LIVE REVIEWS: February 2009


Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, Cambridge, MA
The metaphysical limbs of each audience member’s mind and inner-self expand outwards and intermingle as dancers of the Vadalna Tribal Dance Co. perform the theatrical production of Menagerie to the musical vibrations created by the band Incus. A sacred ambience filled with joy is created within the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center as seven different human virtues are explored through music and corporal expression. They consist of Truth, Change, Perseverance, Wisdom, Contentment/ Pain, Doubt, and Inspiration, interwoven with other themes such as the Fool and the Sun. The bohemian clothing, the sensual rolls of the body and the mysterious music mesmerizes us all. During the dance of the sun, the dancer prances like a gazelle to the middle, shoots up at a climax in the music, snaps the head toward your eye sockets and profoundly stares, dark black eyeliner sparkling out from the periphery, all the while suspended in mid-air. Both the Vadalna Tribal Dance Co. and Incus bridge the cultural abyss as they incorporate Middle Eastern, Native American, South Asian traditions of song and dance. Incus is built of vocals, piano, cello, violin and non-Western drums. As I close my eyes and sing out loud from my seat in the auditorium, I visualize myself around a fire, becoming entranced and rich in ecstasy.   (Katya Lancero)

The Station, Portland, ME
The Cambiata is headlining to an all-ages crowd tonight at the Station, and upon entering the spacious venue, it becomes increasingly clear that most of the patrons are under 21 years old. I pay the $12 cover and make my way past the bar, in and out of pool tables and find seats at a round table that is set against a wall that divides the dance floor from the rest of the room.
Better Than, the first band of the night, is made up of four guys from Gray, Maine. They put on a spirited performance and seem to be enjoying every second of it. To my amusement, lead singer and guitarist J.D. Raines constantly interacts with the audience. Better Than exudes a raw sound, reminding me of garage bands of the ’90s: think Green Day without the fine tuned professionalism.
Second to hit the stage is an indie rock band—The Urgency. This Vermont/New York-based band’s onstage energy is infectious. Their polished instrumentals, lyrics, and vocals make it hard to believe they haven’t been signed by a major label. They go from slow to fast, soft to loud, and everything in between. Their catchy rhythms and lyrics make for an expressive performance. With some bands who play hard and loud, the vocals are lost during the live performance, but not so with the Urgency. Lead singer Tyler Gurwicz keeps his vocals clear and crisp throughout the night. Their song “Hot Damn” sounds as if it should be on mainstream radio. In it Gurwicz repeatedly shouts, “Put your hands in the air” and in this song in particular, the Urgency sounds like a perfect mix between Fall Out Boy and Hoobastank. I am already enthusiastically anticipating their next local show.
Boston-based band, KID:NAP:KIN is up next, with their three-piece band, which consists of female bassist player/ back-up singer Jamila Weaver, drummer Patrick Hanlin, and lead singer and electric guitarist Daniel Ellis. As their feet hit the stage, their alternative-rock music is played aggressively hard and loud. One guy in the audience plays air drums to the beat and lip-syncs to each word Ellis belts out. This guy must be a true fan, because I can barely hear the lyrics over the thunderous sound of the instruments. I look around the room and most of the patrons are nodding their heads and moving there arms fast to the rhythm of the music. Because I’m not normally a fan of hard rock bands, I rejoice when the pace slows down and the instrumentals become a bit softer. This gives me a chance to really hear the lyrics and the talent of Ellis’s vocals.
At their CD release party, five-piece indie rock band the Cambiata plays over a dozen songs in two hours. A compilation of electric guitars, a bass, drums, percussion, a keyboard, and amazing vocal talents create the impressive sound of this Portland-based band. The crowd is going crazy, singing along and shouting out requests non-stop. Most of the songs begin softly, and slowly work up momentum which tends to peak in the middle of the pieces. Their lyrics get right to the point, such as in the song “Hell’s Kitchen,” where lead vocalist Chris Moulton sings “If it’s me you aim to change, you can fuck right off.” Their music embodies eeriness, melodrama, and fine tuned flair. Their live performance sounds as crisp as their record tracks. Just when I think I can compare their somber sound to someone else’s, they tweak it and I am left believing they are original. (Jill Harrigan)

The Old Worthen House, Lowell, MA
In some ways this is a tale of two shit-holes.  Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s there was, for all intents and purposes, one and only one cool bar to see and hear original live music in Lowell: the Last Safe & Deposit Co. a.k.a. the Safe.  This basement cauldron of emphysema was the cozy little fire-trap  that launched Lowell’s version of a “scene.” The Shods, Frank Morey, Melvern Taylor, Jen Kearney, and the Deliriants all hung their hats here.
Alas, neither the Safe nor the Deliriants made it past ’95, reportedly for many of the same reasons.  In lieu of any other decent live music venue in Lowell (unconscionable considering the large UMASS campus here,) the Deliriants kick off their return at the Old Worthen House, (bouncing vagrants like Poe and Kerouac since the last ice age.)
Unbelievably, the two cheesy electric space heaters aren’t enough to cut through the January chill in the ancient Worthen attic.  Goose down abounds.  Nor is the attic bar open. Huh? The many trips downstairs keeps the blood pumping. Very Lowell.  Luckily, another Lowell/Safe vet comes on and Jenny Riddle’s warmly haunting juxtaposition of ’70s sunshine and white trash noir is, as ever, bliss.  A volunteer from the audience is required to reset the circuit breaker when sixty seconds into her set the power goes dead.  Jenny never misses a beat singing, “by the light of the moon, and he’s sick of shining too.”  (She’s currently in the studio with Dave Minehan.)
After the relatively quiet singer/songwriter there’s a jolting leap of volume—Cold Pilgrims’ post-punk is a joyous chaotic disturbance.   Head Pilgrim Donny McHale is coaxed to break out his anthemic “Mishawum” from Lowell favorite Poorhouse Sessions Vol. 1 before the power goes dead during their set.  (Will the volunteer kindly…)  They thrill the room with a fevered “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” then hand the stage over.
The Deliriants are in full possession of the power pop chops that the small gathering has come to hear again. The band drop covers of Cavedogs and Heretix, and their own teasing rendition of “Stepping Stone.”  It is amazing that these guys haven’t been on stage in fourteen years.  If anything they seem even tighter and somehow more urgent.  Lead guitar player John Dicenso, seems newly reenergized, now with the specter of record label b.s. and the requisite rock ’n’ roll disappointments a distant memory. Did I mention it’s freezing cold? Or the multiple power outages and two versions of “Not Your Stepping Stone”? Just like the old days.   (John Grant)

Church, Boston, MA
Hi, Slimedog’s cat back again, back from the Great Beyond. You know this can’t be Slimedog—he’s a west coast surf bum now leaving his friends to fend for themselves in this artic tundra. So it’s up to me to spread the word, just like I do my kitty litter.
First up are the Spoilers, Boston’s finest punk band. With the demise of the Dimwits, who else can it be? I love Darkbuster, Ducky Boys, the Click Five but for my catnip the Spoilers transport you back to late ’70s L.A. maybe to a seedy Chinese restaurant with bands like X and the Avengers on the bill. But tonight it’s at Church where from my understanding is where priests do holy things to altar boys weenies. The Spoilers have a new able guitarist, Chris Brat, and still play as great as ever. They do a cover of Poison’s “Talk Dirty To Me,” which is what Slimedog used to do when we had our more intimate moments. Damn, my anus still burns.
Up next is Red Invasion whom I appreciate for their good taste and great playing. From Joey Boy’s influence of the Dead Boys Stiv Bators to their cover of my favorite Iggy & the Stooges tune, “I Got A Right,” this band can do no wrong in my cat box.
New Alibis are next with old fucks like Jesse Von Kenmore, (but man, can he play the drums) and new foxes like Julie Two Times, who plays the bass likewise. This band does the punk with a strong hard rock influence and seems to draw the biggest crowd of the night. Keep an eye on these guys.
Up last is Cocked & Loaded who are purely rock and so what if one song sounds like a variation of “Radar Love,” by Golden Earring—these boys are farming in good fields.
Well, it’s time for me to go back to kitty heaven. Wish I could see these bands more. You all can, so don’t pass up the chance. You don’t know what you’ve had till you’ve lost it and it’s gone. Love you all (especially KJ and Cindy).  (Slimedog’s cat)

Spaulding Auditorium, Hanover, NH
Not too far from her Amherst roots, Dar Williams must feel right at home among this elite New England crowd.  Too bad the size of said crowd is so pathetic.  150 people is scattered around an auditorium built for 1000, quiet enough that you hardly notice they were there.
Opener Stephen Fiore gives it the old college try though (pun intended), and mildly entertains the audience with his awkward-guy-at-the-dance persona.  He sings about—what else—lost love, backed only by his guitar as his pleasantly lazy voice wafts through the auditorium.  Introducing the songs with self-deprecating banter, he scores crowd points by talking about the inspirations behind songs about sharing milkshakes and seeing himself from an ex-girlfriend’s eyes.
To the surprise of anyone who saw the cluttered stage in the campus’ newspaper advertisement, Dar Williams comes out alone.  From western Massachussets, she looks the part.  The spitting image of hippiedom, her flowing hair matches her flowing skirt and, in case you didn’t get the point, she spends her first five minutes talking about hippies.  And talking to the moon.  As she drawls about everything from to corporatization of water to the Milgrim experiments (Wikipedia it) the audience politely laughs along but seems impatient for the next song.
For those unfamiliar with Williams, her voice can be a little jarring.  Lilting but bold, it takes a while to figure out if she’s even in tune.  As she sings about witch hunts and rain, each song gets a cheer as the rapt audience recognizes another favorite.  Her dynamic guitar playing gives some structure to the wandering narratives, whether she’s performing a crowd favorite (“Christians and Pagans”) or a Hedwig & the Angry Inch cover (“Midnight Radio”).  One of the new faces of folk, Williams keeps her cult following riveted to each hippie tale and may just hit the mainstream someday.                    (Ray Padgett)

Monthly Carnival of Arts
Empire Dine and Dance, Portland, ME
It’s the second monthly Carnival of Arts at Empire Dine and Dance, and there are poets, filmmakers, and musicians galore. However, for this review I want to talk about my two favorite acts of the evening. John Fountain, a twenty-something bartender with long dirty-blonde hair takes the stage with his guitar. He begins to sing, and my arm hairs stand at attention.  The sound and rhythm of his voice is a cross between that of Bob Dylan and Ray LaMontagne. Although he forgets the lyrics to his first song, he cracks a few jokes to keep the audience entertained. After this, he doesn’t miss a beat. His voice is deep, yet soothing. He holds his guitar close to his body, seemingly at home onstage. A girl sitting next to me says, “I could listen to this guy all night long.” The feeling is mutual.
Portland-based blues duo, Meantone is definitely getting the most audience interaction here tonight, with the use of their guitar, harmonica, drums and natural ability to get a crowd riled up. People are cheering, hooting, and yelling out such things as, “Listen to that shit! This is crazy!” The band is made up of two men, Meantone (yes, it‘s his name as well as the band‘s name) on guitar, harmonica, and vocals, and Young Brett on drums and percussion. Not only is Meantone (the man) a deep voiced talent, but he also has some fun and quirky lyrics, such as “I’ll steal your car, I’ll steal your mojo.” The duo performs many original songs, but tonight they’re also covering “Cocaine Blues” by Johnny Cash, (one of my all-time favorites.) Overall, I can’t get over how astonishing their musical and entertaining ability is considering there’s just the two of them.   (Jill Harrigan)

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