.  Overall, it makes for a delightful cocktail. Their “take no prisoners , no holds barred” approach style of rock and roll wins me over instantly.  I shuffle my way to the front of the stage to get a better view. It’s a hell of a show and a one of a kind night in Boston.   (Kier Byrnes)

The Middle East, Cambridge, MA
Though onstage energy goes a long way live, it can’t compensate for lifeless music in getting the crowd engaged.  Cowboy bop band Hot Molasses learns that lesson the hard way as the rip-roaring good time the band seems to be having never quite translates to everyone else.  Busting out as many ten-gallon hat rock star moves as he can muster, bassist Aaron Cohen leads the power trio (plus a girl idly hitting a tambourine) through one loud country rock song after another, high-kickin’ and lip-pursin’ with every note.  However, with generic tunes, indecipherable lyrics, and a band that appears to have only recently learned to play their instruments, any attempts at audience participation fall painfully flat.  The collective level of audience inebriation would have had to be significantly higher for anyone to get much out of what sounds like a Skynyrd cover band minus the good songs.   (Ray Padgett)

The Plymouth Schools Out Summer Concert Series
The Plymouth Waterfront, Plymouth, MA
Tonight’s waterfront show put on by Brewster Productions features some lively entertainment geared to a younger fan base than usual at this venue.
The first set belongs to the Eagle Hill Band whose lively performance entertains with a mix of up-tempo covers like Tom Petty and a few catchy originals. I guess these guys used to be the Clams Of Death but must have lost interest in the red tide this summer.
Jake Hill & the Law follow up with a flawless set of nearly all-original songs of which any could be past or present day hits. Hill’s songwriting and performance of them is as infectious, melodic and masterful as anything that has ever come out of this area. His soprano style voice and songwriting is not unlike that of a Muswell Hillbilly era Ray Davies and his onstage antics are as cool as they are awkward. The topics of his songs range from new found love “Bird Food,” to insecure relationships “Out Of My Hands” and “Heave To” a song about dying on a sailboat! His backing band, the Law, feature Dave Robertson on bass and Rick Crowell on drums. Together the rhythm section (who also play as a unit in a number of other bands) holds down the beat and are a perfect support system for Jake’s music.  (Mark Bryant)

U.S. Cellular Pavilion, Gilford, NH
So here I am, inside the confines of the venue, sheltering myself from the rain, waiting anxiously to see that band. You know… the one that was just another band out of Boston, on the road to try and make ends meet?
As the lights dim, hundreds of fans jump to their feet. The chord strikes, and out they come, the boys of Boston… and one girl. Strange as it is to see a female in the band, I’m still able to enjoy the tunes as Boston plays familiars such as “More Than a Feeling,” “Smokin’,” and “Longtime.” Though their energy is less than par, with the occasional off-time song, the intentions are there. Decarlo does a good job filling the shoes of the late Brad Delp.  As I close my eyes, and try to picture myself 30 years earlier, enjoying Boston in their prime, I can almost imagine I’m there. (Angela Mastrogiacomo)

Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, MA
A rootsy Americana night at the Middle East, with indie underdogs the Rosewood Thieves playing their first Boston show. Not having brought their own support, they have three local artists kick things off.
First up was singer/songwriter Dave Godowsky, who seems to be doing everything in his power to pull off a young Bob Dylan look: acoustic guitar, neck harmonica holder, scruffy curly hair, and shy, awkward banter. The songs fit the image; though some attempts to be “deep” miss the mark, others sound great. “It ends in a coffin and it starts with a cough / The past is a debt you can never pay off” is straight out of Dylan’s “To live outside the law you must be honest” school of songwriting, and “Take a look at the world / It’s an oyster with no pearl” sounds like Tom Waits at his most pessimistic. Though his melodies are bland and energy nil, clear delivery keeps the small crowd focused on his lyrics, which proved to be enough.
Currently living in Cambridge herself, Alice Austin didn’t have far to walk. A good thing too—the knee-high platform pumps she’s wearing can’t be comfortable. Image, though, is clearly something Austin takes seriously. Like an edgy Dolly Parton, her cascading blonde hair contrasts sharply with her miniskirt and glittery electric guitar. If the look is conflicted, the music matches. Playing country torch songs loud and fast, she touches on casual sex and road kill in her thirty-minute set, backed only by a bassist similarly attired. She shows punch, attitude, and sass, though the affected southern twang eventually grows tiresome.
Cultivating a similar style as Godowsky, Ben Pilgrim looks more like an Urban Outfitters Dylan, complete with newsboy cap and spunky four-piece band. His songs veer from generic anti-war protests to livelier numbers like the Beatles sequel “I Want To Hold Your Hand Again.” His voice harmonizes with his female back-up singer for some catchier call-and-response numbers, but it’s the cover of Buddy Holly’s “Oh Boy” that really shakes things up. Moving closer to punk than he had before, it attacks, dark and aggressive, making lines like “You were meant for me” sound not joyful, but obsessed.  Though most in the crowd were there for the Grey’s Anatomy-promoted Thieves, had they never come on everyone would have left satisfied.   (Ray Padgett)


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