LIVE REVIEWS: Mar 2010

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LIVE REVIEWS MARCH 2010

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THREE DAY THRESHOLD, CASSAVETTES,
QUIXOTE, DEATH & THE DANCE MACHINE, KEV & COL CHATHAM SESSIONS,
SAM REID & THE RIOT ACT
RODFEST 8
The Paradise, Allston, MA
1/30/2010

Usually I don’t get to a venue this
early, so I have the chance to meet some delightful characters milling
about before Rodfest 8 officially gets under way. The chap at the front,
Trigger, seems to be a trove of experience, and his excellent mustache
made keeping my eyes off of his boobs a lot easier. Ah sweet,
laminates, let’s go in, and settle in with a drink. The show has been
organized for the past eight years to benefit the memory of Gregory
Moynahan and a scholarship that bears his name at Stonehill College.

Being the opening band is no easy task,
you must set the standard high enough to keep patrons milling around
the bar, but also without being so pretentious as to assume that you
belong anywhere else in the set. Fortunately, the understated and delightfully
jammy Sam Reid & the Riot Act play at exactly the right volume level
and intensity to achieve both of the opening maxims in subtle style
and with gentlemanly applaud worthy restraint. I am able to enjoy
the early company, my drink, my sexy date, and the fun virtues of a
band that owes as much to Jimmy Buffett as they do to Hank Williams.
The drummer could have taken a few more risks with the formatting of
the tunes, but the standout player is the dialogue between a blue fiddle
clad cowboy and a rustic and rootsy rhythm section. The chopped
snorts of the snapping fiddle recall a boozy Brubeck over
a laid back Charlie Daniels jam—the angels should drink a little more
from this keg.

Following Sam Reid & the Riot Act
is the acoustic Chatham Sessions. Coming on after such a chunky dose
of hillbilly jazz, these two plainspoken fellows, who had been friends
of the titular Rod, deliver a no frills platter of acoustic rock ’n’
roll. Even better, these guys provide a thoughtful space in which to
contemplate the meaning of Rodfest, and why we are all here in the first
place. A real sense of audience connection and authenticity envelope
the performance and is set in stone by name dropping a lot of people
in the crowd, frequently recalling the memory of their lost friend,
and the scholarship that bears his legacy. Both rhythmic players, neither
one seem inclined to take the spotlight from one another, instead
relying on a comfortable dialogue of uncontested lines and softly sentimental
college memories. A lot of hot girls mouthing the words in the front
of the stage complimented the fraternal atmosphere, the entertainment
peak of the set occurring with a Stonehill College (Rod’s alma mater)
infused rendition of Adam Sandler’s “Hanukah” song. These guys would
seem equally at home in a environment full of friends as they do upon
the historic stage at the Paradise, proudly declaring without a sense
of irony: “this is just a rock ’n’ roll song.”

I forget exactly where I am when Kev
and Col walk out on to the stage, but I manage to stop the duo
just before they walk out into the spotlight to claim the righteous
booty of a crowd completely in need of this type of comedy relief.
Two skinny white guys in daisy dukes and wife beaters, backed by a noticeably
drunk keyboard player, round out the musical onslaught of this gay pirate
rollercoaster of sinful madness. Ridiculous! The glare of the lamplight
off their pale chicken skin makes it incredibly difficult to get their
immortal words down on paper, and I imagine this is what religious gurus
around the world must experience when the fingers of the lord dig deep
to tickle the inside of their belly buttons. Any thoughts? I ask
the recently liberated cruise ship cabin boy. “Get ready to rock the
shit out of this shit,” he curtly and enthusiastically replies. Gentle
reader, ladies and gents, I think this is the new official motto of
this generation. These two pancake assed jokers get the crowd
jamming along to a sonic party medley that is one part George Michael,
two parts Village People, and shaken all together in a flamboyantly
insouciant pink martini glass. Real danger made this act happen for
me, as the real time risk of a ball or dong popping out unexpectedly
made this one sweet ass rock ’n’ roll party. Fuck Buster Poindexter,
Kev and Col are the new faces of homosexually virile Caribbean cruise
enthusiasts. Set sail for… what the Fuck!

Up next is Death & the Dance Machine,
who rapidly gain momentum in a set that opens with nervous hipster
energy, peaks at mid tempo, and then relaxes in their final numbers
to showcase some dynamic soul garage with a noodly singer and lead guitar
dialogue. The dynamic shift from Chatham Sessions into Death &
the Dance Machine seem to startle the band as much as they do the
crowd. The crowd, like this Pez addled collection of disparate styles
and ability levels, really gets at ease with itself with the passage
of time and alcohol intake. A heartfelt, but weightless cover of Weezer’s
“Say it Ain’t So” is endearing, but the real meat and potatoes is dished out when the band summones the living corpse of Tom Petty
late 1970’s recordings, to cap off the set with some casual boogie
rock. If the set had been played in reverse, the noisy and frenetic
beginning tracks would have been tempered and gained gravitas following
the classic tempo charges of the closing tracks. This group should focus
on playing to the strengths of its members as opposed to blocky and
rushed dance formats. Overall it is enjoyable, and many of my drinking
partners in this set warm up to the act as they relax and find
common grooves.

Quixote make an excellent first impression
back stage, deliver a well rehearsed and truly inspired set, and chase
it all down with a pleasant and amiable interview. I respect a band
that has mature musicianship, but can still draw nasty looks and comments
from the elderly and poseur back stage rock stars. These tight
jeaned hipsters with a portly Rasta key player deliver a solid and groovy
kick to the splendidly rotting ribs of the emo genre. That said,
these guys are not a slave to influences, and as a blood bespattered
bass player will attest, “that felt good.” Quixote will be putting
out a lot of new music soon in the forms of digital singles and concrete
records. Provided they are not crushed under the weight of their own
laid back-ness, killer licks and piles of fine bitches, this band can
be expected to truly rock, in the fullest AC/DC sense, in the years
to come. Due props go to the guitar player who clearly has done his
homework in the Led Zeppelin catalogue, and a terrifyingly tight drum
and bass interchange. A good sign, they are the first band to really
break a sweat, and then proceed to hang with the easy air of well fed
alley cats to attentively check the acts that follow. These
affable chaps are the breakout act of Rodfest 8.

It would behoove Boston rock mainstays
such as the Dropkick Murphys, out of respect to the intelligence level
of their fans, to start farm teaming bands like the Cassavettes into
their opening line-ups, instead of the anthemic pap that is too frequently
clogging the punk rock pipeline in this city. A certain red headed vivacity
had alerted me to this treat earlier in the event, but I had yet to
sample a full slice of this glorious rock ’n’ roll pie. I can say with
great confidence that this is the band that U2 wishes they could be
right now; driving, fun, thoughtful and authentic. The drummer from
Quixote and I had a great shared moment in this music from the side
stage, relishing with a musician’s ear the deceptively enthusiastic
rock sprinkled with tasteful jumps into scruffy sonic atmospheres. I
made a point of checking this act from multiple angles from within the
Paradise, and from across the balcony to the electric fore of the stage,
this band’s presentation is consistent and heavy, the slightness of
the musician’s themselves freeing up a lot of overbearing stage personality
that ruins thoughtful rock such as this in larger venues. I would have
loved a thoughtful guitar solo instead of the Grateful Dead-esque denouement,
but the satisfying bubbles of pop credibility tickling my nose from
out of the beer salary rock ’n’ roll make for a dependable and noteworthy
live libation. Do imbibe recklessly, and check out their new record,
“Shake Down the Sun.”

Kier Byrnes can really throw a party,
and his well polished Three Day Threshold is proof that country rooted
rock and punk is here to stay. The new cuts from Straight Out Of
The Barrel
stand apart in their songwriting spheres from the classics
cuts such as “Uni” that were shared with the crowd. This band creates
a real sense of wonder by having introduction music that spans the
audible ranges of Monty Python and Star Wars. I am sad to see the string
on the lap steel break so early in the set, if it had been given a little
more license, the chops and stylings from Kier and multi-instrumentalist
Evan would have rounded out the full sonic experience. The inclusion
of a wide backup complete the fraternal vibe earlier planted by Chatham
Sessions. And their swinging take of “Honky Tonk Woman” is a real treat,
complimenting the very at home sense of rhythm that the Stones often
neglect, and that only country music can offer. This band at their
most electric has more in common with the fading Darkbuster than any
other Americana infused act in Boston today, and I highly recommend
sending up smoke signals when with your ear to ground suddenly experience
this thundering country punk extravaganza.  (Trevor Doherty)

THE JOE PERRY PROJECT
Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario
2/4/10
Ten minutes prior to the Joe Perry Project's emergence on stage, the
19,000-seat arena is three-quarters full. Impressive for an opening
act although unsurprisingly so, as this is the closest we will come
to seeing anything worthy from the Aerosmith camp for quite some time.
As curtain approaches and the lights go dim, we are treated to the theme
from the 1950’s television show Paladin (have guns will travel)
as the band takes to the stage. The quintet explodes right into "Let
The Music Do The Talkin'" from both Aerosmith's Done With Mirrors
and the Joe Perry Project's debut album. Keeping with the classics,
they launch into "Toys in the Attic." From here on in Joe
Perry, who is on tour in support of Motley Crue's Dead of Winter Canadian
tour, introduces each song with a back-story. Perry, who is not known
for his on stage banter, makes great effort to enhance each song with
historical data but this in my opinion brings the vibe to a screeching
halt. Many tracks off of the band's latest album, Have Guitar Will
Travel,
are performed, including "We've Got a Long Way to Go,
“Slingshot” and “Scare the Cat." The band as a collective
receives high praise for their jam session during "Heaven and Hell,"
which includes an infectious bass solo by Boston native David Hull.
Their new album indulgence is wrapped up with a blistering rendition
of Fleetwood Mac's "Somebody's Gonna Get (Their Head Kicked in
Tonight.)” Not surprisingly, the set is finished up with Aerosmith's
most recognizable favorite, "Walk This Way," in which German-born
vocalist Hagen Grohe sounds oh-so-close to Steven Tyler. Perry may never
be the perfect front man, and his days of delivering instant classics
may very well be behind him. One thing is for sure, he has always stayed
true to his roots and he delivers his music in an unapologetic fashion.
If only Aerosmith could say the same thing. (Rob Watts)

THE DIRTY TRUCKERS, MUCK
& THE MIRES
, WATTS, MALIBU LOU & THE ITALIANS
Church, Boston MA 2/6/10
Lots of out of town well-wishers (plus all the usual suspects) here
tonight for Malibu Lou’s 40th birthday bonanza. An extensive
smoking break census reveals the non-New Englanders to be a highly cultured
crowd—unanimously voting Lyres and the Real Kids as favorite area
bands. Early prediction is they’ll all fall victims to the magic of
Muck!
The Cretins called in sick (the illness, not the magazine), opening
the first slot for… Malibu Lou & the Italians. Funnily enough,
I don’t remember any of these jokers from Holly Vincent’s version.
Not even one original member—how’s that gonna play
on the nostalgia circuit? Lou’s up front on vocals, backed by two
parts Watts (guitar and bass) and one part Muck (drums). Lou’s expansion
from solo acoustic performance to a full-blown band is kinda like what
Jay Allen has done in recent years, but whereas Jay uses his Arch-Criminals
to beef up the sound of his existing catalog of original material, Lou
& the Italians are handling different material from the old Malibu
Lou set. Still keeping in the same vein, though, with ’70s and ’80s
covers—the type of thing where you really sense the band’s appreciation
of the songs they’re doing. Malibu Lou is a fun and personable guy
in real life—you put him on stage and those qualities come through,
be it in solo form or fronting a band. That’s the important element,
because that’s what makes him good.
Next up are Watts themselves (all of ’em, I mean—Dan Kopko, John
Blout, Craig LaPointe, and John Lynch). This is a band that draws from
what most (too many) people think of as classic rock ’n’ roll, which
is to say ’60s British acts. They swirl the whole thing up with early
’70s glam rock flavor, then somehow create the impression of new wave.
That might sound like it’s all over the place, but inexplicably it
comes off as a logical progression. Blah blah blah… doesn’t mean
a thing. To me, these guys sound like your classic late ’70s Boston
band, ala the Neighborhoods. No goofing around either—competent and
totally professional musicianship every time I’ve seen them, and that
includes tonight.
A little too observant if you ask me, Church booker Tim Downey suggests
that I have nothing left to write about Muck & the Mires. Of course
if he was truly observant, he could have added Downbeat 5, Andrea
Gillis, and the Coffin Lids to the list. But why let that stop
me? If you think of it as reporting rather than reviewing, then
we’re golden. Tonight’s report goes like this: Muck and the gang
play their set. They play like possessed madmen. If listening to this
band is your only reason for living, then you’ve definitely
got a reason for living. As predicted way back in the first paragraph,
the out-of-town foreigners beaten into submission and driven
into a frenzy, calling Muck back for an encore and only grudgingly letting
them go when they’re finished.
Lastly we’ve got Dirty Truckers on our hands. I’ve seen them numerous
times before but rarely (if ever) written about them, largely feeling
under-qualified for the job. Not intimidated by them, but worried about
not doing them justice. Damn the torpedoes! Best I can say is they’re
very heavily Tom Petty-ish with maybe a smidgen of Dylan thrown in,
plus occasional echoes of country music. As feared, that doesn’t do
them justice. They also sound convincingly intelligent—there are very
few people in the history of rock ’n’ roll who play the intelligence
card without sounding simple-minded or moronic. Dirty Truckers are amongst
those very few. They also rawk, daddy-o. Some nights they sound like
just a great rock band, and other nights they sound like one of the
best rock bands. It’s heady stuff. (Frank Strom)

LIZZIE BORDEN & THE AXES, THE
FOOLS, RODS & CONES, O POSITIVE, BIG CITY ROCKERS, DIGNEY FIGNUS,
RIGHT TURN
V-66 25th Reunion
The House of Blues, Boston, MA
2/11/10
It's almost midnight when I turn to
my date and say, "Isn’t this night like a scene in a Salvadore
Dali movie?" And its true: a bunch of bands from another era are
celebrating the 25th reunion of long-gone music video station V-66.
I blink my eyes and it’s a cornucopia of night and day: punk rock,
new wave, dance rock, guitar rock, roots rock, grrrrl rock. When I walk
in Right Turn is playing and their Americana sound is good easy listening
and they are followed by a short set of songs by Digney Fignus. Although
Digney no longer dyes his hair blonde, his still-performing band is
powerful and tight and very listenable. Big City Rockers, with Tom Hauck
and Fred Pineau, then take the stage and do note-for-note Atlantics
songs. Although Fred now has grey hair and his band no longer wears
light colored shirts with dark thin ties onstage, hearing "Lonely
Hearts" again reminds me how great their tunes still are. O Positive
sounds as good as they ever did and its cool seeing a young Dave Herlihy
give a V-66 interview on the huge stage screens pre-set. I admit I am
a little sad when Dave tells me, "no, O Positive isn’t together
anymore" with a sly grin. Rods & Cones music is real dance/rock,
done great yet very dated, but this graying audience eats it up and
after a brief onstage speech by the legendary Arnie Ginsberg, the Fools
step up and blow the roof right off of this beautiful, newly-renovated
nightclub. The Fools may be the legendary wizards of whimsy but there
is nothing funny about great songs and an explosive performance and
the Fools deliver bigtime. "It's A Night For Beautiful Girls"
and "Life Sucks Then You Die” are both dynamic and it’s easy
to get caught up in the moment seeing the huge crowd, fists clenched
and punching the air in unison over their heads while shouting "life
sucks" with the band. The fact they play "Whipping Post"
as an un-anticipated inside joke encore to the aging crowd is very,
very funny. And the song rocks! Mike Girard runs around the stage like
a lunatic carrying what appeared to be a guitar made of a toilet seat—priceless!
Lizzie Borden & the Axes close the night with a typically powerful
performance with their most memorable hits. Sadly, neither Lizzie, Heather, Rita,
or Cyndie have their big-haircuts anymore. Lizzie says we'd need a case
of aerosol hair spray to do it now.
Special thanks to Tim McKenna from Live Nation and D-tension from the
HOB. (AJ Wachtel)

LOST CAUSE DESPERADOS, THE
PUBCRAWLERS

Geno's Rock Club, Portland, Maine
1/16/10
Geno's is happenin'. The mood is downright festive for a bill that features
an unusual occurrence: only two bands. But if you need a band to anchor
your CD release, you cannot go wrong with the beloved Pubcrawlers. The
bagpipes are being wooed by the dexterous fingers of Travis Pubcrawler,
backed by a powerhouse of traditional instruments, with a gut strong
spine of punk rock. From the instant they begin the crowd erupts; beer
frothing, fists pumping, eyes popping. I love this. I froth at learning
they are about to sate my thirst for raging pirate, rum-soaking, Jolly
Roger-flying, scally wagging, hard-rocking Celtic punk. Mind-bogglingly
talented musicians create crowd fire, just tearing up fiddle, mando,
accordion, whistle, pipes, in ways that traditionalist ghosts never
saw coming. The way they surge together, gripping; a crab boat anchored
in raging waves by ropes of salty power guitar surfing a tsunami of
beat. Lead Celtic pirate, Brian Pubcrawler, electrifies like a rogue
trap winch, an exposed wire of ocean flash fire. The rollicking crowd
is left reeling, sailing, fucking fighting, and drinking. This is the
theme of our hearts.
Next, an extremely thick wall of awesomeness treats the ears with Lost
Cause Desperados. Surprise: head banging erupts amongst rock roots,
a strong punk pepper dash, and many more, not indiscernible, flavors.
Never having seen them before, I am comforted by their tightness—a
sweet, throbbing release. CD release, I should say, and I am certainly
impressed enough at this moment, three songs in, to part with three
PBRs worth of currency to buy their CD (PBR being my current reference
to currency). In fact a said PBR has just been slammed into my ankle
by the still raucous crowd; LCD a sweet distraction. I enjoy when my
rattling spinal engagement eclipses the treble of my ankle pain. Kris,
Stu, Higgy, and, good lord, the singer guy (his mix is a bit buried
in the Wall of Wow, but man, I want to hear the studio version) are
consummate showmen. Good. Very, very good. (Stace)

THE A.R.E., JOHN MICHLIN, KIMBERLY
BOMBA
All Asia, Cambridge, MA
1/31/10
Kimberly Bomba is the first on stage at the All Asia, a small bar which
nonetheless commands a decent crowd this evening. This folk artist’s
voice carries through the club, silencing any and all conversation as
she performs songs from her new album, Inspirations, Frustrations
and Capos
, along with a few new creations. Much of her music has
a relaxed, soothing vibe to it, but on a couple she picks up the pace
with some rock elements. Her music is pretty clean in terms of the lyrics,
so when she drops a couple F-bombs, the crowd can’t help but laugh
a little. “Bet you didn’t think I could say fuck?” she says after
her set.
John Michelin is a new solo artist, so he mixes covers with some of
his own original material. I met him earlier that night, and though
I could tell the rock musician was nervous, he told me he felt good
about the show, and he sounds solid as he does a rendition of “Knocking
on Heaven’s Door” to start off his set. He adds some of his own
music to the mix, including an instrumental and a song he wrote just
that day. Though he has some work ahead of him to become a crowd magnet,
I’ll be sure to catch his next show. He’s definitely got potential.
The A.R.E. (which stands for Analogue Rock Ensemble—not sure if four
people count as an ensemble, but I’ll go along with it) finish off
the night with a bang, adding their progressive/punk elements to the
show. Lead singer Rich jumps and gyrates around the stage, managing
not to slam into the rest of the band—whether that’s skill or simple
Providence is anyone’s guess. A friend tells me his moves are flawless.
Hell, they fit the music, so yeah, flawless works just fine. The band
is pretty new to the Boston area, but they’ve got a great sound, loud
and fast, and songs like “Night of the Living Me” show a great deal
of creativity behind the music. (Max Bowen)

THE BIG BIG BUCKS, LUAU, THE SINBUSTERS,
BIRDORGAN

The 119 Gallery, Lowell, MA
2/6/10
The 119 Gallery in Lowell is decorated, for this exhibit, with an amalgam
of ’40s and ’50s décor. The backdrop for the bands tonight will
be three huge shelves of broken naked baby dolls staring unwaveringly
back into the crowd. I know immediately that things are gonna get a
little weird.
The first band up tonight is Birdorgan—an
experimental noise ensemble. They start up when their drummer, Mike
Dailey, asks, “Ready?” before the band tears into an electric wall
of terror. Their main vocalist, Dei Xhrist, lets loose with some heavy
screaming and fast paced scatting that’s unlike any noise I’ve ever
heard a human make. A low, ominous electric hum fills the low end as
sporadic drums and prickly untuned guitars flank the audience. At times
it sounds as if they’re speaking in tongues. The music has no rhythm
or melody, as one would expect from a noise band. Overall, their set
strikes me as a sort of noise-theater or performance freak-out, particularly
when guitarist Marc Bisson begins to smack his guitar with a slinky—creating
an ungodly noise that I would assume is similar to the sound one hears
when they fall way off the deep end. I like it, but I may be one of
few. They’re definitely not for most people, but it’s well done
if you’re into this sort of thing.
Next up are the Sinbusters, a Lowell band that’s been quickly gaining
popularity. The night of strangeness continues when keyboard player
Patrick steps on stage with a huge bushy beard, pig tails, and a dress
that I can only describe as charming. They jump straight into their
set. Nick’s shouty vocals ring out through the vintage mic with a
tinny garage rock style that gains distortion the louder he belts it
out. Jen provides backup vocals and shakes a tambourine as she dances
to the punky one-two drums. Their songs are fast and loud, and their
energy is contagious. The Sinbuster’s music sounds like a car chase,
and it’s great to see the crowd getting into it. They have that classic
garage rock sound with an interesting tinge of surf reverb. These songs
are heavy enough to be confrontational, but mean enough to sound genuine—and
that’s important.
Luau’s guitarist and lead singer, Jake, introduces the band and takes
a long swig off his bottle of schnapps. He asks, “Does anyone have
any antacids? This is giving me bad heartburn.” A voice in t responds,
“Stop drinking the schnapps!” Jake is giving the crowd a hard stare
as he calmly responds, “You’re not going to get me to stop drinking
the schnapps, so get me an antacid.” With that the band promptly explodes
into fast drums and dense chords. Their sound is something like At the
Drive-In, if they had stayed together a bit longer. Luau has all the
attitude of a hardcore punk group, but with melodic interludes and breaks
that really show off their song writing skill. At times their guitar
breaks have a triumphant quality as they take off over the driving distorted
bass. They have a clear direction in their music, and they give the
crowd a great performance.
Last for tonight is the Big Big Bucks. They start up with some tunes
that have a very rock ’n’ roll feel to them, but with some pop hooks.
They have a good energy, but know how to cool things down when the time
is right. The drums pound away and smooth vocals weave in and out of
the guitars’ distortion. The Big Big Bucks sound a little like Weezer,
but edgier and heavier. They plug on through their set list and maintain
a great balance of slow, fast, heavy and soft songs. The guitar riffs
they are playing range from ’70s heavy rock to chugging grunge power
chords, with sweeter breaks that hearken to Oasis and other ’90s pop.
Their sound if something all their own, but it’s recognizable and
easy to listen to. (Alex Enman)

THE FOUR LEGGED FAITHFUL
The Chit Chat Lounge, Haverhill, MA
1/29/10
I go to the YMCA to work out now. I see Matt, a guy who works there,
carrying a guitar, so I ask him if he plays with a band. And that’s
how I end up at the Chit Chat Lounge tonight. The Four Legged Faithful
is a four-piece with no drummer. They make use of an acoustic guitar,
stand-up bass, banjo, mandolin, and four strong voices. The band starts
with a bluegrass number. It’s kind of what I expect from them. The
next song has such a complicated rhythm that it comes off as some strange
vein of folk jazz. The third song is what I’d call a cowboy song—laid
back and kind folky. Next is a cover of Jethro Tull’s “Locomotive
Breath” complete with a vocalized flute solo. Okay, they’ve proven
to me that they’re not just another kickin’ bluegrass band. At least
for this set, they tend to take a bit too much time between songs and
never let momentum of the set get rolling. The good part is that each
one of these guys, Nate Pelletier on banjo, Jon Kaplan on mandolin,
Pierog on bass, and Matt Migliori on guitar, is a complete individual
and could be the lead singer of his own band. Put four lead voices together
and you get some great harmonies and a big variety of singing styles.
A couple of songs really stand out. One original called “New York”
is about a tree growing in the city that cites shades of Crosby Stills
& Nash, and a fun cover of Cake’s “Stickshifts and Saftey Belts”
that complains about the seating arrangement in today’s cars—“I
need you here with me, not way over there in a bucket seat.” The Four
Legged Faithful are quite the musical workout. (T Max)

HERO(N) OF ALEXANDRIA, THE HIGH
SEAS, MOTHER NIGHT, HANGMAN'S ALPHABET

Middle East, Cambridge, MA
1/10/10
Hangman's Alphabet tries to warm up a frigid Sunday night crowd with
feedback induced nightmares. This is not quite metal machine music.
It is rock ’n’ roll with enough stops and starts to keep you on
your toes as you rock out with an eye on your thesaurus.
Mother Night plays second to a good,
if frozen, crowd. They play a very short instrumental set that leaves
the crowd yelling for more. Not a bad Boston response for a new band.
Are they math rock? Post partum methadone drone? Spazz core oompa krunk
tone? Psychedelic indie narcoleptic two-tone noise? Yes.
Next up is the High Seas. These guys would fit well with one of my favorite
Boston bands, Tristan da Cunha. All four guys take turn singing lead
and complete each other’s phrases like they were married. Maximum
minimalist, these guys could do the college fight song for RISD.
The last band I get to see is Hero(n)
of Alexandria. I hope to see a full set next time. If Lightning Bolt
and Can't held a tea party, this would be the soundtrack at the end
of the wonderful rainbow. There is lots of hooting and hollering. (Eric
Baylies)

GENTLEMEN HALL
Roger's Pub, Wellesley MA
2/5/10
Roger’s Pub at Babson College is a notoriously hard venue to play.
A school full of over-worked business students coupled with an ancient
sound system rarely leads to enthusiastic responses from the audience.
Gentlemen Hall is one of those rare exceptions. I walk into the bar
and my first thought is it sounds like MGMT and Jamiroquai got in a
gang-fight with the Backstreet Boys… and it sounds pretty awesome!
After a deliciously cheap one-dollar draft I am immediately caught up
in the band’s infectious dance vibe. It seems each one of the six
members of Gentlemen Hall is a front man and they each contribute to
the high-intensity energy of the night. Guitar player Jacob repeatedly
walks with an unspoken confidence into the crowd getting everybody to
sing along and even get on stage. Rory lays down driving and heavy
bass lines. Seth, the band’s flute player (who has a flute player
nowadays?!), adds catchy riffs to every song and routinely calls out
to the crowd. The unspoken hero of the night, however, is Brad; barely
visible behind his wall of keyboards, he adds enough synths, noises,
and effects throughout the night to send the Killers back to the drawing
board. Gentlemen Hall combines all the essentials of a dance party with
a healthy dose of electrical accompaniment, and endless energy to knock
Roger’s Pub off its unsuspecting feet. (Yonatan Dotan)

PESKY J NIXON
Cat in the Cradle Coffeehouse, Byfield, MA
1/15/10
I catch the last song of John Waterman’s set—he’s a decent folk
performer with a bit of delta blues in his guitar.
Pesky J. Nixon is a folk three-piece tonight (they’re missing their
bassist) with Ethan Baird (guitar/ lead vocals), Jake Bush (accordion/
harmonica/ vocals), and Dan Carp (djembe with suitcase bass drum/ vocals).
They start out with the light-hearted “Hope I Don’t Get Born Again”
to show where they’re not coming from. Remember the name Nixon is
more than a dethroned president—these guys have more the feel of the
once Red Sox right fielder Trot Nixon—talented and humorous at times.
Ethan runs the show—he’s a burly guy with a good voice and a knack
for storytelling between songs. The cafe is about sixty-foot square
with a thirty-foot ceiling and a four-foot high theatrical curtained
stage. The ceiling holds a dozen spotlights to give the place a real
professional show feel. The sound by booker Chris Paglia is clean and
clear, and, down below the back of the stage, beer, wine, coffee and
treats are to be had. Back to the band—wow—they do lots of three
part harmonies and have their dynamics down. Jake, who has a nice deep
voice when harmonizing, takes on some of the lead vocal chores on his
songs and sounds a bit like Harry Chapin, which is fitting for the café,
since Harry sang “Cat’s in the Cradle.” Ethan gives advice to
the gals in the audience who go out with songwriters—“don’t ask
them to write a song about you—especially if they write good break-up
songs.” He continues on about the ex who asked him to write a song
about her. A week later they broke up and “Who Will Love You” was
written. They end the show with a couple of good audience sing-alongs.
(T Max)

AUTUMN ABOVE
WUML Studios, Lowell, MA
1/25/10
I’ll always have an affinity for UMass Lowell’s radio station, WUML.
So many great bands from Lowell have passed through their doors and
it’s always fun (or at least interesting) to stop by on Monday nights
for their weekly showcase, Live From the Fallout Shelter.
Playing live in the studio tonight is Autumn Above, an all-acoustic
act from Beverly, Mass. They have three acoustic guitars, an acoustic
bass, and drums—as well as a mic for each member. They open up much
louder than anyone expects and people scramble for earplugs. They have
a good grasp on dynamics and don’t seem limited by their all-acoustic
status. Ryan Davidson and Chris Harvey belt out wailing vocals over
proggy guitar riffs, at times sounding a lot like early Coheed and Cambria,
but at others they have an almost Iron Maiden flavor—no easy feat
for an acoustic act. They power through complex songs and the drums
keep everything moving, but never overpower the others. Though they
are primarily acoustic, they encounter the same problems that other
progressive groups do: sounding a little long-winded and generically
complex. This is a problem most bands with very talented musicians run
into. They put on a good show, though, and while they might sound a
little lengthy they have a great energy and fun about them. (Alex Enman)

 

We get a lot of
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cover what they choose to attend. It’s logistically impossible for
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even remotely exceptional, we’ll be the first to tell the world. If
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