LIVE REVIEWS: Oct 2009

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THE RUDDS
Toad, Somerville MA
8/30/09
The Rudds’ final
night of another month long John Powhida residency reaffirms everything
I love about the band. It is bittersweet in that the band is no more—their
last show was over 14 months ago. But as the packed room testifies,
there is something special about the Rudds. It’s difficult to avoid
hyperbole when describing music that hits me in such a visceral, life-affirming
way. Early favorites like “Dance With Me” and “Something Great”
are the musical equivalent of everything new and exciting in life. Shifting
melodies, witty lyrics about love and life, and not always predictable
chord changes build, layer and explode at the bridge, unleashing emotions
of hopefulness and joyful abandon. Vocal sidekick Andrea Gillis’s
low, throaty voice is the perfect foil for John’s, with its cutting
clarity. Whether singing about eccentric urban characters (“Downtown
Freddie Brown”) or a slightly twisted love affair (“Roslindale”),
Powhida not only brings the rock and soul, he tells a story. The band
(Tony Goddess, Nathan Logus, John Brookhouse, and Dave Lieb—and Jim
Zavadoski on one tune) show much power and finesse and are more than
up to the task of backing up their singer’s showmanship. Whether it’s
the soulful balladry of “Keep My Love,” the mysterious delicacy
of “F# Into C”, or the ballsy swagger of “Gotta Get Out of Rhode
Island” (new), Powhida’s talents are at the forefront of the band.
Near the end of the set, the polka-dot shirt and tie wearing Powhida
stands on a chair—the man demands to be SEEN. There aren’t many
people in our rock scene with this sort of charisma (and wicked sense
of humor), so when you find one, my advice is to sit up and take notice—or
better yet, dance and sing along. (Misty Lane)

JASON BENNETT & THE RESISTANCE,
LENNY LASHLEY & FRIENDS, DEATH & TAXES

Harper’s Ferry, Allston, MA
9/5/09
This is the first Death
& Taxes show since singer/guitarist Jeff Morris moved to Chicago,
but as bassist Mike Savitkas would later tell me, it’s no big deal
because playing in Death & Taxes is like riding a bike or getting
laid; you don’t forget how to do it. Well, I haven’t ridden a bike
in a while, but the set proves his point, as Death & Taxes is in
fine form, the only misstep being the flubbing of some improvised lyrics
on a still enjoyable “For the Money.” The crowd eats up the more
raucous numbers like “Orange Line,” but it’s the slower ones that
shine brightest, most notably the “heavy mellow” as Morris puts
it of “Green River,” a chilling tale of a young woman’s rape and
murder that simmers along until it explodes via a face-melter of a solo
from Morris, who is in virtuosic form on this night. A couple of strong
new songs prove that Morris’ relocation thankfully won’t spell the
end of this band.

While the return of
Death & Taxes is certainly welcomed by the crowd, there’s no mistaking
that it’s Lashley, whose public appearances have been exceedingly
rare as of late, who is the evening’s main draw. Joined by Darkbuster
bandmates Amy Griffin and Danny O’Halloran (all of whom are decked
out in T-shirts with a picture of serial concert attendee and notoriously
nice guy Rob DeWitt), Lashley treats the audience to a stripped-down
set of covers, Darkbuster tunes and a couple new songs. The decision
to open with a take on the Cops theme is a bit odd, but it’s
followed with Darkbuster’s “Try to Make It Right,” a straightforward,
heartbreaking plea for redemption that better establishes the mood.
The covers are a bit hit or miss. The trio finds the soul in Kiss’s
“Hard Luck Woman” and the passion in Billy Bragg’s classic “A
New England” (the set’s high point), but I can’t get behind an
Eagles song in any situation. Lashley’s sandpapery voice is emotive
and effective throughout, providing songs like “Good Times” a sense
of melancholy that isn’t as obvious on record; Griffin’s her usual
aces self on both guitar and melodica, and O’Halloran deftly keeps
the whole thing tethered. When the set ends, the crowd erupts into a
chant of “Lenny! Lenny!” It’s as genuinely sweet a moment as you’re
likely to encounter at a punk rock show. Here’s hoping we get to see
Lashley a lot more often going forward.

Poor Jason Bennett
& the Resistance. Following Lashley on this night is a less than
enviable task. Much of the crowd seems to have spent its allotment of
energy for the evening, and it’s also getting kind of late. When the
band takes the stage, much of the audience has either left or retreated
to the back corners to talk. Unfortunately, JB&R is one of those
bands that really tend to feed off the crowd, and as a result, their
set seems less dynamic than usual. That said, smart and impassioned
numbers like “Edge of the World” and “Hope Dies Last” still
strike with force, and the group genuinely seems so happy to be part
of such a great bill that it’s hard not to walk out of the club with
a smile on your face. (Kevin Finn)

THE BLACKJACKS
(reunion), THE NEW ALIBIS, CLASSIC RUINS
T.T. the Bear’s,
Cambridge MA
6/20/09
Better late than never
for this, and that applies cryptically to much of tonight’s shenanigans.
For instance, many of the young’uns in tow weren’t even born when
Classic Ruins started out. What hasn’t already been said about them?
Not enough, if ya ask me, and even if ya don’t. They’re tough, smart,
funny and tuneful, which is a rare all-in-one coup for any band, but
these yokels could do it in their sleep and, remarkably or otherwise,
just keep getting better. Frank Rowe’s sandpaper-dipped-in-molasses
voice suits his wry lyrics splendidly (although the sound mix is not
kind to him tonight), and Carl Biancucci is as busy-yet-tasteful a bassist
as you’ll ever hear anywhere (as in ever, anywhere). Subject
matter covers all the crucial topics, from physical maladies (“Heart
Attack”) to chemical solutions (“Nyquil Stinger”) to heartfelt,
romantic longing (“Geraldine I Need Money”). In short, they show
the whippersnappers (and the rest of us) how it’s done. They’re
State-of-the-Lost-Art.

While still in their
own early stages, members of the New Alibis have decades’ worth of
collective trenchwork behind ’em, and it sounds like it. My immediate
impression is that their sound is just too big for the room, and I mean
that in the best possible way. It’s a steady roar that still never
smothers the arrangements. The material is of the sincere, blue-collar
anthem variety, mixing up old and new sensibilities while never lapsing
into shtick. Almost like later Social Distortion if that band didn’t
suck so consistently, but with scads more thwack and deliberation. Perfect
for drinking, but just as good for not, another rare double-whammy
these days. While all of ’em are in seamless lockstep, it should be
mentioned that bassist JulieTwoTimes and drummer Jesse Von Kenmore make
the perfect rhythm section for such an attack. With the right songs
(and they’re almost there), they could blast outta this town like a megaton
burrito fart.

Although an avid fan
of (Blackjacks ringleader) Johnny Angel’s current (unrelated) activities
(far, and far-removed, from the trails he blazed here long ago), I must
admit I was never that big on his projects back-in-the-day, mainly because
(with a few exceptions) I was still emerging from my high-school art-fag
haze. While Angel was serving meat and potatoes (and an occasional helping
of corn-y), I was off looking for the cheese-and-sweets tray. By the
end of their set tonight, I’m smackin’ my forehead like the douche
in the V-8 ads, wondering what the fuck I’d been thinking all those
years. It’s the original three-piece line-up, and all the hits (yes,
hits, and not just locally, not even just in the U.S.) are here, in
all their grim-but-redemptive, wickedly infectious wise-ass whomposity.
There is death, disease, and marvelous black humor in these songs, and
they’re played hard and desperately, as if for the last time (which,
sadly, it may well have been). Fuck. Better late than never.

Mark Lind & the Unloved headlined this show, I regret that I was unable to stay, heard great things. (Joe
Coughlin)

THE
SUMMER VILLAINS

Bull
McCabe’s, Somerville, MA
8/28/09
It
seems like tonight will be just an ordinary Friday night. Avoiding an
oncoming thunder and lightning storm, a small group of friends and I
duck into what seems like a nice, cozy, little bar called Bull McCabe’s
just as the Summer Villains take the stage. Being so happy just to get
out of the rain, we don’t notice that we’ve walked straight into
a hive of zombies gathered to hear their favorite band. We’re too
scared to move, so we just order a beer and sit at the bar, hoping to
blend in. I put on my most menacing scowl and drag one foot slightly,
hoping to blend in with this pack of monsters. The band, unfazed by
the wraiths tune in on the stage, pick up their instruments and one
by one play some country rock and Americana that would even make the
ghost of Johnny Cash smile. A few members of the undead audience start
calling out for their favorite Summer Villains song called “Beach
Cats.” It’s extremely catchy little song about, you guessed it,
beach cats. The band, knowing that their very lives depend on the outcome
of this song, try to hold off on playing it until finally they have
no choice. Fortunately for them, it’s a success. The crowd goes nuts;
zombies are doing the hoedown and ghoulies are stomping their feet.
The band finishes the song and things settle down for a bit, but the
audience still wants more “Beach Cats” and continues to request
the song even though its already been played. At this point, the band
starts to get mad, and with a howl, their skin transforms into a collection
of hair, claws, and muscles. Suddenly I’m staring at a pack of ferocious
werewolves. The drummer doesn’t transform, he’s apparently just
filling in tonight. The lycanthropes leap out into the crowd, mauling
and mutilating the horrified onlookers. I decide I better leave. Unfortunately,
a few of my friends don’t make it out, but you know what they say
about escaping a pack of ravenous werewolves; you don’t have to be
the fastest runner, you just have to be faster than the slowest runner.
(Kier Byrnes)

MAGIC MAGIC, PRETTY & NICE,
YOU CAN BE A WESLEY

Boston University Central,
Boston, MA
9/11/2009
Bass beats through
the walls as I walk down the back stairs at BU Central on Friday night—is
this the right place? You bet. Friday starts out with student
DJs spinning beats for the largely student-based crowd sporting everything
from country club argyle to SoHo vintage originals. Everything
remains relatively calm until the free Rockstar kicks in after the WTBU
giveaways and the DJ puts on some Passion Pit, a rising Cambridge-based
indie electro group. Commence, dance party.

All of this only grows
when Saara Untracht-Oakner of You Can Be a Wesley jumps on stage in
her tiger themed onesie and starts belting out the upbeat “Stuck in
a Battle.” With video illustration to back them, thanks to Boston
College’s Ryan McDaid, the indie pop quartet sets the tone for the
rest of the evening, playing mostly off their recently released album
Heard Like U
s featuring single “Creatures.”

Next up, Pretty &
Nic—don’t be fooled by the glittering pink drum set. This
Allston, Mass. based group is bursting with uniquely composed indie
rock songs designed to blow your mind until you’re jumping around
and knocking things over with them. As the video show continues
Pretty & Nice open with the haunting dissonances of “Piranha,”
building energy with hit song “Grab Your Nets” and catchy single
“Tora Tora Tora”–and guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Mendicino on the
ground (along with pieces of that lovely pink drum set). After
premiering new song labeled “Capsules” on the set list, they end
their set emphatically with a cover Blink 182’s “Dumpweed” (naturally)
and VJ McDaid screaming into the mic alongside good friend and guitarist/vocalist
Holden Lewis.

Finally Salem, Mass.
based Magic Magic ends the evening. One of their two, yes two,
drummers—the one who famously sports a wolf hat during their performances—celebrates
his 21st birthday with the crowd. Magic Magic offers
strong indie folk performance complete with John Mellencamp praises
as the crowd very slowly disperses, performing such songs as “Sleepy
Lion” and “All I Know.” All in all, a good night on the
indie underground scene in Boston. (Ashley Schneider)

THE SINBUSTERS

PA’s Lounge, Somerville,
MA


9/3/09


You know when you walk
up to a bar and see a starfish in a lady’s hair and a man in a lovely
pink dress it’s going to be a good night. One guy looks like Andy
Warhol’s ghost. Back from hell? Sure feels like it. A drum starts
toppling and someone rushes to help, but with a wave of a stick Seth
the drummer excretes, “F-off I’m killing these things—so leave
it.” I take it all in. I love the way Nick (lead guitar) screams and
the visual stimulus of Jen (tambourine) and Pat (keyboards). I don’t
really care about lyrics tonight—I just want to scream along with
them. Experiencing the Sinbusters is like watching a murder and being
killed all at once. Good show, and I love the accessories.
(Emily Smith)

 

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