Live Reviews



Me & Thee Coffeehouse, Marblehead MA                          


Back at the 43-year-old coffeehouse (which they tell you is the oldest active coffeehouse in Marblehead on Mugford Street) that never ceases to wow me with the acts that they book… thank you Kathy Sands-Boehmer. And tonight I already know the headliner, Heather Maloney, has some charming skills to share.

After Phillip Murphy’s haiku (with audience participation) concerning the fire exits, he introduces the band that met at Williams College and a revved up audience (I can feel it) bursts with applauds for Darlingside—four good looking stylish guys in their 20s hop on the stage with energy to spare. They comfortably space themselves around one condenser microphone and sing in unison with a blend that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced. Then they smoothly but unexpectedly break into harmony backed with a lone mandolin picking a melody. Their sound at first seems like an updated barbershop quartet, but there’s more of an indy/ folk arrangement that keeps me guessing. I’m a sucker for interesting background harmonies and Darlingside has me melting with appreciation. Besides the four abled vocals, their instrumentation is fun for the ears—a cello (Harris Paseltiner), violin (Auyon Mukharji), bass and acoustic guitar (David Senft), and lots of swelling sounds coming from the electric guitar (Don Mitchell).  Another added bonus to their sound is the stage itself—its rug-covered suspended floor becomes a wonderful sounding bass drum when David (who looks a bit like Ray Davies) leans into it. These guys cover Irvin Berlin and make “How Deep is the Ocean” sound like the Beach Boys. Lot’s of great, well-arranged originals fill their set and for fun, they cover Smashing Pumpkins (in honor of it being the day after Halloween). It isn’t until their seventh song, “Blow the House Down,” that they use a solo voice—but the background voices are way cool and the stomping gets heavy. The audience jumps to their feet to show appreciation and Darlingside has just become my favorite band.

Ahh! After the first set it’s time for coffee and baked treats—I love the design of a night at a coffeehouse. And when I get back to my seat the fantabulous Heather Maloney with thigh-high leggings and cool brown boots (she has on more than that) pulls those four darling boys back to the stage to play a couple of songs before she does a half hour solo. Darlingside’s voices are perfect for the harmonies in “Flutter” where Heather displays the accuracy of her nimble vocal melodies. She admits she doesn’t write too many love songs before blowing into “Dandelion.” The next one, “Angel Fish,” is about Mark Twain, his muse, and Heather. She keeps good company. “Grace” is for single mothers and starts with the audience harmonizing on “Amazing Grace.” “Night Stand Draw” is a clever song with all the little secreters hidden inside it.  “Pocket Change” also shows how creative she is with her playful lyrics. Harris and Auyon join her on a new one—”Roadside Lilli,” and Saturn returning to the same position every 17 years is discussed. Towards the end of the show, they switch off doing each others songs together. Ethan on sound is given a hand that is earned. This is the first stop on a long tour for Heather and Darlingside, and by the crowd’s reaction for a couple of encores, it will be a well appreciated string of gigs.          (T Max)






Boston Hassle Fest 5 

Cambridge Elks Lodge, Cambridge MA                            


My glasses fog up as I escape the cold into the sweatbox of the Elks Lodge. The fine folks at the Boston Compass-Boston Hassle are putting on a two-day mainly noise fest at three different venues, but this is the only one I can make. There are about 40 artists playing. Some I missed, some are local, and some I just don’t like, so I’ll skip them rather than slag them. The first band I really see after I wipe my glasses is the Amherst area duo Zebu, with Ted from Eggs, Eggs on drums and vocals. Ted has the mic in his mouth while he’s playing and screaming, as the band runs a gamut of noise and bluesy swamp boogie, with a quick Nirvana cover thrown in. I wish they could have played longer, but everyone plays a 20 minute set while another band sets up on the other side of the dungeon.

Boston house show favorites Hunnie Bunnies never fail to disappoint with their loud, uncompromising vision of hiss and noise while dressed in alien drag. Were people slam dancing to straight feedback with no drums at all, or was that a fight? There’s a revolution in the madhouse tonight.

Ed Schrader’s Music Beat take control of the crowd from the first note. Ed sings and plays one drum while standing, with no cymbals, accompanied only by a bassist. Who else can conjure the spirit of Savage Republic and This Heat, and then pull off a Kiss cover? Songs about eating sugar and pumping gas show he has a sense of humor, yet Schrader is an intense performer.

By the time Doomsday Student come on, this room is way too crowded. I look around for exits but only see one. As the band starts, I’m perched on a table to see properly. I’m pretty much stuck until the set is over. With some members of Arab on Radar, you know this set will be insane and it is. Spastic drumming and corrosive guitars go with the howling of Eric Paull. Someone punches the singer in the head but the show never stops. Security? Not tonight.

What an amazing night. What can possibly end this? Lightning Bolt answer my question with a bombastic shrieking bass and drums attack. There is very little singing I can hear tonight as Lightning Bolt pummel their willing audience into submission. Maybe I’m delirious, but I thought I saw someone dancing on the low ceiling, held up by slam dancing arms and lunacy. I can’t wait for Hassle Fest 6. (Eric Baylies)

HERMIT OF MINK HALLOWEEN (Todd Rundgren tribute)/ 


SISTER LOVERS (Big Star/Chris Bell covers) 

Johnny D’s, Somerville, MA                        


In the good old days in NYC, deciding what to do on Halloween was easy. You saw the psychobilly greats, the Cramps, at the Peppermint Lounge. From 2009 to 2011, I booked my own shows at the Cantab with Halloween friendly bands like the Varmints, the Coffin Lids (or Ape Shits), and Spitzz as the Cramps. When I found out a band was playing Big Star covers at Johnny D’s this Halloween, I got excited. For one, I’ve been a Big Star fan for ages and secondly, I’ve never had a bad time at Johnny D’s. For those who don’t know, Big Star are the Velvet Underground of power pop. Some points of reference, Alex Chilton was the teenage singer of “The Letter” by the blue eyed soul mavens, the Box Tops. Gen X-ers will be more familiar with “In the Street,” the theme song from That ’70s Show. Marc Pinansky and company deliver all the Big Star faves along with Chris Bell single, “I Am the Cosmos.” Their gritty, soulful Americana original pop integrates well with the tribute material.

Gunpowder Gelatine is an all female Queen tribute band who are tonight dressed as the droogs from A Clockwork Orange.  These women are not only talented musicians and singers but are also dynamic performers. My better half, Billy, keeps saying how their guitar player sounds amazingly like Brian May. The lead singer is a petite powerhouse, who knows how to keep the crowd’s attention. She exudes a cool mix of sexuality and humor that keeps the mood upbeat and fun. The G squared gals do all the mega-hits from “We Are the Champions” to “Under Pressure” to “Bohemian Rhapsody.” They keep the audience in the palms of their hands, singing and dancing joyously. The highlight is “Another One Bites the Dust,” which morphs into a hip hop extravaganza with the lead singer bustin’ loose with a robotic dance and what seemed to be an impromptu medley of Chic’s “Good Times” and Curtis Blow’s “The Breaks.” These women rock, but they also have plenty of soul to make it good and funky!

Finally a chance to see the highly respected, very beloved John Powhida in action. For some reason, I’ve never seen JPo perform, but I feel like he’s a kindred spirit in pop ’cause I always run into him at the coolest shows like Mitch Easter’s. Tonight, he is paying homage to Todd Rundgren, the man he calls the “Beethoven of Pop.” I’m a long time Todd fan, but, haven’t listened to him much lately. Hearing Powhida enliven this much loved songcraft  is truly moving from “I Saw the Light,” which is a true tearjerker, to the rocking “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” to the emotionally naked “Can We Still Be Friends” to the positively hymn-like “Love Is the Answer” and “Just One Victory.” Powhida has put together a stellar band featuring Peter Moore on keyboards who does a heart-wrenching vocal take on “Hello It’s Me.” This isn’t merely music; it’s  epiphany! And Powhida, in his black silken robe is every bit a wizard, a true star.     (Nancy Neon)



The Spotlight Tavern, Beverly MA                                  


The Bruins won. The Celtics won. Time for rock ’n’ roll. We all win! Observations:

1) A bar is a bar, but a bar with a band is a better bar when the band is not necessarily a bar band. 

2) Hair, whether shorter, grayer, thinner or non-existent, has no bearing on said rock ’n’ roll.

3) Girls/women still dance better than guys/men. You know who you are. 

4) The Nervous Eaters rock. 

I talked to Loretta and she couldn’t make the show, but EVERYONE else did. The Nervous Eaters are lead by Peabody’s own Steve Cataldo. Be careful to read Peabody correctly or we will instantly know you are not one of us. We like the Nervous Eaters. They rock. The dirty secret of this legendary Boston punk band, proto-punks who got stiff shafted by record producers, is that they love metal. They have shit for brains. It smells like roses. 

From the opening guitar salvos of  “Just Head” through the gear turning chug of  “On the Avenue” and “She’s Gonna Be My Baby” to the lambasting (or self-deprecating) guilty metal pleasure of “Shit For Brains,” Cataldo does not fail to deliver the goods. Ballsy and better than ever. 

“The Girl Next Door” would most likely be a song that would seem dated 35 years down the road, but the winsome and wistful touch lent to it by the band and the dancers out front, the outright joy at hearing something familiar yet dreamy, works perfectly. No regrets. 

Legendary guitarist Asa Brebner claims he put his opening band together at the bar over a couple of beers just before the show. Don’t believe a word of it. Asa treats his Fender the way it should be treated—the way a less than reputable woman should be treated in the bedroom, if she’s also the woman you love. His playing is a display of pyrotechnics on the fourth of July—over the top, but fully expected. His band capably fills in the spaces. “Jack’s On Drugs” is a highlight among highlights. 

Kudos also go out to Terry Brenner at the Spotlight for organizing this and many other shows that rock..       (Harry Zarkades)




Radio (downstairs), Somerville MA                            


Huzzah! It’s Abbey Lounge night at Radio with many faces from the old gang either performing, attending or even booking the room! Unfortunately, we’ve been relegated to the claustrophobia-inducing basement, which can squeeze in maybe twenty people between the men’s room and the back stairwell. With the low ceiling and warm wood paneled walls, it’s kinda like being in the rec room at your parents’ house… only with way more people than they’d ever invite over on the same night…

Jay Allen gets us going—and really, who symbolizes the Abbey more than Jay Allen? I haven’t seen Jay perform without a band (Archcriminals) in quite awhile, so this really does take me back. Rather than his signature originals, he opts for mostly covers with the Queers and Dead Boys being the choicest ones. I’ve always related Jay to Mojo Nixon in the past, but listening to him tonight it dawns on me that comparing him to Tom Waits is far more accurate. Maybe it’s just the voice?

To my recollection, Kurt Baker never played the Abbey, but brother, he’d have fit right in (sharing a bill with the Swinedells and the Marvels, no doubt). The KBB are one of those acts the serious rock ’n’ roll crowd are totally ga-ga over, and deservedly so. This band has a frenetic energy and sheen to their material that we haven’t seen/heard in some years! To my ears they sound a lot like late-’80s California punk band Sweet Baby, only way more polished. “Don’t Go Falling In Love” is a real gem amongst a collection of perfectly constructed pop-rock tunes.

I get the feeling Tom Baker & the Snakes are a last minute concoction (Dirty Truckers were originally scheduled tonight), but there’s nothing slapdash when you’re talking the nigh-omnipotent talents of Tom Baker, Charles Hansen, and Jeeves! In other words, this don’t sound like no practice session. You’d think they’ve been together awhile if not for the abundance of cover songs. Then again, there are a couple of originals in the mix, so maybe I’m wrong about this band being a last minute creation? No matter. Tom makes everything sound good and Charles can play anything.       (Frank Strom)



AS220, Providence RI               


Its a super crowded night at As220 for these two Providence bands opening for Japan’s Melt Banana. Party Pigs start the night with some skronky dissonant guitar and jazzy turbulent drums. Party Pigs set themselves apart from other noise bands in Providence by the occasional blues guitar solos. They can really play their instruments, or just get crazy and create noise.

Everyone except me is here tonight for the headliner’s from the far east. I’m here for the first La Machine show in about a decade. Rick Pelletier of Six Finger Satellite leads this incredible duo. Simple, repetitious bass lines with scarce vocals and sparse but solid drumming drive this Krautrock influenced car crash. They bring their own soundman and have effects over everything, so the band sounds much bigger than the glorious orchestral duo that it is. Pelletier was in two of my favorite bands and now has a new band with Peter Prescott of Mission of Burma. I’m sure that band will rule, as well. La Machine only play about six songs. My cries for more fall on deaf ears, but I hope I can see La Machine again.      (Eric Baylies)


Larcom Theatre, Beverly          


Michael Thomas Doyle’s talents land him this opening slot for Nashville’s Slide Brothers—and it’s quite an honor for his band to be playing in this beautiful historic theatre (built in the same year as Fenway Park—1912) in the heart of Beverly MA.  Theatre owner David Bull welcomes the audience—and organizer of the event Peter Van Ness reminds us why this theatre is so amazing and then brings out the opening act. The four-piece Michael Thomas Doyle Band explodes out of the gates with “Baby on Sunset” and the vintage theatre becomes a rock venue. Michael spotlights guitarist Cody Neilson on dynamic lead guitar—and Michael is no slouch either on his white Les Paul. They delve into the blues before a Cody original that incorporates the Temptations’ “My Girl.” Next, they deliver the title track of their new EP—Storm Colors. Showing off their progressive rock tendencies, they cover Larry Carlton’s instrumental, “Cold Gold.” Bill Spencer and Steve Russo hold down the fort on bass and drums respectfully while the two guitarists trade solos. The band ends with their most intriguing tune “Chasing Me Away” with its moody mysterious intro that slips into a Pink Floyd-like groove.    (T Max)







Homecoming Battle of the Bands 

afterHOURS @Northeastern University, Boston MA 11/14/13

There’s a big crowd gathering tonight at afterHOURS, Northeastern University’s home for late night entertainment. Six bands are competing and there are two opportunities to win; The Judges choice prize and the audience pick prize. On top of the bragging rights, the prizes for the winners include cool marketing opportunities, like a feature story in Tastemakers, Northeastern’s music magazine and some special promotions on the local radio station, WRBB. With stakes like that on the line, everyone has their game faces on.

 First up, is Kid/Astro, a four four-piece indie rock band that kicks the night off with a bang. The singer’s vocal tone and melodic delivery remind me of Dinosaur Jr or Mister Vertigo. Midway through the set, the drummer gets out behind his kit, grabs the mic, and the bands takes on a whole new sound. It’s a bit more upbeat, sounding like a cross between alternative rock heroes of generations past like The Dead Milkmen, Violent Femmes, and The Pixies at various times. I liked these guys, they are true rockers. Kid/Astro has set the bar quite high for the other bands.

 Next up is solo artist Mark Gilday Jr, whose song about “Dancing in Memphis” is one of the most catchy songs of the night. While some may consider it a disadvantage to play solo in a battle of the bands, Mark exudes professionalism and confidence and the judges take note. His vocal delivery has got a bit of Mumford & Sons quality, which is also endearing.

 Empyrean takes the stage next. They are a prog-funk rock band that showcases perhaps the most talented guitarist of the night; a true shredder. Steve Vai and Joe Satriani have nothing on this guy. Empyrean introduces a singer for their second song. She reads her lyrics off a sheet but gradually becomes more comfortable as the act goes on. My favorite person in the band is the keyboard player though. The Hammond style sounds are a great accompanying feature and really smooth out the overall sound of the band.

Coming to the stage next is an act called Nick & His Friends—one of the wittiest band names of the night, particularly because Nick is performing solo. However, Nick’s cleverness doesn’t end there.  In one of the most creative displays of the night, he loops guitar riffs and vocal rhythmic effects in the vein of Howie Day, Keller Williams, or Andrew Bird to become a one man band.  His last songs are more traditional in the sense that they don’t have the loops but still are quite fun and enjoyable, particularly the pop punk song about going back to Jr Prom.

 The D Line get off to a slow start, overcoming some technical difficulties, which unfortunately is always a risk when you are in a lineup that features short set changes and such a diverse styles of musical groups. With that being said, The D-Line is as diverse as they come. This folk and Americana band features a bevy of acoustical instruments; mandolin, banjo, acoustic guitar, and cajon for percussion.   Despite brief moments of feedback, the band sounds amazing. The D-Line just shrug it off like true pros and quickly begin to shine. Their harmonies are tight and the band can really play. The D Line is also the first band to thank the other bands, which is a classy move. These guys have my pick as the winners of the night, though we will see what Modes brings next.

 Modes, is a cool trio with a great look to them. I like the singer a lot. With a little polish, I think they could be pretty big in the experimental and art rock scenes, which are pretty big in Boston. The band produces some great music; I hear influences ranging from the B52s to Kim Deal of Sonic Youth and even a hint of some ’70s psychedelic surf rock.

 I know in a few moments that there will be a lot of musicians and fans in the room that will soon be not happy with me and the other judges, so I start making my way toward the door. The winners are announced; Nick & His Friends win the judges vote, The D Line wins audience vote.   (Kier Byrnes)

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. We have our ears to the ground all around New England, so 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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