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Club Passim, Cambridge,
MA 3/22/09
It’s a mighty thrill to spend an evening at Club Passim with a major
member of Boston Rock elite, stepping outside his normal role as keyboardist
extraordinaire with the Cars (old or new). Ladies and gents, introducing
Mr. Greg Hawkes, ukulele aficionado! What is most unique about
this scenario is that Greg has just released a solo album dedicated
to the Beatles created entirely on ukuleles. Tres sweet and charming—and
very effective.
Playing to a full room of friends and fans, Greg opened solo for his
first set with a bevy of Cars’ tunes (“I’m in Touch with Your
World,” “Heartbeat City,” “Moving in Stereo”) before slipping
into some songs that helped explain his fascination for this tiny instrument
(throughout the night he switched from soprano-to-tenor-to-mando ukes).
He casually cross-referenced his choices with career moves, as he played
“Ukulele Blues” by Martin Mull (with whom he toured in mid-’70s),
“Sail Away” by Randy Newman (a major songwriting influence), and
“Here There and Everywhere” (he worked with Paul McCartney on his Flowers in the Dirt album). He also offered one new original,
“Mr. Ditto,” and the jubilant set closer, “Happy Together” by
The Turtles (he currently plays in a Flo & Eddie retrospective show
of their ’60s hits).
For his second set, Greg brought out two friends, Tim and Neil (“What’s
better than one uke?—three!!!”), for a fine overview of the new
CD, The Beatles UKe. Mostly performed as instrumentals,
though some with vocals, including “Yesterday,” “Honey Pie,”
“Eleanor Rigby,” “Yellow Submarine,” “Fool on the Hill,”
“For You Blue,” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.” The entire
audience sang, cheered, and fell under the spell of these magical interpretations.
To close out the show, he chose one of the Cars’ most beautiful tunes,
“Drive,” performed in a gentle, subtle delivery—who’s gonna
take you home, indeed! A wonderful low-key show by the elfin, Mr. Hawkes.
All you need is ukes!
(Harry C. Tuniese)

All Asia, Cambridge, MA
What sweet noises I hear from Banana Phonetic! I feel like colorful
wrapped candy is floating in the air and blueberries are bursting in
my mouth as if I were Charlie in the Chocolate Factory himself. I peek
up to see fingers ballet-dancing upon the core of the bass guitar, producing
the highest pitches it can. A blanket of keyboard is being laid out.
Experimental, to say the least. Next begins the clicking of percussion,
building up the anticipation until the band dives head first into a
pool of sweet reggae-influenced rock into “The Facts of Evolution.”
By the second song, All Asia is packed and I wonder, where did all these
people come from? Clearly, the experimental pop rock of Banana Phonetic
is magnetic. With guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, vocals, and imagination,
listening to Banana Phonetic is like catching a neon high-flying Nerf
ball directly between two fleshy palms. It’s tangible. It’s in one
piece. And it feels just right.

Magic Room, Brighton, MA 3/20/09
It’s an unseasonably cold
Friday night, I venture out to find the well disguised, or at least
visually ambiguous (from the outside) Magic Room. It is located in Brighton,
at the North Beacon Street Sound Museum. The Magic Room, itself
however is a showcase venue for bands. I’m asked for my mug shot to
be in Bone Gunn’s upcoming music video for their song “Flies.”
Metaphor For Everything is up first. Lead singer Brett Greene captivates
the audience with his dark lyrics. Equally as engaging as his words
is his offbeat comedy in between songs. Cracking on everyone from the
locals to the hosting band, his frontman potential shines.
Before Bone Gunn comes up next, the
room fills and the crowd is buzzing with anticipation. A man in a Vietnam
issue army jacket, a ski mask, and military goggles creeps around my
shoulder and nearly gives me a heart attack. Next thing I know, the
music starts and this masked man is up on stage singing. The first song
builds slowly but surely, with ethereal interludes breaking up a salsa-esque
bass groove. The song explodes with a drum part reminiscent of Nine
Inch Nails’ “Piggy.” The second song is straight-ahead rock
until the end bombards me with tribal drums, a tasteful guitar solo,
and a gut-wrenching scream from lead singer Bryan Kane. Throughout the
set Bone Gunn’s harmonically strange songs maintain integrity through
their pop structure. The final song, “Flies,” delivers tenfold.
At the end of the song, guitar player Brian Penny smashes his guitar
into innumerable pieces as he swings it around by its strings. It is
clear that the band has given every last ounce of energy they have.
I can’t wait to see what surprises Bone Gunn will have in the future.
(Anthony Viado)

All Asia, Cambridge,
MA 4/2/09
The Geeks are dressed to impress the decent-sized crowd, and if the
notes don’t get my attention, their ties do. They’ve got “When
Geeks Unit” written on them and each one matches each instrument color.
Corny, yes, but with the hee haw vocals and constant percussive beats,
the ties match the music. The lyrics to most of the songs have a dry
wit and there’s a good layering of musicianship—well put together
yet still fun and with a few pops that can make me tap my foot in places.
These are the types of angst songs about growing up that I would still
listen to, even though I’m grown up. They are caught somewhere between
a dark horror film and a sunny day. The dark side to their songs haunts
me, making me feel guilty about stuff I did in high school. I am still
not sure if that is all right with me.
(Emily Smith)

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