Live Reviews

Tim Gearan

Tim Gearan

Atwood’s Tavern, Cambridge MA           

Having just finished our regular Tuesday night running club at Courtside Tavern down the street, we head over to Atwood’s to catch some great tunes as well as devour some tasty craft beers, steamed mussels, loaded fries and a Charcuterie plate. I guess so much for burning calories, right? The staff at Atwood’s warns me not to be too loud, as the legendary Tim Gearan is playing a special acoustic set as part of his extended residency, which now extends to Tuesday and Friday nights at the club. Per usual, the music is amazing, the band is flawless, and the food delicious. And even though it’s an acoustic set, by the end, things are shaking as if the weekend came early. There are few places in this town as special as Atwood’s on a Tuesday night.                         (Kier Byrnes)

LYNNE TAYLOR BAND (with the Exit Dance Theatre)/ 
The Firehouse Center for the Arts, Newburyport MA                      

The Firehouse is a nice, smallish (195 seater) theatre that stands with its back to the Merrimack River and has been serving the Newburyport community for 22 years. 

Kristine Malpica (Imagine Studios) stands center stage, palms open, welcomes the audience and introduces the opening act, Lucian Parkin. Lucian casually walks in and says, “’Music be the food of love’—some British guy said that—Shakespeare.” He’s handling a big bodied Gibson J 200 acoustic with a decorative pick guard. He doesn’t forcefully attack his songs—he kind of lets them fall out of his hands and watches the words leave his mouth, almost not sure of what might come next. My front row seat doesn’t get hit well by the main speakers, so some of his lyrics are lost and his banter has a funny way to it. He mumbles about how he’s “supposed to play originals, or else ASCAP…” his sentence falls off unfinished. For a reference, mix together Leonard Cohen, Tom Rush, and Willie Nelson and you’re somewhere in the right ballpark (and the 2013 Sox won their first postseason game earlier today). The strings get retuned between many of his unique tunes. He’s got this funky pick/strum guitar style and sings like he’s barely holding it together but always seems to deliver the goods.

Kristine is back center stage explaining how Lynne Taylor’s songwriting has a way of attacking political issues without putting off her audience. The band enters with Scott Solsky’s light spacey guitar sounds sprinkling through the room, and as Lynne’s voice and Yamaha piano joins in, two dancing figures in white, one of each gender, move and twirl slowly across the open stage. Kristin Miller’s sultry cello adds warmth to the band’s easy rock tunes. Mark Toulin offers more guitar work, Charlie Farr works his muster yellow drum set and Ed Passarella adds the Fender bottom. The odd pair of Liz Frame and Nickie Farr add the more than adequate background vocals. But it’s clear that Lynne’s vocals dominate the sound, rich and full of expression. Her lyrics move with meaning for us to linger on. She ends with the title track of her new CD, “When Lightning Strikes the Tree,” reminding us that life goes on after things go wrong.       (T Max)

Radio Downstairs, Somerville MA          

The evening begins with the ’60s pop revivalist and multi-instrumentalist, Ben Tan.  Ben opens his set with “Upper Lower Middle Class Blues,” a tune enormously in debt to one, Bob Dylan.  In exchange for originality, Ben offers an undeniable degree of imitation that is outstanding. With guitar and harmonica in tow, the folky musician shouts and shrieks in that classic, gravelly Dylan voice. In doing so, he is able to captivate the entire crowd. He switches things up a bit by hopping on the piano for most of tonight’s performance. This is where his Beach Boys/Brian Wilson inspiration shines through his songwriting.  Songs like “Dance the Night Away,” “Marielle,” and “Come Out” bear an adventurous pop sound with high notes and symphonic arrangements. For the last couple songs, Ben Tan performs a series of crowd requests including a cover of CeeLo Green’s “F*** You,” which garners the largest response all evening.

Gangbang Gordon is a vast departure from the ’60s pop odes of Ben Tan. Gordon’s music is as puzzling as his name.  It’s a mixture of outsider music, out of tune garage rock, and perhaps even some twee pop to spice things up a little bit—not to mention the occasional rap number. This is Gangbang Gordon’s fifth performance and this time around, he is accompanied by a drummer. This addition naturally amplifies the sound, but it also smoothly complements Gordon’s genuinely catchy guitar riffs; perhaps even making his off the wall vocals easier to digest. Despite, or as a result of his outsider status Ganbang Gordon remains a striking fixture that is more memorable and enticing that most other “conventional” performers. With this reputation in mind, Gordon makes his way to the crowd as he raps and tosses empty beer cans at the flabbergasted on lookers.

Free Pizza is an excellent middle ground between the fuzzed out ramshackle of Gangbang Gordon and the bubble gummy pop coming from Ben Tan. Free Pizza consists of Jesus Vio on vocals, Nick Rasmussen on drums, and Santiago Cardenas on guitar. Jesus typically plays bass as well, but due to a freak skateboarding accident that occurred just days earlier, he is unable to play the instrument. Fortunately for the group, friend Ben Katzman fills in with seemingly effortless chemistry. The band is fairly mellow in their approach to garage rock. As I have noted before, their music is quite intimate, allowing the band to build an easy connection with its audience.  My favorite Free Pizza song is entitled “Net-Babes” and serves as a fun ode to online dating with lines like: “We have no beaches/ but baby we could surf the internet.” Go see them live, if you get a chance!

In case you thought the names Gangbang Gordon and Free Pizza weren’t odd enough, Miami Doritos is here to freak you out with their fresh brand of aggressive, thrashy garage punk.  Unlike, the other garage we’ve been accustomed to this evening, Miami Doritos is a lot heavier, incorporating elements of hardcore and metal into one giant sonic mess. Imagine if the 13th Floor Elevators played Metallica’s Master of Puppets. Okay, maybe not that extreme, but extreme. Miami Doritos features Alex on drums and vocals and Kurt on vocals and guitar, and together, the pair produce a shattering wall of noise that my ears are still recovering from, nearly a week later. Additionally, these two can also create some truly amazing punk rock/ rock ’n’ roll that often straddles the line between simple noise pop and petrifying thrash metal, often within seconds. Either way, it will melt your face off for sure.   (Chris DeCarlo)

The Skinny Pancake, Burlington, VT           

On family vacation with two kids under the age of 15, it’s hard to find live music opportunities. With Tuesday night as the only free evening, you would forgive me for giving up on the idea entirely. Fear not. I didn’t give up.

The Skinny Pancake is quintessential Burlington, Vermont. Crunchy, crepe-based concoctions. A healthy selection of micro-brewed beer. Walls adorned with copious local artwork. In short, the perfect place to experience a local artist.

The DuPont Brothers—real-life brothers Sam and Zack—play the perfect acoustic mix for the setting. Two guitars and violin pave the way for beautiful vocal harmonies—reminding me of Simon & Garfunkel without the schmaltz. Their gritty delivery of home-spun Americana sounds like Mumford & Sons without the unnecessary bombast. Though we arrive late and only catch six songs, they’re enough to convince me to drop five well-spent dollars on their debut, self-titled EP.           (George Dow)

Larcom Theatre, Beverly MA 

I’m back at the incredible Larcom Theatre in Beverly MA, and I’m excited just to be around the beautifully decorated walls and curtains that trim the stage.  David Bull, a very classy gentleman, introduces producer, Peter Van Ness, who I can see is all animated about tonight’s show—and the other two that are upcoming in this series at the Larcom. Peter fills us in on the opening act, the Fabulous Mustangs! And lookie—the drummer, Mark Bryant is the Noise distributor in Plymouth MA. He’s slappin’ nice rightly on his single snare drum. Yes, this outfit is pure country—wow—there’s nothing like the sound of a lap steel to get you in a country mood, and Frankie Biandino knows how to whip out the solos and the less obvious background candy pops. But he’s just one piece of the talent flowing off the stage. Did I say these guys, and gal (Angel Dumbrowski in the table cloth checkered dress is swingin’ on fiddle), are the real deal in country toonsville? We’ve got all the trimmin’ too—cowboy hats, boots, and shirts—but just natural, not like some slick outfit trying’ to knock you over with their look. These guys and gal, do the knockin’ with the sounds that come through the PA, and when the sound system blows a fuse—it don’t stop them none—they play right up to the edge of the stage and we’re just rightly singin’ along. Thanks to Will Hunt who comes to rescue the electricity. Where are my spurs? Now, I haven’t even gotten to the meat of the steak-and-patata show on stage—on big stand-up bass and throwing in those most necessary sweet harmonies is Rich Holbrook with his long burns on the side. And the gravy on top of this country stew includes the perfect country star looks of Dan Foley with his steady guitar rhythms and keen lead vocals that get us stompin’ threw the mud with the pigs jawin’ them dirty apples. Gotta say they play a number of most excellent originals and sweet cover songs by the likes of Hank Williams and Buck Owens. Who knew I had a country gentleman liven’ inside me? Come back Fabulous Mustangs, real soon—hear?  And before I finish scapin’ the sh*t off my shoes, I find out these here Mustang fellas and gal have only been throwin’ it down for a few months. Give ’em a year and they’ll be shootin’ for the Grande Ole Opry. 

I slip off my spurs and throw on a slicker, for there’s a storm coming over the edge of the stage, and it’s lead by a Glocestonian, the North Star of the night—Mr. Allen Estes. Peter Van Ness revs up the audience for the appearance of Allen… who gentle strolls out by himself and begins with “Simple Man Like Me.” This is like the trip in the dory out to sailboat… because as we float along with Allen’s masterful songs, we slowly pick up more hands, first being Dave Brown (x-Billy Joel/Simon & Garfunkle) on his Dobro with a slide, to join in on “Lone Surfer” and “We All Fall Down” (a song I love harmonizing to). Awaiting at the sailboat is Steve Burke on keys to to add to the sweet song “Just Someone That I knew.” Matt Levinworth on fiddle helps color a most touching, and my favorite, “Private Malone.” From the sailboat, we hop on board a two masted schooner where Dave Mattacks (Elton John, Jimmy Page, George Harrison) and Wolf Gindandes (Tracy Nelson, Digney Fignus, BMG) are readying the sails (on drums and bass, respectively). The wind picks up for the “true story” song, “Wilder Than Her” with the line: “She’s a summer storm, I’m a hurricane/ one blows through the town, the other blows it away.” Lights start swirling all round the room as psychedelic sounds open “Indian Eyes” and the band proceeds to shake the house with swinging violin solos and rockin’ Dobro flings. Allen deadpans a line right after the boys ends their version of Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual.” He says, “Not one single pair of underpants”—for the young readers, Tom Jones always managed to have women throw their panties at him.  Last issue I wrote about Allen’s Songs of the Sea which are part of a musical about the fisherman of Gloucester. Wonderful tales, rich with history and a lot of pain. He recommends we pick up Lone Voyager by Joe Garland for a good read. A couple of the Fabulous Mustangs join the band at the end of the night on the classics, “Oh Lonesome Me” and “Jambalaya (On the Bayou).”  I gotta say that Allen Estes, a one-time Nashville songwriter, may have the best collection of originals and covers in his repertoire. Great show. (T Max)

You can read more live reviewson 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. 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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