Live Reviews






T.T. the Bear’s Place,  Cambridge, MA    5/22/15

Are you struggling to survive the poor economy? Aren’t we all? Well, if you’re loath to excise entertainment (you know, the stuff that makes our time in this vale of tears better) from your budget, Greater Boston’s not a bad place to ride things out. Let the rubes be wowed by all-sizzle-and-no-steak corporate rock tours; we’ll groove to the local sounds from atop our lofty steeds. Take tonight’s bill at T.T. the Bear’s Place.

If a football game can be characterized as a tale of two halves, and we transfer said paradigm to a club lineup, the front half of this event is the Matt Diekmann story: The jocund bassist, along with Mike Coen, is the pith of City Rivals. [Seasoned scenesters will recall those names from Mid-Atlantic and The Bleedin’ Bleedins.] It’s saying something when the first band to go on is eminently capable at producing old-school rock ‘n’ roll with just the right blues and Americana tinges, as might be served up by The Replacements, Alex Chilton, or The Rolling Stones.

Mr. Diekmann and his bass remount the stage, this time qua elements of The Luxury. Indeed, that’s the same band that captured the Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble diadem a half-dozen years past, only beneath our present location: The ’09 venue was The Middle East. Say what you will about ringleader Jason Dunn (I like him because he shares a birthday with Yasmine Bleeth), he’s a musical alchemist, who knows his way around a tune and expertly evaluates talent. Regardless of his group’s configuration, one can count on a rich, full output.

Planetoid is the penultimate act, and this segment of the write-up is a cause of chagrin for yours truly, who found himself thrust into the role of “merch boy” for The Luxury; the only activity under my watch came when an amateur DJ furtively pocketed a Bones & Beaten Heart (The Luxury’s latest) compact disc; I didn’t have the mettle to blow the whistle on him. Anyhoo, from my post on the far side of the bar, I couldn’t see the stage, and Planetoid takes pains to achieve a certain look, approximating white jumpsuits and Andy Warhol fright wigs. Their set is but a click or two shy of industrial. I can offer that “Gentleman Jim” Collins confers his imprimatur on Planetoid, and endorsement doesn’t come any more solid.

The Lights Out headline, and not for the first time I proclaim them heroes. These fellows are nigh laughably adept at both rocking and stagecraft; vis-a-vis the latter, the band is treating its home base to a light show it’s tinkered with a handful of times in Worcester and elsewhere in the provinces. That said, don’t think The Lights Out is neglecting the music per se! Quite the contrary! Join Rish, Jesse, Adam, and Matt on their next T.R.I.P. [The Reckonings In Pandimensionality]!

From stem to stern, THAT’s how to kick off the Memorial Day weekend!  (Dr. Swig McJigger)




Great Scott, Allston, MA    5/27/15

How rare and exciting for this ole plugger to be out and about on a weeknight. But the chance to see Courtney Swain (my current fascination!) perform with her band, Bent Knee, proves to be too enticing. I manage to sit through two loud raucous groups before their appearance. First up, Das Muerte, a desperate slugfest with a savage lead singer pulling at his hair and shredding his throat, reminding me of a cross between Lester Bang & the Delinquents and Dredd Foole & the Din. Enough already.

Next up is a snazzy, tight Primus-esque trio called The Big Sway. Heavy on the funk-party vibe, they sometimes lean graciously towards punk rock. Crowd digs them, though these fine players don’t need to be sooooo mofo loud.

    Which then brings us to musical transcendence – Bent Knee! I had a sense that here was a special band from spending time with Shiny Eyed Babies, their 2014 release. Never having seen the group live, little did I know that I am about to be pummeled with intelligence, throttled by brilliance, and revitalized by dramatic dynamics – this is the most incredible local progressive art rock I’ve heard in quite a long time (I mostly concentrate on acoustic performers). I often look for such bands but rarely find such an amalgamation of talent – from all six members in tremendous empathy and interaction! Bent Knee is Courtney Swain (voice, keyboard), Vince Welch (sound design), Ben Levin (guitar), Chris Baum (violin), Jessica Kion (bass, voice), and Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth (drums) – Oh my God!  The first half of their set is dedicated to Babies tunes – “Way Too Long,” “Being Human,” “In God We Trust,” “Skin,” “Battle Creek” – each easily supplanting the recorded version. As the songs swoop over them, the crowd sways and swoons, obviously familiar with the material. Then, the band turns it up a notch to present all new material they’re preparing for the next album, which they hope to whip into shape during their upcoming two-month national tour.  Each epic piece grows in compositional intensity and diversity. On one new tune, “Good Girl,” they build to an overwhelming crescendo all playing different parts – totally amazing. You have my roar of approval. Look out, America, you are about to get bent in the head, heart, and mind. This is a must-see ensemble!         (Harry C. Tuniese)


Opus, Salem, MA 7/12/15

We’re downstairs at Opus in Salem, MA, where brick walls frame the Boston band The Shills.  On the left side of the stage guitarist/lead singer Bryan Murphy quickly greets the crowd of 20 and 30-somethings and gets right down to the business of playing music. A still projection of nine strange illustrations wash over drummer Dave Zaner. Bassist Dave Sicilian balances the right side of this three-piece band. I notice that there’s an extra guitar part being generated from a computer in the first song where Byran’s sharp-cutting voice is cooled off with nice harmonies from the two Daves. Then Bryan mentions that The Shills are normally a four-piece unit; guitarist Ryan Jackson is away on something that sounds personal. The Shills play kind of a sparse indie pop – very music designer – Devo rhythms mixed with falsetto harmonies – songs that build to a frenetic state. And they are tight with their rhythmic stops. They play “Oh This Devilish Place,” a single from their most recent release Keep Your Hands Busy Volume 2, and it’s got nice open spaces and cool little sound designs that come and go. The action picks up in the instrumental break. In another song from their CD there’s a build up of guitar loops and vocals almost sounding like the Beach Boys. They play a “really old song” that’s jumpy pop. These guys are creative and good players always designing their rhythms – avoiding anything straightforward. The lights in the room go down and I can no longer see the pad I’m writing notes on. So like the band, I’m working with one less tool. Although they stay away from basic 4/4 rhythms, the three of then groove with ease. Bryan chats with the audience, relating that the band has been together for 11 years – no wonder they’re so tight. They cover a song by the English band Hours – and they stay away from repeating phrases to form hooks. We get the hooks from their creative music. Before I head out they stroll into “Big Yellow Steamroller” based on a dream that Bryan had where he could only save his life if he cut off his legs that were squashed by the steamroller. He didn’t have the guts to do it. I’m sure he found it a lot easier to write a song about it. They’re a good band of musicians.                          (T Max)




Sleepy LaBeef’s 80th Birthday Party
Johnny D’s, Somerville, MA  6/20/15

Country blues/rockabilly legend Sleepy LaBeef lived in Boston during the ’80s while he recorded for Rounder Records, so it is not surprising that this performance feels like a homecoming. Old friends are everywhere and even I notice a bunch of people I haven’t seen in a very long time. Opening act Andrea Gillis and Marc Pinansky are a married couple that sound like they’ve been performing onstage together forever. Their set is mostly country twang with Marc fingerpicking very cool acoustic guitar back up to Andrea’s Loretta Lynn-like husky vocals. And their harmonies in the middle of a song really make their versions special. Both have great voices. Special cuts I really like are their opener, Andrea’s lullaby “The Better Life” and later covers of Loretta Lynn’s “Fist City” and Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman.” The male/female harmonies in each version makes these songs their own.

The next band is the Roy Sludge Trio with Roy on acoustic guitar and his low timbre Johnny Cash-like vocals, Jimmy Scoppa  (T.H. & the Wreckage) on screaming Telecaster, and Johnny Sciascia on upright bass and great harmonies. Roy and Johnny used to be in The Boogeymen a decade or so ago and there are times during their drummer-less set that they are SO passionately locked in together that in the audience it feels like a glass of cold water being thrown in your face. Scoppa’s great country and rockabilly licks make him probably the best unknown guitarist in Boston today. But it’s country music so who’s gonna write about him? Originals “I Got Hammered (Then I Got Nailed),” “Too Drunk To Truck,” the Red Simpson cover “Nitro Express” and Ernest Tubb’s “Two Glasses Joe” really showcase the band’s uptempo country rockabilly skills. They play no ballads. They’re three guys just fucking rocking together. I love it. Picture Elvis’ “Good Rockin’ Tonight” and you’ll get it. Their intensity makes them my new favorite Boston band.

Sleepy LaBeef may now be 80 years old, and he may now sit in a chair while he plays, but he hasn’t lost any of his iconic guitar licks, and he still sings in his famous basso-profundo voice. His current killer band includes ex-Somerville inhabitant bassist Cadillac Crumb, who now lives in Arkansas near Sleepy, local drummer Richy Jay Marcos, and area horn man Dan Rabinowitz, all  long-time vets from his past Boston tenure.  During Sleepy’s two sets he plays a wide variety of country blues, rockabilly, and even some rock ’n’ roll. I really dig his signature tune “Poke Salad Annie,” a ripping cover of Big Joe Turner’s 1953 burner “Honey Hush” and a cool version of Chuck’s “Johnny B. Goode,” where Sleepy and Crumb share those two-string Berry leads. Great job by Josh Berman on the soundboard. People dancing all over the place. If you are into acoustic twang, rockabilly and country blues, then tonight would be right up your alley. It just doesn’t get any better than this.   (A.J. Wachtel)


Boston Calling Festival

Boston City Hall Plaza, Boston, MA  5/24/15

As my dad and I stand there waiting in excitement for the local legends to start their set, Jack Black’s own band Tenacious D are playing one of the most comical musical events I have ever seen. At one point JB paused his own show to point out that “… without the Pixies, there would be no Radiohead. There would be no Nirvana. Alternative rock would have stayed far underground if not for them.” With that speech Jack Black stated only the tip of the iceberg as to how important the Pixies are in respect to modern rock culture. Just taking one look around the crowd and you could see exactly what he was talking about. The varying age of their fans shows you how much of an impact the Pixies have had. There were kids as young as 10 with their parents that were as old as 55 in the audience with every age in between being represented as well. Having been at the two days of the festival prior with my girlfriend, I can safely say this was by far the most varied crowd of all. My dad and I make our way as close as we can to the stage, with the both of us being of the six foot plus stature makes it easy for us the find a spotwith high visibility. We end up chatting with some local college students who think my dad, who is 49 (shhh don’t say anything to him), is only my older work colleague. Guess I have good genes or maybe they were just into older guys either way it was weird. I brought my dad with me because he has a strange connection to the band. He went to college at the same school as them when they were forming the band. Not that he personally knew them, but he remembers seeing flyers advertising a band called the Pixies somewhere around the campus of Zoomass Amherst in around ’85 or ’86. Little did he know that they were going to be a band that helped create the next big thing in rock ’n’ roll. As 9:20 rolls around the sun has gone down and the band takes the stage and launches straight into their set.

When I say launch, I mean catapult. The Pixies hold no prisoners and unleash a set of 32 songs in an hour and a half with no breaks, except for the two minutes where they comically discussed the encore on stage. A band with such a reputation and general respect know exactly why their fans are there, purely for the music. There were no breaks to thank the audience for being there until the very end where they all briefly said thank you and took a bow. For most of the show Frank Black was surrounded in darkness, Joey Santiago was quietly playing his wall of noise, David Lovering pounds on the drums like an indie version of Neil Peart, and newcomer bassist and vocalist Paz Lenchantin shows us why the original band chose her to replace the great Kim Deal. The band plays their first three albums almost in their entirety along with a mix of other new and old material – a David Lynch cover as well as a cover of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On.” Frank Black may be one of the greatest frontmen of all time. He screamed and crooned in his strange timbre that unique to the band with no breaks and towards the end when his voice began to fade, he screamed harder and pushed himself to the limits. Santiago took center stage during the noise breakdown of “Vamos” where he showed us that Sonic Youth aren’t the only band that can create beautiful feedback. Lovering shows his soft side as he sings lead on the sweet love song “La, La, Love You” in his gentle baritone. The most impressive to me was Paz Lenchantin whose gentle voice filled in all of the places where Mrs. Deal sang all those years ago with grace and ease. When the band started to play “Where is My Mind?,” newcomer Lenchantin shows us the definition ethereal vocals. Her presence on stage was more “Fuck you, I’m here to stay so deal with it,” then “I’m just the replacement bassist.”  Good, I hope she does stay because she gave the band a younger energy that they sorely needed. As the show ends and my old man and I make our way back to the train, we begin to discuss the show. With lines like “Dude! That was fucking awesome!” and the response of “I know!,” the show had brought a college-like energy back to my dad and we feel like old buddies hanging out after a show. Only a band like the Pixies could bring a 22-year-old and his 49-year-old dad so close with only the power of music.   (Connor Prendergast)










All You Need is Love Beatles Benefit,

Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead, MA  6/30/15

Up front disclaimer: I was part of this show and will avoid reviewing my own set with Bird Mancini, but wanted to acknowledge the other acts, most of whom I met on that day.

This is the 10th year of The Beatles Benefit thrown together by Kathy Sands-Boehmer, the house booker for Me & Thee Coffeehouse, and I have to say, she is always at the top of her game. This benefit raises money for the UU Church and for musicians to go into the schools of Marblehead and do workshops during the year.

I wasn’t planning to write this review so I’m working from my memory and a little help from my friends. The night starts with Kevin Wall and Lin Sprague (two of the members of The Scrambled Eggs) doing “I Should Have Know Better” – just because Lin learned the harmonica part and wanted to play it.  Britt Connors gracefully takes the stage next. This young woman is easy on the eyes and ears with her sweet folk renditions of “I Will,” “Things We Said Today,” and “For No One.”  John Fuzek from the Neil Young tribute band Forever Young, goes solo tonight with “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “I Need You,” and the George Harrison-penned “Something.” Allysen Callery puts her own stamp on “Dear Prudence” and “Girl,” then invites her stylish daughter Ava to harmonize with her on “You Got to Hide Your Love Away” – which she does excellently. Kyle Morgan raises the bar with his bright voice and precise guitar playing on “I’m Only Sleeping,” where he invites three new friends on stage to harmonize with him. He jumps offstage to tickle “Martha My Dear” out of the in-house grand piano. Then he’s back up with his friends putting a dreamy feel into “Across the Universe” saying, “It’s one of the most profound and transcendent songs ever.” Bird Mancini and I are up next and since I’m not reviewing us, I’ll use the words of host Tony Toledo after we finish our last song, “With A Little Help from My Friends” (Joe Cocker style). He says with a smile, “Sorry I was late getting up to the stage – I had to go get my socks – because you blew them off.”

The second set begins with Patti Rothberg and Gary Barton (two of Kyle Morgan’s new harmonizing friends) who roll up with “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “We Can Work It Out.” Mary Lou Lord takes the stage next with her daughter Annabelle Lord-Patey who hasn’t slept since her prom last night. Together they manage their way through “And Your Bird Can Sing” and “Two of Us.” Guitarist Ethan Robbins of the popular band Cold Chocolate gets the house jip-jop jumpin’ with his speedy bluegrass runs throughout “From Me to You” and “You Won’t See Me.” His set is met with mighty applause that brings on The Scrambled Eggs. These guys are the benefits regulars and they always offer some kind of theme for their set of songs. This year it’s songs from the British release of A Hard Day’s Night and they knock off “Tell Me Why,” “If I Fell,” “You Can’t Do That,” and “A Hard Day’s Night” like a true Beatles cover band. All the participants are invited up for the finale of “Yellow Submarine” and the crowd does a great job of singing along. After participating for three years in this benefit I have been quoted  elsewhere saying, “This is my favorite gig of the year.” See you next year.   (T Max)



Rock and Blues Cruise, Boston Harbor, MA  6/21/15

The morning clouds and drizzle ends by the time a few hundred people board the Provincetown II. Some of the cats waiting with me say they were at Adam’s show last night, and I love the fact that in this day and age a new era of Deadhead-like fans are now following The Adam Ezra Group. I don’t usually see such extreme band loyalty firsthand anymore. The opening act, Bella’s Bartok, is from Northampton and they are very good and very unique. They’re basically a groove band with many different sounds and influences that appear unexpectedly out of nowhere in the middle of a melodies. They can sound like a jam band, a show tunes band, a reggae band, a punk band, or a horn band. I really like how all of a sudden a song’s tempo changes and lead singer Asher Putnam, with glazed eyes and full of punk fury, starts lecturing and shouting at the crowd. Or how a show tune in mid-song transforms its focus on to Jesse Putnam’s accordion or mandolin. Or Amory Drennan’s trombone and Dan Surdyka’s trumpet. It’s like suddenly you are in a musical time warp. The artists are mostly dressed in ties, hats, and some have large 1920s moustaches that curl at the end. All of their sudden changes happen so smoothly because of the main foundation of the band: acoustic guitarist Chris Kerrigan, bassist Dan Niederhauser, and drummer extraordinaire Crisco. They play so tight together and effortlessly change the whole swing of the song from measure to measure. They are NOT a guitar band either which changes everything onstage. I really like “Mother” with the opening vocal harmonies and the lyrics going from “Sorry Mama” to “Listen Mama.” “Bag End March” gets the crowd going too. It’s very theatrical and very good.

After Adam Ezra and his band play their first few songs, I notice that much of the audience is SO concentrated on what’s going on onstage, singing along loudly with all the words on every original song they play.  They are a melodic jam band and today they are releasing their latest video single, “Let Your Hair Down.” This is a great group. Adam on guitar and vocals, Corinna Smith on fiddle, Josh Gold on keys, Francis Hickey playing bass, and Alex Martin on drums play very TIGHTLY in a very LOOSE way. You get the feeling that no two gigs are ever identical because they never play the same song in the exact same way twice. Other new songs I like, that Adam later tells me have become fan favorites, are “The Toast” and “Steal Your Daughter.” I love seeing speedboats pass our rocking ship and all their passengers wave to us, and it’s real cool seeing airplanes descending just on top of us as they land at Logan Airport. This is the best place to see a concert in the summer. Fun. Fun. Fun.    (A.J. Wachtel)


Celebrating The Music of the J.Geils Band

The Red Parrot, Hull, MA   5/23/15

Since bassist Danny Klein’s main gig is with The J.Geils Band, I’m telling people in the audience that tonight’s show is exactly like seeing The Foo Fighters play a Nirvana-only set; or like Keith Richard’s Expensive Winos doing an engagement of purely Stones covers. Today is D.K’s birthday, and as I walk in he’s onstage talking to a cute middle-aged female fan who wants an autograph. He has his back towards me and doesn’t see me approaching. Unseen and standing right behind him, I turn to her and say in my loud voice; “Did you know it’s D.K’s birthday today?” and “Are you gonna give him a nice birthday kiss?” He recognizes my voice and smirks  as he turns around and the woman excitedly says; “Really, it’s your birthday?” After he grins and says yes, he romantically bends her back and gives HER his happy birthday kiss. That woman owes me a drink. I made her night, if not her life. This club is right across the street from the beach and what could be better than having this killer band play two sets for a very enthusiastic late spring crowd? Everyone here knows the words to all the Geils classics including: “First I Look At The Purse,” “South Side Shuffle,” “Cruisin’ For Love” with the packed house screaming along with the band, “Musta Got Lost,” “Freeze Frame,” “Detroit Breakdown,” “Whammer Jammer,” “Hard Drivin’ Man,” “Give It To Me,” and on and on. It’s really cool when after “Pack Square And Fair” the club’s cute young female employees take everyone by surprise and wheel out a huge birthday cake for D.K.  Soon everyone in the audience is eating cake and singing an impromptu “Happy Birthday.”  D.K. is grinning from ear to ear. Artie Eaton has got vocals extraordinaire and Dave Quintilliani is on the keys. Dan Ridgeway blows harp, Steve Gouette’s guitar growls, and Jim Taft pounds, showcasing these classic titles with intensity, playfulness and enthusiasm. They are all fans of the music, and it shows. D.K is using a very cool new 5-string Dudacus bass, hand made in Cambridge, and I hang out with the man who fashioned it, Steve Baxter (Koodoo), and Hirsh Gardner (New England) as the evening progresses. Tomorrow,  it’s lead singer Artie Eaton’s birthday and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for everyone at THAT show.   (A.J. Wachtel)

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. It’s logistically impossible for us to honor or acknowledge these requests. If you’re doing something even remotely exceptional, The Noise  be the first to tell the world, or at least New England. If you’re horrible, same thing.

That goes for your recorded material too. Send hard copies of your latest release to The Noise, PO Box 353, Gloucester, MA 01931.

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