Live Reviews


Bank Pavillion, Boston MA

A brilliant pairing to create a magnificent show! They have worked together before on Anais Mitchell’s folk opera, Hadestown (Justin Vernon portrayed the hero, Orpheus), and now the favor is returned, except Anais walks out to an auditorium one-third filled (the remaining sold-out audience lurks outside biding their time for Bon Iver). No sweat! Head up, she and her trio launch into a new tune, “Live Wire,” followed by selections from her latest album, Young Man in America, which include “You Are Forgiven,” “Dyin’ Day,” “Ships,” “Young Man in America,” “Comin’ Down,”  and “Annmarie.” Her innocent, emotive spirit slowly captivates the growing crowd. Her child-like voice has strengthened immeasurably and her band kicks a little harder in all the right places to satisfy a big space. She concludes with “Why Do We Build the Wall”—from Hadestown.  A deeply satisfying show that makes clear her marvelous talents.  Oh yeah, Bon Iver, with its ambitious and idiosyncratic approach to progressive acoustic music, were met with a resounding appreciation.  (Harry C. Tuniese)


The Breakout Artist Series

CD Release Party for Sweet Pain
The Liberty Hotel, Boston MA

I was a big fan of the Schemers and the Raindogs and the roots rock, garage, and country mix each band shared, so I am pretty excited to see and hear what lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Mark Cutler is up to these days. As I listen to their current sound, I think Tom Petty meets Roger McGuinn meets Bruce Springsteen with a little Dylan and Ozark Mountain Daredevils “yee-ha” thrown in, too. And I like it a lot. These cats are from Rhode Island. and I really dig their covers of “Oooh, Oooh Child” (with a banjo!) and “Wang Dang Doodle” by Willie Dixon but done in the Howlin’ Wolf style. Their opener, Muddy’s “You Can’t Lose What Your Never Had” with Mark’s good slide guitar, and later in the set “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by Iggy are excellent too. All are done by a six-piece band with an acoustic/banjo player, a father on drums, and his son on percussion, and beautiful three-part harmonies. I hear an old Schemer’s song, “Walking In the Night,” and two old Raindogs’ cuts, “Shame On You” and “Lonesome Pain,” that have also re-recorded for their new release. “Shame On You” is now an uptempo Americana ballad and it rocks!. Mark announces they are filming a video of “Come On Out of the Woods” and it’s a good choice. The composition is a cool uptempo the Band meets Creedence type song. All their tunes have good hooks and I hear a lot of radio friendly material. Midway through the show, I decide these cats are really talented and how much fun I’m having hearing them play.                         (A.J. Wachtel)


Jacques, Boston, MA

Gene Dante wanted to premiere some of his new material so he sent out an invite via Facebook inviting us to a night of free music. I instantly clicked the join button. I’ve never been to Jacques, in fact, I’ve never even heard of it. Picture my surprise when I walk up to the front door and the realization that it is a tranny bar sets in (sorry—I’m ignorant of a proper term, so tranny it is). The mystery of the club is exciting. As soon as we give our name at the door, we are directed down a back flight of stairs that leads into a dark, very cold room with grey support beams that surround a silver tinseled stage.

The room is packed, and all eyes are glued to the darkness in the center of the stage as the band starts to filter out of it. The costumes on stage range from 1920s banker to a ’70s rock glam god. Gene comes out last. His shirt is wide open, revealing his chest, which is covered in silver sparkles that shine brightly in the lights. I’m standing at the back of the room, and his presence is felt even back there. He oozes that glam sex that few seem able to capture today. The band doesn’t wait for the applause to stop, they rip into the first song. The intensity of the band and the connection with the audience never seems to wain. The crowd eagerly sings along, “we are all whores behind closed doors” and nothing else can be heard as they sing, “I am gorgeous” at the top of their collective lungs. Gene tells us he only has time for one more if we want it. He promises that it “will rock your cocks and boxes.” The blistering punk rock number lives up to his words. I leave thankful to Gene for allowing me to be a part of this amazing night of music, and appreciate his dedication to his fans.   (Melvin O)



The New England Americana Fest   

Oberon, Cambridge, MA

It’s the second night of the third year of the New England Americana Fest. I’m a longtime fan of this event, and the mission of its organizers to foster a greater community within the local music scene.

Adela & Jude are on the side stage above the main floor, and fill the air with their soulful roots music. They remind those in the audience that we’re all going to die someday, so we should treat each other well while we’re here. Along with their own music, the duo plays some Hank Williams covers to get everyone revved up for the night.

This Way’s come all the way from Portland, Maine for this event, and I’m damned glad they made the trip. This band is exciting, electric, and their music never fails to disappoint. The band gives us a blend of classic rock and Americana style effortlessly, with Jay Basiner and Anna Patterson leading the charge on the vocals. The audience is given a sneak preview of This Way’s upcoming album, The Story of Simon Pure, with several new songs, including “The Firelight,” played tonight. I give props to Andrew Martelle on the fiddle—the man knows his instrument, and gives us a commanding performance.

Tallahassee is up next, and get things cracking wide open with some intense percussion-driven songs. Lead singer/guitarist Brian Barthelmes is a giant of a man, with a voice to match, filling the air at Oberon and daring anyone to look away. Drummer Matt Raskopf launches an artillery salvo of sound that Brian, bassist Shawn Carney and guitarist Shawn Thompson put to good use. During the set, the talented ladies from Babes in Boinkland entertain the crowd, and I… sorry, what was I saying? Oh right, the music. These guys killed it, plain and simple. A lot of musicians use their own personal experience as the fuel for their creative process, and listening to Tallahassee, you can’t help but feel your own lifetime being looked at, and being dared to get your ass out there and live some more because there’s a lot you haven’t done.

Bow Thayer & Perfect Trainwreck were the winners of this year’s WBCN Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble, and it’s not hard to see why. Bow Thayer (vocals/ banjo) has a lot to say tonight, expressing the need for environmental awareness through songs like “Eden.” James Rhor (piano) and Chris McGandy (pedal steel) add something extra to the set, crafting a beautiful melody led by Thayer on the banjo. The music’s like a good whiskey—smooth, groovy, and easy to absorb, and lights a fire inside that wants to come out.

Following Bow Thayer’s set, Eric Royer takes over the side stage duties. A one-man band, Royer sports a pretty unique setup with several different instruments (including a banjo, dobro, and foot-controlled guitar machine) combined to create one hell of a musical experience, including a festive puppet that dances to the music. His tunes are upbeat and his tone perpetually happy, and it’s hard not to feel a little better after his sets.

It’s time to meet one of the founders of the NEAF, John Colvert, along with his band, the Great Brighton Fire. These guys never fail to impress, and it’s always a pleasure to see them perform. John’s a powerhouse on stage, with an infectious energy that flows off of him and into everyone at Oberon. Things get a little political with one of the songs, “Oil,” which talks about the effects that corporations have on the world around us. That’s something to which we can all relate, and it’s what makes this band so great—they echo what we’re all feeling.

Rock/blues quintet Coyote Kolb leave the ears ringing and asses moving throughout their set. The pedal steel of Noel Coakley, another organizer of this festival, brings the blues and brings it well, while Sonny Jim Clifford shows us his skills on harmonica. After some rock-heavy tunes that keep the place jumping, things get a little more mellow, and the audience remains captivated. The Babes in Boinkland make a return as the set comes to a close, their choreography perfectly matching the music.

Dennis Brennan is a music legend here in Boston and beyond, and it’s not hard to see why. The band (Brennan, along with Bill Beard, Kimon Kirk, and Russell Chudnofsky) have a great stage presence born of years on the road and likely in more clubs than I can count. Brennan’s resonating vocals carry the message of his music to every pair of ears in the club as he speaks of a love that can make you do anything, and the central place that old friends hold in our lives.

Sam Reid & the Riot Act bring the show to a close, and though a lot of folks have regrettably left, those at Oberon want to hear the energetic folk tunes of these local greats and show their appreciation. Aaron Goff brings some fire with his mandolin and Joe Kessler gifts us with some smooth fiddle goodness. This band is another staple of the festival, and an example of what great things it can accomplish.  (Max Bowen)



Church, Boston, MA   8/31/12

The club barely has anyone in it as Jack Burton vs. David Lo Pan take the stage. The singer is opting to face the drummer rather than the few of us here. The music is brutal and non-stop. The singer gathers some courage and jumps into the few people in front of the stage, only to quickly retreat back to the safe place with his drummer back in view. The band is older, and other than keeping his back to us, they don’t rely on flashy tactics. They’re dressed in jeans and T-shirts, with barely a full sentence spoken between songs. They’re relying on the music to speak for them. Even though they’re not much to watch, their music does impress the hell out of me. This is a good start to the night.

If you’ve ever heard Mr. Bungle or most of Mike Patton’s solo stuff and liked it, then Das Muertes is a band to check out. Camera men are recording this performance for their website and they’re pretty much in the way of the stage, so I’m forced to constantly move to see what’s going on. The singer comes out in a bowling shirt with slicked back hair, embracing his inner Patton. The next thirty minutes of music is chaotic, schizophrenic, and at times, very confusing, but I enjoy all of it. Every musical change they play seems to carry a need to be elsewhere, forcing them in mid-thought to leave unfinished ideas behind and move onto a new adventure. A quick example would be one second loud Tibetan chants fill the room, the next moment, the drum crashes in loud pulsing bursts, drowning them out. Then they set off into a surf rock number. The singer leaves the stage with, “Oilhead is up next” repeating over and over again through a distorted sampler attached to his mic.

I now know that the sampler wasn’t just something funny. It was a warning to everyone in the room. If you’re ever anywhere and you hear “Oilhead is up next,” take my advice and save your ears by leaving. Since I’m not in the know, I don’t leave when the crowd does a mass exodus. Instead, I watch the band take the stage, quickly noting that the piece of eye candy on stage (the lead singer) has a lack of talent. I’m sorry, I don’t care how good the backing band is—when the singer scrunches her face up as she delivers sour note after sour note, it negates most of the performance for me. The best part of the set is the backing band—when they rock out, the music is great. The best part of them rocking out is that the singer moves to the side of the stage, stands quietly, and lets me enjoy small doses of music before she assaults my ears again. I make it longer than most, but eventually I join the others outside waiting for Planetoid.

Planetoid opens with my all-time favorite song of theirs, and instantly Oilhead is forgotten. I’ve written so much on Planetoid that I often think eventually I would just sound like a broken record repeating myself, but every time I see them, they are still new and fresh. Locrius’s stage performance is always humorous. He starts out by talking about a new song they’ve been working on. He says: “We are going to play a song no one knows yet.” Someone in the crowd yells: “Do you know it?” Locrius laughs, “I hope so, but we are about to find out.” As the music plays, the Sisters of the Psychedelic Circle (the hula girls) act out small scenes where they assassinate each other, slowly making their way into the crowd, stabbing violently at the people in the front. The set builds up to and ends in a feverish jam. The energy ebbs and slow pulses as the crowd disperses—another face-melting successfully accomplished.     (Melvin O)



The House of Blues, Boston MA

What could be better than this? A packed house. Jesse Dee opens the night with his four-piece band and his Detroit style white soul and r&b with an Americana flavor wins the crowd over immediately. And by the time the  J. Geils Band comes onstage and goes into an instrumental rave-up, everyone in the crowd is ready to explode. When Peter Wolf leaps onstage, the band jumps into “Wait” from their first album, and the eruption in the audience is deafening. Memorable highlights in no particular order include: the guitar work of Duke Levine and Ken Barry is exceptional. New drummer Tom Arey is a solid pounder. The Uptown Horns are red hot. The two fine black backup singers are wearing long black dresses that match Peter’s all black outfit complete with sunglasses, fedora, and a bright red handkerchief in his lapel pocket. At one point, in between songs, Peter places an onstage stool front and center and pours two drinks out of a wine bottle into two bright red plastic cups and hands one to a grinning Duke as a mid-set refreshment—classic Wolf; holding court. Seeing ace on bass D.K. smiling broadly while mouthing the words and singing along with Peter throughout the night makes me grin too. Seth playing a white piano and looking like he’s having the time of his life,  along with Magic punctuating the songs with his unforgettable harp really showcases their unmistakable sound. Each time one of them takes a solo, the crowd goes nuts.  The fact that the J. Geils Band is as dynamic tonight as they were decades ago is simply remarkable.  I hear everything I’ve come for, and some surprises too: the hits: “Whammer Jammer,” “Ain’t Nothing But A House Party,” “Freeze Frame,” “Centerfold,” “Love Stinks,” and “Give It To Me.”  At one point, Wolf sits down and starts his lounge act and sings “Feelings” before the band goes into “Southside Shuffle.” Ha. Classic. It doesn’t stop: “Pack Fair And Square,” “Hard Driving Man,” “Homework,” and “Detroit Breakdown.” The night just keeps getting better and better, song after song.  What could be better than this—three hours and 23 songs of classic music played by an iconic group as good today as they were three decades ago.                           (A.J. Wachtel)

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.


Live Reviews — 1 Comment

  1. A small correction to Harry C. Tuniese’s nice review of Anais Mitchell’s opening set for the Bon Iver concert on 9/13/12: the “new tune” she opened with is called “Cosmic American” and appears on her 2004 album “Hymns for the Exiled” on Waterbug Records.