Live Reviews

Live332-Zoe

ZOË LEWIS,
BETHEL STEELE
me&thee coffeehouse,
Marblehead, MA
5/10/13

I’m back at my favorite coffeehouse for a performance by Zoë Lewis, whom I had seen a while ago do one song—a duet with  Chandler Travis (“Baby It’s Cold Outside”) and was compelled to catch her complete act.

Bethel Steele opens the show after Phillip Murphy’s haiku introduction (with audience participation) about the location of the fire exits. Bethel is a winner of the Passim Iguana Music Fund and will visit high schools and college Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer support groups hosting discussions and performing music on the subject. She’s an accomplished musician with a beautiful sounding acoustic guitar that she jokingly says is inlaid with mother-of-toilet-bowl. She informs us that Mother’s Day weekend is the most travelled weekend in the US and someone yells out, “Guilt trips!” She knows how to play ultra quietly to keep the room hushed, as she does in “With Age,” her mom’s mom song. This self-acclaimed world-class hugger plays “Sunrise,” the love side of her latest release, Love & Whiskey. By the end of her set, she has everyone singing along to the chorus of “Dreaming.” A solid performance.

Now I told you I came to see Zoë Lewis (Provincetown Woman of the Year), but I am not prepared for the entertainment she delivers. Picture the quickness of Robin Williams, the physicality of Charlie Chaplin, and a sweetness colored in a vaudeville/cabaret style. She is known as a band in a body, and her intimate story-telling is of equal high value. Tonight the talented and accomplished Mark Chenevert accompanies her on clarinet—a perfect fit with Zoë’s style. The non-verbal language between the two is amazing in itself, but Zoë’s zest for entertainment is like a constantly exploding bottle rocket. She easily jumps from guitar/harmonica, to the piano, to a ukelele, and even to a metal scrub board with attached bell mounted on her chest. She scratches out a quick rhythm, sings about her bicycle riding, while snapping the bell in a happy energetic tune. One lovely tale she shares is about while borrowing a wrench to fix her bike, the lender asks if she would scatter the ashes of the departed Geraldine into the bay. She takes out her rowboat, sprinkles the ashes in the water, drops a fishing line, and asks Geraldine to catch her a fish. I have to say this was the most entertaining show I’ve seen in many years. I’m sure you’ll see Zoë Lewis on the cover of The Noise within the next year.                      (T Max)

 

THE COWSILLS
Induction Into The Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame
The Met, Pawtucket, RI
4/28/13

What a great show! Bob, Paul, John and Susan are joined onstage by some of the next generation of Cowsill artists—Paul’s son Brendan on guitar and Bob’s kid Ryan on keys. It’s a real thrill to hear their  gorgeous four-part harmonies on every song including the opener “The Rain, the Park and Other Things,” and their closer, “Hair.” In between, the packed house, that includes fellow inductees Steve Smith (…& the Nakeds) and folk/blues artist Paul Geremia, John Cafferty (Beaver Brown) and Vicki Peterson (the Bangles), is treated to Cowsill classics “We Can Fly,” “Indian Lake,” “Love American Style,” and even “Deliver Me” and “River of Love”—songs written by their late brothers Bill and Barry. Susan does her own “Just Believe It” and Paul sings the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You.” Everyone in the crowd really digs his version and gets this in-joke; the Cowsill family was the basis for the Partridge Family TV show. At one point during the induction ceremony, Barry’s daughter Carrie gets onstage to accept her father’s award. Really beautiful. Brother John is now in the Beach Boys but it’s all Cowsills for everyone today. Listening to their version of CSN’s “Helplessly Hoping” with the perfect harmonies sends shivers down everyone’s backs. So much talent onstage. What a thrill.   (A.J. Wachtel)

 

SAM REID & THE RIOT ACT
Atwood’s Tavern, Cambridge, MA
4/13/13

For all the times I’ve been to Atwood’s, I still love it just as much every time when I walk in. Whether it’s the long old fashioned bar or the rustic outdoor patio, it’s a great place to hang out, especially when they have music.This small club somehow consistently brings out the area’s top musicians. Tonight, it’s none other than Sam Reid & the Riot Act. Bluegrass twang and islands mix into one delicious cocktail. The band is hopping and all eyes are on the stage. Aaron Goff lays down some fine mandolin while Handsome Johnny Ransom pumps out the solid bass lines. Fiddling Joe Kessler and the guitar man, Sam Reid himself, radiate dancing melodic lines that carry the whole music to another level. The good JC Campbell keeps everyone in line with his drum kit.  It’s a gorgeous sound and music to my ears. Pour me another IPA, please. I am enjoying this.       (Kier Byrnes)

 

DIRTY TRUCKERS,
KURT BAKER BAND
Precinct, Somerville MA
5/13/13

Kurt Baker Band is completely new to me, but they make me feel like I’ve hit a personal time warp: it’s the mid-1990s and I’m at the Rat listening to Mr. T Experience and the Queers (or Groovie Ghoulies, Nobodys, Sloppy Seconds, etc.).  I was absolutely infatuated with all those bands, so no surprise that I’m getting those old love pangs here. If KBB sounds like anyone, it’s the long lost California band Sweet Baby (and that’s good). I’ve never much cared for the term “pop-punk,” but even I must admit it’s perfectly descriptive of this band, with heavy emphasis on the “pop” part. Really great!

In the past I’ve always been at a loss when writing about Dirty Truckers, mostly because their musical influences (Tom Petty, Dylan maybe) don’t fall into my traditional areas of interest (more like Buddy Holly, Ramones, Little Richard). But Truckers are so wonderful, they make me wanna keep trying. While I’d never condemn them for being rock ’n’ roll for grown-ups (a dreadful thing), their songs surely reflect that they were written by adults—and to good effect with no intellectual posturing or bullshit. Most importantly, they rock. I catch myself humming “Without A Sound” and “Off the Hook.” Any adult who can’t appreciate Dirty Truckers needs to go back and start life over again. The End.         (Frank Strom)

 

IDIOT VEHICLE,
IN HEAT,
LOLITA BLACK,
OLNEYVILLE SOUND SYSTEM
Munch House, Providence RI
5/5/13

The Munch House is a giant cement box, devoid of furniture or decorations. We are gathered here together to witness the love of some of Providence’s best underground bands. Idiot Vehicle starts the night with a bang. Fancy if you will a modern noise rock version of Blue Cheer to get an idea of the fantastic bombast that is Idiot Vehicle.

Next up is In Heat. The former singer of noise punk band Tinsel Teeth used to prowl and run around the stage bloody and naked. Anchored to her keyboard, she is still a compelling frontwoman for a heavy band that reminds me of Godhead Silo and Savage Republic. Extra hooting and hollering by the drummer and bassist add to the glorious cacophony.

Lolita Black takes the floor next. Welcome to hell, indeed! Lead singer Scarlett Delgado whips the crowd into a frenzy as she croons, caterwauls, screeches, and sings. Scarlett sails into the crowd, slamdancing and taking control of the lost souls. Guitar player Bob Otis (also of Providence legends Drop Dead) holds down the fort with a steady gaze that says don’t mess with me. (I won’t!) Another excellent set by the queen of metal and her howling commandos.
Olneyville Sound System carts the bodies outside and pummels us into sweet oblivion. A duo with bass, drums, and vocals, OSS not only sounds like a full band, but one of the best bands you will ever hear. Imagine John Bonham on the drums with Captain Beefheart singing and Jack Bruce playing bass and you might be here. (Eric Baylies)

 

BIRD MANCINI
In A Pig’s Eye, Salem MA
5/11/13

The Pig is full of Bird Mancini fans—and I’m starting to get to know them all, since I’m a fan myself. Ruby Bird (vocals/accordion/harmonica/ melodica/  various percussion) and Billy Carl Mancini (vocals/guitar/sound engineer) make up this duet that has the feel of a light yet full, eclectic ’60s pop band. Both are excellent vocalists with precision timing. Tonight they’re playing a mix of songs from their new CD, Bird Mancini Lounge, the relatively new CD Tuning In/Tuning Out, old CDFunny Day, and fan-favorite covers “Crimson & Clover,” “Sunny Afternoon,” “Nature’s Way,” and “You Can’t Do That.” I realize how loved this band is. Half their attending fans are made up of media people—radio DJs, fanzine publishers, writers, and photographers. That pretty much insures that the word will get out about this talented musical pair.  Ruby is being extra expressive tonight, kinda dancin’ in her seat, dressed in a red top, black pants, and American flag socks sticking up from her boots! Billy’s the real time machine master, in both rhythm and choice of old cover tunes. He sports a tie-dyed T-shirt and his signature black derby. But the biggest little secret about Billy is his use of a DBX 120A sub harmonic synthesizer effect on his guitar. No, it’s not a typical synth—it boosts the bass on the bottom strings of his guitar, subtly adding what sounds like a bass player to the mix. Between that and Ruby’s boot-bells to create the snare effect, you essentially have a full band. Bravo Bird Mancini!          (T Max)

 

TALLAHASSEE
CD release party
The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA
5/4/13

Though there were a lot of other quality acts on the bill, I only was able to make it in time for the headliner, Tallahassee. It’s my first time at the Sinclair and it’s quite a nice venue. Tallahasse, led by ex-New England Patriots offensive lineman, Brian Barthelmes, kicks it into full gear with swampy, guitar-driven rock as part of the release party for their new CD, Old Ways. The band belts out riff after riff and the crowd reacts appreciatively. I climb up to the balcony and count an easy 300 people in attendance, many of whom are getting their groove on hardcore. The band ends with an acoustic ballad number but as the crowd calls out for another encore, Tallahassee brings up all the other bands that they shared the bill with for a group sing-along. Man, I wish I had gotten here earlier.    (Kier Byrnes)

 

JON BUTCHER AXIS,
THE FOOLS,
AUGUST 
(with JIMMY D’ANGELO)
Hanover Theatre, Worcester, MA
4/26/13

Tonight’s show is a stunning showcase of Boston’s music scene when it was guitar driven. It starts out with the squealing guitar solos of Jimmy D’Angelo and his band, August. This Mad Angel vet is known as Worcester’s answer to Eddie Van Halen. His commanding guitar work sets the stage for a great night of loud, powerful music. The Fools perform their usual set of shenanigans with Mike Girard playing his real toilet seat guitar to an enthusiastic crowd. I really like how they do “Life Sucks Then You Die” and go right into the Monkees’ “Last Train To Clarksville.” And these cats rock! When JBA comes onstage to start their first Boston area gig in many, many moons, the crowd explodes.  From the start, his great tone and guitar playing is the focus of the set but it’s a bigger JBA now than originally. Joining JB and founding bassist Chris Martin, and drummer Muzz (Farrenheit/ Beatlejuice), is keyboardist Sandy Mac and background singers Sara Thompson, Cassandra Milone, and David Mitchell. Jon walks onstage and solos with “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” which jet sets into “Ocean In Motion” quickly and unexpectedly. The crowd goes wild. Then “New Man,” “Life Takes A Life,” “Like A Rolling Stone” with the audience singing along to “How does it feel? This all accompanied by Jon’s soaring Stratocaster leads. Then the Hendrix part of the night continues with great versions of  “Foxy Lady,” “Red House,” and “Spanish Castle Magic.” “Holy War” follows with it’s great line, “Love is all I’m asking for,” which the crowd screams along with. No doubt about it: Jon is still an exploding guitarist a la Jimi and an unparalleled showman. Great lights by Sean McKinney on the huge stage are highlighted by Muzz’s strobe light instrumental “Urban Nocturne,” an oldie from his Farrenheit days. Muzz is pounding so hard he’s wearing headphones to block out the noise! Harp player Otto Lenz is brought up for a tight cover of Tampa Red’s “It Hurts Me Too.”  Chris Martin even comes up front and sings a Motown chestnut “Aint That Peculiar” that Johanna Wilde used to do. The long hour and a half set ends with “Never Can Say Goodbye” by the Jackson Five, I leave thinking it’s too bad the local music scene isn’t as loud and guitar-driven as it used to be.             (A.J. Wachtel)

 

MICHELLE WILLSON
Recording the live CD Fortune Cookie
Sculler’s Jazz Club, Boston, MA
5/2/13

How cool is the vibe in this room tonight? Chilling. And how ironic is this? Evil Gal is one of the best R&B singers around. How good? Red HOT. Tonight’s electric performance showcases how talented this woman and her band are. All of the music is tinged with jazz. Where else can you hear stunning versions of Dinah Washington’s “Salty Pops,” “A Stranger On Earth,” and a killer “Blowtop”? And I mean killer. Scott Shetler is on horns, clarinet and mandolin on Spooner Oldham’s “Life Rolls On.” Mike Mele is on hollow body guitar, Shinichi Otsu on piano (reading charts!), Sven Larson on fretless bass, and Zac Casher pounding back Michelle flawlessly through Ruth Brown covers of “I Would If Only I Could” and “Fat Daddy.” I really dig “Willow Weep For Me” from a Marx Brothers movie “Love Happy,” and the Ray Charles cover of “Hallelujah.” Michelle announces, “This is the first song I’ve written in 10 years” before the band jumps into the title track . Her voice is very emotional and is at its best when it’s sultry and powerful. Blues DJ Holly Harris announces the recorded performance and scribe Steve Morse is also in the audience preparing to write the liner notes for the new CD. A great night with a great band. I can’t wait to hear tonight’s performance again and again when Fortune Cookie is out and gets to meet my CD player.   (A.J. Wachtel)

 

TRINARY SYSTEM,
EULA,
THE VEGANS   

T.T. the Bear’s, Cambridge, MA
5/8/13

I arrive at T.T. the Bear’s and there aren’t many people here. Around 9:25 the Vegans come on stage and warm up the small crowd with their indie/alternative sound. Their dual bass and fast-paced drumming is refreshing. I feel captivated by the bassist standing center stage with his whole body in motion as he lifts each note through the air. The lyrics are barely audible and begin to morph into a whisper, as they disappear inside the vibrations in the room. The crowd begins to warm up after the first song and a few more people arrive at the venue, a full cup of beer in their hands. I notice an older man sitting in the corner on the floor; he is the only one not standing near the stage or at the bar. The man begins to blend into the dark red walls, as his head bobs with pleasure.
After the Vegans end their set, Eula takes the stage. They are an energetic three-piece band with a female vocalist on guitar. The vocalist is petite with curly blonde hair and a voice so powerful that I do not notice their sound check problem until she brings it to the audience’s attention. The vocalist introduces herself as Alyse, and twirls her guitar sporadically as she strikes a chord. I watch in awe as she dances across the stage like a rock ’n’ roll ballerina, her leg folding into the air with every melody that is released from her lips. The bassist chants and Alyse responds in song as they begin “Texas Stampede.” I can feel the energy in the room as the drums disguise their sound to mimic the footsteps of marching troops. Eula steals the show for a moment, with their animated lyrics and pop punk meets new-wave sound.

When the main act, Trinary System, comes out on stage, the mood shifts in the room. The lead vocalist, Roger Miller, is dressed in a suit, his shaggy hair falling over his face as he slouches over the mic. He clutches his classic red and white guitar before holding it up to the sky and strikes one heavy chord to wake the crowd. Each note he strums and every lyric sung coaxes more people toward the stage. Although many people in the crowd are much older than I, I feel connected to them by the sound of the wailing guitar in Roger’s arms. Many photographers stretch to snag a photos, it is suddenly difficult to see the stage as the crowd doubles in size. The music stalls momentarily, and Roger makes eye contact with the crowd. He calls out “Come on mother f**kers!” sparking life through the audience.              (Ashley Magown)

 

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. 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.

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