KRISTA PAGE & RADIO MAMBO
Sally O’Briens, Somerville MA
Tonight I am out delivering bundles of the Noise to clubs all over the city. It’s a fun job as I usually get to stop in a bunch of places and see what’s going on. One of my favorite locations is Union Square, an area rich with local talent boasting several clubs that showcase live music seven nights a week. I stop by Sally O’s and am immediately floored by this girl on stage. In addition to the young Lisa Loeb look she has going for her, she has a soft but soulful voice and backed by an accordion and a cajon-style drum and guitar. I don’t typically hear much Latin folk-rock music around these parts, but these guys are playing it and playing it well. I ask a stranger at the bar what the band’s name is and make a note; I am coming back to see these guys as soon as I finish my deliveries. (Kier Byrnes)
VANCE GILBERT, PATTI DeROSA
me&thee coffeehouse, Marblehead MA
Kathy Sands-Boehmer, the booker at me&thee (there’s a story in this online issue about her too), encouraged me to come to this show. Me being relatively new to the folk scene, I didn’t know what to expect, but do know she consistently books hi-quality acts. I’ve come to trust her. After Phillip Murphy instructs us about the fire exits in a haiku (he always thinks up something creative), Patti DeRosa is up on the stage. At first it appears that her claim to fame is that tonight’s headliner, Vance Gilbert, played at her wedding, but her confident style quickly proves her a worthy talent. She’s proud of her Italian heritage and sings “Italian Heart” partially in Italian. A clear alto voice carries her jazzy soulful folk backed with a gentile touch of fingers to her pearl-trimmed Martin acoustic. She plays a short set ending with “Be That As it May,” a sing along about Marie Phillips who lost her life due to gun violence.
Vance Gilbert is up next and he enters like a comedian who’s about to take you on a wild ride. He enjoys interacting with the audience and after his first song, when he sees me taking notes, he jokingly warns me that his lyrics are copyrighted. His second tune contains the most mesmerizing vocal percussion break I’ve ever heard—this guy quickly flows with his ideas and executes them with precision. I love it that he has a song that is a farewell to Pluto, the planet that got knocked off the old solar system mobiles. He has props too—like a sheet of paper that folds out to the floor that contains the lyrics to his next song. His T-shirt reads “Flying Ace” as we learn that he is big into model airplanes and has a buddy in the audience who shares this love. He peers out to the crowd to note the pairs of partners and labels them quickly to get a laugh. He’s not through we me too, as he asks who I’m writing for. I feel like he’s dying to lay into me but he holds back. On demand he impersonates Tom Waits, Joan Baez, and Christine Laffin and get his fans roaring. The guy combines the humor of Chris Rock, the alertness of Robin Williams, the musical inventiveness of Jimi Hendrix (on an acoustic), and he enjoys pushing the social envelope. Read the rants on his web page to get a true feeling for this guy who is full of integrity and intelligence. (T Max)
SAM REID & THE RIOT ACT
Atwood’s Tavern, Cambridge MA
Atwood’s Tavern, with a reputation for amazing music and excellent craft beer is king of a home away from home for me. Tonight is extra special as I’m out with one of my good friends, Sooz and her two sisters who are in town from Omaha in celebration of her birthday. If there was ever a way to get a taste of Cambridge nightlife, this is it. On stage is the extremely talented group of musicians known as Sam Reid & the Riot Act heating up the room with fiery mandolin solos and smoking fiddle solos. It’s perfect music for sipping whiskey and catching up with old friends. Rumor has it that the Boston Red Sox’s old manager, Terry Francona, is in attendance catching the show. I’m not really a sports fan, so I couldn’t confirm or deny if it was him or just a look-alike. There is a dance party at the end of the set to Sam’s version of Salt Creek featuring a nasty solo on the acoustic guitar that has the crowd calling for more. Until next time! (Kier Byrnes)
MMOSS, GHOST BOX ORCHESTRA
Middle East (Upstairs), Cambridge MA
It’s a joy to see Boston supporting its growing local psychedelic music scene. Beantown’s love is apparent from the fact that the Middle East Upstairs is filled to near-capacity for the two local entries in the middle of tonight’s bill—Boston’s own Ghost Box Orchestra and New Hampshire seacoast’s MMOSS.
Even before the bands play, the psychedelic mood is set by the presence of three overhead projectors at the front of the stage. Each one manned by a hunch-backed person managing oil-and-water inkblot visuals projected on top of the bands. I was born twenty years too late to enjoy the Summer of Love directly. Tonight I feel as though I’ve captured just a bit of that vibe.
First things first, just shy of 45 minutes is not enough time to fully immerse oneself in the Ghost Box Orchestra experience. Nonetheless, their five-song set—comprised of four new songs and a cover of Hawkwind’s Hurry on Sundown (yes, a Hawkwind cover)—is a tease worth taking in. Their largely instrumental, drone-influenced jams ripple through the audience. Vocals, when present, are largely unintelligible and amount to chanting when buried deep in the mix, adding to the tribal, trance-like feel. Just as I’m finding my inner Om the set is over and the vibe evaporates, leaving me craving a headline-length set.
MMOSS hit the stage to bring their brand of Jefferson-Airplane-meets-Neutral-Milk-Hotel psychedelia. Their also-too-short set consists of songs culled from their debut, “i”, and it’s recently released follow-up, Only Children. Their sound has evolved somewhat away from psych-pop of their debut and on towards a move improvised sound, akin to some of Ghost Box Orchestra’s work.
In all the night is a stellar showing for two of New England’s most promising psychedelic bands and leaves me eager to hear more. (George Dow)
One Longfellow Square, Portland ME
I’m excited to hear the lovely Erica Brown and her band, Bluegrass Connection. I feel the love coming from the packed house of bluegrass fans, as well as music students and their families. Erica and two of her band-mates, Steve Roy and Matt Shipman, teach music at The 317 Main Community Music Center in Yarmouth.
Erica looks very pretty in her black boots and black sparkly sweater. She has a calm, sweet demeanor, but is also poised and confident.
She’s got that Alison Krauss thing going on—a pretty voice and an excellent fiddle player. The band has a very cohesive feel—I can tell they’ve played together for years. Ken Taylor grins and plays standup bass. The steady-looking Read McNamara keeps the five-string banjo going in a dependable, unfettered way. The dexterous Matt Shipman is on guitar and the dazzling Steve Roy plays mandolin. After numerous trips to the edge of the stage, tuning with his back to us, Steve says, “Mandolin is Italian for, ‘out of tune’.” Matt and Steve both sing lead and back up too.
I love a hot-damn little instrumental called, “Christy Lynn.” Matt quips afterwards, “That’s a sawdust kicker!” Also notable is the Gillian Welch song, “One More Dollar,” “Big City Blues” by Matt Shipman, Emmylou Harris’s “Roses in the Snow,” “Walking down the Line” by Bob Dylan, and the delightful, “Gone,” by John Hiatt. The finger work all around is top notch—clear pickin’ and strummin’, and full of those high, lonesome soundin’ vocals. Erica has been an award-winning violinist since childhood, specializing in the French-Canadian style. Great show from beginning to end! (Kimmy Sophia Brown)
TAD OVERBAUGH & THE NEW ARRIVALS
Toad, Cambridge MA
Toad is one of my favorite venues in Boston. You can consistently find good music and fine craft beer. Tonight, Toad features the Americana power quartet, Tad Overbaugh & the New Arrivals. Armed with a tasty IPA, I grab a bar stool and enjoy some original music in the vein of Steve Earle, Tom Petty, and Johnny Cash. The band is in full swing and sounding great. The guitar has plenty of twang and the bass has enough low end get the whole room shaking. Rick Cranford, especially impressive on drums, is holding things down like a pro while singer Tad Overbaugh croons out country ballads, garage pop and honky-tonk anthems. I’m in no shape to dance, but I try anyway. It’s hard to keep still when there is music like this playing. (Kier Byrnes)