LIVE REVIEWS: Dec 2009

Comment on any Live Review in Reader's Respo™
Make sure you title your comment so we know what you're talking about.
You can also discuss local music 24/7 at The Noise Board

BarrenceLive297.jpg

BARRENCE WHITFIELD & THE MONKEY
HIPS

The C-Note, Hull, MA
11/6/09
Having not seen Whitfield in well over
25 years, I stupidly expect something of a walk-through. Stupid because
there’s a reason he’s still at it and remains, as ever, a huge draw
in Europe and elsewhere (which is part of why he’s not around here
much in the first place). It’s great to be wrong sometimes. Whitfield
specializes in a kinda gonzo-swamp-R&B-Cajun-psychobilly-gospel-revival-voodoo
thing, which is as pointless to explain as it is simple to enjoy. His
presence is a given, with a voice as sweet and classic as any seasoned
belter, and a rafter-rattlin’ wail that makes Little Richard sound
like Maurice Gibb. But you quickly realize it’s no act. The guy is
possessed. Tonight, he’s the usual jumping bean, speaking in tongues
and crawling across the floor. But it’s his latest lineup (veterans
of the Spurs, Memphis Rockabilly Band, many more) that takes it to another
planet. Songs with even one or two chords are a total hornet’s nest,
but still symphonically intricate. If you came to shake your ass, they’ve
got it covered, but if you wanna sit and listen, you’ll be amazed
at what’s going on. (Joe Coughlin)


AMERICAN HI-FI

The Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge,
MA
11/11/09
At 10:30pm, American Hi-Fi plugs in
and completely annihilates the fans, opening with “Surround” from
their self-titled debut. Frontman Stacy Jones graciously thanks the
crowd and states that American Hi-Fi is back! With that, the quartet
plunges into favorites such as “Teenage Alien Nation,” “Hi-Fi
Killer,” and “Another Perfect Day.” The band also introduces a
handful of material from their forthcoming album, including “Keep
It Like a Secret,” “Fight the Frequency,” and “Acetate.” The
band saves their gems for last—”Flavor of the Weak” and “The
Art of Losing” from the album of the same name. Oddly enough, most
songs from Hearts on Parade are untouched with the exception
of “Geeks Get the Girls.” Aside from some engaging banter with the
crowd, music is the priority and it’s clear that the band is running
on four cylinders once again. Their last song, “Wall of Sound,”
ends with an incredible three-minute jam where bassist Drew Parsons,
drummer Brian Nolan, and guitarists Jamie Arentzen and Stacy Jones give
the fans their money’s worth. Finally, the band comes back for an
encore to wrap up the evening with the classic Cheap Trick cover “Surrender.”
It’s nice to see the former drummer for Letters to Cleo keeping his
vision of great rock ’n’ roll alive for over a decade now.
(Rob Watts)


PLANETOID, NEUROLOGICAL DAMAGE

Harpers Ferry, Allston, MA
1/4/09
Green Jelly was supposed to headline
this show, but they canceled their whole tour. Jerks.

I’d read up on Neurological Damage
before the show, and their MySpace page listed Mr. Bungle and Faith
No More as influences. Being a big fan of both bands, I had high expectations.
The lead singer at first looks like a cross between King Buzzo and Rob
Tyner from the MC5, but when the music comes on, he’s all Mike Patton
with a ’fro. Same mannerisms, same vocal register and same spastic
energy—a fantastic lead singer. The rest of the band jumps into a
sound reminiscent of FNM, but with a lot more emphasis on bass. Captain
Dusty’s got a serious Billy Sheehan influence on his sound, and he
smokes on the frets. Billy D on the guitar looks and plays like Alex
Lifeson’s love child by way of Jim Martin. Rusty McStix is hammering
away in the back, concentrating intently like Neil Peart. The three
of them are tight to within a tolerance of a few microns, bursting into
massive lead runs with the greatest of ease. I dig their originals,
but their cover of FNM’s “Surprise You’re Dead” impresses me
the most.

Planetoid was the other reason I committed
to this show far in advance. It’s not every day you get to see aliens
from the year 3032. They’ve got the whole space funk thing going,
with a mean, phased guitar sound that lazes right into your brain. It’s
a formidable acoustic weapon they wield, and their music draws me into
their space fantasy. At first I think it’s just because of the four
hot, provocatively dressed space girls dancing and playing with their
hula hoops on stage (they look like they’re from a cover of an old
Heavy Metal
magazine), but when they leave I understand that Planetoid’s
just got a catchy, unique sound going on. They GROOVE! I have heard
that with the properly motivated audience (daylight savings time is
taking its toll tonight), they can perform the feats of space-time distortion
and dimensional phasing boasted of on their MySpace page. Watching them
play, I want to believe. (Joe Hacking)


THE VARMINTS

Cantab Lounge, Cambridge MA
10/31/09
No surprise that Halloween at the historic
Cantab Lounge would feature a band with its own connection to history.
That would be the Varmints, featuring legendary Real Kids guitar-man
Billy Borgioli. It’s straight ahead guitar-driven hard rock with no
beads, bobbles, or frills. Plenty of solos and breaks to showcase Billy’s
skills, too, but what strikes me tonight is more his voice—not the
key element to the Varmint stew, but pretty darn compelling. I hadn’t
noticed that before. Okay, it’s all very macho and virile stuff here—the
sorta thing you imagine the animals listen to in the jungle during mating
season. However, the Varmints also have an indefinable quality of integrity
about them—my guess is they could give a shit about pleasing critics
or
listeners. They’re pleasing themselves, and that’s the best
motivation for any band. (Frank Strom)


THE SEAMONSTERS

Precinct, Somerville,
MA
10/11/09
The Sea Monsters
are
an eight-piece band that features Christian McNeill

and Jesse Dee as dueling frontmen.
They have been holding residency at Precinct in
Union Square for what seems like forever, and in case you didn’t know,
it’s the place to be on Sunday nights and tonight is no exception.
The room is packed to the gills to see a virtual who’s who of Boston
musicians; most nights it’s Mike Miksis on bass, Lyle Brewer on guitar
and Tom Arey on drums with a three-piece horn section composed of Scott
Aruda (trumpet), John Aruda (sax), and Jeff Galindo (trombone). With
a band full of working musicians, frequently there are substitutions
and guests. The music is a blend of groove, rock, and roots that lends
itself perfectly to the occasional improvisation or extended jam. Occasionally
Americana hero, Tim Gearan will swap out Lyle on guitar when Lyle is
on the road touring as Sarah Borges’s side man. Tonight, Billy Beard
fills in on drums, Paul Ahlstrand on sax and they sound amazing as usual.
Two lovely guests from the band Gretel also accompany Christian on vocals,
Reva Williams on banjo and Melissa Myers on keys and add to the onstage
magic. If you haven’t made your way to see the Sea Monsters yet, you
should bump it up on the list of things to do. (Kier Byrnes)



THE DOWNBEAT 5

Middle East, Cambridge MA
10/29/09
Okay, with the switch to all-digital
broadcasting, I haven’t been getting my daily fix of All My Children
and One Life to Live. But in recent months DB5 has been doing
its best to provide my required dosage of soap opera. Losing their drummer
and sitting on the sidelines for six months wasn’t exactly high drama,
but it sure seemed like a cliffhanger to me! At long last the plot line’s
been resolved in the form of a new drummer—they claim his name is
Jeff Norcross and he’s purportedly from the Weisstronauts. Appearances
are often deceiving, and Franky-Boy ain’t no dummy—I think this
so-called “Jeff” is secretly Tad Martin’s look-alike Ted Orsini
(rightful heir to the Orsini Vineyards). Whoever he really is,
“Jeff” totally takes command of the material tonight—nothing timid
or uncertain—and DB5 sound great (best band in town, remember?). New
cover material, too: “Justine,” a barnburner with JJ Rassler on
vocals, and “Seesaw,” an aggravated-with-love song. Taking in this
rousing performance, one would never suspect the dark secrets the rest
of the band are hiding—JJ is keeping mum about his alternate personality
“Nikki Smith,” Jen D’Angora has discovered hubby Ed was the driver
who ran over Brooke English’s daughter, and worst of all, Mike Yocco
is the notorious Crowbar Killer! Now if you’re looking for Luke and
Laura and the infamous freeze-ray, you’ll have to tune if for Muck
& the Mires… (Frank Strom)


THE CLASSIC RUINS, DOOM BUGGIES,
THE PANDEMICS, SATIN KITTENS

Cantab Lounge, Cambridge, MA
10/22/09
I was out on a Thursday evening with
my better half, Billy Varmint, putting up posters for our Halloween
show. Rick Harte, Ace of Hearts mogul appears, telling us that his wife,
Jane Elizabeth has a band called the Satin Kittens who do Velvet Underground
covers. Hey! I’m sold!

The Satin Kittens are a duo made up
of Jane Elizabeth and Dianna Maneksha. Both women sing and switch off
on keyboards and acoustic and electric guitars. As much as I worship
at the altar of garage rock, it IS refreshing to see someone doing something
fresh and interesting. Jane was playing country music when she met Dianna
at an open mic and they hit it off. Tonight is only their fourth gig.
“I’ll Be Your Mirror” opens the set. Jane and Dianna’s voices
sound appealing collectively or individually. Also there is a fascinating
juxtaposition of Jane’s ice maiden mystique and Dianna’s beaming
effervescence. Highly recommended!

This is the second time that I’ve
seen the Pandemics. Frankly I was surprised that they sound so much
like the Radio Knives despite the departure of their bass player, Alan
Levesque. The Pandemics are different from your garden-variety garage
rock band. They are a fierce power trio that should not be missed. The
Pandemics are one of the loudest, hardest rocking bands around. Singer/guitarist
Steve Fay sets the pace, starting at a high energy level and intense
emotional pitch. The band never lags or falters. Steve uses Orange amps
for that extra crunch! His flying V has a kind of oak parquet finish.
The rhythm section combines hard-hitting percussion and solid bass playing
to lay down an indestructible foundation. While many local bands aim
to reignite the torch of bands like the Sonics, the Pandemics launch
their flamethrowers MC5 style. Highlights are “Cursed,” “Hello
Hell,” and “Digging Out.”

The first time I saw the Doom Buggies,
I thought, why hasn’t anyone told me I need to see this band?! So
let me tell you right now—YOU NEED TO SEE THIS BAND! First off, the
name, though very clever, is misleading. I thought I’d be hearing
a spooky surf band. The Doom Buggies play more of a progressive pop.
Leader Bruce Allen and company are in a different league than most local
rock bands with their high quality vocals, songwriting, and musicianship.
I can’t recall seeing a show that was this tight—one song flows seamlessly
into the next. There’s no dead air. Bruce’s guitar star posturing
is done with irony and wit. He adds some interest to the show when he
invites Frank Rowe up to the stage to sing “Geraldine.” Bruce is
an avid Monkees fan; he delivers a cover of “Love Is Only Sleeping”
that is an amazing homage! The Buggies deserve your love, admiration,
and currency, both domestic and international.

What can be said about the righteous
Classic Ruins that has not been said?! These guys have been rocking this
town since 1978. In fact, I’ve been a fan of the Ruins before I even
moved to the Boston area. They won me over when I saw them Saturday,
November 11, 2001 at the Kirkland with the Downbeat 5 and Lyres. The
Ruins are a treasure and we should be paying them tribute everytime
they hit the stage. Tonight, Rowe reminds us that he is the writer of
finely chiseled, comedic portraits, whether it is the hard drinking
lumberjack in “Labatts,” the cab-door-earred, dentally challenged
guitar wizard in “He’s Got It,” or the fart breathed bride of
“Shot Gun Wedding Blues.” These hilarious gems are delivered
in the basso profundo tones of rock’s lone curmudgeon. In addition,
Rowe treats us to his refined (Jeff) Beckesque guitar stylings. Jeff
Crane providies the perfect foil, playing the hot, primal Dionysus to
Rowe’s cool, intellectual Apollo. Bassist Carl Biancucci, doing double
duty tonight, proves himself yet again to be THE master of his instrument.
Matt “Bongo” Burns, one of my fave drummers and humans, brings his
steady beat to the Ruins. You’ll enjoy him with the Ruins as well
as another Neon-endorsed combo, Coffin Lids. (Nancy Neon)


ZAC TAYLOR &
THE DRUGS

Harpers Ferry, Allston,
MA
10/11/09
A headlining slot on a Wednesday night
is tough for most folk, but some of the hard core faithful are out to
see Mr. Zac Taylor and his band, the Drugs. While the attendance is
limited, the band makes the best of it, and fights the uphill battle
of getting the party started. Zac Taylor & the Drugs hail from Berklee
College of Music, and appropriately enough, play college rock music.
They effortlessly flaunt their chops as they hammer out tune after tune,
showcasing their own style of prog-rock pop. Zac, the band’s frontman,
fires off witty banter and off-color jokes, doing an excellent job of
holding the crowd. The band’s three-piece horn section caps the group
off nicely, adding an additional element to the Ben-Folds-meets-John-Mayer
sound. I know I’m going to be hurting tomorrow so I reluctantly call
it an early(ish) night and avoid the wild after party that is being
discussed amongst the crowd. Oh the joys of the rock ’n’ roll style!
(Kier Byrnes)


THE GROWNUP NOISE, BLIZZARD OF
’78, THE TIK TOKS

T.T. the Bear’s, Cambridge, MA
10/24/09
It is my first time to T.T.’s since
I moved to Boston in 2007, as well as the first time I am seeing the
four bands playing tonight. The trouble with first impressions: you
only get one shot. Not a problem for these bands.

The Tik Toks are the first out of the
gate, and like the name, keep a steady rhythm that draws in all those
at the club. Lead singer Laeticia Lutts’s voice flows around the music
and guitarist Jaime Furtado lends his energy to the performance with
a combination of melodica and guitar. Yes, you’re reading that right.
Trust me when I say it works perfectly. Songs like the slow, melodic
“Shining Star” keep the crowd swaying, most notably one fan by the
name of Bethany, who had rushed from a costume contest, dressed as Miss
Piggy, to see the show—never a dull moment.

If Laeticia’s voice flowed around
the music, then the Blizzard of ’78’s frontman Pip’s voice box
runs right through it. This is rock at its best, with heads banging
and ears ringing—ear plugs or not. They describe themselves as cold
water dripping from a leaf, and the tunes are a delightful shock for
those that may have stayed too long at the bar. They deliver a most
commanding performance. Much like the legendary storm they are named
after, these five bury the crowd in guitar riffs, smashing drums, and
Pip’s vocals.

The Grownup Noise closes the evening
and it’s their last show for the immediate future (they’re hitting
the recording studio to work on new material), and I’m glad I’m
getting to check them out. Unique is the word to describe this band—with
an accordion, maracas, cello, and a game of musical chairs as band members
continuously swap instruments. Lead singer Paul Hansen has a pretty
mellow voice considering he looks like he would hit the ceiling if he
raised his hands—sort of a laid-back titan of old. A pretty versatile
group all around, and one the audience doesn’t want to leave, as they
use cell phones in place of lighters to elicit one more song from the
band. No argument here. (Max Bowen)


TOM BIANCHI

Toad, Cambridge, MA
11/13/09
First, can I say how great it is to
live next to a place that offers free music every night of the week?
Secondly, I have to applaud the booking agents of Toad for keeping that
place filled with talented musicians. Whether you are looking for rock,
country, bluegrass, Americana or even a band that sounds like the Beatles,
Toad is your place. Tonight I stop by Toad for a drink on the way home
and once again I’m floored by the talent. Tom Bianchi is on stage
celebrating his birthday by captivating the audience with his magnificent
brand of bass-driven folk. He has the audience in the palm of his hand
as he jokes about on stage, sharing birthday stories and funny jokes.
When the bass starts slapping, I can do nothing but sit there quietly
and admire what an amazing musician he is, as he croons songs like “Here
For a While” and another one about his dad and son. This guy puts
a lot of work into his songwriting and it shows. (Kier Byrnes)



CERCIE MILLER QUARTET

Crossroads Coffeehouse, North Andover,
MA
11/14/09
I hear that Cercie Miller is playing
at the Crossroads Coffeehouse, near my new neck of the woods, so I decide
to check out the sax player I remember from Girls’ Night Out back
in the early days of the Noise (the ’80s). Cercie has graduated
to sophisticated jazz with a cool, tight band backing her. They
play standards ranging from Gershwin to Chaplin and throw in an equal
amount of excellent original material. Pianist Tim Ray is nifty with
a sharp mix of rhythm and harmonic textures. Bassist Dave Clark supplies
some wonderful hi-register solos and also shares writing duties with
Cercie. Though they’re all so talented, it’s the gifted drummer,
Bob Savine, whose sensitivity with each tune keeps the band on a precise
track, allowing Cercie’s expressive sax melodies to swirl you into
a pleasure zone. I can’t say I’m anywhere near a jazz freak,
but this quartet wins me over with their easygoing high-end talent.
(T Max)



BIRDSONG
AT MORNING

The Lily Pad, Cambridge, MA
10/25/09
I drop into the Lily Pad to witness
the final October Sunday residency of Birdsong At Morning, comprised
of some top talents with acoustic credibility. Led by lead vocalist/guitars,
Alan Williams (Knots & Crosses), bass/vocalist, Greg Porter (Talking
to Animals), and guitars/vocalist, Darleen Wilson (former producer of
Patty Larkin and Catie Curtis), the group’s ambition, romanticism,
and delicacy is completely charming and rings true. This is peaceful,
enchanting music —call it “art-folk”—which the trio has showcased
on two CDs, Bound (2008) and Heavens (the new 2009 release).
Themes evoked are the destinations of restless journeys (“Prodigal
Soul”), the deeply rooted bond between friends and lovers (“Those
Beautiful Words”), contemplation (“Wishful Thinking”), celestial
space (“Astronomy”), and terrestrial place (“Light in the Window”).
Today, they are augmented by an expanded group that includes drums,
percussion, and string quartet. With the addition of three unusual cover
tunes (Blondie’s “Dreaming,” King Crimson’s “Matte Kudasai,”
and Rolling Stones’ “Moonlight Mile”), we have just experienced
a deeply intimate afternoon with absolutely ravishing arrangements!
I hope more people awaken to this ensemble. (Harry C. Tuniese)


FLIGHTLESS BUTTRESS

The Burren, Somerville, MA
11/15/09
My parents and I were planning to go
see Bob Dylan tonight but before we got tickets, we got sidetracked
in Davis Square. There are simply just too many fun things to do around
here. We stop at Redbones for some excellent barbeque and ales then
get word from a buddy of ours there is some cool music at the Burren.
Nowadays, I associate the Burren with having god-awful cover bands but
it turns out on their off nights, the Burren often hosts some decent
music. I was glad this once great venue hadn’t become a complete den
of cheese, so we head over to support the show. On stage is an attractive
brunette with her legs wide open in a short skirt playing the cello
(she has leggings on, so it isn’t as slutty as it sounds) as well
as an extremely talented guitarist. The cellist is as stunning on her
instrument as she is to look at and the audience circles around the
stage in awe. The duo plays off each other with such virtuosity melding
classical music with classic rock I have to throw $20 into the hat that’s
being passed around to support the musicians. I wish I had more. These
two are excellent. It’s like Amanda Palmer meets the Cello Chix. What
a great surprise to be found on a Sunday night! (Kier Byrnes)


THE CURSES, THE MARVELS, MUCK &
THE MIRES, THE SWINEDELLS

Church, Boston MA
11/7/09
Church will soon be hosting the International
Pop Overthrow, but for those in the know, this here shindig tonight
is the real deal—the Boston Rock Overload! Look at that line-up!
I can’t tell who’s supposed to be the headliner and who’s the
opener. Check your Noise back issues and you’ll find a review
for another Church show with a hauntingly similar situation.

The Swinedells end up opening (somebody’s
got to) and charge headlong into some hard-hitting, hard-bitten ass
whomping. I swear to God, I’ve seen these guys play countless shows
but every time it’s like a new revelation to me. Generally similar
to the Allrighters, the Swinedells are dealing in sax-driven ’50s
sounding rock ’n’ roll—the type of stuff that by comparison make
all those “hard rock” bands out there sound like pussies. While
this doesn’t hold true for every Swinedells song, a lot of
them basically sound like Little Richard minus the piano… and goddamn,
that is a great thing to sound like!

Muck & the Mires play slot number
two, which is nuts—like having your main event as the second match
on the card. It’s Mrs. Mire’s (Jesse Best) birthday, but nothing
special is made of it—just another picture perfect Muck set. By this
point I’ve written so much glowing praise for the Mires, I’ve run
out of material. But let me say this: If we were hit with a new Massachusetts
style food/alcohol/tobacco taxation and we could only afford to have
one band around, Muck & the Mires is the one we would keep.

Next up are the reformed and reinvigorated
Marvels, who make with the loud/fast punk rock—a little angry, a little
funny and a whole lotta energy. In their original go-round, the Marvels
were one of those deals where I loved the band and their performances
more than their material, but I’ve now completely come to appreciate
the tunes as well. It is beyond terrific to have them back. Staffy is
one of the most fun vocalists around, plus one can never have too much
of bassist Michelle Paulhus. Technical difficulties early in the set
have them bummed out, but despite that, this is an excellent show—by
far the best since reforming.

Topping off the night on a high note
are the Curses. It’s no easy task being the guys who have to close
on a line-up like this, but they come out slugging and it’s anything
but anti-climactic! Chris DeBarge on guitar is Mr. Dependable, always
sounding great. Their website lists bands like the Clash and the Jam
as influences, and while that’s surely true, it’s still a distinctly
American sound here. And it’s a macho sound, too—Clint Eastwood/Lee
Van Cleef macho, not that Arnold Schwartzenegger/ Bruce Willis bullshit
macho. Funny thing to say given that frontman Brian Hammond is so personable
and friendly, but I stand by my conviction! (Frank Strom)

 

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.

 

Wanna Help Your Favorite Band Get Noticed?


If you’re able and interested in sponsoring a band, buy them an ad!
Most artists are having a hard time making
ends meet, so help out if you can.

Comment on any Live Review in Reader's Respo™
Make sure you title your comment so we know what you're talking about.
You can also discuss local music 24/7 at The Noise Board

Comments are closed.