LIVE REVIEWS: November 2008

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Great Scott, Allston, MA
For some reason I’m bummed out—so I seek out the only cure I know that can help; some good old, honest, rock ’n’ roll. With nowhere in mind, a good friend suggests Great Scott, as they have kick ass shows lined up just about every night of the week. Tonight, as it turns out, is no exception. The band on the stage is Planetoid.  The guitarist is some sort of devil beast with green skin and hair and a horn on the center of his head.  The bassist is a pale blue man dressed in a white tuxedo and is otherwise normal except for his pointy Vulcan ears. Completing this trio is the drummer, none other than an evil robot that looks as if it had just wandered off the set of an old Lost in Space episode. The music is a blend of the best sci-fi rock you’ll can find this side of the Orion nebula. While there’s plenty of homage to the alien-demon gods in their music, there’s plenty of mortal music influences like AC/DC and Black Sabbath as well.  At the end of their set I shake the guitarist’s hand-like appendage and congratulated him on such a good set. He nods, tells me that he appreciates the compliment, and that he’ll kill me when his kind takes over the planet. Hey Ovatus, if you are reading this—I’m holding you to that!   (Kier Byrnes)

Light Show Films of Ken Brown with live music by Willie “Loco” Alexander, Bob Moses, Ken Winokur, Chris Butler, P. Andrew Willis, and DJ Pace. Curated by Balagan Film & Video and Jane Gillooly
Coolidge Corner Theatre, Brookline, MA
For over thirty years, Ken Brown has been making stunning experimental films, animations, graphics, cartoons, photographs, and music videos. For three years in the late ’60s in Boston, he was the resident filmmaker for the ultra-psychedelic, pioneering rock club, the Boston Tea Party. He produced hundreds of super-8 works loaded with staggering superimpositions and startling visual dimensions that accompanied such performers as the Velvet Underground, Led Zeppelin, the Who, Jeff Beck Group, B. B. King, and the Allman Brothers, to name a few. In their original context, they were joined by slides, strobes, and liquid projections (which Ken handled himself) to form a backdrop tapestry of light for countless concerts. It seemed as if the walls oozed colors!
Tonight, Ken’s work moves front and center to the big screen in an eye-popping display of rampant imagination. It is like being caught in the middle of hallucinatory hurricane. “Hope you all brought your bongs!” he jokes at the start of the screening. Then bam!, DJ Pace slams into “Psychotic Reaction,” skipping and spinning the turntables, until the assembled musicians, cast in silhouette, start their hour-long set. Filled with musical cues and sound vignettes quite reminiscent of the Alloy Orchestra’s work (whose percussionist, Ken Winokur, was part of this group), the music ebbs and flows along quite energetically with the visuals. At one point, Willie “Loco” brings the enthusiasm down with a quiet, poignant vocal-piano piece that he wrote in the late ’60s and has rarely performed. Now that’s being true to the era!  (Willie’s first band, the Lost, was the opening act at the Tea Party in January, 1967!) Fabulous guitar effects, robust bass and drums, pixilated keyboard sounds  swirls around the theatre. When the whimsical onslaught ends, the packed house gives a most rousing ovation. Ken sticks around for quite a while to answer questions and chat with fans and friends. Hooray for heritage!   (Harry C. Tuniese)

the Cantab, Cambridge, MA
The Noise 27th Anniversary Party
Subtle red lights filter the downstairs cave, casting shadows on the indented cheeks of 27’s lead singer/guitarist Maria Christopher. The band puts somber rock in harmony with pleasing-to-the-ear melodies that drift like a spirit from Maria’s vocals. The drum set looks divine as splashes of light are thrown onto the back wall every time Terri Christopher (Maria’s sister) smashes down on the ride symbol—it’s like she’s playing in a puddle of pixie dust. Meanwhile, bass concoctions and strange samples flow from the man behind a curtain of light brown hair. I’ve yet to see Ayal Naor’s face. Dark indie rock fills every corner of the bar and I am head banging in sync with Maria. But wait, she is head banging harder, and is clearly in her own musical subconscious. The band covers “Wonderwall” by Oasis for the last song and eerily transforms the cliché hit into a dark lullaby. After touring in the U.K., North America, and Japan, 27 proves their loyalty to Cambridge once more by celebrating the Noise’s 27th anniversary. Rock on to the number 27.   (Katya Lancero)

Atwood’s Tavern, Cambridge, MA
Budding folk singer Peter Mulvey has sold out some pretty big venues all over the globe, including Harvard’s own Sanders Theatre, however tonight he’s opting for a more laid back, barroom vibe and what better place for some good ole down-home rock ’n’ roll than Atwood’s Tavern.  As an established Boston folk artist, working alongside Kris Delmhorst and Tim Gearan for years, Peter’s enlisted the help of rocker the mighty Mike Piehl on drums and veracious Lou Ulrich on bass for tonight’s set. The songs sway from rhythmic, jazzy funk to more traditional folky stuff you’d expect to hear in Passim.  I grab a seat at the bar and order an amazing chicken sandwich from Atwood’s late night menu and slam a few cold beers, absorbing the amazing sounds of good acoustic music coming not less than 30 feet away. I agree with the hype, Peter’s a clever songwriter, and the music coming from his guitar is innovative, fresh and true as any other I’ve heard. Meanwhile, the audience swarms around the stage like moths to a streetlight, eating every note up with a smile. As I take it all in, I quietly think what a great way to spend a summer night.   (Kier Byrnes)

 Geno’s Rock Club, Portland, ME
Vicki Pubcrawler, a.k.a. the Bride, stunningly gorgeous with dream wedding hair and veil, graciously accepts the best wishes in her one woman receiving line at the merch table for her new hubby’s long-standing institution of Celtic punk rock, the Pubcrawlers, sets the scene for an astounding post-wedding music extravaganza.
A super aggressive skulking singer with a presence like a bridge troll whips the pit into a frenzy. Spit Ya Teeth is a tremendous hardcore band and not just in stature as bassist Dave jokingly dubs them the one-ton club before the gear. Heavy, pounding and incredibly rhythmic sound, the low end just slams the soul and pulls the spine out through the face, perhaps where teeth-spitting gets incorporated. Or perhaps it is in the apparently better health of the punkers in the crowd incorporating some dizzyingly high leg kicks in addition to the flying elbows that I recall from back in the day. They’re tight, mesmerizing and positively addictive; with songs like bursts of gunfire.
Next up is the Murder Weapon, an act that is really coming into their own; they honestly get better every time I see them. A positively sweet timbre issues from an old warhorse of an upright bass, almost as much a stage prop to paint up and stand on as it is an instrument. A cascade of launched alcoholic beverages demonstrates crowd appreciation in spit form. A great deal of individual talent in this psycho-billy trio; I notice that chicks seem to love their sweet, peppy yet soulful throbbing tunes. Exuberant and engaging the Murder Weapon is every bit as captivating in front of tens of people as they are in front of hundreds.  They might be going places if their developing sound and fan base are any indication.
The Outsiders are clearly veterans; strong tight and secure, it makes me idly wonder how long they’ve been playing together. They’re clearly honed. Their version of “Breakin’ the Law” is better than the original; the Misfits cover in punk-a-billy sauce completely rocks too. Yet their originals, in particular their closer, is an instant classic; “Rock ’n’ Roll Ain’t Dead Yet” is an absolutely stunning audio display. The groom and others storm the stage to join in the mantra as their drummer bolts into the crowd with as much kit as he can carry to reassemble and play in the pit withstanding a barrage of beer boys and aspiring bongo players. The crowd is left awestruck, screaming and breathless, juiced for the main event.
Andy Pubcrawler, spectacularly gifted drummer for New England Institution and Celtic punk band the Pubcrawlers, had proposed to long-time girlfriend Vicki from this very stage at world famous Geno’s Rock Club a year before. Time flew and now on their wedding day the after-party is a feast for the senses. Eight Pubcrawlers storm the stage serving up the highest echelon of musical performance. Former lead singer Kevin, in town for the nuptials is a wild horse straining at the bit in the crowd next to me, just dying to get back up there and belt out some of the classically divine originals from way back when he shared their stage. Brian Stone, energetic, pirate-eyed current lead singer and heck of a nice guy graciously pulls Kevin to the stage in a sort of impromptu Pubcrawler re-union. This band fuses tradition to a razor’s edge of contemporary progress that never disappoints: a dynamic marriage of venerable Celtic classicism with fist-in-the-air originality that invigorates the musical mind and cultivates the soul. The pipes, accordion, fiddle, mandolin, the rockin’ guitar, all of the players are truly excellent; their experience and rollicking showmanship reminds me that I need to listen to their near perfect new release, One Too Many Again, well, again. The show celebrating the marriage of Andy and Vicki Pubcrawler is a glorious adventure with a triumphant fairly tale ending.  Congratulations are definitely in order.   (Stace)

Farm Aid
Comcast Center, Mansfield, MA
Amidst the cornucopia of organic fruit-growers, Whole Foods giveaways and grind your own corn workshops, it’s easy to miss the fact that there was actually some music at this year’s Farm Aid.  Though popular in the jam scene, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals offer much more than mindless noodling and ambient experimentation. They only have time for one jam-length song, but their energy makes the fifteen minutes of “Nothing But the Water” fly by. Potter starts it off with a gospel holler, her banging tambourine her only accompaniment. The band comes in after a few minutes when Potter switches to swirling organ, but all instruments are soon again abandoned for a gathering around the drum set. Like a hippie drum circle but with talent, all four whale on the kit for quite a while before they bring it back to the tune.  A little more of the whole “playing instruments” thing happens before the band ditches them yet again to line up at the edge of the stage for some audience clapping and stomping along as their voices rattle the amphitheater.   (Ray Padgett)

Boston Common, Boston, MA
            A peace rally hits Boston Common on Saturday, October 11, 2008, and it’s blessed with an absolutely beautiful sunny day. The event marks the sixth anniversary of Congress approving the Iraq War Resolution, giving Bush the authority to invade Iraq.  For those who don’t realize how serious our country’s actions have been—one in every three Iraqis have been killed, wounded, or displaced. Over 4,000 American soldiers have died with tens of thousands seriously wounded. The cost of the war adds to the financial crisis in this country—the taxpayers of Massachusetts alone will pay $18.5 billion for total Iraq spending approved to date. This is why people are so angry. They feel the need to rally to ensure the voice of the people is heard to counteract the capitalistic money-grubbing death machine. The demands that the rally organizers, the October 11th Mobilizing Committee, put forth are “a stop to the wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan; money for jobs education, health care, and housing; no sanctions or attacks on Iran; a stop to the racist scapegoating of Arabs and Muslims; and a stop to the assault on human rights and civil liberties.”
The day includes knowledgeable speakers and performers on a main stage set near the corner of Charles Street and Beacon Street. The performances start at 11:30 am and include Pete Cassani (Peasant folk), Kier Byrnes (Americana), Fluttr Effect (modern rock), Ryan Harvey (activist folk), Casey Desmond (singer/songwriter), Sgt. Maxwell’s Peace Chorus (anti-war folk gospel), Bojah & the Insurrection (political funk), Michael Bloom (political folk), Son of Nun (hip hop), and Pat Scanlon (Veterans for Peace). The speakers are Former Staff Sgt. Gabriel Payan, Omar Baddar, Joseph Gerson, Taka, Chuck Turner, Ashley Smith, Melida Arredondo, and Megan Day.
Two scores of tables line Boston Common walkways with peace organizations spouting their specific concerns, offering literature, buttons, T-shirts, and food. A smaller open mic stage is available for any speaker or performers to join in. The rally culminates with an estimated one thousand loud participants marching (with one of the Honk Fest bands) across the Back Bay to Downtown Crossing and back to Boston Common. Not one negative incident or arrest is recorded.
The Oct. 11 Mobilizing Committee consist of about 30 concerned citizens who put a lot of time into organizing and following through to make an event of this size materialize. It’s not an easy task when the cost to run the rally is close to $4,000. More volunteers are always needed for the next rally. If you’d like to get involved with the anti-war movement, visit   (T Max)

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