Blackthorne Publick House,
So. Easton, MA
We here at The Noise have been big boosters of Ruby Bird and Billy Carl Mancini, with their svelte sound and savvy tunes. As an acoustic duo, they always pack a pop punch and bring joy to their fans. Now, with debut of Joel White on bass and Joe Jaworski on drums/vocals, they have become a rockin’ force. Tonight, they are out here in the sticks with a packed room (with lots of Boston friends in attendance) and they are precise, practiced, and phenomenal. Yikes! – give Billy Carl some solid backing and an electric guitar and he unleashes the roaring whirlwind inside of him with snappy solos that both bite and caress. He is so freakin’ good! And Ruby, though hampered with mild laryngitis, still summons up the strength to perform as if nothing’s wrong. Professional stamina, to be sure!
Cleverly starting off with “Better Man” [“…look at at all my friends…”], the group barrels through material from all five of their albums (and surprising few from their former group, The Sky Blues) with the enthusiastic audience cheering them on. Other highlights include “Didn’t Last Long” (with Bill on ukelele), their stirring rendition of “I’ve Got a Feeling,” “You Don’t Know What I’m Saying,” “Cops & Lawyers,” “I Want My Own Brian Epstein,” their gospel rave-up “Truth,” and the crowd sing-a-long favorite, “Nightime is the Right Time.” All this material they’ve recently played at more intimate shows just exploded. I can’t wait to see this incredible band closer to home! Bring another pair of socks ‘cause they’re gonna knock ’em off! (Harry C. Tuniese)
RUBY ROSE FOX
(opening for The Motels)
GimmeLive president Peter Van Ness states in his introduction of Ruby Rose Fox that the next time you see her playing it could be in a stadium. She’s on the cover of the April issue of The Noise and if you read the story—Sleazegrinder is very convincing in also predicting her mega success. Ruby, in gold jacket and stylized black shorts, walks on stage solo and straps on a Telecaster. Her low alto (baritone?) voice fills the theatre the way a gospel singer’s voice fills the spirit of a church. There’s a section of “Golden Boy” where the chords are so dissonant that I feel it could be a fumble, but I’m proven wrong when that section of the song returns. As the song ends, her band comes out on the stage—Ruby introduces the Gloria Steinems—her five female background singers all dressed in their own variation of black. They kind of remind me of the gals who gyrated behind Robert Palmer, but these gals have individual character. They belt out “you’re not a bad woman” in “Bury the Body,” as the band gives it a soul slap. The backup musicians consist of John Bragg (guitar), Matt Girard (bass), Chuck Ferreia (drums), and Josh Friedman (keys) – an understated but very effective band. “Good Friday” takes what sounds like a Phil Spector’s ’60s hit and mashes it up with a dramatic Mahalia Jackson gospel treatment. There’s always a twist in the chord structure to keep you right on top of every phrase. There are hooky lines in “Animal,” and “I’m growing ugly for you” hits my senses and tilts my brain. This act is at its stardom phase right now—don’t hesitate to see them. They’re opening for The Motels tonight and Ruby and two of her Steinems join Martha Davis in a number—Martha knows that Ruby possesses greatness and is happy to have her opening up on the tour. (T Max)
LANEY JONES & THE SPIRITS
One Longfellow Square,
Longfellow Square has set the place up with tables and chairs like a supper club. Laney Jones & the Spirits are opening for New York state’s Spuyten Duyvil. Laney, a former student at Berklee, is a bright star of a person, bouyant and friendly, brimming over with love for music and song. The three boys accompanying her, Curtis Seligman, Matt Tonner, and Alex Shames are all adorable too. She goes between her ukelele and banjo, swapping out a couple of harmonicas on a short set of tunes. Her voice has a similar tone and quality to Brandi Carlile, a lot of power, a lot of heart. She tilts her head back and wails with a cute little one-sided smile on her pretty face. She is a truly sunshiny soul. The band has an American roots sound and hammers out several finely textured original compositions. During the break, she comes down in the audience, shakes hands, introduces herself, and gives out free hugs. (I get one!) I am charmed and wish her a blessed and beautiful career. She and the boys deserve it! (Kimmy Sophia Brown)
MUCK & THE MIRES/
Three killer acts on one bill. How often does THAT happen anymore? Sarah opens up with a solo electric set and she starts all of her songs off the same. First, comes nice guitar finger picking and strumming, for a few measures, to warm herself and the audience up; then she unleashes her passionate vocals on the packed house. She is the perfect coffeehouse performer; she talks between songs and really gets the audience involved. I like that a lot. I dig her cover of Ricky Nelson’s “Travelin’ Man,” as well as a song that NRBQ keyboardist Terry Adams played on from her earlier album, “The Waiting and the Worry.” “Daniel Lee,” from her 2005 album and a new song, “Caught By The Rain,” from her upcoming 2016 CD are cool tunes too – a great electric folk set, for sure.
Next up is Muck & the Mires and their high energy mersey beat set. They rip through band chestnuts like “Three Steps Closer” and “Cheating Yourself” from their CD Dial M For Muck. Then onto another of their oldies, “Saturday Let Me Down Again,” where midway through the song I decide that Muck is my new favorite band in Boston. I really dig the cover of Gerry & the Pacemakers’ “It’s Gonna Be Alright” and “Don’t Start Running Away” by Liverpool’s The Big 3; another Brian Epstein managed, early ’60s group. Everyone in the band sings! Muck is on guitar and vocals (he used to be Evan Shore from The Voodoo Dolls), Jessie Best is on drums and vocals, Pedro Mire is on guitar and vocals, and John Quincy Mire is on bass and vocals. How cool is this? Fast, high energy songs sung in four part harmonies, too! Everyone is wearing red shirts tonight. To me, this is a silent sign reminiscent of The Fab Four all wearing the same outfits mixed with the garage punk attitude of “Fuck YOU we’re in a BAND!” I love it. It’s exactly like seeing The Dave Clark Five in a small club with GREAT sound in 2015.
It’s time for the headliner—Worcester’s NRBQ—once known as America’s best underground band. Legendary for their live performances, containing a high degree of spontaneity and levity that blends rock, pop, jazz, and blues, they are still the best at what they do. Before the set, I asked Terry Adams what songs he had planned and he shrugged and laughed: “Oh, I don’t know.” They open up with “Captain Lou” and blaze through “Girls, Girls, Girls,” “Me and the Boys,” “Johnny Shut The Gate,” I’m In Love With My Automobile,” Diddley’s “Who Do You Love” and my favorite, “Rocket In My Pocket.” Sound man Josh Berman and head of security Rick Sabbag have their hands full tonight and it doesn’t get much better than this. Great sound plus great music equals a great night! (A.J. Wachtel)
PETER WOLF & THE MIDNIGHT TRAVELERS/
Blue Ocean Music Hall,
Salisbury Beach, MA
It may be a palindrome of a date but since I forgot to say “Rabbit Rabbit” first thing this morning, I’m not sure what to expect. So before I totally confuse you, let me stroll on in to the Blue Ocean Music Hall—the venue with the widest ocean view in New England. I walk in and Barry, the coolest ticket scanner in the business, digitally accepts my entrance… then, standing before me is three levels of audience tables. There are about 50 tables (most sit five guests) in the lowest level that is closest to the stage, a 25-table mid-level is where the sound and light men also operate, and the highest, 20-table back level. From any of these levels if you turn your head to the right, you can see the Atlantic Ocean out the 90-foot wall of tall windows. I haven’t even gotten to what’s going on up on the stage yet, and it’s a big wide stage with lots of lighting and a great sounding PA.
First up, introduced as “straight from the bar” is Roy Sludge—and he’s no slouch of an opening act. This guy (and his stand-up bassist Johnny Sasha) play two kinds of music. Now I might reckon by their tunes that it’s country and western, but noooo, they’re more frisky than that—it’s drinkin’ and truckin’ music. Roy starts off jackin’ up his cowboy guitar with “Drive Drive Drive” while Johnny’s slappin’ some addictive high-octane rhythm. Roy has a wicked wide vocal range that digs deeper than a sober undertaker’s shovel. Oh yeah, Roy has a TV theme song side project called Stump the Undertaker’s Organ. The between song banter is full of self-depreciation (“Thank you for your sympathy”) and cornball humor (“Thank you Salisbury! Love your steaks too!”) that keeps the audience loving the Sludge-master. The highlight of their entertaining set and the title-song off their cylinder (Roy said it, not me) is “Too Drunk To Truck,” combining the two kinds of music they play.
The audience responds well to Roy and Johnny, but they are here to see the Wolfa Goofa Mama Toofa—Peter Wolf! Peter’s killer band starts off the show with “Tequila”—kind of a introduction for Peter to make his entrance in his gold jacket with black lapels, tight black slacks, and his Bronx chapeau. He’s no teenager, but this guy still has the moves, slipping and sliding across the stage—mingling with the female fans stage front. Hey—he sings and plays harmonica too! They do a blues number “Can’t Do My Homework Anymore” with Kevin Barry pulling the pleasing solos out of a lap steel. Peter tosses one out to Roy Sludge—a song he wrote for Johnny Cash called “I’m Always Askin’ For You.” “Holdin’ On to Nothin’ But the Wheel” was recorded with Mick Jagger. Peter has rubbed elbows with the greats. The band breaks into a hillbilly version of “Love Stinks” where guitar giant, Duke Levine, trades for a mandolin. The show really picks up two thirds of the way through when “Tragedy” sides right into “Hard to Get Started.” Then they’re off the charts with “Give It To Me” (Peter gyrates at the microphone) and “I’m Looking For A Love” (complete with drum solo). Peter throws his jacket over his shoulder and walks off. The crowd enthusiastically forces them back up where they end with a song by soul singing legend Ben E. King, who passed away the day before, “Please Be There On Time.” (T Max)
333, Boston, MA
Some may know Mike Baldino as the lead guitarist of his current band, The Wingmen. Others may be familiar with his work in dozens of other bands in the Boston scene he’s played with over the years. Some may even know him from his days as a writer at The Noise. Today, he’s my barber at the hip new hair saloon/barbershop, 333. While his performance today isn’t music, what Mike Baldino does with hair is its own kind of art, and worthy of a review. The stage is set and Mike takes his position. Instead of a Gibson SG, his “ax” is a long silver pair of scissors and black razor wielded with the gusto of Jimmy Page and the dexterity of a youthful Eddie Van Halen. I hadn’t had a haircut in some time so there was a lot of cutting to be done, but one thing Mike didn’t cut was any corners; he took his time and was deliberate with each snip, as if he was meticulously arranging notes in a grand solo. With his extreme attention to detail and charm as a front man, I give Mike’s solo effort two thumbs up. 333 is located at 333 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA. (Kier Byrnes)
Me & Thee Coffeehouse,
Here we are again at Me & Thee and Tony Toledo introduces Signature Sounds artists Winterpills, saying it’s their 10th anniversary and that they are award winning potato farmers (I never found out if that was true). Tonight, the normally five-member group is represented by just Phillip Price (guitar/ vocals) and Flora Reed (vocals) dressed in black and hailing from the music mecca of Northampton, MA. Phillip throws a capo on his Epiphone 335 hollow body guitar and plays a drone and melody simultaneously behind their cool vocal harmonies. I like the lyrical idea in their second song: “Someday, if you let it, it will all come back to you.” The key being “if you let it.” They play in the folk realm incorporating a folk rock feel. Phillip likes to use reverb and tremolo on his guitar, coloring the the songs with a nice atmosphere. In “The Sun is Alone,” Flora repeats the words: “Who wants the sun/stars? No one”—and Phillip jokes about how he wrote a question mark at the end of the phrase—it’s not a statement; it’s a question – a tuneful, thoughtful set from this pair.
After the cookies and milk—I mean coffee, Kris Delmhorst is up and running and though I may have to fight off the sexist comments, Kris looks beautiful. Maybe it’s the cover of her Shotgun Singer album that led me to believe her looks were more in common with images of Anne Frank. Okay, a couple of those flung tomatoes did hit me, but I’ll proceed. She straps on her smallish guitar with a parrot (I think) painted on it—and calls it Bruno. Bruno is not the finest instrument but adds style to the presentation. She starts to play “Bird With a Broken Wing” and little squeaks emerge between chords—it’s Bruno letting out his usually unwanted string noise. For her next tune, she switches guitars and the humor begins. There’s no sound coming through the speakers, but when she asks the crowd, “Can you hear that?” they respond with “yes”—they can hear the acoustic guitar. We all get a good laugh while the sound man figures out a remedy. Kris is just back from England and is adjusting to the time. She does nice sensitive little things like letting her breath become part of the vocal line (“Bees”), gently fades out her guitar (“I Went High”), and sways her body to the song when she emerges into the rhythm (“All That You Have”). That last one also sounds like it could be a lost Paul McCartney tune with its wonderful melody. While she re-tunes, she tells us that guitars are like cats—they can only express themselves in minimal ways. Cats puke; guitars go out of tune. She gets jazzy after she plugs in her floral Vermont-made Telecaster (named Morning Glory) and makes a plea for spring in “Speak Up Love.” Then she shows affection for her guitar and says, “She’s pretty, isn’t she?” Philip and Flora get invited back up to add extra atmosphere and harmonies to “Blue Adoline,” “Blood Test,” and “Do You Know.” Then it’s the audience’s time to participate in “My Ohio” as we learn and execute our vocal parts. She thanks all of the Me & Thee volunteers and ends with “92nd Street.” Knowing the local crowd, there’s no way Kris will get out of here without doing an encore, and she comes through by honoring a request for “Broken White Line.” My music digestive system has been happily filled once more. (T Max)
After waiting in line to get my whole body inspected by someone that isn’t my girlfriend, I finally make it past the entrance hallway of the Sinclair. This is a fairly new venue in Cambridge that many have always wanted. There’s a standing area with a good view of the stage where the crowd gets to feel intimate with the artist. My girlfriend and I squeeze right up front. Within 20 minutes, the bass from the DJ stops and the lights dim.
Not waiting for anyone, Dopapod launches into a set of original numbers with full force. The first two or three songs blend together in a blur of busy drums, bustling bass, funked out guitar, and crazy alien keyboard lines that show the true power of the music and musicianship. The set starts with instrumentals—just music and more music. It doesn’t seem to disappoint any of the fans. When the vocals come in around the fourth or fifth song, they really don’t do anything to elevate the already stellar music being played. They are not bad, quite the opposite, but they feel bland in comparison to the music.
Being stuffed in front of a large sweaty crowd that smells of enough pot to subdue Bob Dylan gives me a very unique view of a band and its audience. Dopapod supplies their fans with what they want by playing many songs from their older records. The musicians seem so comfortable with each other on stage that the feeling transfers to the audience. Their fans are respectful, though rowdy when they need to be. But most of all, they are there to support the music of a local act.
Dopapod seems clearly aware of a trope that can burden even the most talented of bands—the idea of mendacity. They never have the same jam twice and never give you a chance to figure out where each one is headed. It keeps the show fresh after they have jammed to oblivion and back. This is not the typical noodling about—they build to a climax and change or evolve as the song progresses, though they do tend to lean on the a limited amount of ideas. They frequently start a song and after reaching a certain point, jam into the stratosphere, then jam more and crescendo at the end. That’s the formula and it’s what Dopapod does with it that counts.
After the first set ends, my girlfriend and I do the usual “half-time” break—visit the bathroom, go outside for a smoke, and grab a drink of water from the pitchers at the corner of the bar. For the second set, we move to the back and stand in the general admission area. This allows a full view of the stage and its backdrop. There’s quite an impressive display of lights and visuals that can send even the most experienced hippie into another dimension. What I didn’t expect was that Dopapod’s second set comprised entirely of a cover of Pink Floyd’s 1971 opus, Echoes. The cover starts out quite close to the original in its composition— they even perfectly get the seagull noise in the ambient section of the piece. Then out of nowhere they take the song straight to Dopapod-land—the space fills with reggae inspired funk and electronic psychedelia. This extends the song well into the 30-minute range. For a local band, they put on a mighty good show and provide an excellent way to spend a night crammed together with smelly people from all corners of life. Dopapod proves that with tight musicianship, quirky attitudes, and the right setting, even a band without a large following can become mighty. (Connor Prendergast)
For a change, I head to the library for live music. I previously picked up a flyer announcing Phil Rosenthal’s “Pete Seeger presentation.” Phil hails from Gilford, CT, and he starts out talking about Pete and I can see this is going to be as much a learning experience as a musical tribute. The performance is being videotaped for BevCam (Beverly Community Access Media). Phil picks up his banjo and starts with “Oh I Had A Golden Thread,” admitting he didn’t know the song before he took on this project. Then he swings into the instrumental “Spanish Bandango.” He straps on what appears to be a Dobro, but on closer inspection, it’s a Dobjo—it has the neck of a five-string banjo. Phil tells us that Pete Seeger’s mother was a concert violinist and that Pete’s brothers started on the violin—but gave up on it. When Pete was given many different instruments to chose from, to his mother’s dismay, he picked the lowly banjo. Phil talks about the different artist who had a direct influence on Pete’s music—Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, John Lomax, and we get some history: Pete Seeger formed the Weavers with Lee Hayes in the 1940’s, got signed to Decca Records, and their first single was the still popular “Good Night Irene.” Pete was blacklisted in the 1950 and it hurt The Weavers. That’s when he wrote the book Where Have All the Flowers Gone. Back to our performer, Phil Rosenthal—he composed the song “Muddy Water” that was recorded by The Seldom Seen. Phil ended up joining that bluegrass band for nine years and played at the White House for Jimmy Carter. On a side note—Phil’s son Daniel plays trumpet in Either Orchestra and going back to Phil’s early days – when he was a young teenager, his father took him to see Pete Seeger. Phil’s dad was hoping to prove to his young son the importance of learning to read music—even for the banjo. They went back stage and met Pete Seeger. Phil’s dad asked Pete directly if his son needed to read music. Pete answered, “Most of the best banjo players can’t read a note of music.” (T Max)
PETER WOLF & THE MIDNIGHT TRAVELERS/
Blue Ocean Music Hall,
Salisbury Beach, MA
The Blue Ocean Music Hall is a nice venue- good stage, staff and reasonably priced drinks.
Opening is The Roy Sludge—a duo. They play a Johnny Cash brand of music—country/ rockabilly and they do it well. Roy’s voice is excellent—smooth, rich, and deep. His rhythm guitar playing is tight and his stage banter is funny. His bass player is very good at that “Dog House” Rockabilly slap thang and sings good backup too. They are mostly doing songs from Roy’s album Too Drunk To Truck—”First I Got Hammered (Then I Got Nailed)” and “Back The Truck Up,” plus, an excellent version of Dick Curless’ “Tombstone Every Mile.” The Roy Sludge duo [or whatever] is good stuff!
Peter Wolf & The Midnight Travelers hit. The Midnight Travelers are: Duke Levine on guitar, Tom Arey on drums, Marty Ballou on bass, and Kevin Barry on guitar and lap steel. They all play excellent, and Kevin Barry is taking some very soulful solos. The crowd’s diggin’ songs from Midnight Souvenirs like “Tragedy” and “I Don’t Wanna Know,” but the J. Geils songs like “Give It To Me,” “Love Stinks [Bluegrass],” “Lookin’ For A Love,” and “Must of Got Lost” really get this crowd going. Most people stand and boogie for the J. Geils stuff. Peter has cool, funny stories and his interaction with the audience is excellent. Awesome show! He’s one of the best, a legend for good reason. (Jeff Reynolds)