me&thee coffeehouse, Marblehead, MA
Me&thee is hoppin’ with energy for their hometown optometrist/guru of sorts—Jim Trick. Host Phillip Murphy reminds us that me&thee is “the oldest church-based coffeehouse in Marblehead on Mugford Street,” then he brings up his evil twin brother who wears the most ridiculous hat (a Yankees cap) and raps about the fire exit instructions.
First up tonight is Linda Sharar who is quick to pleasantly correct that she’s from Andover, not North Andover. She strums an open tuning and with E’s and B’s ringing on every chord she sings about gratitude. Before the next song she says that this week she’s turning nine, then rolls into “Treasure Map” with some beautiful fingerpicking. Dressed casually and comfortably, Linda has an easy natural way of addressing her audience. She encourages all to continue creating their art in what ever field they choose and echoes the thought in “Say Yes.” She’s got four CDs out and works with producer Tom Dube who gets some major artists on her recordings. She ends with more gratitude pouring from her in “A Little Will Do” and as she leaves the stage she gets the biggest longest hug from her five-year old daughter. The roar of the audience and the silence of a warm hug is a nice range of appreciation.
After the coffee-and-treats break, Jim Trick lands on stage and he is obviously overwhelmed with gratitude by the support of his community that is overflowing from the pews. His first song with the refrain “All’s not lost and you’re not lost at all” sets the tone—and there’s something about the chord progression that reminds me of Paul Stookey’s “Wedding Song (There is Love)” which may have been mindfully orchestrated by Jim. His wife Allison joins him to harmonize on “The Truth About Vernon” and then he lets us know that he raised $12,00o with his Trickstarter campaign. He abruptly returns to the now and gasps—“I can’t believe all you guys are here.” He’s gentle with his guitar, able to fingerpick melodies on the high end while a slow moving bass lines add complimenting support. He mentions that he grew up in Haverhill, the town that starts with an H, ends with two Ls, and has an E in the middle—which leads to the sad song, “Long Road Back to Love.” He quicky shakes the feeling and breaks into the upbeat/happy “I’m A Little Hula Baby,” strumming a uke and sharing a single mic while bopping with Allison. The next song goes back in time to his grandma taking him to the to the nearby Baseball Hall of Fame and this song floods my memory of going back to my grandpa’s house in Brooklyn. Then Jim takes us on a visual tour of his recent trip out west. A large screen fills the back of the stage and a slide projection commences. He’s picked out stills of people and things that tell simple life stories. The way Jim puts it is all quite fascinating. An old bearded man reading the newspaper in a town in the middle of nowhere; a teenage boy nervous about doing his first public rodeo; and Jim trying to duplicate a photo of Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison and being reprimanded for going over the line by the voice of the guard over the loud speaker—“No.” I love Jim’s words of wisdom: “Talking to strangers when we are kids is dangerous—talking to strangers when we are adults is essential.” The rest of the set flows easily and ends with “Who We Were to Be” which states, “I’ll be you and you be me”—the whole idea of this song is a lesson in understanding each other. Jim gets a wonderful standing ovation and you know his quiet confidence is overjoyed. He invites Linda Sharar out and they perform two covers in the middle isle of the church: Christopher Williams’ “Each Others Blessing” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer.” Both are beautifully harmonized and the creamy feeling created from the beginning to the end of the set overflows. It’s one of the most joyful nights of music I can remember. Jim Trick is on track to uplift audiences ’round the world. (T Max)
BARRY & THE REMAINS/CARDINAL/THE DOWNBEAT 5
The Regent Theater, Arlington, MA
This is the way rock ’n’ roll is meant to be played. A few cats with something to say just plug in and wail. The Downbeat 5 starts the night off with tightly knit, powerful garage rock fronted by stunning singer Jenny Dee; whose powerful voice is sometimes sweet, sometimes sultry, and always very good. J.J. Rassler from Thee Cuban Heels and DMZ plays with feeling. I enjoy what he plays ’cause he may not be the best guitarist on the scene but he is certainly one of the most passionate players around—short and sweet and every note counts. Pounder Dan Styklunas, also from Thee Cuban Heels, and bassist Mike Yocco sound tight and add much of the soul in the band’s sound. They play driving and thumping rock ’n’ roll and I love it! I really dig their original songs “Get Down” and “Dum Dum Ditty” that was featured on Little Steven’s Underground Garage. “Foggy Notion” by The Velvet Underground and “Come On Now” by The Kinks also get me moving.
Next up is Cardinal, who are sorta out of place for tonight. They are an acoustic folk band whose lead singer is a guy from Australia. There is a cello being played with a bow, a violinist, and a keyboardist in this eight-piece and when the male singer says their next song is titled “What’s The New Mary Jane?” I immediately think how cool it is they are doing the famous Fab Four pot ditty; but I am wrong. The song is a folk original and I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would plagiarize the title of a Beatles B-side cut to write a different song?
Then Barry Tashian and his great band The Remains, with original members Vern Miller on stellar bass, and Bill Briggs on cool keys and newbie and Berklee grad George Correia on drums, start their show. It’s part nostalgic and part just great power pop. They were the first garage rock band and they haven’t missed a beat. Correia had to replace original drummer Chip Damiani who passed away earlier this year and his presence is rock solid. This band formed in Myles Standish Hall, where I lived years later, a Boston University dorm still in Kenmore Square. Barry tells stories about their rise to stardom as the set goes on. Hearing stories about their tour in ’66 opening for The Beatles is the icing on the cake. How often do you hear firsthand stories about them anymore in 2014? I really dig Bo’s “Diddy Wah Diddy,” “Say You’re Sorry” from their first album, “Why Do I Cry?,” Chuck’s “I’m Talking About You,” “Rt. 66,” The McCoy’s “Hang On Sloopy,” “Don’t Look Back,” and their encore poppy version of Muddy’s “Mannish Boy.” It’s also very cool when Barry and Vern catch eyes and smile onstage mid-song while they are locked into a groove and they know, and hear, that after almost 50 years together they can still rock ’n’ roll as well as anybody today. A great night is brought to us by Bob Dubrow as part of a series of WMBR’s Pipeline 25th anniversary celebrating 50 years of Boston Music. (A.J. Wachtel)
Erik Lindgren’s 60th Birthday Concert
Distler Performance Hall, Tufts University, Medford, M
Dear Erik: Thank you very much for inviting us to your birthday extravaganza. T’was a wonderfully magnificent evening of stimulating and evocative musique with astounding performances from your collected ensembles. We woke feeling refreshed and invigorated. Two pieces, “Suite de Danzas Criollas” and “Progressive Music for String Quartet” were awe-inspiring. (Dig those strings!!) Chatting with you afterwards, as in the past, still retains the whimsy of your zany ways. Many many thanks for the bonus gift of your latest album, “Yin Yang A-Go-Go.” Will settle down for a wrestle very soon… expecting many mind-twinkling moments! Paramount kudos and best wishes always! – Harry
Anyone who has experienced the multi-faceted talents of Erik Lindgren never feels cheated in the diversity department. As a member of the Boston music scene, he has entertained us with such memorable acts as The Moving Parts, Space Negros, and his premier ensemble for over thirty years, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. He also runs the Arf! Arf! record label, dedicated to 1960s garage/ psychedelic/ outside music and has worked with such luminaries as Willie Loco Alexander, The Turbines, Oral Moses, Roger Miller, and Ed “Moose” Savage, in addition to a profitable career creating film scores, commercials for TV and radio, amongst other various productions.
As a contemporary classical composer, Mr. Lindgren has a catalog of over seventy works, ranging from solo piano pieces to chamber music to orchestral compositions and that is featured tonight with a dozen offerings written during the past two decades. Each selection is a pure knockout, utilizing a varying panoply of instrumentation: flute, clarinet, two violins, viola, cello, upright bass, piano, vibraphone, percussion, laptops—all under his direction (he personally did not play a note). Almost three hours of concentrated eclectic genius and I do not say that lightly. Wish you were there! (Harry C. Tuniese)
Tavern at the End of the World, Charlestown, MA
In this dreadful, dreary, digital media, cell phone society, can rock ’n’ roll survive? I got my doubts, though some people still want to hear it and some people still want to play it. Case in point: Maine’s own Tigerbomb. Described as garage-punk as they’re fronted by Lynda Mandolyn (from San Francisco punk band Fabulous Disaster) and Chris Horne (from Maine’s garage legends The Brood). Joined by Andrea Ellis (bass) and Cindy Allison (drums), they’re already the coolest band in earshot after just a handful of performances. They’re more garage-y than punk-y to be honest, but not as entrenched in that ’60s swamp sound as you’d expect from Goddess Horne. Hell, I’m not even thinking they need an organ! It’s all original material, too, which is awesome (not sure how many are actually new as I spot a couple of Brood chestnuts in the set). Okay, forget all this fanzine writer bull and listen: Tigerbomb is seriously life-worth-living rock ’n’ roll played by a bunch of seriously groovy chicks, man. This should be of great consequence to you! Even more so because they’re heading into the studio to record. Consider yourself tipped off to a good thing. And heads up, you college radio DJs! (Frank Strom)
THE GROWNUP NOISE
CD Release Show
Arts at the Armory, Somerville, MA
This is a celebration of the group’s third album and first in three years, The Problem With Living In The Moment. A definite buzz greets me as soon as I walk in: a fairly nice sized crowd of excited people mill about on the main floor. A big video screen rests above the stage. A camera to record the show is set up with the main lighting rig on the mezzanine level.
The Grownup Noise incorporates elements of the symphonic and baroque that meet the rock and the folk. Generally I find their most engaging songs integrate this with a chorus and a great guitar chord hook. Excellent examples of this tonight are “New Outsiders,” “Love Struck,” which lead singer Paul Hansen wrote for his young boy, and “Great Outdoors,” about how watching too many horror movies can ruin being out in nature for you. The show starts with an exception to that model with a video of the song “Astronomy as Therapy.” Lyrical subtlety is how this song has always engaged me. When the band later plays it live, they gradually build the instrumental mix. First banjo… then cello… with pedal steer guitar slipping in to paint the picture.
The group billed the event as sort of a band family affair, bringing back musicians who had previously been involved with the group and who all played on the new album. Two songs include a second cello player. One song includes two drummers. The finale, “Outside,” includes both cello players plus a third drummer—who walks on stage to set up his kit while the song is being introduced. So many added musicians can be sonic overload. But it enhances the Grownup Noise’s sound, especially in terms of vocals. The incorporated harmonies and background vocals really add color to the music. Tonight, the Grownup Noise demonstrates that they continue to evolve. (Perry Persoff)
The Middle East (Upstairs), Cambridge, MA
In this line of work I get to see lots of sparsely attended shows that deserve way more promotion and exposure. Of them all this Black Helicopter/Minibeast show at The Middle East’s upstairs room takes the cake.
Half way through Minibeast’s set of guitar-based analog/electronic soundtrack music I decide I need to make sure that I don’t forget this band. When the keyboard player starts messing around making crazy sounds with what appears to be the digital version of a theremin, I whip out my phone and Google them. After a paragraph or two my jaw drops to the floor—the keyboard theremin guy… well… that’s Peter Prescott. Yup, the Peter Prescott. Mission of Burma’s Peter Prescott.
Maybe I should have known this going in but keep in mind that I’m here to see Black Helicopter and hadn’t given a second thought to who would be opening. Now, halfway through Minibeast’s set I realize that I’m watching a Boston rock legend in action—only ten feet from my nose—in a room occupied by less than 100 people. Talk about serendipity. I love my job.
For another 10 minutes Minibeast continues their strange, gothic-psychedelic instrumentals before nonchalantly switching their instruments off and leaving the stage to no fanfare whatsoever.
Headliner Black Helicopter takes the stage to a room of a little more than 100 people. What I can’t understand is how many times the guys in this band can almost hit the big time, but come up short. It’s such a freakin’ shame—so much talent with, apparently, very few people listening. In the early ’90s, in Green Magnet School, just about the time that Nirvana’s Nevermind was breaking, and with a sound that was reminiscent of Bleach-era Nirvana, they were positioned to be the East Coast’s answer to Seattle grunge. In Kudgel, they were poised to take over Boston’s heavy rock scene.
Finally, in the new millennium, with a new batch of songs, and some personnel changes, Black Helicopter emerges. It looks as though the favor of the rock gods might shine upon them. After being picked up by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth’s Ecstatic Peace label, it looks like there might be yet another shot at a seat at the big boys’ table. Then what happens? Thurston Moore, Sonic Youth, and the label all implode in the wake of Moore’s divorce from Kim Gordon. The black rain cloud still follows.
The boys of Black Helicopter certainly don’t dwell on the sob story that I’ve crafted when they take the stage. On the contrary, they tear through at set of deep, heavy, inspired tunes, as though they are simply happy to have the opportunity to play at all.
It’s hard to categorize a band with this much pedigree and history behind it. They bring with them over 30 years of experience and influences. They’ve participated in the coming and going of three different musical eras. To be certain, there’s a hint of Sonic Youth in the noisier bits of their delivery. But Black Helicopter also loves a good melody. In their hearts, many of their songs would sound great on acoustic guitar played in a coffeehouse. But let there be no mistake, these guys play heavy rock, delivered with a ton of power by three guys simply pounding away at their instruments.
Vocally, Tim Shea keenly rides the line between slacker genius and frustrated punk rocker. Here again, a bit of Sonic Youth slips in. There are moments when when you might picture Tim as a slightly younger Thurston Moore but there’s much more musical range hidden in his vocals. When I listen closely I can hear Cracker’s Dave Lowery and the Drive-by Truckers’ Mike Cooley. That’s a winning vocal combination in any indie rocker fan’s estimation.
During a pre-show chat with the band I learn that they have a full-length record’s worth of material recorded and ready to release, which has been sitting on a shelf since the collapse of Ecstatic Peace! I’ve heard the songs. All I can say is, “Someone pick up this band and release their record already!” I know in my heart that these guys still have a string of hits in them. (George Dow)
THE DAN LAWSON BAND
Blue Ocean Music Hall, Salisbury Beach, MA
Dan Lawson has been a blazing North Shore guitarist since the ’80s in his band The Keep. This cat is a great guitarist! Tonight his three-piece group is opening up for Foghat; Dan’s Jeff Beck meets Z.Z. Topp meets Gary Moore sound sets the mood for a great night of music. This cool club is right on the beach and I can see the incoming tide flowing right under the elevated, over the sand (by cement blocks), venue. Pretty cool. Before the band goes on, I’m watching the tide wash under the building through the big windows facing the ocean. The songs that really stand out for me during his set are four cuts from his new album “Soldiers of Fortune” including the title track, “Gimme No Reason,” “Miss Me,” and “Lied To Me”; and they cover “Good Time” by Arcangel, Peter Bell’s “I’m Funky But I’m Clean,” and Gary Moore’s “Story of the Blues.” Dan even goes up and joins headliner Foghat, with their wall of Marshall amps, for a few songs. I really like his playing on “I Just Want To Make Love To You.” (A.J. Wachtel)
MATT BURNS BIRTHDAY SHOW
Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA
Matt Burns is one of those people I think of as a real rock ’n’ roll guy—a musician you see all the time at just about every show you go to, whether one of his bands is playing or not. Mitch and Henry from Triple Thick, Jay Allen and a few others are likewise. All contributors and supporters of the local music scene. Me, I know Matt as ace drummer of the Coffin Lids from the Abbey Lounge days, but apparently he’s been kicking around a lot longer than that in a bevy of different bands. Tonight there’s a whole host of folks from Coffin Lids, Prime Movers, Kenne Highland, Litehouse, Andrea Gillis Band, Heavy Stud, Rock Bottom, Upper Crust, Handymen, Port Charles Quintet, various permutations of all the above, plus friends and relatives (I spot at least four guys who look just like Matt!). No bands proper: It’s a mix of different band members putting together four sets of covers. This is the only birthday show I can remember where the honoree played the whole night (Or nearly. Matt drums in three out of four sets.). I’m disappointed that all the Coffin Lids are in attendance but don’t play a reunion set! Still, there are some terrific highlights like Melissa Gibbs covering the Pretenders and master Kenne Highland bombasting his way through an entire wog-boggling set of early prime era Alice Cooper! I’m glad to be here as witness! (Frank Strom)
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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.