DR. GRANT & THE MEDICAL MARIJUANA BAND
Midway Cafe, Jamaica Plain, MA
Above the stage a Pabst mirror decal hangs ominously, perhaps making all reflections literal. To the left of the stage waits the men’s rooms door’s collage of celebrities from yesteryear, either in black or white or a color that has now faded to match the others. The bust of some long-dead figure on a shelf keeps watch over all. Dr. Grant & the Medical Marijuana Band take the stage as the crowd filters in. Everyone seems to be in good spirits despite the near-apocalyptic conditions outside. Grant’s smile is further reassurance that everything is all right. His rendition of “Call Me Al” brings down the house, the centerpiece of a tremendous set by the Medical Marijuana Band. Tony Savarino enters through the front door and embraces Colin Dwyer in a rare glimpse of public affection from The Emperor.
Colin Dwyer is up next and the drummer from the previous trio, Scott Sugarman, serves as the intersection in the Venn Diagram of life, providing Colin’s sticks as well. Colin likes it loud and his Marshall amplifier agrees. Colin’s vocals are strong, and his vast array of guitars even sturdier. In the crowd is the proverbial who’s who of the Boston music scene. Embattled veterans nodding their head in agreement to the acceptance of a young buck. It seems to be Colin’s goal to blow the windows off the joint, and that might actually happen sooner rather than later. The set is fantastic, and perhaps the best of Dwyer’s still-blossoming career.
It’s business as usual for Tony Savarino & the Savtones. Savarino dazzles, perhaps showing his protege Colin that he’s still the alpha at the top of the rock. Their rendition of “Sunny” tackles you into a time machine for a trip down memory lane, but you’ll be surprised to find the roads repaved. Classics abound as The Savtones destroy what was ever remaining of the roof. (The Mark Knight)
Wilder Zangcraft, Lowell, MA
Rick Rude plays over Skype as the torrid weather prevents the band from actually appearing at the venue, which is basically the basement of a students’ house in Lowell, MA. This is the first time I ever saw something like this. College kids, music geeks, and hipsters gather around the glow of the computer screen compelled by what they are witnessing. A wave of psych-noise punk comes crashing through the speakers that have been hooked up for added effect as Rick Rude plays through their set of decent, but not groundbreaking, music. Although I will give them credit as one of the more creative ways to make up an absence at a venue. Is this a direction live performance is heading? Hopefully, no, but it did make for an interesting opening to a great little show at an even smaller venue.
Everyone has to move down into the basement to view Little My. The basement is dimly lit and cold, but that doesn’t put a damper on the energy of the band playing. Little My have a very hardcore punk-inspired sound with hints of noise and shoe-gaze thrown in. The bassist really shines in this performance. His musical prowess makes up for the lack of movement and instrumental skills the singer/guitarist lacked. Everyone in the basement is too cold to jump around to the music, so instead head bobbing is the general thing to do. The band has a cool vibe about them and we’re thankful that they are even playing as they tell us that their previous earlier in the evening had been cancelled. It’s really refreshing to see a band that really cares about playing whenever and wherever they can, just for the sake of playing.
As Little My finishes their set and leaves the stage, the bassist remains as he is the singer/bassist for Notches. A wall of noise erupts from the speakers and the vocals become non-existent. Droning, psychedelic noise rock is pummeling the eardrums of everyone in the basement, but nobody complains about the volume. The crowd bob their heads to the thudding drums in the background. As with Little My, the three young musicians are more energetic than the crowd, due to the cold. Their songs are very much in the same hardcore vein of Husker Du, with Sonic Youth-esque jams thrown in to keep us guessing as to what is going to come next. The songs work best when the drowned-out vocals go to a hush, and the music just flows. That’s when I can see the beauty among the noise. Everyone in the crowd is in their own head, spacing out to the music and listening as though it is the only thing that matters in the whole world. To be completely honest, it is the only thing that matters on this snowy New England night. (Connor M. Prendergast)
Menotomy Grill & Tavern, Arlington, MA
Walking into this restaurant, I realize that I am witnessing the latest trend on the local entertainment circuit. As the amount of new clubs opening has decreased dramatically in the past few years, the number of eateries, already having a liquor, food, and entertainment license, that now provide music, is increasing at an incredible rate. After dinner, around 9:30, the tables are pushed aside; and bands plug in and play for another crowd. It’s a terrific idea: great food and great music go together absolutely; and this place is one of the best locations around that are now capitalizing on this latest industry inclination.
Tonight, Barrence is solo, without the backing of his band The Savages. Instead, a bunch of his artist friends, themselves in other bands, are supporting this internationally known local R&B screamer. Despite having an off-night from their own main gigs, this is another one of the great benefits of our incestuous scene; everyone knows each other and are quick to get together for a special night like this. When I ask Barrence before the first of his two sets what songs they’ll be performing; he laughs at me and demurs “I don’t know,” as we both crack up.
The band opens up with Americana artist Josh Turner’s 2003 hit “The Long Black Train,” and follow this up with “Brass Buttons”; an Americana ballad from an album Whitfield did with Tom Russell called “Cowboy Mambo.” Guitarist Tim Gearan also has a Friday residency at Atwoods, and is known from his days with Toni Lynn Washington. Keyboardist Bruce Bears and drummer Mark Teixeira are with Duke Robillard’s jump blues band, and upright bassist and Berklee teacher Jesse Williams has been seen playing with local legends Susan Tedeschi, Ronnie Earl, and J. Geils. And tonight they are playing two sets of Americana based music. Just wild. Other songs I really dig are the old Louis Jordan chestnut “Ella Mae,” a REAL barroom boogie/jump-blues tune with swing, and “Take That Night Train to Memphis.” I watch an older couple dancing between the tables as the band kicks ass. The last melody is a real rare cut to hear Barrence play live. He released this song only in Europe in 2006 as one half of The Mercy Brothers. It’s an old Roy Acuff song, and I really like this jump blues/swing jazz band with the R&B screamer up front playing a night of Americana music. Only in Boston. I also enjoy seeing owner Billy Lyons, my waitress Seneca DeMello, Greg Moscatel, and all of the other employees dancing around while doing their business, as the band plays. No cover is the icing on the cake. A great night. Check this place out RIGHT NOW! (A.J. Wachtel)
GIRLS GUN & GLORY/
me & thee coffeehouse, Marblehead, MA
Host Tony Toledo claims, “Susan Cattaneo has an invisible knob on her acoustic guitar that can switch to any genre of music—and tonight it’s set to folk music.” Susan starts with a song she must have written for February 2015—it’s called “The Blizzard Blues.” She’s got Jamie Walker (Swinging Steaks) as her country rock accompanist on his Epiphone ES semi-hollow body guitar tonight. And yes, that invisible knob on Susan’s guitar is aimed more at country than folk. “Lies Between Lovers” even comes with a rockin’ guitar solo. Susan warns that if you do her wrong you may end up in one of her songs, then proceeds with “Laura Lie” noting between lines that the names have been changed to protect the innocent. It’s fun having Julie Dougherty sit next to me in the audience because I get to hear her vocal harmonies in nice stereo separation. Susan breaks out a song that she was a New Mountain Stage finalist with—”How a Cowboy Says Goodbye.” And her next tune, “I’m Worth the Whiskey,” made her a finalist in the International Acoustic Awards. The song has some nice slide work that draws an extra round of applause. Then Susan invites Ward Hayden of Girls Guns & Glory up to split the lead vocal chores on Hank William’s “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” Great set for The Noise cover gal.
After a quick dash for coffee and cookies it’s time for Girls Guns & Glory.
This 4-piece band knows their stuff, and launch into the bouncy country tune “Maryann.” We’ve got lead vocalist/ rhythm guitarist Ward Hayden, drummer Josh Kiiggans, lead guitarist Chris Hersch, and bassist Paul Dilley hitting us with pretty slick country rock and early American rock ‘n’ roll. They get bebopin’ “Moanin’ the Blues” and display more early American influences with “Shake It Like Jello.” Ward Hayden is your perfect front man; he know the right things to say, he’s got good body poses, and one curl dips down on the side of his forehead. Chris takes over on lead vocal chores on two separate songs and both are about trucks—”Semi Truck” where Paul picks up a double bass and slaps it, and “Looking At the World Through the Windshield.” They do the first song the band wrote, “Built For Speed,” that sounds like Peter Gabriel considering a career in country rock. By the time this review is published the band will have a new album that is a tribute to Hank Williams. Rolling Stone is premiering “So Lonesome I Could Cry” in which Ward does a fine job of letting the song build. When their final encore is over, Noise writer Lois McNulty grabs my arm and lets me know that Ward is the next Chris Isaak. Another wonderfully enjoyable night at me & thee. (T Max)