Live Reviews

Live-Tom Scholz-webBOSTON

Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, CT   

6/28/14

This is the closest the band Boston will get to the city of Boston, so I have a two hour trip to see Tom Scholz and his group on their 2014 “Heaven On Earth” tour. There are now seven people on stage, six people singing, and four guitars too; which makes the set more of a production then just four guys plugging in and playing. The stinging double leads and great harmonies are still there but with a much fuller sound than the original band’s live shows. The set list includes the classics “More Than A Feeling,” “Don’t Look Back,” “Amanda,” and “Foreplay” segueing into “Long Time,” mixed with songs from their new release, Life, Love and Hope. Throughout the 21 song set, the band rarely stops for even applause. Cheap Trick opens up the show, proving it to be a fun night seeing two great rock bands.                       (A.J. Wachtel)

TWIN BERLIN/ 

WESTERN EDUCATION

Let Your Secrets Out record release 

The Middle East, Cambridge MA 

7/5/14

It’s 4th of July weekend and I’m sitting in a booth at the Middle East waiting for my chicken kabob and the arrival of Greg Alexandropoulos (vocals/keyboards) and Georgio Broufas (guitar/vocals) of anthemic pop band Western Education. The 2014 Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble alumni turn up first and are in a good mood. Tonight is the release party for their first full-length CD, Let Your Secrets Out. The Lowell lads reminisce about how they formed when Greg pasted U-Mass Lowell with flyers looking for anybody who wanted to play music. Still youngish (Greg —21/Georgio—23), they have been growing exponentially over the past two years—with two EPs and a (great) single under their belts.

I eat and head downstairs. There are a lot of WE fans here. The band takes the stage and kick into the opener, “Peace,” from the new record.  I’m hearing Depeche Mode (Greg actually sounds a little like Martin Gore), lush keyboards, well-written melodies. Another LP song follows, this one featuring bright, appregiated guitar lines. I have been inducted into the sound of WE. There is heavily melodic interplay between Greg’s twin keyboards and Georgio’s climbing six-string (which his father made by hand for him). I hear shades of The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, The Strokes, and even Blink 182 while listening to Western Education. The strongest song of the set, “Rivals,” is simply a masterpiece of keyboard/guitar interplay. It is an anthem the likes of which you don’t hear locally. These guys are unique to the scene, in my opinion.

Next, I get my first look at the lo-fi rock/punk band Twin Berlin. Also recent Rumble competitors (2013), they are a combination of things: the antics of The Three Stooges, the chord-driven rock of Nirvana and The Ramones, and the quirky dissonances of Pavement and Flaming Lips. Lead vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Matt Lopez cites Weezer, The Stooges, The Strokes, and Dinosaur Jr. among his influences, and they can all be heard coming from the stage. Their new CD, Sleazebrain, features 11 such songs. Bassist and fun-loving goofball Sean O’Neil paces around, taunting the audience, and drummer James Janocha displays why metal is his style, smashing the hell out of the drum kit. Their set seems to fly by when finally, O’Neil tells the audience that if they all come up to the stage he’ll take off his shirt, although he is self-conscious of his belly fat. Not to be bested, Lopez removes his pants (wearing boxers). They smash and tumble until O’Neil is sitting on top of Lopez, lying on his back. “Can’t Rape” finishes in a noise fest with Lopez trashing his surf green guitar. O’Neil leaves the stage, only to return without his pants.        (Joey Ammo)

SLEEP CRIMES/

ATOMIC SAVANT/ 

SACRED HEARTS/ 

VIOLETPEDAL 

Jacques Underground, Boston MA  

8/8/14

YesAllWomen “is a social media campaign in which users share examples or stories of misogyny and violence against women” (Wikipedia). The Boston chapter organized tonight’s musical program at Jacques Underground.

Violetpedal is a solo performer, so that moniker will henceforth refer to both the musical act and the gal “behind” it.  A funny thing happens when she commences to strum her unamplified guitar and sing: She’s immediately rendered inaudible by the conversations of the small but supportive audience who’ve all moved in close to the performance space (there’s no actual stage down here) and, grouped under the low concrete ceiling, their chatter drowns out the chanteuse and her hollow-bodied six-string. Fortunately, Violetpedal is unfazed by the din, and continues to pluck and croon with a beatific smile. Only because the acoustic situation obliges a reviewer to deploy senses other than the auditory, it’s noted that Violetpedal’s sculpted pins would make a formidable entry in a hot legs contest.

Sacred Hearts as well falls victim to some sonic issues, only it seems these are sound-system gremlins; while those are being addressed, frontwoman Julie Adamo offers a few plugs for YesAllWomen, but it’s pretty clear she’s just occupying the time ’til she can indulge in her avocation: singing. This she does well, her plaintive delivery exquisitely complementing her own guitar work as well as that of multi-instrumentalist Sarah James (a truly demure individual on and off the stage), combined with the contribution of Marybeth Miller on the drum throne… The bad news: Athletic Marybeth is relinquishing percussion duty. The good news: Julie and Sarah forge on. Although Northampton-based, Sacred Hearts exhibit the burgeoning talent that suggests we might be treated to more of them here in the eastern reaches of the Commonwealth.

YesAllWomen deserves kudos for organizing this event, however Ladies’ Rock Camp  is instrumental (sorry) in this alignment of musiciennes… Exhibit A: Atomic Savants, a quartet whose formation is wholly attributable to Hilken Mancini’s female-empowerment-via-rock-’n’-roll enterprise. Oh, it’s not like the belter at the mic, Kristen White, Esq., wouldn’t find some outlet to express herself; heck, if we could harness her energy, there’d be no talk of wind turbines off Cape Cod! Funny then, that guitarist Shandal Grayson is distinctly reticent. Nevertheless, she wrings muscular tones from her axe that aren’t commonly heard. [That is a compliment.] Who ISN’T cheered to see the impossibly delightful Joellen Yannis on bass? Many of us know her from her role at Tufts Freeform Radio WMFO 91.5. Others are conscious of her gleeful, kinetic presence in clubland. If you haven’t caught Joellen in her four-string incarnation, someday you will. Don’t get me wrong: Atomic Savants is yet a fledgling, ergo the gal keeping time via her striking the skins might be the unit’s key component: Megan Sutton, I raise my watermelon ale to you!

Just when the ambience could’ve sagged, Sleep Crimes socks Jacques lie a sharknado. Just when I reckoned I’d write in Kristen White for governor, I’m buffeted by the juggernaut that is Bethany Leavey. Back in the day, frontwoman Leavey worked at Northeastern U.’s radio station with Sleep Crimes’ guitarist Sam Coren. [One surmises that Sam is short for Samantha.] Earlier this year, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp of Jimi Hendrix; if the U.S.P.S. survives, someday they might likewise honor Sam Coren. Matt Daniels (bass guitar) represents the lone possessor of a Y-chromosome among tonight’s musicmakers. Drummer Jasmine Hagens is said to rank among the city’s most desirable nonbreeding singles.  (Dr. Swig McJigger)  

SKINNY PIGEONS                                   

McGann’s Irish Pub, Boston MA 

7/26/14

This evening is being billed as The Rock ’n’ Roll Anticompetition, a sort of band rumble provided by various hosts and sponsors. However, I am really only here to see Skinny Pigeons, a raucous, punk-fueled band of teenaged Berklee students with a signature low-fi, hi-energy noise/ punk/ funk/ jazz music; they describe it as “gypsy punk/ funk.”

They have pulled the early set tonight (9:00 pm) and there are only a handful of people in the bar, but I’m familiar with these guys and I know they don’t care where they’re playing—they give it their all. These cerebral young players brim with passion for their music. As it stands, bassist Ben Henry is not present (called away on a family emergency) yet rather than cancel, they have decided to go on as a two-piece, guitar/vox and drums. They lack nothing as they tear into their opener “Stuck.” Straight away you get the feel of what the Pigeons are about: guitarist Joey Luna combines chord changes, guitar riffs, and noise into a sonic stew of swirling energy, while perfectly synchronized drummer Jeff Crenshaw lays down all sorts of skilled grooves and syncopation. Joey breaks a string right out of the gate but no matter—he changes it on the spot and they’re off into another ripping original, “Slaughterhouse.” Luna, who cites 1940’s jazz guitar legend Django Reinhardt as his hero, wrenches every possibility out of his ’67 Gibson ES130. Meanwhile, I am trying to figure out how just the two of them are managing to create so much goddamned music! Skinny Pigeons are known for their abrupt mid-song feel and tempo changes, and they make this work seamlessly, and with no pretension. On a song like “Make a Mark,” the lead-off track on their current EP, Flu, these switch-ups are prevalent and dynamic. Luna’s onstage performance reiterates the crashing, bashing joy as he marches around the stage stomping on ants. As I speak to Joey and Jeff after the set, each person that passes raves at them about the performance. Keep an eye on these funky birds…   (Joey Ammo)

GONDOLIERS/ 

Z*L/ 

GUILLERMO SEXO   

The Middle East upstairs  7/17/14

My apologies to the reader, but The Noise wasn’t present for opener M.G. Lederman’s set; an insatiable appetite for culture meant that the reviewer lingered across the river at the M.F.A. right up ’til its 9:45 closing time; for reference’s sake, the M stands for Mel, as in, say, “Melvin,” as opposed to, say, “Melanie” or “Mary Ellen.” [That information is offered as a service to those are gaga for chick rockers.] He might’ve been in the trio Victory At Sea, but that’s conjecture… the interested can learn more from Bandcamp and Facebook.

Need a coping mechanism for an abysmal Sawx season? Look no farther than Guillermo Sexo! Guillermo was the fourth and final entry on the opening night of the 2014 Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble, and The Noise is on record as opining they deserved the win. Reuben Bettsak, the genial Panamanian who founded the band a decade ago, is ultimately the straw that stirs the drink, but there’s a reason that Longy-trained (vocal performance) Noell Dorsey is deployed at the forward tip of the diamond formation at The Middle East Upstairs; talk about winsome! Be still my heart! That sighed, it’d be criminally negligent not to cite Guillermo Sexo’s other components, to wit, Richard Murillo on lead guitar, Elliot Anderson on bass, and Ryan Connelly (who as well plays in Hallelujah the Hills) drumming. You can sample their intricate and laudable compositions via the usual online resources..

It’s commonly accepted that “badass” is a compliment: Think Lee Van Cleef in various spaghetti Westerns; better yet, bring on Z*L as Exhibit A! Ian Adams, the troika’s ringleader, is a creative force; not only does he rawk the rafters, he can be found chiming in on others’ recordings (e.g., M.G. Lederman), and he’s the graphic designer of Guillermo Sexo’s Meow Metal T-shirt..  and then there’s bassist Isabel Riley. Marvel Comics recently revealed that the next iteration of the superhero Thor would be female; could it be that someone in Marvel’s art department crossed paths with Z*L’s four-stringer?? It’s not just any gal who can rock knee-high boots in mid-July. Her partner in rhythm, Jack Guilderson, upheld a pattern of topnotch percussionists throughout April’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble. [By the by, Z*L, same as Guillermo Sexo, received The Noise’s nod—if not the official judges’—on their Rumble night.]

Presumably, summertime is when slackers are most prone to “phone it in”; bet the ranch that Gondoliers will NEVER listlessly go through the motions! Frontman John Manson is first and foremost a performance artist, but that doesn’t mean he’s not committed to creating a potent industrial sound; actually, that has A LOT to do with the participation of the redoubtable Daniel Madri, a human Tasmanian devil, who periodically pauses from thrashing away on his ax to stab a key or two on the synthesizer. Ernie Kim now occupies the drum throne, and evinces appreciation for being a part of one of our scene’s more exuberant exemplars of gonzo. The Noise has saved the best news for last: Gondoliers has added azzkicker nonpareil Isabel Riley.   

                            (Dr. Squig McJigger)

JAMES MONTGOMERY & HIS ALL-STAR BAND/

BEARSTRONAUGHTS/ 

LIZZY BORDON & THE AXES/ 

THE JOE PERRY PROJECT/ 

SHAKE THE FAITH/ 

THE FIGHTING COCKS/ 

CHARLIE FARREN  

Music Drives Us benefit

The Paradise, Allston, MA  

6/22/14

There is a ton of great music tonight, including a few historic reunions; and all for a great cause. First, the reunions: The Fighting Cocks. Carl Biancucci from The Classic Ruins plays a few songs on bass, and original member Tom Leger is pounding and frontman Jamie Severs is as electric as ever. They assault the crowd with their punk/metal/garage originals, including “Hands in the Pie,” “Heat It Up,” “Love Club,” and “All the Wimmin’.”  It’s loud and nasty, just the way I love it. Then Shake The Faith with Casey Lindstrom (The New Models), Todd Erickson, and Jesse Mayer (Fingerpaint) crush the crowd with their own “Here it Comes Again,” “Wild World,” and “Throw Me to the Wolves.” Their killer cover of LaPeste’s “Better Off Dead” is shaking the roof right off the foundation. I really dig when they do  The New Models’ “Permanent Vacation” too. Shake the Faith is a more rocking band than The New Models and their version trembles more too. Lizzie Borden & the Axes is next and I still love the way this grrrrrrl band rocks. Their covers of “House of the Rising Sun,” and “Steppin’ Stone” are great and the crowd is all over it too. It’s cool the role reversal of hearing a woman scream “IIIIIII’M NOT YOUR STEPPIN’ STONE.”  “Out of Touch” still knocks me out and Heather, Lizzie, Rita, and Cyndie still instinctually play so well together. Original keyboardist Kathy Perry is in the audience too. Now up for the first time in ages, The Joe Perry Project’s Charlie Farren, David Hull, and drummer Joe Pet rip through a few songs including “I Got the Rock ’n’ Rolls Again!” Who’da thunk I’d ever hear THAT song again onstage? Charlie mentions to me later that maybe a TRUE reunion with Joe Perry might be in the works in the near future also. Just wild. Bearstronaught is a Berklee sounding  band that plays more dance music and they are pretty good. Johnny A and his band play a few instrumental cuts from their new release “Driven,” and I really enjoy “C’mon C’mon” with its power and great guitar. Now, for the last part of the night comes James Montgomery with a red hot, tonight-only band that includes Danny Klein, Barry Goudreau, Johnny A, David Hull, and Hirsh Gardner. I dig “Intoxicated” and it’s also real cool when D.K. comes up for a few J Geils songs, including “Homework” and “Cruisin’ for a Love.”  Throughout the set, guitarist Barry Goudreau from Boston and RTZ’s growling guitar plays stunning solo after stunning solo to loud applause—and when Hirsh Garner from New England jumps onstage for a great version of The Stones’ “Miss You,” I am convinced that tonight has also been an historic night of great drummers for a great cause. I am told that the proceeds for tonight will help finance a Music Drives Us program that brings music to high school-ers. Night’s like this keep making Boston’s legendary music scene even greater.         (A.J. Wachtel) 

WHITE DYNOMITE/ 

GYMNASIUM

T.T. the Bear’s, Cambridge MA    

6/20/14

The night starts when my buds and I notice the bill at T.T.’s and quickly change our plans. I was a Roadsaw fan and White Dynomite features three of their members. I’m also interested in the buzz surrounding Gymnasium. Although openers Devil on Horseback sound up my alley, we don’t arrive early enough to catch them. 

The house isn’t completely full (tough to fill T.T.s), but there’s a good crowd. I find White Dynomite bassist Tim Catz at the back bar and catch up while he introduces me to the band’s vocalist Dave Unger, a tall, friendly dude with a head full of dreadlocks. Unger gives me some band history while his other mates join us.

Moving to the dance floor, Gymnasium takes the stage. They kick hard into their opener and I notice the lead singer, Rod Van Stoli, reminds me somewhat of a young Steve Perry. He’s got a great voice for rock—strong and sustained with spot-on pitch. They are a pop-rock band clearly, but not typical. The influences of early Bowie, Beatles, and Supertramp—maybe even Genesis and Yes—surface in their melodic passages and complex arrangements. These are no three-chord rockers. Guitarist and Gymnasium songwriter Charles Hansen has got nice chops and each song features a guitar solo. Most of them are the kind you could whistle. Tasty. The bassist is a driving force for the music, thought the drummer could have hit them a little harder. They are a killer band.  But after several songs I start thinking the hooks could be stronger. Maybe it’s the density of the music; I don’t know. This is a band that could probably land a major label record deal easily with their playing and appearance, but I’m not as sure of the tunes. Each one is an epic, maybe more than the average listener could take in. But then, this not your average band. My final opinion? Very impressive.

White Dynomite doesn’t skimp on their concept. With white instruments and white amplifiers, they come out dressed in white suits and ties. Singer Unger is wearing white-rimmed fly lens sunglasses as well. They break out their first song, the band theme song “White Dynomite,” and the crowd jumps right in. As Unger tells it, they like fun, short songs you can sing along to, and that’s what they give you. Unger claps along to the thunderous sound, which reminds me of MC5 and The Stooges. You can almost hear “Kick out the Jams” as they rip into another anthem. Each of their tunes is designed for you to sing along, and the audience does. I would kill to have the three-pickup Gibson SG Custom that guitarist John Darga is bashing around. Craig Riggs beats the hell out of his plexiglass drum kit as WD dominates the attention of the room. This band has everything they need—concept, songs, stage performance—they have captured what they were after; they’re the complete package. No song is more than three minutes long. In and out—BANG! Next one! I couldn’t take my eyes or ears off of them, and they’re having fun! There is no pretentious bullshit—just a good time! They end the set with a reprise of their opener “White Dynomite” and they’re gone. They are excellent and I will go see them again.

I’m not able to stay for the headliners, Reverse. 

Extra notes: White Dynomite has already signed a recording contract  with Ripple Music, San Francisco, an indie label that specializes in vinyl offerings. Their first release will be on white vinyl.                  (Joey Ammo)

BAKER THOMAS BAND/ 

JUGHEAD/ 

BROTHERS McCANN

Blues & Rock Concert Cruise 

Boston Harbor, Boston, MA    7/20/14

This is the coolest place to see a show during the summer: cruising around Boston Harbor on a beautiful day; and hearing some of the best bands the area has to offer. It doesn’t take me long to get into the mood and find out that Tom Bianchi is in charge of all the music on this three hour boat trip extraordinaire.  There’s music EVERYWHERE on this ship! There are artists performing on the inside deck to a lesser audience and I really enjoy the vibe here. Special guests Gina Alibrio, Amy Kucharik, and George Woods in one group (Amy has a new CD out called Cunning Folk). Danielle Miraglia and Ryan Fitzsimmons in another with Ansel on harp and Jagoda on percussion sitting in; and Jenee Halstad and Hugh McGowan in a third act play a set each. All the performances are acoustic Americana with folk, blues, and jam band influences—the same salad but different dressings so to speak. The three headlining  groups playing on the top deck are all influenced by hippie bands like The Dead and The Band with a bit of George Clinton and PFunk thrown in. The trio Brothers McCann plays a few cuts from their new release Day’s of Ease. Then Jughead continues the fun. The Baker Thomas Band with Tom Bianchi, Amy Kucharik, Danielle Miraglia, Jenee Halstad, Neprok, George Woods, Gina Alibrio, and Ryan Fitzsimmons close with their original “Take Me Away.” Many of their artist friends sit in, singing and playing along with them.  They play a brand new song that I really dig called “St. Ann.” Tom Bianchi outdoes himself. Everyone (myself included) has a blast!     (A.J. Wachtel)


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Live Reviews — 2 Comments

  1. Great to read of the Baker Thomas Band on the high seas.
    What a wonderful review of not just a concert an adventure!
    Here’s hoping that the audience continues to broaden, as much as this very talented band.

  2. But of course. I would expect nothing less than fabulous from Tom Bianchi, Baker Thomas and all of the others you named. He is someone special and the band is always fine entertainment.