LIVE REVIEWS: April 2009

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The Middle East, Cambridge MA
Pretty fair sized crowd for a slow and sleepy Wednesday night. This
being the “Night of a Thousand Musicians,” the number of band members
floating around almost outnumbers the audience. Case in point: these
Emeen-Z folks are a veritable mob themselves. At first glance, they
show no outward visual signs of being herbal tea swilling hippies, but
their pop-psychedelic song styling raises some doubt. Oh, and that’s
pop-psychedelic with a loud emphasis on the POP, by the way—not that
stoner/slacker/techno-geek stuff that makes you question your stance
on murder being a crime. Emeen’s vocals are really good, and his voice
sounds just like… um… John Lennon? No. The Dickies’ Leonard
Phillips? No, not as Alvin & The Chipmunks sounding as Leonard.
Hokey smoke—I know! He sounds just like Jeff McDonald! The whole band,
in fact, is very reminiscent of Red Kross… which is not a bad thing
to be reminiscent of, I must say!
Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents are another big crowd of players (eight
of ’em—two guitars, keyboards, bass, drums, two back-up singers,
plus lead vox). It’s a new side project for Downbeat 5’s Jen D’Angora,
but also features a couple of genuine all-stars in the form of the Rudds’
Tony Goddess and the Gentlemen’s Ed Valauskas. They sound like a dream,
tackling pop-oriented soul and R&B. The material is more “showy”
in nature than DB5 (or the Dents), so it makes a real showcase of Jen’s
powerful voice, allowing (or justifying) her to be more bombastic than
would be appropriate in the other bands. With the excellent back-up
singers, there’s a definite girl group vibe going on, too. One might
even consider selling an irreplaceable body part in order to hear them
take a stab at, oh, the Crystals’ “All Grown Up.” Or maybe Jackie
DeShannon’s “I Shook The World” (assuming one has any irreplaceable
body parts left to sell, that is). Believe me, you don’t wanna know
what it cost to get Andrea Gillis to sing “River Deep.”
(Frank Strom)

Midway Café, Jamaica Plain
Bethel Steele opens the night low-key with her acoustic guitar and sweet
lyrical sanity. Her slapstick humor between songs breaks up the lack
of instrumental variety, which becomes a little repetitious.
Brief Awakening, an all-female five-piece, is soothing and great. I
am excited to see a complete set from them in front of a full crowd.
Their songs are energetic, positive, and driven with substantial depth
behind each note and chord. The layering of vocals and instrumentation
is similar to Belle and Sebastian’s moodiness with a soothing taste,
but Brief Awakening adds a gritty side that keeps me hanging on. Two
radio ready songs, “Footprints” and “Recognition” are standouts
and both can be found on their MySpace page. (Emily Smith)

Café 939, Berklee College, Boston MA
The local rock scene has a love/hate relationship with Berklee and its
guitar noodling prodigies-in-training, although arguably most of the
time it’s just plain hate. However, thanks to Café 939, a new hip
venue recently opened by the college, there is finally a club that allows
its students to shine and show the world that there’s a whole lot
more to Berklee than the guitar-wanking stereotypes. Tonight’s show
is a perfect example. Zac Taylor and his buddies, the Drugs, can play
astonishlingly well. Fortunately, their main focus is putting together
some well-crafted songs rather than playing a series of unmemorable
solos. This is not to say they aren’t afraid to dish out some impressive
licks, but there is a whole lot more to this band. There is clever stage
banter and interaction with the audience; they even bring up a horn
section for the last few songs. It’s a great night! Café 939 is mobbed
and everyone is jazzed up by the music and partying like it’s the
weekend. I can’t believe its only Tuesday! Oh well, that’s college
for you! (Kier Byrnes)

Cantab Lounge, Cambridge MA
Props to Mickey Bliss—with the loss of the Abbey Lounge scene, he’s
clearly doing his best to fill the void by booking a lot of great bands
(many whom I associate with the Abbey in fact). And obviously one of
his favorites is Black Mosettes—an eclectic soul/R&B/disco/rock
act possessed of mucho charisma. Yeah, I’ve already written many a
good word about ’em, but they keep upping their quality level, so
you can expect many more good words to come. In the past, Rockin’
Ronnie Mosette and crew have strictly stuck to cover songs, but them
days is gone. The set now features four originals (including the excellent
“Central Park”), which seamlessly fit with the cover material—and
that’s no easy task, given the varied stuff they cover. Let’s see
you try to work out something that’s gonna comfortably sit between
a funk/dance number and a psych/garage tune! All of which proves that
Black Mosettes are both genius and psychotic. Either that or they’ve
got a more finely honed sense of humor than the rest of the universe…
(Frank Strom)


Johnny Cash Tribute
Space Gallery, Portland, ME
Today is Johnny Cash’s birthday, and the Space Gallery is throwing
a party in his honor. They even have a giant birthday cake, which is
free for all who stay for the live music. They begin the event by playing
a documentary about Cash to a packed house. I show up just ten minutes
before it begins and have to stand for the entirety. This viewing is
a freebie, but after the film, the room is cleared out and then eight
dollars is taken at the door. This is a fair price because nineteen
Cash songs are covered by over a dozen different singers and bands between
10:00 pm and 1:00 am. Of the acts, there are five that stand out to
The first act of the evening is Johnny Fountain, who stands center stage
with his acoustic-electric guitar and is flanked by a drummer and a
stand-up bassist. They perform “A Boy Named Sue,” and I’m impressed.
Not only does Fountain move his whole body as he gets into the rhythm
of the song, but his voice is crisp and deep. The entire audience is
engaged and singing along. Johnny keeps with the momentum of the tune
pretty closely, but chooses to disrupt the exactness as he belts out
the last line—instead of saying that he’ll name his son anything
but Sue, he says “I’ll name him Sue, I don’t care.” This tears
a rip in my heart and I long to hear the original lyrics. However, Fountain
does do an outstanding job throughout the rest of the song so I am not
too upset with him.
The second band worth reviewing here tonight is the Panda Bandits, who
ironically are the second band to hit the stage. This nine-piece band
is insanely energetic. They’ve got two hand drums on stage left, a
tambourine and a bass on stage right, an acoustic electric guitar in
the back of the stage, and then the lead singer at center stage. Their
cover of “Drums” is a cultural experience in itself. They fill the
room with the pounding of drums, the stomping of feet, and backup vocals
from the whole band. The lead singer gets so into the lyrics that his
face mirrors desperation and his body is like a fish gasping for water.
I mean this in a great way—Cash’s lyrics are heart achingly troubled.
The singer tells us they were an “imaginary” band until tonight.
I vote for them to remain a “real” band.
Hanifa Washington walks onto stage with bare feet, a white, free-flowing
dress, and a contagious smile. She carries an acoustic-electric guitar
and after a little bit of chit-chatting with the audience, she begins
to play “Lady in Winter,” which Cash covered. She’s got enough
soul in her voice to get anyone into heaven, and her unwavering control
over her guitar is breathtaking. I want to stop the Cash tribute right
now, and ask her to play for the duration. Since that’s impossible,
I just soak up each and every chord she plays and each note she hits.
The audience is hearing real down-to-earth talent, and as I look around
the room, I see people nodding to each other in approval. Her profound
stage presence, her laughter between lyrics, and the way she captures
the audience’s attention has me wondering where she’s playing next.
Rustic Overtones and Paranoid Social Club fans are thrilled tonight
as former band mates Dave Gutter and Jon Rood take the stage (yes—they
were in both bands together) wearing black suits, which sets them apart
from the other performers. Gutter reveals that the duo is called the
Life Partners. As they begin to play Cash’s song, “When the Man
Comes Around,” Gutter strums his acoustic guitar and sings lead vocals,
while Rood plays the upright bass. Because there are so many variations
to Johnny Cash’s songs here tonight, from soul to folk to rockabilly,
and from mediocre to incredible, I feel very confident in saying that
this band is by far the most solid sounding and polished band here.
It is evident that the members of the Life Partners are anything but
new to live performances. To put it simply, they are outstandingly professional.
Over a Cardboard Sea is made up of Timothy Findlen on ukulele and vocals,
Jimmy Dority on accordion and vocals, and Rachel Miller on vocals. They
are singing, “There’s a Mother Always Waiting For You At Home, Sweet,
Home.” The band tells us that this was the very first song Johnny
Cash ever learned, and was taught to him by his mother. This band emulates
the kind of music you might hear in the early 1900’s. This is attributed
to the finger picking on the ukulele, the fast moving fingers on the
accordion, and the collaborative vocals. They also create this ambiance
with their comical, but melodramatic facial expressions and the older
generation type of clothes they wear, (like the threads you would see
in a picture of your grandfather in his early thirties.) The audience
is completely quiet as they perform because they’re more than singers
and musicians, they’re true entertainers. (Jill Harrigan)


Club Gallery, Providence, RI
Friday Night Decadence at Club Gallery (holds about 200) is a monster
mash-up of bands ranging from EBM (electronic body music) to electro,
gothic to horror punk. On Friday the 13th I check out the din of horror-garage
punk band the Jerktones, along with punk rock purists Tony Jones &
the Cretin 3.
First, on the decks spinning, is a promising young disc jockey, DJ Skunk,
who pirouettes in his creepers between the Damned, 45 Grave, and Richard
Hell & the Voidoids.
The Jerktones take the stage, complete with blood-soaked shirts and
zombie war face paint. Much of the undead crowd has come to see the
band’s new singer, Coffin Joe a.k.a . Joe Yglesias. A Providence punk
scene icon, Coffin Joe realized his burning ambition was to get away
from the long hours at his shop, Evolution Body Piercing, to pursue
his singing again. With Dead Jenny on bass, Pirate Hamster and Dan Jerkins
on guitars, and Just Tom on the drums, Coffin Joe belts out a buried
baritone on songs such as “Lady Frankenstein,” “Brain Eating Zombie
Girlfriend,” and my favorite “Goin’ Back To Kreepsville.”
Next is the former Jerktones’ vocalist and his new three-piece Providence
rock ’n’ roll band with a vintage punk/garage/psychobilly sound,
Tony Jones & the Cretin 3. Jones is on drums and sings a meatloaf
of unrequited lust in “Leather On Leather,” a simplistic back-bone
drum beat of “gimme leather on leather/ I want leather on leather.”
The band’s lead vocalist/guitarist Joey the Butcher (who also plays
in the Knightsville Butchers) performs a thug like cover of the Ramones’
“Chinese Rocks,” with such candor, any lil’ Cheetah flouncing
around the club would surely move out of the way. A video is shot of
this performance and can be seen on YouTube. (DJ Matthew

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