LIVE REVIEWS: December 2008


Comment on any Live Review in Reader's Respo™
Make sure you title your comment so we know what you're talking about.
You can also discuss local music 24/7 at The Noise Board 

Awesomeville, Allston, MA
Deep within an industrial warehouse a mix of smoke and dust inflame my nostrils as I weave through corners and up stairwells. It’s Halloween night and I can see Jesus, a scantily clad dead bride, and Amy Winehouse stumbling up ahead of me. We’re all following scratchy signs with arrows pointing our way to a venue that promises electric funk, eccentric costumes, and cheap alcohol. The show and party hybrid is the perfect choice for a night like Halloween, one that wouldn’t be the same without decadent mayhem and endless, early-morning dancing.
Walking in, the excitement about the room is palpable. Tripped-out paintings hang randomly on the walls and neon strobes flash about in wild, disarrayed patterns. The place is full of anything and everyone that you could imagine: fire spinners, superheroes, and even Slim Jim. There’s a bar backed by sexy Alice from Wonderland, a loft with two DJ’s, and a seductive pole-dancer with slicked-back hair and big, brown eyes. On top of it all, Awesomeville’s partygoers are in constant motion, like seamless, colorful waves made of bodies and liquor.

The first performance to usher such movement is a band called Lowercase P. Decked out in matching skin tight Batman costumes, the drummer-keyboardist-bass player trio (and their stagehand is dressed as Robin) uses fast-paced beats and experimental dance-jazz to open up the night. Lowercase P’s energy is incredible, like an ever-present vibration behind their instruments that moves their melodies in core unison. The members play off of each other in perfect, smiling, syncopated rhythms and beats. To describe them as jazz, or simply as experimental club music just doesn’t match up. The band’s style is hard to place, and seeing them live solidifies that whatever it is they have going on is pure magic. Lowercase P induces wild dancing using a rainbow of electronic sounds, laden with a cadence of pounding beats and bass lines. Ending their set with a twisted cover of the Batman theme song, Lowercase P’s strong, earthy, yet somehow urban music makes a perfectly weird night all the stranger.

Next up is the Goosepimp Orches-tra, an eight-member, high-energy funk band from Mission Hill. Dressed as funky renditions of dead political and religious figures, the band takes the stage. With occasional psychedelic breakdowns, Goosepimp is mostly comprised of screaming instruments that are edged with Latin percussions and horns with experimentally aggressive music that can funk it’s way into the heart of any soul, Goosepimp is a tight fit for anybody who is a fan of world music, jazz, or psychedelic funk. They play tonight with precision—tightly knit and super energized. More than dancing happens as the crowd responds to Goosepimp with flailing limbs and thrashing heads, all the while jumping up and down with a vivacity and unison that almost topped the band’s. Utterly complex, powerfully funkadelic, and with no care toward theory, Goosepimp takes hold of the night.

Goosepimp Orchestra may be too much for some people, but on Halloween night at Awesomeville I can’t imagine I’d find those people here.
After Goosepimp leaves the stage I can feel myself pulsing with excitement. As Campaign For Real-Time starts playing I can’t help anticipate how perfectly they will follow the previous acts. They’re tighter than any band I’ve seen tonight, and still have the energy and stage presence groups need to make it in music. I spend their entire set trying to figure out a genre or sub-genre to place them into as the crowd dances wildly around me. To no avail, I realized that C4RT is a mix of anything and everything that you hear on and off the radio. With poppy yet zany electronic backing to every song, the heavy use of guitar, and the standard backbone drummer, C4RT is vocalized by a hipster-sounding man whose throaty voice resembles none other than his own. Campaign For Real-Time is electronic indie-rock with a heavy layer of garage grime just under the surface. Their consistent beats and synthetic waves of electronica keeps the dance floor flowing and the party going until Halloween night finally turns into the first of November.  (Amanda Macchia)


Geno’s Rock Club, Portland, ME
Geno’s Rock Club in Portland is positively festive on this chilly and stormy night as friends, fans, and well-wishers pack in early scooping up tainted Chinese milk chocolate coins and noisemakers adorning tables done up in a birthday theme for Knaughty Sarah, the club’s fabled booker and adored local icon. Covered in Bees will come out to play this night and this night only to celebrate the birth of Sarah, and the release of their new 24 Hour Album, 19 songs created in 24 hours. Wait. Recorded in 24 hours? No, written and recorded in 24 hours. Boo tells me that he would listen to the track and write and record lyrics while the boys were in the hall working on the next tune. Covered in Bees is also celebrating their soundtrack for the Maine-based, Empty House Films’ Zombie Movie 2 about which Fangoria magazine has said some very good things. Andy Davis, the director who writes as well, apparently has four independent films in a DVD super-pack in the lobby tonight. I don’t have the scratch on me, but like the idea of supporting independent film that utilizes homegrown talent. I get to chat with Mr. Davis for a bit; I’m amazed at how he has completed six films in two years. When

I express surprise at his prodigiousness, he lets me in on the secret. Develop the system for making a film first, stay close to the writing, schedule and plan each day, and once you pop your film-making cherry and figure out the mechanics of it, you just plug in the next project and voilà! Four films in one package quivering in release.

I am psyched to finally get to see Covered in Bees, out of Bee-tirement for a Bee-union. I had watched a few YouTube videos of them over the past months and liked what I heard. Death punk they call it, but it doesn’t even begin to describe the depth and breadth of their sound. Superbly played rock—heavy with a kiss of metal on a raging river of punk. Rhythmic, grind-it-out, badass awesome. It also seems extraordinarily limiting to call Boo the singer. He is our pilot for the evening—a biting humorist, a showman to the Nth degree, an impossibly commanding presence. He can sing, screech and scream like nobody’s business. He is clearly very outgoing and extroverted, bright, scintillating. In a word, mesmerizing. If death punk is indeed what this is, I am sure that no one does it better. Bee-lieve me. My mouth agape at their guitar-dude’s effortless master solo, Boo says, “I know what you’re thinking: ‘that guy’s pretty good’.” I laugh aloud at the glaring understatement, and pretty much find myself with a perma-grin the rest of the night. I hear tunes in their set list that are from that 24-hour album and become completely incredulous. The songs are tremendous—driving, catchy, smart, sometimes even funny. If you ever get the chance to see this band, trust me. Do it.   (Stace)

Johnny D’s, Cambridge MA
Funny how a restaurant-style venue feels like such an artist showcase spot. If this were Applebee’s, you’d get the impression that the band was interrupting people’s dinner. But this is Johnny D’s, and the Downbeat 5 are far more than a digestive aid! The sound here is great—crisp and focused—and the band really takes advantage of it. The audience reception is a little on the indifferent side, but I think the awkward combination of hot rock ’n’ roll with meals being eaten is responsible. “All our songs are originals,” says JJ Rassler, “except they were written by other people.”  That being the case, one assumes DB5’s anti-matter twins penned the great new songs premiering tonight – “Looking For Clues” (nice country feel!) and “One Night Only.” There’s even a new cover tossed in for good measure—The Stones’ “It’s Not Easy.” I’m often worried DB5 will hit that moment when they’ll get discouraged from lack of attention/success, curl up in a fetal position, and call it a day (too many of my favorites have). But tonight they’re fighting—they’re alive, active, and most definitely a going concern.  (Frank Strom)

Clear Conscience Café, Cambridge, MA
Mr. Curt is a fixture in the Boston music scene. His days go way back to winning the WBCN Rumble with Pastiche in 1980. He’s one of the most comfortable musicians on stage. Tonight he trades in his regular acoustic guitar and plays his entire set on keyboard! And he’s just as relaxed doing so, even though I’ve never seen him even near a keyboard. He strolls though the songs his fans have come to adore: “Beat Soup,” “Open Hand,” and “Chicken Feed.” His song recipes include slightly bent lyrics with social conscience and/or caring for community and loved ones.  There’s a full band with him tonight that includes Michael Macrides on an excellent sounding electric drum kit. Clara Kebaian adds the oh-so-sweet violin lines and Marty White is the statuesque bassist.  Curt puts his heart into his music not by being over emotional—he just has a jubilant care for things and people, and it’s apparent that he loves having the privilege to play in front of an audience.   (T Max)

Dodge Street Grill, Salem, MA
Once again I find myself in a Salem bar, and once again I keep expecting to overhear some know-it-all witch talking about white magic (y’know… the good kind). After all, it is the only rational explanation for Corolla DeVille sounding so hot and tight tonight. Unless you credit playing a slew of multi-set shows around the Salem/Beverly area for sharpening their already mighty talents… but that’s just too far out, right? Also far out is the fact that CD has a new CD, which tonight’s set is drawing heavily from—mostly originals that reflect the band’s raw rock/blues style (like the ever popular “Lady Kenmore”), but also occasional forays into fun/goofy pop (like my favorite “Terry Go Round”). It’s all sorta ’60s in feel, but Corolla DeVille is not a slave to authenticity, so I’m very reluctant to hit them with that label. We’ve got nearly peerless drumming from Gay Hebert, heavy guitar/bass from the three Bugden sisters, and it’s topped off with vocals from Lisa Connolly, whose vaguely Marianne Faithful-sounding voice adds a “been there, done it all” quality to what is essentially straightforward rock ’n’ roll. Praise for a praiseworthy band! More Boston/ Cambridge/ Somerville shows are in order here…     (Frank Strom)

Gulu Gulu Café, Salem, MA
After a van ride from hell all the way from Norwich, CT to Salem, MA, Dorian James & the Brood and I arrive at Gulu Gulu. Once inside, I’m pleasantly surprised to see the familiar images from artist Walter Sickert adorning the walls of the café. Those images lend a nice backdrop to this grim night of music.

Dorian James & the Brood went through a minor line up change last year that took them from a mediocre gothic band to a power house gothic flavored post-punk outfit. Their great guitarist/ singer, Dorian James, is backed by one of the toughest female bassists I know—Melissa Wawrzynowicz. Their song “Sturm Und Drag” has a sense of urgency in its guitar sound and lyrics: “Can I take the stress/ Can I take his pain?”  “A Month of Sundays” (their title track taken from the Church’s 1984 LP, Remote Luxury) is a mighty hook laden, morose pop song full of elation—think Chameleons UK meet the Cure. The new second guitarist, Pete Barrera, could be easily mistaken for Bernard Sumner (New Order) with black bangs, while new drummer Steve Gillis pounds the skins with an unmistakable clarity of the Sound. They are joined by Kelly Godshall (Amber Spyglass) to sing backing vocals on the UK Decay-esque “Samantha” and it’s the highlight of the set.

Next up is Amber Spyglass, the musical duo of John DeGregorio (ex-Opium Den/Reflecting Skin/Annette Farrington) and Kelly Godshall who incorporate experience, talent, and some fine gear to create a lush hybrid of musical enunciations. Kelly’s lovely vocals are strikingly comparable to that of Julianne Regan (All About Eve). There is a strong Middle Eastern influence in the guitar work, where Dorian James sits in on a few numbers. John and Kelly are working with Matthew Fuller (ex-Seven Sunless Days/ Scissorkiss) on a soon-to-be-released compilation (Sky So Grey) of dark experimental bands.   (DJ Matthew Griffin)

Johnny D’s, Somerville, MA
As I cross Holland Street to Johnny D’s I hear the blues riffs of “Spoonful” emanating from within. Once inside, “Midnight Hour” grooves from the stage while I deal with the doorman. This six-piece band lays it down well, and they should—their line-up includes the original lead guitarist and drummer of Boston, a sax player who’s gigged with Chuck Berry, a bassist and keyboard player who’ve been part of Peter Wolf’s House Party Five band, and then there’s Ernie Boch, Jr.—a guy who’s done more for local music than you probably know. Yes, he’s known more for selling cars, but he has his own Music Drives Us foundation that donates grant money to organizations that typically work with children and music. Right now he is on a mission to have his band play with all the old R&B greats while they’re still alive.  Tonight he’ll have to settle with playing for regular folk dancin’ to “Livin’ On Blues Power,” “Have Mercy on Me,” and “Born Under a Bad Sign.”   (T Max)

Cantab, Cambridge MA
Neon God—that’s a singular name for a plural outfit, in this case a guitar/bass/drums trio. Their musical styling sounds like a mix of late ’60s and late ’80s rockstuff—Velvet Underground via Nirvana—not my usual choice of poisons, by any stretch. Fairly macho, too, which is never a plus for me. However, these guys clearly have a real passion for it, and therein lies the difference. I won’t go so far as to say it’s endearing, but something like that. Even the stubborn part of my stony heart is won over by Neon God’s outrageously chaotic Woody Guthrie medley. And, yes, the original “Chemicals In My Brain” is equally bitchin’.

While the Hammond Group must’ve been kicking around for at least a couple years now, they’re news to me. And good news, too! Sounding a little like the Dead Milkmen, they’ve got an intelligent, witty new wave thing going on. Plus uniforms. Sort of. Suits, ties, and glasses—more Buddy Holly (or Elvis Costello) than Blondie, though. While there’s something vaguely dark in their music that I can’t quite pinpoint, the innocent-sounding “Mosh Pit Girl” reassures me. And lyrics like, “you’ve smoked all your weed and now you think you’re a poet” speak well of their sharp observational skills. I am excitedly intrigued.    (Frank Strom)

Higher Ground, Burlington, VT
Burlington’s Higher Ground club looks like a University of Vermont frat house on Friday night—sweet-dude-backwards-hats rivaling husky-man beards for attention.  Though various anti-war groups vie with the merch table for space, patrons seem to ignore both in their anticipation of State Radio, current project of ex-Dispatch frontman Chad Urmston.  A jam band for frat dudes, they rock out in a controlled way that keeps the crowd with them on every note, reggae verses leading into punk choruses.  Though most songs sound the same, it isn’t for lack of energy, as the bassist plays busy lines and a badass drummer never passes up an opportunity for a furious fill.  If Urmston’s talents are overshadowed, however, so too is his previous band.   Though many in the crowd were presumably Dispatch fans back in the day, they prove no less devoted to this new group, singing along with every State Radio song without a request for “The General” to be heard.  Bringing opening Zimbabwe percussionists Bongo Love out for the tour-closing encore proves misguided, but the crowd’s admiration is willing to forgive a little anticlimactic jamming in their support of Urmston’s collegiate rock.   (Ray Padgett)

Rock Off Main Street
The Center for the Arts in Natick, Natick MA
The Rock Off Main Street concert series at TCAN is the best place to regularly see good young bands (most of them still in high school). TCAN has an excellent stage with a great sound and lighting system run by people who know what they’re doing. It’s no secret why young bands and fans flock to this place.

Tonight the first band up is Hour Before Dawn and I’m kinda blown away by lead singer Mary’s casual comfort on the stage. She is so relaxed being in front of an audience of her peers and easily gets the crowd into the songs. Hour Before Dawn is one of the most musically well-balanced young bands I’ve seen. All of the musicianship is excellent in their melodic metal style. Guitarist Roger and bassist Dan are well-schooled precision players. But it’s Seth the drummer who subtly steals the show. Every one of his hits and fills are precise and meaningful—no mumble drumming going on here. All I can say is I’m impressed with this young band.

Next up is Holy Outlaw. They’ve got a non-functioning keyboard and need to make a quick switch over to the grand piano that’s sitting on the stage. This affects their overall sound. The acoustic piano doesn’t play much of a role in the mix and guitarist Seth sounds like he’s over-compensating for the problem. Holy Outlaw plays a similar female-fronted melodic metal as the opening band, with one big exception—lead singer Stephanie sings in an alto operatic style. She doesn’t have the stage comfort of the previous singer but she holds her ground. Seth on guitar has studied with Joe Stump and it shows when ever the spotlight goes on him and he launches into a solo. Overall, they’re a decent band.

Now wait a minute—Three Day Threshold is no high school band. Tonight they’ve been specially invited to spruce up the night with their cow-tippin’ brand of kickin’ country punk. Lead singer/ guitarist/ banjoist Kier Byrnes proves why his band has been asked to play all over the world (Belgium and Honduras recently) with his pro antics and his ability to work a young crowd, leaving them feeling like they’ve experienced something they’ll talk about for a long time. During the show Kier offers an awkward comment about his bassist, Johnny Stump—“He hasn’t fell over in one song… yet”—then tries to make up for it by saying, “John is good looking… and it’s a good thing he remembered to put in his dentures.” Kier usually works up his audience by having them repeat “no shit” in one song. But this young crowd is a little self-conscious about the language, so Kier changes the words to “gosh darn it.” The highlight of the set comes when Kier invites three kids on stage to play cowbells on the final song “Honky Tonk Woman.”  The kids love it.
How do you follow that? Well, the Mighty Jungle, obviously the youngest band of the night, makes it look easy with their exuberant energy. Their second song loses the momentum they’ve already built up and their entire set is all over the place genre wise. They rock and rap and slow it down and speed it up. Every song is different from the one before. Although lead singer Carter has a teen idol way about him, the band would excel if they found their best groove and stuck more with it.  I’d say go for the high-energy material—it matches their youthful appeal. (T Max)

North Star Café, Portland, ME
It’s election night, and I decide to get out and listen to some spoken word at the North Star Café. I’m very nervous about the outcome of the election, but as soon as I arrive, I feel a sense of relief with the calm aura the staff and patrons exude. The show tonight is in three sections: an open mic, the main performer, and then another open mic. For this review I will talk about one open mic presenter and the main performer. The first man who speaks is one who has opened up these readings for a few years now. He is introduced as Phil, and he is a local favorite. With a thick Maine accent, he reads his original work from handwritten pages in a worn notebook.  His stories always include the same humorous characters and his vocal animation keeps the audience engaged.

The main performer tonight is the barefooted and smiley Rachel Griffin. Her soulful voice backed with the jazz tone of her keyboard fills the room. I’m not much of a jazz lover, but she has a spark about her that makes me want to watch and listen. Her performance is fluid and natural. Between songs her witty comments make her even more enjoyable. One of her songs is about her doctor, with whom she admits she’s fallen in love with. The song is comical, but the scenario is one of pathos: the doctor does not feel the same way. This confession creates a hysterical laugh from the audience.  In a more serious song, she quotes many famous people about the greatness of peace. She wrote the song when the U.S. first bombed Iraq. At the very end of her performance, she sings quotes from from Barack Obama and includes his words, “Yes we can.” This fills me with hope, and a few hours later, as I sit on my couch watching the polls come in, I gleefully realize she was right.   (Jill Harrigan)

Second Tuesday Slam North Star Café, Portland, ME
The crowd is rowdy and excited for the monthly poetry slam competition tonight. Although there are eleven competitors here, one performance in particular has my mind swirling in awe. The poet’s name is Guala. He calmly takes stage, then out of nowhere, heartfelt lines peppered with internal rhymes and metaphors spring from his mouth. He juxtaposes delicacy and angst while describing the relationship between a son and his estranged father.  He holds the crowd in the palm of his hands.  When he is quiet, so are they.  When he gets fired up, they burst out with things such as, “Spit that shit, poet!”  His lines are fluid, dynamic, with small spurts of jagged rhythm that hold his listeners voluntarily hostage for three minutes.  When the scores are broken down at the end of the night, Guala comes in second.  But that doesn’t take away his first rate ability to capture an audience.   (Jill Harrigan)

The Speaker Project Exhibit, Mass. College of Art and Design, Boston MA
The Speaker Project, designed by Juan Angel Chavez, is an exhibit at Mass. College of Art and Design that’s part sonic experiment, part concert stage, and part junkyard. I walk into the gallery and gaze upon what best could be described as a shanty made from all sorts of “found” debris set up in the middle of the room. Inside the walls composed of inverted speakers and traffic cones, at the very core of the exhibit, is Autumn Hollow performing as if possessed by the spirits of Bob Dylan and the Band.  As the lads of Autumn Hollow wail away on their instruments, this crazy looking shack acts like a wall of old fashioned ear trumpets by funneling sounds in and out of the exhibit. At one moment I’m hearing the sweet pedal steel harmonies of Noel Coakley and the next, sweeping violin melodies and clangy drums played by Jamie Bonney and Todd Sampson. The odd nature of this sound design creates some unique visual as well as sonic effects. Autumn Hollow and their mellow groove fill the room nicely however and provide an ambiance that is as eclectic and beautiful as the art they are perched in.

Speaking of beautiful, as I walk through the exhibit, I turn a corner and encounter a group of attractive ladies in tight black uniforms shimmying to the music of Autumn Hollow.  These dancers are known as the Endless Knot Dance Collective, a troupe of modern dancers led by Abigail Kazlousky. They twirl, spin, flip, and leap frog about as they juggle plastic buckets.  As the old saying goes, I may not know what art is, but I know what I like. And tonight is an A-plus.   (Kier Byrnes)

Comment on any Live Review in Reader's Respo™
Make sure you title your comment so we know what you're talking about.
You can also discuss local music 24/7 at The Noise Board

Comments are closed.