35th ROCK ’N’ ROLL RUMBLE
by Dr. Swig McJigger
Sunday, April 6: Night #1
REBUILDER, TIGERMAN WOAH, SINNET, GUILLERMO
Rebuilder (Sal Ellington, Craig Stanton, Daniel Carswell, Brandon Phillips, Rick Smith)—This unit gets the nine nights of the Rumble off to a rousing start; for much of their lid-lifting set, four of the five members are equal partners in singing the songs. To borrow a phrase from sports, they “left it all on the stage,” and look like they are having a blast while doing so.
Tigerman Woah (Adam Kaz, Kevin Landry, Jon Feinstorm, Adam Lentine)—The band’s calling card being unkempt beards, at first blush these fellows look more Appalachia than Central Square, but then given the proliferation of backwoods reality shows and out hirsute ballplayers over in the Fenway, one reckons the bushy jaw is a la mode nationally. Speaking of mode, the Tiggermen start out call-and-response, morph into dirgelike, then turn crowd-pleasing.
Sinnet (Kevin Junker, Michael Stewart, et al.)—In case you were wondering, Sinnet is tennis spelled backwards; apparently one of the founding members’ mom’s a racquet sports aficionada. Said founding members come to us by way of Milwaukee (whose minor league hockey team boasts the coolest logo in sports); Sinnet proves a worthy addition to the cherished Greater Boston tradition that is the Rumble, as well as a vital cog in the lineup that constituted a very strong night.
Guillermo Sexo (Reuben Bettsak, Noell Dorsey, Ryan Connelly, Elliot Anderson, Richard Murillo)—This year’s assemblage of bands features mostly unfamiliar acts; not so Guillermo Sexo, a unit that germinated early this millennium; they’re very good musicians and, to these ears, on opening night the best who take to the T.T.’s stage last. Noell Dorsey owns most pleasing pipes; if you remark an opportunity to hear Guillermo Sexo, seize it!
Tigerman Woah wins the night.
Monday, April 7: Night #2
DOOM LOVER, WHEN PARTICLES COLLIDE, GODDAMN DRACULAS, EMMA ATE THE LION
Doom Lover (Jeffrey Vachon, Nikki Dessingue, Geoff Smith, Kyle Allain, Carl Harkness)—What’s the only thing better than a theremin? Why, a theremin operated by Nikki Dessingue, of course! Nikki’s supporting cast (okay, Jeff Vachon’s technically the frontman) does a creditable job, their output tending towards the theatric. If you’re inclined to sample Doom Lover’s repertoire, “Under the Alders” is probably as good a taste as any.
When Particles Collide (Sasha Alcott, Chris Viner)—Host Anngelle Wood gleefully states “Live Free or Die”—the provenance of this married duo, namely Bangor, ME, prior to Exeter, NH. Notably, a half-dozen acts into the Rumble, the twosome is the loudest yet. They do northern New England proud, garnering a wild-card spot.
Goddamn Draculas (Chris Duggan, Bice Nathan, Dennis Carver, Jeff Nicolai, J.R. Roach)—You might think you’re tired of vampires, but only somebody dead as a doornail wouldn’t’ve been blown away by this set. The Dracs absolutely OWNED the joint for a half-hour, and left the entire audience abuzz in their wake. It turns out they’ve already got quite an avid following.
Emma Ate The Lion (Dan Smith, Dylan Wheaton, Stephen Capachione, John O’Malley)—The floor in front of the stage was noticeably sparse when these guys struck up the music; that is perhaps the function of 1) going on last of a Monday night, and 2) hailing from Plymouth, meaning your fan base is at a remove from the venue. Emma Ate The Lion’s compositions are quirky, and while original isn’t necessarily a yardstick for good, In Emma’s case they deserve points for being distinct.
Moving to the semi-finals for the crown (actually it’s a tiara) is Goddamn Draculas.
Tuesday, April 8: Night #3
BARRICADES, AIRPORT, Z*L, THE LIFE ELECTRIC
Barricades (Dan Norton, Jared Walsh, Chris Norton, Matt DiVito, Justin Lutz)—The parking gods were arch indeed to your reporter/motorist on this night, who watched as some truly choice spots hard by T.T.’s were picked off before his very eyes en route to the venue, with the result he only caught a fraction of the openers’ set.
Airport (Craig, Mike O., Jim, Chris, Mike M., John)—These guys are good at what they do, however their workmanlike half-hour on stage unfortunately proves disadvantageous; exacerbating matters is that generic name: Who doesn’t think of recent Rumble champ and transcendent act John Powhida International Airport and concomitantly want to see JPo per se at the controls?
Z*L (Ian Adams, Isabel Riley, Jack Guilderson)—This trio comes off as the rock equivalent of an elite, lethal law enforcement unit (or perhaps criminal operation); they show up clad in black and proceed to blister the house; outbound, I want to clap blonde bombshell bass player Isabel on the shoulder and aver that if I were judge, Z*L’d be my choice, yet she’s flanked by male admirers therefore saved from my brand of pestering.
The Life Electric (Joey, Ben Leang, James, et al.)—Let the record show that The Life Electric brings the passion and the chops to their assignment! Poignantly, though, they just never connect with this auditor. For starters, the members of Barricades congregate directly in front of me (their prerogative, of course) and are still buzzing from their opening duty; moreover, as the Brobdingnagian Joey sings his heart out, all I can think is, “Man, if I were that fellow’s size, I’d’ve spent four years road-grading hapless opponents on behalf of the West Virginia U. Mountaineers.”
Barricades advanced, hence I have my chance at a full serving (well, a solid thirty minutes, anyway) come the semifinals.
Thursday, April 10: Night #4
BUTTERKNIFE, SLOWDIM, GONDOLIERS, WESTERN EDUCATION
Butterknife (Phil Wisdom, Kieran Stone, Jim Theodore)—Welcome to the Rumble’s Trio Night! Butterknife is eerily similar to Airport (see Night #3) in that they’re solid musicmakers yet their performance really doesn’t stick to one’s ribs, which is further problematic ’cause back in the day there were Boston bands with the monikers Buttercup and Butterscott. That said, Butterknife delivers the best-constructed set of this Rumble in that it ends with a bang (for a pop outfit).
Slowdim (Paul Sentz, Karina DaCosta, James Zaner) Qua Cape Ann denizen (and codger into the bargain), your witness to Rumble #35 cannot claim bona fides as a club rat. Of the two dozen acts in this year’s field, Slowdim is the sole group I’ve seen/heard previously… close to a year ago at the late Radio. The lineup has changed—Karina DaCosta replaced the then bassist—and Slowdim is still adjusting to the personnel alteration so, perhaps, they are not quite Rumble-ready.
Gondoliers (John Manson, Daniel Madri, Brendan Gibson)—NO ONE can persuasively assert that these gonzo guys aren’t memorable. John Manson’s histrionics fronting the G-men are of themselves attention-grabbing (quite by design, of course), so when the head-banging sound of Daniel Madri’s guitar and Brendan Gibson thumping the tubs are thrown in, it’s full speed ahead. Problem is, when performance art and noise rock are combined, the product is neither fish nor fowl.
Western Education (Greg Alexandropoulos, Georgio Broufas, Will Hunt, Mark Ragusa)—For your consideration, the succinct critique of Andrew, the straw that stirs the drink vis-à-vis T.T.’s staff: “Here you have a theater guy looking to branch into rock music.” Indeed, it’s entirely appropriate to compare Greg Alexandropoulos with, say, Gene Dante, notwithstanding the former’s endomorphy. Can we give extra points for the internal rhyme of the Band’s name (like Atomic Savants)?
Western Education, perhaps benefiting from an extra member (it’s a quartet), takes the night.
Friday, April 11: Night #5
FEINTS, PETTY MORALS, SUMMONER, VARY LUMAR
Feints (Amy Douglas, Rob Phillips, David Baron, Tim Marten)—Tonight this would-be critic suffers the peril of the commuter: Congestion resulting from an accident on I-93 in the Winchester/Medford area precludes altogether attendance at the opening set. I can offer that Amy Douglas and her mates receive many congratulations following their stint. In the interest of offering some intelligence, following matches members with their roles: Amy Douglas, vocals and keyboards; Rob Phillips, bass; David Baron, guitar; Tim Marten, drums.
Petty Morals (Taiphoon, Chrissy V, Ivahna Rock, LoWreck, Allison Wonderland, Hellion)—“Feel-good” is seldom a pejorative modifier, especially in the grim times of the Obama imperium. Nonetheless, the exuberant pop purveyed by these half-dozen fillies would be better married to a wedding reception than the Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble. I’d’ve offered an identical opinion on Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents a few years back. It bears mentioning that leader Taiphoon is a terrific singer and dancer.
Summoner (Chris Johnson, AJ Peters, Scott Smith)—The following is culled from the message board concerning a truly dreadful flick which shall remain nameless: “If you work for Darfur, Anti-Smoking, Breast Cancer Awareness, or anything of the nature, you need to stop what you are doing and devote all of your time to letting people know that this is the worst movie that has ever been made.” OR, you could make it your life’s mission to convince everyone you meet to give Summoner a listen. These gents deliver the rawk, and if I ruled the Rumble, they’d be ushered posthaste to the winner’s circle.
Vary Lumar (Paul DePasquale, Robert Laff, Christopher G. Brown, Rob Fusco)—Conspicuous on T.T.’s stage just before the members of Vary Lumar fall in is a Macintosh Airbook (or some such semiconductor-powered device); therefore it comes as a pleasant surprise that the flesh-and-blood performers’ passion for their endeavor is evinced by their frenetic playing; even more life-affirming, frontman Paul DePasquale has triumphed over a serious challenge to his health (no doubt with a big assist from music); nevertheless, Vary Lumar gets characterized as “post-prog” and/or “tech rock.”
Petty Morals’ vixens get tapped to play in the semifinals.
Saturday, April 12: Night #6
HARRIS HAWK, AWAIT RESCUE, THE COLOR AND SOUND, YELLABIRD
Harris Hawk (Anne Warnock, Oliver Hinds, Mike Sullivan, Steve Shannon)—The necessity of parking closer to Kendall Square than to Central means the opening act sometimes draws only a partial hearing, and such is the case with Harris Hawk tonight. Their straight-ahead rock is eminently listenable, but mostly I’m mesmerized by how Anne Warnock stands relatively still while Oliver Hinds and Mike Sullivan continuously bob on her right and left.
Await Rescue (John Cutulle, Andrew Morse, Cory Fyfe, Matt Morse)—Await Rescue perhaps enjoys greater name recognition than any other Rumble entrant; the quartet deserves esteem, being that the guys are adept practitioners of hard rock (guitarist Andrew Morse in particular); they lose me when frontman John Cutulle exhorts the house to become fist-pumping yahoos, but I readily concede they come off quite well on radio.
The Color and Sound (Chris LaRocque, Ally Mahoney, Nick Stewart, Joe Aylward, Steve Aliperta)—Lacking the technical evidence to document the claim, I’m still going to suggest that The Color and Sound reached the loudest volume—howsoever briefly—in the Rumble, yet their set is chiefly informed by melody. Perhaps there’s something (creative) in the water in Billerica, where this band formed a couple of years ago… it’s the provenance of area favorites Mellow Bravo as well, I believe.
Yellabird (Martin Stubbs, Felipe Gaviria)—The final act of the 2014 Rumble preliminaries is an international duo (guitarist Stubbs is North American, drummer Gaviria is from South America) who met at Northeastern University. While they’re capable of filling T.T.’s with sound, Yellabird’s more about versatility (heavy metal, blues, etc.) than raw power. They bring down the curtain on what’s been a splendid array of bands.
Await Rescue emerges to compete in the next round.