Live Reviews

Precinct, Somerville MA

Starting us off tonight is the very young Somervillian Katie Ober, whom I haven’t a clue about. She plays solo acoustic, not-quite-folk sensitive pop. Obviously her influences are way out of my realm of knowledge. Her songs aren’t compelling emotional gut-busters, but they sure sound like they’re heading in that direction. In truth, I don’t wanna make a definitive call until I see a lyric sheet—this stuff could well be dynamite and I’m just not catching the details here live. She sure seems sincere, though, and that always works for me. The big thing is Katie has a great (!!!) voice that makes you want to give her full attention. I’ll be surprised if she doesn’t soon develop into something really notable. Keep an ear out for her.

While not technically the headliner, the Charms seem to be tonight’s showcase. They’ve been out of action for quite a while but reformed over the last year or so. Appears the line-up’s 90 percent intact and it still resembles the Archies (complete with Betty and Veronica on keyboards and tambourine). That ain’t a slam, pal—I didn’t say they sound like the Archies! As before, the sound is that organ-oriented ’60s garage stuff. Old opinion was that the Charms do it well, but when travelling in a microverse with Lyres and Chris Horne’s various bands, I grow hard to impress. However that’s the old opinion. New feeling is this band is seriously committed and writing new heavier and stronger material than ever before. To rephrase: Wow! It’s great to have them back!

The adventures of Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents continue. In the latest installment, Tony and Samantha Goddess have abandoned ship apparently. Last time Tony left one of my fave bands, he took Ed V with him…and while I can’t deny his choice of departure partners are getting prettier (and taller), I’m still heartbroken! But then again, new Deelinquents Pat DiCenso (guitar) and Abbie Barrett (vocals) are certainly easing the blow. Aside from the new faces, JD&D are sticking to the plan: Big rock ’n’ roll of the ’60s girl group variety (in their case, too original sounding to label retro). Also sticking to the plan are new covers—another ’70s glam tune (T Rex this time) and another unlikely number deftly converted to the sound. The latter is Graham Parker’s “That Moon Was Low” (written for Lala Brooks, according to Jen). Having never heard the original, I’m not sure how JD&D’s take compares to their brilliant version of “Shake Some Action” but it’s positively the new standout for me. Breathlessly awaiting more new material, another album, etc., so forth and etc.!   (Frank Strom)


Greedy Geezers Annual Barbeque, Stoughton, MA

This is my second year going to Geezer’s outdoor extravaganza held at the pond on his property and this year’s event is bigger and better: a huge tent, a ton of food, great people, and great music—everything that’s necessary for my first summer food fest. Although these are real bands playing for the same people that come to see them at their regular Granite Rail  shows each month, the loose atmosphere today allows all the musicians to mix and mingle onstage. This is really cool because some interesting group combinations appear and some great music is heard. Highlights of the long day of food, drink and music include a killer Tokyo Tramps set with Ten Foot Polecat singer/harp player Jay Scheffler fronting the band for a couple of songs, Joey Fingers playing his usual New Orleans piano boogie-woogie, Bayou Boy on washboard , Bayou Billy on bass with Geezer playing guitar and Al Hendry pounding the drums. Punkster Mike Quirk also adds his talents onstage in a few different ensembles. What more can you ask for?        (A.J.Wachtel)


LIVE CD Recording Party,
Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA

Lyle Brewer, one of Boston’s most talented sidemen, is recording a live album tonight thanks to He was able to raise nearly three thousand dollars for this project in advance from his fans. To say that tonight’s audience is invested in the performance is an understatement. When Lyle introduces a quiet jazz original, no one mutters a word until the piece is over and the crowd erupts into applause. There is a top notch sound crew on hand running tech for the show as well. Joel Simches is behind the sound board and Jack Younger and company are manning the portable recording studio brought in especially for this performance. The room sounds amazing, but it’s not just due to the expertise of some of Boston’s best sound engineers. Lyle’s backing band is as solid as a rock, thanks to Mike Piehl’s strong foundation on the Eames drum kit. There are a few covers thrown in for good fun: Booker T and the M.G.s’ “Green Onions” and an instrumental version of Pat Ballard’s “Mr. Sandman.” The band is tight as hell, and with all these beacons of shining talent, Lyle Brewer doesn’t let himself get eclipsed.  He owns the stage tonight, there is no question.  As the night goes on the crowd and the band get a little crazier and crazier. I can’t wait to hear how it all comes out. (Kier Byrnes)


Great Scott, Allston, MA

Fat Creeps are quickly becoming one of my favorite bands around Boston and in the world as a whole.  Tonight, it looks like they are dressed more for an early 20th century  ball instead of a rock show; vocalist/bassist, Mariam Saleh and vocalist/guitarist, Gracie Jackson are dressed in big black and white dresses, respectively.  Their appearance is striking, but it is merely a sidebar to their incredible music.  The group creates simple but strong and extremely catchy songs.  In particular, “Nancy Drew” stands out and almost feels like a hit song.  I can seriously see this tune and the band in general blowing up in the future.  Other notable numbers include “Horoscope” and “700 Parts.”  I note a distinct surf rock influence that reminds me of anything from Beat Happening to B-52s  to the Vivian Girls.  I plan on attending as many of their shows as I can.

Fat Creeps permeates calm, gentle vibes through the air.  SKIMASK, on the other hand, is the soundtrack to chaos.  Tonight they are playing at Great Scott, their favorite venue, and could not be more on their “A” game.  I have seen them before, but they appear tighter and more energetic than ever.  Vocalist Prof$t Mohamed is on fire and makes it his mission to send the crowd into bedlam.  The band has a very unique sound and this is partially due to the fact that SKIMASK does not have your typical, instrumental- rock band set up. Instead, the group consists of vocals, drums, and effects; no guitars. So, how can a band be rock ’n’ roll without the key instrument in nearly all of rock ’n’ roll?  SKIMASK manages fine, creating violent shards of noise that are oddly danceable, but do not expect any conventional styles of dancing at their shows!    (Chris DeCarlo)


Johnny D’s, Somerville, MA

You might remember Peter from his local band PCB or for playing in Carly Simon’s MV band for many moons. And I am looking forward to hearing a rare area gig with his original songs and stunning guitar playing. Interestingly, and for my listening pleasure, he is also the guitarist for the opening band. Rob fronts the band on keyboards and his  songs are very personal, low-key and sung very passionately; basically folk/pop ballads with a tinge of Billy Joel-ish rock ’n’ roll and a bit of Elton John there too. His ballad “Christina In the Salon” is the hit. Peter’s set is all original. “Wired To the Moon” and “One Step Ahead Of Crazy” have memorable melodies and I am sure I have heard them on the radio before. If I didn’t I should have: they are that radio-friendly.His guitar playing abilities are legendary and well deserved; not many people play with his imagination and creativity today. Dave Mattacks from Fairport Convention is silently sitting in the audience and seems completely focused on enjoying every note these talented artists play—great songwriters who also happen to be great performers.      (A.J.Wachtel)


(an ideological rock opera)
Spontaneous Celebrations, Jamaica Plain, MA

Through the years, a bevy of local artists have attempted to unite theater and music. Whether heavily staged with professional aspirations (think all of Boston Rock Opera productions) or shaped as a concept album effort (think Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown or Rick Berlin’s The Kingdom), this ambitious union of theme, narrative, and songs can be an unpredictable showcase for drama, imagination, and development. If you’ve ever seen one of these D.I.Y. shows, it’s a major treat. For me, it goes far beyond simple success because of the earnest efforts and the ritualistic involvement of the participants. Simply, this ain’t Broadway—but it sure is a gang o’ fun!

Originally performed last February, Over the Line is written and directed by Brian O’Connell with music performed by the Grass Gypsys and members of Brief Awakening. He pitches it as “a high concept, low budget, multi-media psychological rock opera about ideology, indoctrination, unwritten rules and inner transformation,” which just happens to take place in Jamaica Plain. I kid you not! Handed a libretto upon entering (which comes in quite handy to follow the context of the tunes), this sets the tone as we follow the travails of the hero, Sleepy Doormat, and his quest for true personal freedom. But it also allows us to read a didactic and pedantic collection of songs that makes me wince—all a bit too heavy-handed for my tastes. Though the play’s fundamental premise of activism and self-discovery is most incisive, I feel the lyrical development never steps over the line into pure figurative enjoyment or symbolic fulfillment (here are some titles—“Politicians Lie,”  “Lie to Me,” “Remote Control,” “Saints and Sinners,” “Sort It Out”). Contrarily, the music is quite rousing and satisfying—very intelligent, multi-dynamic prog-rock mixed with pop-folk—with tremendous musicians and singers adding brilliant coloration. On this level, I never lose interest. And, of course, I must mention the interactive giant puppets (“Animas”) that turn this story into a deeper fairy tale of contemplation and celebration. As they wander through the audience, we all become part of the dream. It’s a very ambitious project that almost achieves a transcendent quality.    (Harry C. Tuniese)


Mari’s, Quincy, MA

While checking out my FB page, I notice a post about a band I’ve never heard before playing at a cool club within walking distance to my house, so I eagerly go. These Quincy cats are a six-piece with two horns and I immediately dig the brass vibe as I enter the club. They play three sets of enjoyable R&B led by Mike Garvey’s powerful Irish tenor. Originals “How Can You Stop When You Haven’t Started” and “At the Station” are great examples of their tight sound and Stevie Ray’s “Tightrope” really lets guitarist Rich McKiney shine. Bruce McGrath on saxes and flute and Conneticut saxman Frank Lombardo make all the songs jump and Eric Naistadt on bass and Bob Paluccio on drums make a strong rhythm section. They even do covers of Keb Mo’s “Be A Better Man” and America’s “Horse With No Name.” These guys don’t disappoint at this cool Quincy center club. Check them out soon.          (A.J.Wachtel)


One Longfellow Square, Portland ME

One Longfellow Square is filling to capacity as I arrive to hear Aoife (pronounced, “Eefa”) O’Donovan. The 28-year-old lead singer of the band, Crooked Still, is taking a break to tour with a different band, with a different sound. I loved a beautiful duet that I heard between Aoife and Heather Masse on a recent airing of Prairie Home Companion, so I am excited to see her.  The audience is mostly folks in their 40s and 50s but there is a wide range of ages present.

Aoife is a petite woman who appears wearing a little summer dress, her blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. Well, the rumors are all true—she is fantastic! Her voice is a bit huskier than Alison Krauss is, but rivals her in sweetness and emotional expressiveness. They begin with a traditional tune, “Trials Troubles and Tribulations,” and then play one of her compositions (which ironically, was recorded by Alison Krauss), entitled, “Lay My Burden Down.”

The band is beyond excellent with some show-stopping solos by lead guitarist Ryan Scott. His guitar playing is intense and frenetic but never loses control. Jed Wilson’s eyes are closed and his fingers hover over the keyboard like electric mixers. Charlie Rose makes the pedal steel howl, Jacob Silver is smooth and constant on the bass and Robin McMillan holds it all together with drums.

Some of the evening reminds me of the jazziness of Joni Mitchell’s live album, Shadows and Light. Then they go in kind of a Stevie Ray Vaughan/Bonnie Raitt direction. I love the little shake of the head she does when she is really digging the music.

As much as I am enjoying her beautiful presence and the obvious talent of the band, I am dismayed because I can hardly hear her. She has a delicate voice, smoky and gentle, and sometimes she is engulfed by the power of the band. I hope they balance the sound a bit better as the tour continues because her singing is too good to be missed.

She teaches us some words to her song, “Oh Mama,” and we join in together which always makes a more intimate feeling. She ends with a ripping version of Bonnie Raitt’s “Love Letter.”

She recently recorded “The Goat Rodeo Sessions” with Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile, and Yo Yo Ma. You can catch some of those studio sessions on You Tube. I got chills viewing “Here and Heaven.” (Kimmy Sophia Brown)


VAPID POP                           
Charlies Kitchen, Cambridge MA

You don’t go upstairs to Charlies Kitchen on a Monday night to lead the glamorous life, but you can catch some good bands. I was lucky enough to wander in on the second performance of a new Boston band called Vapid Pop, whose name is a misnomer. Imagine, if you will, a singer like Siouxsie Sioux and Debbie Harry, a weird cross between Gang Gang Dance and Gang Of Four. It’s not dance music, but you can get down, it has a swagger like Human Sexual Response, a new wave feel with a timeless appeal. The three musicians play great but don’t move around much, leaving the singer to steal the show with her writhing, snakelike moves. I’m really digging this band.                   (Eric Baylies)


Powerhouse Breakout Artist Series
The Liberty Hotel, Boston, MA

What’s more rock ’n’ roll than not being old enough to drink in the club you are playing at? I immediately see that these youngsters from the Ocean State, Rhode Island are really young and really good. And attending any concert in this luxurious environment always knocks me out. Tonight they hit all the stops and play garage rock, reggae, funk, arena rock and all with a groove-oriented foundation that serves as the common-denominator for all of this genre-mixing. Vocalist J.P. Carpenito, 16 year old Charlie Shea playing a screaming Les Paul, Keith Pickard on vocals/guitar and high schooler Mikel Arambarri on bass treat me to song after song of tight, well played music. They play three sets and their tight chemistry onstage makes originals “Fountain In Your Mind” and “One In A Million” really stand out. Cover’s of Elvis’ “Houndog,” the Door’s “Roadhouse Blues’ and their great “Red House” jam show me they know their music history, too—very good.    (A.J.Wachtel)


The Met Cafe, Pawtucket, RI

Here I am again on my own, seeing two of the greatest local bands I’ve ever known. Coming straight out of Warren, Rhode Island, 6 Star General is not your son’s punk rock band. They play a version of rock steeped in the Minutemen, Flipper, and Dinosaur Jr., with a nod to the distant past via a cover of T Rex to end the night as a duet sung with Mandy of Girl Haggard. 6 Star General are great every time I see them, and I have seen them many times now.

Okay, fun time is over. Now its dark. Lolita Black is back to destroy you. With Bob Otis of Dropdead on guitar and Scarlett Delgado singing and roaming the stage like a deranged lion tamer, you better hope she left the tiger in her tank. If you like Warlock, Sabbath, and Trouble, but with a hip death goddess, the acid queen on vocals, you will absolutely love Lolita Black.With great songs, a tight band, and an amazing frontwoman, this is the next big band out of Providence. Forget Deer Tick. I want to see Lolita Black play the Newport jazz and folk festivals next year, they’ll reduce Newport to ashes like America did to Dresden. (Eric Baylies)


Rock and Blues Cruise, Boston, MA

There might not be a cooler place to see a band then on the Provincetown II sailing around Boston Harbor on a beautiful late-spring night. Cruising past Old Ironsides and watching  planes take off and land at Logan Airport accompany the great music and is the icing on the cake. Here I am with 600 dancing maniacs on three decks just having the time of my life. Jamie Kent strips down his usual band the Option and joins forces with Dan Holmes (on cajon), and Zack Cross on accordion for a bit of uptempo Americana and Hillbilly and do a few tunes from their latest release “Navigation.” I dig “Changes,” ”Rosalita,” and “The Fear” and really like their cover of the Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen A Face” complete with an accordion solo!

The Adam Ezra Band has a lot of fans here tonight, and their swamp boogie sound is red hot. They play “Takin’ Off” which was last year’s NEMA song of the year from their new release “Rag Top Angel” which recently won the NEMA for Album of the Year and the crowd sings loudly along. There are a lot of people here having a blast and the excitement adds to the magical momentum present. I also like “14 Days” with its cool outro jam and “Burn Brightly” with Adam’s great improv/spoken word part that is an obvious fan favorite.The group also does a great version of the Band’s “The Weight.” By the time Max Creek goes on stage, the anticipation is electric and this band, now in its 41st year as one of N.England’s finest, raises the roof to a higher level.They don’t play any new tunes, don’t have a new release planned but just knock me out with their  great talent and performance. Scott Murawski, John Rider, Mark Mercier, Bill Carbone, and Jamemurell Stanley take no prisoners, I just love their cover of “Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” and original “Somebody Tell That Woman.” Their extended jams throughout the night are inspirational and extraordinary. I can’t wait for my next Rock and Blues Cruise and neither should you.   (A.J. Wachtel)


Hard Rock Café, Boston, MA

It’s the night of the many CD releases at the Hard Rock, with three bands putting out new albums. Seth Wonkaa is the first band of the night, and provides some new twists to his familiar tunes. Seth’s commanding voice melds well with Eline Kouwets, who was recently added to the band. The five-piece band belts out some great pop/rock beats, and bassist Nouredine Ousmane shows his skills with both passion and power.

The folk/rock music of Jeff Michaels is familiar to me, having seen the band live more than once. This is the release show for their new album, “Lost in Boston,” and the foursome provides a diverse blend for the evening, including an excellent cover of the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer.” Guitarist Chris Teffner rocks some great solos, and Jeff shows us all how a keyboard is supposed to be used. Among the tunes played that night is one about a woman he used to work with, which he admits might be a little creepy. Maybe, but it’s a damn good song.

Sara Leketa keeps the night rocking, literally, giving her all for the release of her EP, Wicked. This woman is rock ’n’ roll to the core, and whereas Jeff and Seth were a little easy on the ears, she’s obviously determined to push the amps to their limit. As a tribute to her mother, she breaks out the Johnny Cash favorite, “Folsom Prison Blues,” a song I never get tired of hearing, and certainly not when done by Sara. During the set, she takes to the crowd, showing appreciation for the folks that have come out tonight.

Whiskee, also doing a CD release this night, picks up where Sara left off, and the crowd goes nowhere during the changeover. The five-member band offers a blend of rock and jazz sounds, and the presence of Billy Collins on the mic seems to really connect with the audience. Some of the songs are more instrumental pieces. Paul Calo (lead guitar), Diggy Gibson (bass), Sam Freund (drums), The G Man (keys) and Collins on the guitar show that even without vocals, Whiskee can more than hold their own.

As the end of the evening approaches, Something Sneaky takes the stage to show that there are plenty of good reasons to remain at the Hard Rock. As they say, the show must go on, and this rock-influenced trio from the South Shore takes that old adage to heart. They play an intense set that brings a variety of melodies to the table. Simply put, they’re here to make this crowd remember them, and at that, I’m sure they succeed.  (Max Bowen)


Live Reviews — 1 Comment

  1. I just wanted to drop a line to thank you for the kind words for the review of my Hard Rock show…I just saw this for he first time now, and just wanted to express my gratitude…

    be well,