Live Reviews

LIVE354WEBJennifer GreerJENNIFER GREER

The Lily Pad, Cambridge, MA   

7/11/15

This is my first time seeing a show at Inman Square’s famous art space, The Lily Pad.  There isn’t an empty seat in the house so I have to stand in the back. The room is about half the size of Club Passim’s listening room, however what it lacks in size, it makes up for in acoustics.  The grand piano set up on stage sounds fantastic. It’s as rich and melodious as they come.  It also doesn’t hurt that the talented Jennifer Greer is behind it. She can play and she can sing with the best of them.  Her band isn’t too shabby either.  Mike Barry on guitar, Julio Matos on bass, and Chris Michaels on drums.  The group enhances the dynamics of each song majestically; sending the songs to the next level or at other times backing off and creating a level of intimacy allowing Jennifer’s voice to really shine. As tonight is her CD release party, the quartet mainly plays tunes from Jennifer’s new album Hey Tide however there are a few tunes Jennifer slips in that she indicates will be on the next album. I’m excited. We all should be. Nice work Jennifer!     (Kier Byrnes)

WILLIE ALEXANDER

Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church, Gloucester MA

7/19/15

Today’s review of Willie’s performance will be a little different from what you’d normally expect. Although he’ll be playing some music, he’ll also be up at the altar preaching to the congregation.

At 10:00am on the dot I take my seat, third row center pew, and Willie starts hammerin’ away at the grand piano with father and son sax players, Rikki and Alec Razdon, playing backing roles on “Celebration of the Spirit” written by Preacher Jack.  Jeremy Melvin, high on the altar, soon has the floor with a greeting and announcements that are open for anyone to join in.  Behind Jeremy, even higher on the altar is music director Harrison Kelton adding the big pipe organ sounds. As Willie moves to take the center high stage, Kelton provides the big pipe backing to a Quaker hymn, “My Life Flows in Endlessness,” with everyone singing from #108 in the books provided in the pews. Willie chose beforehand which hymns would be part of the service.  A candle is lit over Willie’s prayer, and the poem “Love Is Not Concerned” is read in unison by the congregation. Willie heads back to the piano and performs my personal favorite, “The Gold,” from his collection of Vincent Ferrini’s poems put to music. The big organ follows, spreading its massive sound, when Jeremy’s young daughter casually walks up to the ground floor level of the altar and snuggles up in her dad’s lap. Willie’s back at stage top center and shakes out an ancient scroll (in true show biz style) to read his Gloucester-based “Fred Buck’s Footsteps” story. He performs it in a bebop beat poet style; the Razdons’ saxes add peeps and squarks transcending me to a small cafe in Greenwich Village a half century ago. Fred Buck was one who walked all over Gloucester and had a good understanding of the area. Oddly enough, Willie is also a walker and the closest thing this fish town has to a modern day Fred Buck. We all join in singing on “For the Beauty of The Earth,” a hymn Willie dug when he was a wee boy back in the Baptist Church where his dad was a preacher.  “Only in a UU church can you play the devil’s music on Saturday night and be asked to preach on Sunday morning,” Willie states to lead into his entertaining sermon that touches on staring at the stain glass windows, Southern friend chicken, Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven,” African tunes sung by Mom, Mom’s violin playing and yodeling, record stores, the luring bells of the church, Zulu hymns, and following the Golden Rule… do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Emotions build as we all sing the UU hymn “Spirit of Life.” His sermon and the hymn perfectly sets up what follows—the emotional peak of this experience—a small simple Willie-written prayer that sends blessings to specific people, big and small. It fills my eyes uncharactically with tears. The show leads to it’s goodbye with Deb Hardy jointing Willie at the piano for a rousing version of “Stand By Me” with the Razdon saxes letting loose — the whole of which morphs into standing stomping and clapping.    (T Max)

MATT NATHANSON

Opening for Train and The Fray

Xfinity Center, Mansfield, MA

6/20/15

I’m sure ya’ll have been to the Xfinity Center and know what a cool concert venue it is. If you haven’t been here before, it’s set up with a ton of food, beverage and bathroom options, as well as lots of pre-show tailgating fun in the parking lot. The sound is awesome – and I’m in the very back on the lawn! The view is decent – I’m pretty sure I could hit the stage with a baseball – not sure about a football though. There is a wide demographic of people from little kids on up, and the vibe is very positive and fun.

Matt is a Lexington Mass native who lives in San Francisco now. At some point you’ve probably heard his songs on the radio and know who he is. Nothing too fancy with Matt and his band – just guitars, bass, drums, and some sequencing. He’s a talented pop singer/songwriter and also very witty. He’s not here to finish us off, so to speak; “I’m here to fluff you,” he says. During the first song his excellent band goes into U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” for a bit and get’s the whole crowd to sing along. Audience participation is a big part of his show – from clapping certain parts to sing-alongs. He also talks directly to audience members. At one point, he runs into the audience and says, “I’m going high.” Then he hangs out with the peeps in the upper middle section for most of the song.

His set is about 40 minutes and he plays the songs you’ve likely heard on the radio: “Headphones,” “Modern Love,” “Kinks Shirt,” Come On Get Higher,” as well as a cover of James’  “Laid.”

Matt really is a “local boy done good” story and I realize this more as he talks about all the shows he’s seen here as a kid, and how cool it is for him to be playing in Mansfield right now.  He makes it clear how proud he is to be originally from Massachusetts.

To top it all off, he’s invited up to perform with Train and Issac Slade (The Fray) on stage at one point to sing “With A Little Help From My Friends.” Not a bad place for a guy from Lexington to be. Fun Show, excellent fluffing stuff!    (Jeff Reynolds)

FUNBUCKET

The Harborloop, Gloucester, MA   

7/23/15

I don’t review cover bands often, if at all, but Funbucket has some wickedly talented performers who turn their skills to this form of income and have a hell of a time doing it. Sure they can duplicate the guitars (Mike “Mr Bogus” McMahon/ Kook Lawry on bass), the beats (Greg Dann), and the lead singing (Chris O’Connor), but these guys also add the vocal harmonies when called for. And after they get though classics by Grand Funk Railroad, Badfinger, The Beatles, John Cougar Mellencamp, Radiohead, The Who, Aerosmith, and Van Morrison, they delve into Hendrix. With “Manic Depression” and “Foxy Lady” Mr. Bogus figuratively drops some acid and taps into the Hendrix spirit. He plays those well-known lines so fluidly with the right tone and expression that you’d swear you were in the presence of the greatest electric guitarist of all time. And Bogus does it without a trace of self-consciousness.  I’m not sure how he comes back to earth to play anything by Elvis Costello or Talking Heads. Maybe he manages to occupy his extra brain cells by challenging himself to get his fallen floppy hat back up onto his head using only his foot — while continuing to play. Catch Funbucket and let me know if you’ve ever seen anyone play Hendrix like Mr. Bogus.  (T Max)

DEBRIS BOUQUET/ SYPHILLIS DILLER/ FISTED SISTER/ CHOCOLATE SUNDAY/ MEANER PENCIL/ JONATHAN WOOD VINCENT/ THE DOOBIE SISTERS

Outdoor Guerrilla Concert Series

Boston Common, Boston, MA 7/24/15

A friend tells me to sign up by emailing an Outdoor Guerrilla Concerts gmail account. I do, and by Thursday I receive secret info in my inbox for the next show to be held somewhere in Boston Common on Friday night. It’s a little bit like finding an Easter egg, but they blast some strange pre-show live music to tip us off as we and others wander. Some people text them for the exact spot but we are a bit lazy.

There are maybe 35 people seated on the ground with smiles all around. We can see some battery amps that look like vacuum cleaners and some musical instruments, along with a few very strangely-attired people we assume are performing. It’s a beautiful, casual environment.

The organizers of the event proudly boast of their anti-professionalism, and they aren’t kidding, but it’s all part of the fun. The MC (I think his foreign accent is fake) keeps asking the audience if anyone has seen a violinist or tall blond accordion player – performers they are waiting on. There’s no sign of them, but the first act starts, nonetheless.

The Doobie Sisters are three long-haired guys badly done up in drag. Their dresses are hideous one is spandex – let’s leave it at that.  They do what seems to be a 10-minute “song” about how Jesus is more than alright. They pass a joint to an imaginary Jesus, who they claim is their invisible roadie! They are shambling and funny with catchy music.  But it’s over quickly. They aren’t lying when they say sets are short in these outdoor guerrilla concerts!

Immediately, the next act is introduced: a keyboard virtuoso named Jonathan Wood Vincent who is evidently the tardy blond accordionist, who is now ready to go. His outfit is impossible to describe (newspaper and red trash bags make up a lot of it) as are the unearthly sounds he coaxes from his accordion. It’s a lot of avant-garde-noise, but he keeps it entertaining all the way through, dancing around us and being silly. His linguistic clowning is also very enjoyable. He plays for only about eight minutes. The whole event is like a VERY unique variety show, rather than your average ordinary concert.

Next up is a blond nerdy gal on cello and vocals who goes by the stage name Meaner Pencil. She sings four songs and her clever words and beautiful melodies have us tearing up, which we never expected in this goof-ball extravaganza. Lovely stuff. I bought one of her CDs.

Next comes Chocolate Sunday, who claim to be “the world’s WORST Black Sabbath cover band” (think about their clever name for a second). They are two guys in cloaks doing instrumental deconstructions of Sabbath hits, but on twin ukuleles. They are actually quite good and very skilled on their instruments. Their set resembles an abstract medley of Black Sabbath songs. I love it because you often have to guess what song they are de-composing. Immense fun.

The perfectly named Fisted Sister claim to be (fake) Sammy Hagar douche rock – but fake imbecile metal might be more apropos, and I mean that as the highest compliment. We can’t believe what we are seeing: Two guys in ridiculous outfits (I’m told that’s a rule of these shows), one is also wearing a long grass skirt… as a wig, duct-taped to his head. It did look like Dee Snider on a bad [good?] day! I still can’t believe their act: the non-wig oddball has a microphone through an amp and crouches with his back turned towards us, as if he was hiding. He does all the over-the-top arena-rock stage banter  (“How are ya all doing tonight?” “I can’t hear you! I still can’t hear you! I have to get my hearing checked on Monday, thank God for Obamacare!”)… while the lead singer (with the grass-skirt-wig) instantaneously mimes to it all. Hilarious. Their main shtick is long-winded intros describing what the next song is about, with a famous song title inserted, as if they’re in front of 80,000 people in a stadium!  “This next song… is about a girl I dated… who would never ever shave her special garden… this song… is called… ‘Welcome… To… The… JUNGLLLLLLLLLLE!!’”  Then, the hiding guy goes into some vocal power chords while the singer sings a made-up melody for an ersatz chorus. 20 seconds later and that “song” is done!  “This next song… is about a radio talk show host… who is addicted to synthetic heroin… but luckily has several suitcases of Oxycontin in his trunk… this song… is called… ‘Just… What… I … Neeeeded!!’” … followed by some clearly-improvised 30-second a cappella tune. They must be seen to be believed. I could’ve watched these idiots for hours, but alas, their set only lasts about six minutes!

 Even the self-proclaimed “never-fun” anti-music of Syphllis Diller is unavoidable fun: four members (two guys, two gals), dressed for a stage in Las Vegas sit down and look surly for five minutes. THAT is their entire M.O. They claim that they refuse to make any sound because music is dead! Weird but fun and unique!

The apparent headliner of this concert is French noise-puppet duo Debris Bouquet, who are mesmerizing and seem like rock stars from the future. A barely-dressed man in kneepads and other junk on his person wanders through the crowd with his creepy home-made puppets while his partner plays crooked atonal loops and other strange, grotesque sounds on electronic ukulele. They have guests join them, including a talented art-punk gal on violin. Some of the prior performers also make mysterious sounds around the crowd. They play less than ten minutes but the crowd demands three encores. Most inexplicable is the guy standing randomly on the side of the stage covered in a sheet, who just stands there the whole time and never does anything else! When I inquire after the show, he claims his sheet had no eye-holes to symbolize how the KKK lack foresight.

My friends and I wish this short show (45 minutes) would never end. Not just for the creative and funny musical acts, but for everything about it. They pass a hat at the end and also ask for weed and booze as tips, so my friends smoke a bunch of them up. It’s how every concert should be.

Pray they indeed do these every Friday night at midnight. They told us they may try to do them all in the same location, as long as no police bother them. Whatever you do, do not miss these wacky shows.  Boston needs more wild events like this.    (Shauna Erlbaum)

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