LIVE REVIEWS: Nov 2009

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ORCHESTRA MORPHINE, ELASTIC
WASTE BAND, TREAT HER RIGHT, ZILI MISIK, MEAN CREEK

The (2009) Mark Sandman Memorial
Concert

the Middle East Downstairs
9/27/09
Due to the expected
rain, the concert is moved at the last minute from Pacific Park to the
Middle East Downstairs. The outdoor show was to be from 1:00-7:00pm but
The Middle East window is shorter, needing to end by about 5:00pm. The
first band I see is Mean Creek. They have some interesting harmonies
and play with good intensity.

Then there is an all-women
ska/world beat/roots band called Zili Misik. Funky, soulful, groova
licious,
and very entertaining with the crowd.

Up next is Treat Her
Right. They play like local heroes who still matter regardless of the
national stature and fame they briefly tasted. They shake the roof like
a ravenous shark and tear it off! David Champagne is a great frontman
and plays inspired lead guitar. This is now the third Treat Her Right
reunion I’ve seen, and he’s never played better. As usual, Jim Fitting virtually
throws himself into his harmonica playing. They do a version of Robert
Johnson’s “If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day” in which Jim
sings lead and plays as if possessed. Joined by guest vocalist Tim Gearan,
“I Think She Likes Me” gets the crowd good and riled up. They start and
end their set with the first and last songs from the album
Tied To The Tracks (“Junkyard” and “Back To Sin City”),
I’m taken by how much that album and Treat Her Right’s music in general
still has a hold on me over 20 years later.

With time winding down,
Dana Colley, Billy Conway, and Jeremy Lyons (Elastic Waste Band) play
a set of Morphine songs. Jeremy is excellent filling the vocal shoes
of Mark Sandman. Dana acts as the host.

Then it’s Orchestra
Morphine: Laurie Sargent is captivating both in voice and performance
style. She sings most of the leads, with Christian MacNeil taking that
role on a couple songs (as in the first Sandman memorial concert in
1999, MacNeil filled in for Sandman’s vocals very comfortably). The
audience bounces enthusiastically, charged up with heads-a-bobbing as the
band rips into “Top Floor, Bottom Buzzer.” Up-tempo and with big
radio play when it came out, this song could easily have been the show
closer. But they follow it up with a song that was one of the most memorable
from the first Sandman memorial concert of ten years ago. That show was
held outside and had to deal with rain. One of its most beautiful moments
was when a thunderstorm gave way to a soft drizzle, and Laurie Sargent
came out singing “You Look Like Rain.” The crowd had begun to disperse
but came back at the sound of her vocals. This led to an absolutely communal
moment with the crowd singing the chorus under the gently falling rain. The
2009 show is moved inside to avoid the rain. Drummer Billy Conway deadpans,
“the drummer speaks,” talks about the aims of the Mark Sandman Music
Education Project including the notion of strengthening community between
future musicians. Orchestra Morphine closes the concert with “You
Look Like Rain” and the crowd takes over the choruses. As the song winds
down, the band walks through the crowd and out of the hall. The crowd continues
to sing the chorus for a few minutes. Finally, one of the afternoon’s
MCs comes on stage to apologetically say, “Thanks—the show’s over.”
At which point, the band suddenly re-emerges for a few more choruses.
Then it’s over (probably around 6:00pm). It’s another beautiful
moment of community with what has become a family tree of musicians
in a city with a proud music tradition. (Perry Persoff)


MISSION OF BURMA, BIG BEAR

MIT East Campus Courtyard,
Cambridge, MA
10/4/09
The weather gods have
spared us the expected monsoon, so it’s a perfect autumn day for a
perfect show. I miss openers Eula, from Connecticut, unfortunately,
since the sounds I heard on their site earlier today would seem the perfect
complement.

I’m a little intimidated
by the prospect of seeing Big Bear, as their self-titled ’05 full-length
was one of the harshest (albeit splendidly so) assaults I’ve ever
encountered. And while that record is something I can turn off and put
away, I’m determined to stand my ground and let ’em eviscerate me.
Before starting, I see that keyboards have replaced one guitar and wonder
if they’ll have chilled out since then. And at the first notes, I
think there’s a new singer, as the slasher-film death wails have been
replaced by more of an anxious, non-gutteral yelp. But you can bet your
frosty ass, this is Big Bear all the way and then some. They’ve been
called everything from math rock to metal to hardcore. I hear it as
punk if played by Einstein, which actually makes it psychedelic, although
hardly what you’d call a groovy trip, man. Wickedly complex, decidedly
disturbing, and utterly riveting. There’s nothing you’ll merrily
whistle on the way home (usually the clincher for me), but it infects
my brain in ways and places that apparently needed infecting, and I
still can’t figure out how they do it. Two words: fuckin’ insane.

Preceding Burma’s
set, a proclamation from the City Council is read, declaring it Mission
of Burma Day citywide (for real). It’s also two days before the release
of their new CD,
The
Sound The Speed The Light
,
but copies are for sale, and they fly off the merch table. The first
three numbers are post-reunion tracks, and then the band does the entire
new record, in reverse order, making this (I’m pretty sure) the first
time the band hasn’t done even one pre-breakup song in the main set.
The encore is comprised of their first radio tapes and the first single,
in honor of WMBR (just inches away). The new stuff is up there with
their best, which would sound impossible (if not ridiculous) applied
to most anyone else, the only real difference being more brevity (five
songs under three minutes, four under four, and three under five, and
not a wasted second in the bunch, and no shortage of the usual thrills
or surprises). Their whole approach remains confrontational yet sympathetic,
damaged yet liberating, caustic yet beautiful, a rare feat and essential
treat, with of course, plenty of wicked pissa guitaahh! The kinda thing
that makes me grateful I was born here (also for real).
(Joe Coughlin)



BARRENCE WHITFIELD & THE MONKEYHIPS

Precinct Bar
Somerville, MA
10/1/09
It’s cause for celebration
that Barrence Whitfield has a new band together and is making the rounds
again. Not that he disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle or anything,
but he seemed to be pretty low profile over the last several years.
Well, no more! With a return of this magnitude, and the students back
in town, it’s no surprise that Precinct is jam-packed with drunk,
sweaty, dancing bodies. By my count we’ve got… mmm… a whopping
fifteen people here. By the end of the night, make that seven. AAAAUUGGH!!!
What is
wrong with you idiots?!? This is Barrence fucking
Whitfield!!! Legendary Boston rock juggernaut!!! “But, Frank, I’m
too old for this stuff. I’m too tired. I’ve got work tomorrow. I’ve
got a wife and six kids to feed, y’know?” Yeah, well what about
Barrence? He’s got a second mortgage, twelve ex-wives collecting alimony,
and over 20 Grand in credit card debt… yet he could still find time
in his nightmarish existence to come and rock your undeserving asses
off! And how he can generate excitement and energy in a nearly empty
room is amazing. He commandeers the entire place, performing from atop
a table, then body-surfing across the empty dance floor like John Belushi
doing a Joe Cocker impression! He valiantly tackles Little Richard’s
“Keep A Knockin” (which he claims is out of his vocal range), not
only pulls it off but turns it into a sweeping musical epic (like
War And Peace
with a beat)!
I’m exhausted and I’m just watching. Imagine what he might do if there was an
actual audience present! Come and find out. Now. (Frank
Strom)



THE ACCIDENT THAT LED ME TO THE WORLD

Club Passim
Cambridge, MA
9/20/09
I dropped into Club
Passim to check out a highly touted up and coming folk act from central
Mass.: the Accident that Led Me to the World. This Accident is a chamber
trio of deep thinking, introspective, solipsistic, mood makers of the
highest order. “And we don’t sing about babies!” cracks Raianne
Richards (vocals, guitar, clarinet), referring to the opening act’s
newfound fatherhood. Indeed they don’t! Opening with two new tunes
from their imminent third album, their music rises and falls on somber,
articulate dynamics from the gorgeous acoustic bass playing of Zack
Ciras and the delicate accompaniment of Raianne, but it is their main
songwriter, Mark Mandeville (vocals, guitar, banjo), who pilots this
group. He explains that their albums were formed as a trilogy that explores
the concept of an allegorical narrative involving a boy who sails away
to an island to be alone and his eventual growth and discovery. Using
an angular, concise mixture of bluegrass picking, sea chantey sing-a-longs,
country-driven and folk singer-songwriting, they create a unique, pensive
satisfaction, showcasing shadow and light. Indeed, another evening of
first-rate entertainment. (Harry C. Tuniese)


SUSAN TEDESCHI
Topsfield Fair
Topsfield, MA
10/9/09
The outdoor show gets
move inside Coolidge Hall when the persistent drizzle would ward off
listeners having to sit on wet haystacks. A bluesy romp starts the night
with Susan Tedeschi’s five-piece backing band warming up their solos.
Susan’s guitar style ranges from BB King to Jimi Hendrix (without
the feedback), but her dynamo is her husky wailing voice. “Butterfly”
starts like a clip from
Shaft played by the Band of Gypsies. Susan stretches
out politically, encouraging everyone to vote with educated choices
in “People.” In her holey-knee jeans, hair pulled back on top, and
Beatle boots on the bottom, Susan appears to be your everyday gal next
door. The band would sound like the Allman Brothers if they threw in
some double lead solos between Susan and second excellent lead guitarist,
Dave Yoke. But they don’t need to; Susan’s trademark voice carries
the show on its own. Note: this was a free show once you were in the
Topsfield fairgrounds—quite a deal. Now I need to smell some cattle.
(T Max)

 

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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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