Live Reviews


Me & Thee Coffeehouse,
Marblehead, MA
Me & Thee is packed on this chilly rainy night as Christine Lavin launches with an a cappella ditty of electronic loops layering her voice. The song is all about her being at Me & Thee on a Friday night. She’s like a funny Laurie Anderson. Then, on a guitar-accompanied tune, she gets the entire audience up and out of their seats to do 150 movements. It’s amazing how it livens up the crowd. Christine is sharp with her ideas and execution. Her song about a fly on an airplane ends abruptly when the insect gets squished, and the dreamy tune devoted to visiting Hawaii turns into a horrific rage against too many annoying wind chimes. She even attaches two wind chimes to her guitar to exaggerate the effect. In the last verse, she fixes the problem with a baseball bat. A change of pace finds her reading a section from her book, Cold Pizza & Breakfast, about the first, and last, play she was ever in. She was guilted into doing it, though she had no experience, then was confronted with a cast of mega-stars, screw-ups that weren’t her fault, and a scolding from Paul Newman (the famous actor, or health food guy, depending on your age). She seriously delivers “More Than One Million Americans Have Died From Guns Since 1968” propped up against “If You’re Drunk You Can’t Buy a Puppy” and they’re both extremely effective on opposite ends of the tragic/comic scale. More humor ensues with a Clint Eastwood Republic Presidential Convention song, then a more traditional presentation of Dan Fogelberg’s “Saddest Christmas Song,” with electronic backing violins and vocal harmonies that abruptly segues into a lively Dixieland instrumental with Christine twirling batons like a 16-year-old majorette. To say she “blew my mind” would be an understatement.
Before Don White even starts a song, he is ambushed with the Jerry Christen Memorial Award for his inspiring participation in the folk music community. Don is a skilled musician strapped with a stand-up comedian’s mind. He loves to talk about his family relationships. First, it’s his wife of 34 or 35 years who is undelighted after the kids grow up and move away and she is once again confronted with her husband. Don likens himself to the family dog and gets all the Marbleheaders in attendance to do their best howls, despite what anyone outside the church may think. He’s clever with the tune “Come On Out and Be 16 With Me,” where the parents try to switch roles with their teenage kids but eventually fail at the task. His deadpan disapproval on a school to teach folk music leads to him teaching the class how to ruin a folk music set, and that is by reading from a book you wrote. So that’s exactly what he does with us. He recites the quotes on the inner sleeve that are meant to help sell the book, but his wife, his son, and his brother, all take turns at doing the opposite. Then his favorite returning character comes to life—his father, nicknamed “Fried Clams Larry.” He’s a manly man—so much so that if he even attended a folk show, his molecules would start to fall apart. The one piece of serious information his dad offered him was: “No drinking man with half a brain would ever want a gun in the house. Because sooner or later your wife will shoot you.” Another returning theme is when anyone in his family is feeling “pressure”—humor is sure to come out. Pressure comes up when ever something extremely serious happens. When his mom died after 51 years of marriage, his father was lost. He couldn’t understand a sandwich—it had too many moving parts, and at her funeral, his unzipped fly inspired a one-liner that had his children rolling on the floor in laughter.
Christine eventually joins Don on the stage and they swap songs back and forth, adding little bits to each other’s contributions. Don’s “It’s A Great Day Not to be Dead” with a little doo wop in it, while Christine’s “I Love Bald Headed Men” polishes the egos of those domed gents; Don’s inspirational gesture to artists— “Go Light the World on Fire”; Christine’s “Good Thing He Can’t Read My Mind” about how women do things for men only because they love them, and Don offer’s the dude version; and finally a folk singalong of “Goodnight Irene.” The standing ovation gets them to do one more, and it includes five dudes from the audience joining them on stage for the manly background gang vocals on the sarcastic “Sensitive, New Age Man.” I had a wonderful time at this great venue tonight.
(T Max)


The Middle East, Cambridge MA
This is Hear Now Live’s Halloween party. I look around and see crazy costumes in the crowd and onstage on the bands all night. Some of these costumes are so wild, they make me feel like I’m an extra in a Salvadore Dali movie. The guy with at least 30 shining electric light bulbs draped around his torso is pretty cool, as is the bearded guy dressed in a white robe who bears a strong resemblance to Christ. He keeps pointing at me and giving me peace signs all night. I wonder if this is some kind of omen?
The Symptoms open up with their electronic indie rock, which sounds to me in the James Blake, Death Cab For Cutie, and Explosions In The Sky vein. I dig their songs, “The World And It’s Mistress” and “Don’t Leave.”
Next, is the Kristen Ford Band and their own brand of indie rock—this time similar to Radiohead, Tegan & Sarah, and even Modest Mouse. It has a bit of alt-country in songs like “Pretty Little Mind” and they also open with a reggae tune. I like Kirsten Lamb on the upright bass and vocal harmonies. The band is dressed as the characters inThe Wizard of Oz. I dig this band.
Next comes Ellis Ashbrook and their psychedelic hard rock/funk/jam sound. Their Pink Floyd/Radiohead influences are obvious and typically presented in their songs with a slow, smooth intro that builds up to a frenzied fury and then slows back down again. I like their songs “Climax” and “Bottomfeeder,” which is a song I suspect they wrote about my publisher, T Max. This has not been confirmed by press time. The artists are all dressed as characters from Pulp Fiction with bassist Jonathan Granoff looking spiffy in his Puerto Rican fence climbers and thin black tie.
OTP is country punk in the Social Distortion/Against Me! world. Check out their good tunes: “I Like Drinking With My Friends” and “I Don’t Care What You Think”; great stuff.
Headliner Shoney Lamar is celebrating the release of his CD, Adult Entertainment. His music is a mix the Pixies and Tom Waits, and it’s very good. Songs like “Follow That Taxi” and “Authorities” really stand out. All of these groups are regulars on the local scene and it’s cool to get a chance to see so many good bands together during one night at a great club.       (A.J. Wachtel)

Regattabar, Cambridge  MA
I have been following the career of violinist/ composer/ singer Carla Kihlstedt for years since I saw her perform with Tin Hat Trio at the ole Kendall Cafe over ten years ago. Immediately, I sensed a provocative eclectic talent pushing the boundaries between jazz, avant-rock, folk, improv, and European classical. She has worked with an international panoply of extraordinary bands and musicians [Fred Frith’s Cosa Brava, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, 2 Foot Yard, Lisa Bielawa, Satoka Fujii, and still w/ Tin Hat], teaches at New England Conservatory, and has settled into a duo with her multi-talented husband, Matthias Bossi, called Rabbit Rabbit.
Now based on Cape Cod, they also run an Internet subscription service, offering new songs, stories, videos, pics, and other sundries each month. Much of that music is the basis for tonight’s show [i.e. – “Hush Hush,” “Home Again,” “Ballad for No One,” “The Curious One,” “After the Storm,” “Newsreel”]. Carla is the mesmerizing focal point with a delicate, virtuoso violin style that can suddenly turn tense and vocals that glide from hushed tones to theremin-like falsettos, always dead-on. Hubby Matthias alternates between snare and floor tom, cajon, bass harmonica, field organ, piano, and wry vocals. They are augmented by regular collaborator, Jon Evans, on basses, guitar, and lap steel. Their lyrics are evocative, sparse poetry. Their musical moods swing from country grooves to world music to pop dissonances in major and minor keys. They are poignant and powerful, and nothing short of absolutely magnificent.    (Harry C. Tuniese)


House of Blues, Boston MA
“What a night!” I’m thinking as I look at the long line to get in and recognize quite a few people I haven’t seen in generations. The place is packed as Contrapposto, a duo from Portland, Maine, goes on. The female singer is wearing a butterfly outfit and black tights with wings; and has a very powerful voice. Her male bandmate, dances around a lot wearing a little black bandit mask, and has a small keyboard strapped around his neck; which he never plays. They sing and dance behind taped electronica music. As I scribble notes, I ask Brett Milano, who is standing next to me: “Brett, what type of electronic music is this?” And he looks at me and says “Electronic… STUFF.” I like their songs “Rabbit Habbits,” “Lyre’s Call,” and “Cousinfriend.”
Wasting no time, Human Sexual Response go onstage—four lead singers in shiny and glittering outfits fronting a three piece power trio. They start with “The Day the Dolls Came to Life,” and bring everyone  back to the ’80s, when new wave music ruled the airwaves and Boston had one of the best music scenes on the planet, and it gets better and better song after song: “Unba,” “What Sex Means To Me,” “Andy Fell,” “Jackie Onassis,” “Anne Frank,” and “Land of the Glass Pinecones” (with Rich Gilbert playing his customary beer bottle rhythm). They even come back all dressed as nurses and do a crippling four-song encore: “Cool Jerk,” Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel,” Derringer’s “Hang On Sloopy,” and the appropriate closer “Butt F**k.” (Remember when they played that live on TV’s Five All Night and got in trouble?) This is great stuff. Before “Pinecones,” Larry dials a number on his cell phone to his friend, Cathy and has the huge audience give her a shout out after he leaves a short message from “onstage during the set”—a classic example of a fun moment during the night that reminded me just how much fun the new wave era was. Some of the people I see in the audience include: Ed “Moose” Savage, Jim Sullivan, Frank Rowe (Classic Ruins), Doug Melcher, Julie Kramer ( WFNX), Ted Thomas (the Channel), Lizzie Borden, Ron Raymond (Pleasure Pointe), Anne Goade, New Wave Bob Whitlock (the Lines), Bob Colby, Bill T. Miller (OBE), Des and Kathy (the Bentmen/ the Magic Room), Jeebs, and Jay Allen. Then it’s upstairs to the Foundation Room run by the famous Erica Truncale, for the aftershow party with the David Hull Band playing two sets. David is a vet from the Joe Perry Project and he has his old bandmate, Charlie Farren, come up and play three acoustic songs to a packed house. David plays some great songs from his new CD, Soul in Motion, including one really dig “Pay Some Attention.” “What a night!” I think, as I make my way to the exit.  (A.J. Wachtel)


Ralph’s Diner, Worcester, MA
DJ Mätthew Griffin has been known to throw a party or two, and did so this evening for the occasion of his 40th birthday.  I made my way upstairs to the crowd only to realize I missed the opening act after pausing outside the diner to see the damage inflicted by the recent hurricane. The room was buzzing from the set just played by Worsteria, and I’ll take that as proof that they were worth seeing.
Performers were next, reuniting for one night only, with Doug Geer on lead guitar and Sibley Geer on bass, along with the next generation Performer nephew, Charles Geer, on drums. They ran through a blistering set of punk rock numbers, pulling from their catalog such faves as “Total Disarmament,”  “New York, NY,” and even covering The Blue Moon Band’s ”Main Street Rag,” a classic punk anthem from Wormtown’s beginning in 1978.
The Time Beings followed with Jay Martorano on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Chris Lillyman on bass, Dave Kowalchek behind the drums, and Preston Wayne, king of the whammy bar, on lead guitar. Widely regarded as putting on the loudest live shows in the area, the band did not disappoint with screaming guitars and thunderous garage rock beats pulled from a well crafted choice of originals and covers like “When the Night Falls,” “Journey to Tyme,” and “Theme from Exodus.”
Also reuniting in honor of Mätthew Griffin’s 40th, the Missionarys closed the night, bringing the audience with them on a trip back in time to when Worcester Artist Group was the cool place to be.  Their lurking pace of post punk music is executed perfectly by Richard Maliska (guitar), Mick Lawless (bass), Doug Wedge (drums), Caroline Kirohn (vocals). The crowd swayed and danced into the night as the Missionarys filled the room with their mesmerizing compositions.     (LB Worm)

The President’s Rock Club,  Quincy MA
Right away I can tell this band plays two types of songs: slow, traditional blues and powerful, uptempo R&B; and they play both styles very well. Blistering versions of  Albert King’s hard-driving “Born Under A Bad Sign” and Muddy’s “Hoochie Cootchie Man” mix well with some of their originals and are perfectly suited to this blue collar blues-loving Quincy crowd. I really dig how mid-song the band is rocking out at volume 11 and then cuts the sound to a drop of a pin for a few measures while vocalist extraordinaire Eric Savoie pumps the crowd. Then the volume increases and I spot Stan Blues Jr. with his growling guitar prowling around the audience going table to table for a separate and private concert at each stop. John Peresada on four strings and Dylan Jack on skins pound the crowd into submission and barkeep god-emperor, Dennis Abbott, does his best to promote functional chaos. These cats rock with a capital “R.” Don’t miss them if they play near you.   (A.J. Wachtel)


The Middle East, Cambridge MA
Caught these two new rising, young talents solo at Fazenda’s a month earlier and was struck by their nice smart tunes, lovely vocals, and great interaction. Tonight, they’re playing individually with their respective groups to a crowded room of cheering youths. Steph Barrak is a pop doll (think a young Ramona Silver), with her big glasses and adorable demure attitude. Her smart, inventive songs [“Painted Face,” “Robot,” “Natural Progression”] capture me even more with strong, simple themes, sharp choruses and bridges, and a lot of space in-between. Her voice is confident and gentle. I am completely charmed.
Next up is Eva Walsh, who offers a more mainstream version of the same pure energy. With her big voice, lil ukelele, and eclectic tunes, this is a major talent in-waiting. She is celebrating the release of her debut album, Storybook, and her group adds a string section to complement her own violin playing [especially on the title tune], a wonderfully talented textural guitarist, a strong rhythm section, glockenspiel, and even a guest trombonist for one tune [“It’s Up to You”]. She mixes folk, ballads, pop, country, and even a bit of rap, with ease. Oh, and I didn’t mention that both gals are members of each other’s group. Why don’t officially join forces and take the city by storm, sorta like the Indigo Girls, the Nields, or local heroes, the Story. There is tremendous potential here, so check ’em out!          (Harry C. Tuniese)


Church, Boston MA
This gig is originally supposed to be at the Magic Room in Brighton but is changed to Church in the Fenway at the last minute due to some difficulties. I can’t wait to see this cool local instrumental surf band and to meet Butch Partrick, the artist who gained fame as Eddie Munster.” Tonight’s hosts, Bentmen’s Des and Gary Sohmers (the Dharma Bums and Antiques Roadshow), are old friends of Butch and between sets, Butch goes onstage with Gary and they do a little improv schtick with a Q&A-period at the end. How cool is it when Tsunami of Sound do a surf version of the Munster’s theme song, and Butch is walking around taping it with his cell phone?  Dreadfully cool. David Esposito on guitar, Rick Sanger (the Venusians) on drums, Jamie Huggins on bass, and Bob Damiano playing guitar and keys rip through cool covers of “Hawaii Five-O” and “Wild Weekend,” and great originals: “Pearl Harbor” and “On the Rocks.” I like this band a lot. Bartender extraordinaire, Peter Boyd, and doorman, Jason Rykiel, do their best to keep order after Butch Patrick is overheard saying the difference between the Munsters and the Addams Family was, “one was a family of monsters who looked like people and the other was a family of people who looked like monsters.” A fun night.   (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 New England.


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