LIVE REVIEWS: June 2009

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RICK BERLIN & THE OLD STAG STRING
QUARTET
Hi-N-Dry/Armory Arts Center, Somerville, MA
5/9/09
One small step into the new residence of Hi-N-Dry and an eerie feeling
of calmness takes over. In a dimly lit room, framed memorabilia
of the late-Mark Sandman and Morphine, the indescribable (though impressive)
artwork of avant-garde artists, as well as a remarkable collection of
instruments, all adorn the walls. Leather couches and lavish oriental
rugs furnish the room. Tonight people of all ages have flocked
to see Rick Berlin. By doing so, they are also supporting young
people and the future of music education because ticket sale proceeds
benefit the Mark Sandman Music Project. Using his 2008 release,
Old Stag
, as a template, Rick performs each track from the album
alongside the Old Stag String Quartet. In true storyteller/artist
fashion, he alternates between song and spoken word with finesse.
From “Elle” who tiptoes through the heart with fireflies in her
hair, to the laugh out loud characteristics of a roommate named “Michiko”
with her seventy-year old fiancée, and the repetition of “love, love,
love…” throughout “Love on a Wire.” The Quartet’s arrangements
make the solemn “Unknown Soldier” all the more heartbreaking.
Rick even recites a letter from a friend at one point and presents a
scrapbook-esque slideshow all while assuming the persona of each character
he chooses to portray. It was within this intimate setting that
I realized how immensely talented Rick is, and how his music moves me.
His albums may be beautiful and even humorous at times, but one must
experience his live performance in order to truly feel the intensity
of emotion, and the media through which it is conveyed.
(Julia R. DeStefano)

BRETT ROSENBERG, FOX PASS
Church, Boston, MA
5/16/09
Add Fox Pass to Brett Rosenberg and you have enough electricity in this
one room to illuminate this whole town! Fox Pass is riding high from
their House of Blues gig opening for Eddie Money. With “Wanda,”
the band quickly wins over the crowd with their muscular power pop.
Singer/guitarist, Jon Macey’s Rickenbacker is a thing of beauty. So
is his skill at cushioning bittersweet lyrics with a catchy melody and
chiming guitars. Many of the pop gems that we are enjoying will be on
their upcoming CD produced by David Minehan. Although Fox Pass debuts “Fly
Away From Me,” it does have that trademark Macey hook. It is a blast
to hear “Front Page Girl”—rarely will you see a band who enjoys
performing their music this much. Macey and company send us to jangle
heaven one last time with “Hurry Cherie” from their much-anticipated
recording.
By Brett Rosenberg’s second number, “Taken,” I’m intoxicated
with some kinda honey sweet/whiskey kick. I ask myself how I have lived
in Boston without experiencing this artist who is so ideally suited
to my personal sensibilities. With Bobby D.’s celestial curls, the
harp in the rack, and that ultra sleek baby blue Danelectro, Rosenberg
lures me to the stage like a speedball Orpheus. All this stylistic perfection—and
he’s got substance, too: witty, intelligent songwriting ignited by
whiplash guitar that makes me invite spontaneous combustion. The self-effacing
humor of “Illegal Alien Girlfriend” is brilliant, alluding to the
fact that DOING HIM is “doing the job American girls won’t do.”
“My Good Gal” is darker, about losing his pregnant girlfriend to
his aunt who murders his kid before chowing down at the Shoney’s breakfast
buffet. Backed by Nashville’s righteous Joiners, Rosenberg delivers
a killer “What Goes On,” reducing me to a scarf-tossing teenybopper.
(Nancy Neon)

JOE TURNER & THE SEVEN LEVELS
PA’s Lounge, Somerville MA
5/19/09
It’s a pretty dreary and unresponsive crowd here at PA’s tonight,
which can either be attributed to “wow, we’re just groovin’ on
the tunes, man” or “you expect signs of life on a Tuesday night?”
I suspect the former. This Joe Turner outfit features no less than three
carry-overs from Abunai! (Joe up front, Dan on keyboard and bass, and
Joel on some gigantic sprawling electronic contraption), but the sound
is less stoner-experimental and more stoner-pop. As far as this sorta
thing goes, I like Narco Terror better (and that one’s an Abunai!/Ajda
conglomeration, so it’s still all in the family). But there are certainly
things to be said for JT & the 7L—for starters, they pull off
a real depth of sound (that’s probably Joel and the giant gizmo),
and some of the songs are tighter sounding than you’d expect, given
the genre. Also Joe’s vocals are noticeably stronger than in the past,
and that’s definitely all for the good. (Frank Strom)

THE KONKS, THE MAINTAINERS
Cantab Lounge, Cambridge, MA

5/15/09
The Maintainers are a four-piece
with two guitars, drummer, frontman, and no bass. They appear in dress
shirts and ties, with the gravelly-voiced vocalist in a burgundy jacket.
This band, which sounds like garage R&B is all about the frontman.
He’s wild. He plays harmonica. He writhes on the floor. The bass-less
instrumentation, though, sounds like listening to an old transistor
radio. The songs are your basic three-chord rock but have worn out lyrics
like “She’s a dirty liar/ When you’re playing with fire.” Overall,
though, the gravelly shouted vocals never change. The songs are hard
to distinguish. The set, though loud and energetic, gets tiresome.

I am looking forward to the Konks.
The first song, though with vocals more shouted than sung, is melodic
with a sing-along-y chorus. The second song has lots of wah pedal on
the guitar. I’ve heard they do some confrontational stuff and sometimes
piss off the audience by playing their entire set on Casio keyboards.
Tonight there are no gimmicks but I’m mildly amused by them; Bob the
guitarist seems obsessed with his pedal collection and Kurt, the stand
up drummer/lead vocalist, amazes me with his unconventional “kit”—the
snare drum is in a milk crate. They sound like basic punk but with a
really good and far-out guitar player. (Robin Umbley)

RED INVASION
The Turk House, Boston, MA
4/25/09
Raw music and thick-skinned kids surround the Turk House. They stand
outside smoking their cigarettes, and waiting for the next band. It’s
pretty much a scene out of your average punk movie, if you want the
truth. But the mood couldn’t be any better, and I’ve arrived just
in time. Red Invasion rocks the Turk House with thunderous drumming,
classic guitar chords, and good old-fashioned punk music. They take
the stage with a powerful energy, and waste no time in beginning their
set. From old favorites like “Disconnected,” to newer songs like
“October,” Red Invasion covers it all. When singer Joey Boy thrashes
his hands, throws the mic against his chest, and begins screaming the
lyrics, the crowd does the same. At one point, the audience takes hold
of the mic, which unites the fans and band. The result is one of the
best shows I’ve seen in a while. (Angela Mastrogiacomo)

KILLER ABS, GHOULS NIGHT OUT, THE
CELLO CHICKS

Church, Boston MA
5/14/09

While Church looks more like a
genuine bar than most of the usual nightclubs, it’s impressive to
see they’ve got an honest-to-gosh theater style stage (reminds me
of Dodge Street Grill’s similar set-up). It’s this very element
that makes the Cello Chicks look more at home (visually speaking) than
the other bands on the bill. To fill you in on the gag: the Cello Chick
schtick is playing classical music type covers of late ’60s/early
’70s rock (that’s rock as opposed to rock ’n’ roll, if you’re
savvy). It’s gimmicky, and there are other bands mining the same concept
(playing specific genre material in a different genre’s style). On
top if that, classical renditions of late ’60s rock isn’t even that
unique—unlike, say, orchestral takes on Eddie Cochran or the Chantels.
But unsolicited criticism aside, this is no thumbs down for the Cello
Chicks—I’ve seen them multiple times and always enjoy them. Mainly
because… well… they play real good. Ya can’t argue against talent,
y’know? Talent, skill, musicianship… one of those damn things.
And first on the evening’s selection
of “farewell” performances is Ghouls Night Out. With Vampi Ghoul
possibly moving out of state, things aren’t looking good for the band.
Of course, originally they were a quartet, but now they work as a trio.
My vote is they take a stab at it as a duo, dammit. Be a little tricky
without a bass player, but audio sampling technology has come a long
way these days. So has cloning, which is an even better option. Yeah,
that sci fi stuff kinda clashes with GNO’s surf/monster motif, but
alas, the advances in mad science have been pretty slow in coming, so
whatcha gonna do? For what it’s worth, GNO is sporting mucho groovy
new material tonight—songs from that long-promised second album. A
posthumous release, perhaps? Sure, sounds great… but I’m not certain
if this is a celebration or a public wake.
Continuing with the funeral procession,
Killer Abs take the stage for their “farewell” performance.
Yup, same story as the previous act, only substitute Michelle (guitar)
for Vampi. Okay, this isn’t the official final show for Killer Abs,
but something close to that. Hearing them storm through their typical
set of punk rock jukebox covers, I am again struck with the burning
desire to see them take this show to a bowling alley or a Holiday Inn
lounge. Looks like I’m never gonna get that one. Christ, what kind
of local music scene is this when Killer Abs never even got to play
at the roller derby? Shit like this never happens in New York!
We suck. And you read that here in the Noise first!
(Frank Strom)

STONES UNTURNED, HIGH OFF YOU, KENAKLIAN,
THE TARIOTS, ONE STEP AWAY, TIMELESS INFAMY, DESICCATION, THE JESSICA
PROUTY BAND

15th Annual WBCN Battle of the High School
Bands—Semi Finals

Harper’s Ferry, Allston, MA
3/29/09
Sometimes, I’m convinced rock ’n’ roll is dying, if it’s not
dead already. Call me jaded, but with clubs everywhere closing, the
music industry collapsing and the general apathy towards music these
days, there may be a point to that. However, just when I’m about to
lose my faith, I’m asked to be a judge for WBCN’s High School Battle
of the Bands. Why lo and behold! There are kids out there to whom all
this stuff still matters! And it’s awesome: the sheer amount of energy
and enthusiasm these kids give off. Not all the bands blow my socks
off (I may have to give some of them a few years to hone their chops)
but it’s good to know the spirit of rock ’n’ roll is still alive
and kicking.
First up is Stones Unturned from Newton. These guys play a genre that
I’d describe as prog-emo, which features some interesting guitar harmonies
backed by some technical songwriting. The frontman is confident but
there seems to be some tuning and timing issues with the band. This
may not be their year.
High Off You, is up next. They are from Lexington, MA, a town that spawned
the Dresden Dolls’ Amanda Palmer. This band is noticeably tighter
than the first and a lot more polished that some bands who have been
around a decade. The singer’s got a great voice and the band shares
a good-time punky-type feel. Unfortunately the last song is painfully
long, as it goes through an unnecessary amount of key changes. Until
that song, I thought a band this tight would have it in the bag.
Kernaklian, from Weston and Concord, do some cool a cappella stuff that
blends nicely with the pop-punk vibe they are sending. The best part
of their set is when their guitarist uses a violin bow during a ballad.
The irony is that I don’t think he even knows who Jimmy Page is. Chalk
another one up to the generational gap. Even still, I like these guys.
The Tariots, from Bedford and Lexington,
impress the crowd with some Beatle-like hooks. The songs make me wonder
if these guys spend too much time listening to the classic rock station.
Their frontman is confident as well, not at all afraid of public speaking.
I wish I had half the talent these kids had at their age. But a word
of advice, don’t talk into the mic between every song. You guys are
a rock show, not a lecture.
One Step Away, from Andover, features
rock with a progressive edge, kind of like a modern day Styx. I like
these guys. The singer with his dynamic range and charismatic charm,
reminds me of a young Will Dailey. They end with a tight epic jam and
I think there may be a new frontrunner for today.
Timeless Infamy, from Wayland, mixes metal with prog-rock. Their keyboards
really help shape the band and differentiate their sound. There are
a lot of cool drum fills but the band really needs to tighten it up
a bit to take it to the next level.
Desiccation, from Concord, blows me
away from the start. One part Korn, one part Scissorfight, this band
is all parts heavy. They are the first band that really looks like a
band. Even though I can’t understand one word the singer is growling,
his songs are the most memorable. Their guitar solos sound like a fleet
of fighter jets dive bombing a target. Not my favorite genre, but my
pick to win.
Hang on! The Jessica Prouty Band from Marblehead is up next. Jessica
is one of only two girls in the entire contest. Why are there so few
girls interested in music? Despite squeezing through the gender barrier,
the Jessica Prouty Band seems really pro. They announce tour dates and
already have had a song played on WBCN’s Boston Emissions.
What? And these guys are only in high school. Wow. They even have their
own theme music when the band does their intros.
Today’s winner? The Jessica Prouty
Band advances to the finals. (Kier Byrnes)

RED QUIET
T.T. the Bear’s Cambridge, MA
5/2/09
Catholic girls and hardened criminals may seek sanctuary in a church
for awhile until realizing what they’re missing and come out begging
for more. I guess that’s when you know you’re listening to Red Quiet.
Yes. You might forsake a lord to listen to Red Quiet, but it’s worth
the price. Punishing vocals pierce the severe beating of shirtless drumming
and the bass and guitar lines are crisp and refreshing like a good apple
pie on any winter night. Dipping from the stage onto the floor and engaging
the crowd with a continuous laid back intensity making quick fans of
everyone in the club, winding like a snake in the grass. Intriguing
bass walking and controlled systematic guitar just make the band tight.
The leads are great; the lyrics are mature and thought provoking and
memorable. (Emily Smith)

THE LUXURY, GENE DANTE & THE FUTURE STARLETS, THE DIRTY TRUCKERS
The Rumble Finals
The Middle East Downstairs
4/24/09
The defining moment of the 2009 WBCN Rumble for me was watching Allston Metal Fuehrer, Duncan Wilder Johnson going absolutely batshit crazy at the side of the stage of the Mid East Down. His band , Destruct-a-thon was not on that stage though. They were already gone, their evil temporarily eradicated by the judges in the semi-finals. The joint was currently being torn apart by the Dirty Truckers pouring out the rock during their desperate last set at the finals. The Truckers were playing “AM Stereo’ and Duncan was feeling it hard. I was too. Matter of fact, that song really defines the ’09 Rumble. It’s a love song Baker wrote about another band from Boston, and it’s the purest tune about indie rock, and why we care so deeply about it since the Replacements tried to find you at the ”Left Of The Dial.” It is now in my top 10 greatest songs ever written by a Boston band. Another is The Outlets’ “Sheila” …but I’ll get to them later.
2009 goes down as the year the Rumble was re-born. The year the planets lined up, Satan smiled and threw out the first goats and Boston ruled. Anngelle Wood and Shawn Clayton (of WBCN’s Boston Emmisions) put together 24 of exactly the right bands, and put them at exactly the right club at exactly the right time. Sophia and Mike’s constant blogging on Boston Band Crush and the phenomenon of so many people at the shows using twitter, facebook, the Noiseboard, and the Nerdboard to become real time e-‘zine journalists brought a buzz and an involvement that we’ve never seen before. It felt like “the Industry” was no longer really a part of what mattered at all. All that mattered was the band that was onstage and the constantly packed room they were igniting. I heard SxSW was the same way this year. This is a very good sign. This is what matters.
What else didn’t matter was who actually won. It didn’t at the preliminary nights, and it didn’t at the semifinals and the finals were no different. This night was typical of the 2009 Rumble. Every band brought their A game. No two were remotely alike, they were all very good and any one of them could have won.
The finals kicked off at a packed Mid East Down with the Luxury, delivering polished-as-fuck pop that some say is of the Brit variety.  But there’s really more Maroon5 arena gloss than Gallagher brothers menace. The Luxury is flawless at what they do, sell it hard and plenty of people were buying, including the judges that night, as they wound up winning. I just wish this band was a bit less Montpellier and little  more Manchester. Maybe if front man Jason Dunn had jumped off stage and punched Duncan in the face I would have been totally sold.
Speaking of Manchester, Gene Dante & the Future Starlets were in the second slot. They opened with “Method To His Madness,” Gene channeling Morrissey, Wayne Newton, Rick Berlin, and Liza Minnelli covering “Heroes” in a devastatingly hooked anthem to the hollow point promise of self-esteem.
I really dig what this band is going for. But, I like my glam with a bit more grit. There’s a wee bit to much Rent and too little “I spent the rent on cocaine but here’s a guitar riff that I stole from Mick Ronson while Johnny Thunders held stiletto to his throat for so you’re gonna love me anyway, darling.”
Both The Luxury and GD&TFS are highly stylized, well constructed whole packages. I can see either band getting a major label deal, though no one wishes that upon such nice people. My only wish is that they both had a bit more true rock ’n’ roll swagger, filth and fury. Still either of these bands could go places.
The Dirty Truckers are a band that is going nowhere fast and absolutely loving the ride. Their set at the finals was a joyous “we don’t give a fuck” classic rock ’n’ roll hootenanny. They don’t care about style, they don’t care about trends, and they don’t wanna know about your stupid video. The Truckers just bring great songs and play on that glorious edge of being brilliant and the wheels totally coming off. No fashion, just fun. They are a band that is doing all the right things at precisely the wrong time. There is glory in that. And Truth.
Same could be said for guest band the Outlets . The Barton brothers are undeniable evidence that deals with the devil really do happen. In their 1981 Rumble appearance they gave no quarter, had the best songs, rocked harder, tighter, louder, and faster than anyone else and lost in the first round. Twenty-eight years later nothing has changed and they have not aged a day. It’s a picture of Dorian Grey at light speed and songs like” Best Friends,” “Knock Me Down,” and “Eddie” are still as flawless as anyone in Boston has ever produced. The Outlets ripped the stage to shreds (Ha!) in front of the 40 people who cared at all, and made a few bucks and went home. That’s just how it goes when you’ve sold your soul for immortality.  (Jesse Von Kenmore)

We get a lot of calls and emails
from bands requesting coverage of their live shows. Please be advised
that shows are never assigned for review. Noise writers cover what they
choose to attend. It’s logistically impossible for us to honor or
acknowledge these requests. The Noise has always had its ears close
to the ground in Greater Boston. If you’re doing something even remotely
exceptional, we’ll be the first to tell the world. If you’re horrible,
same thing.

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