Live Reviews

LiveWEB355UPPER CRUST/

LAST STAND/

DON’T CALL ME FRANK/

THE BRISTOLS

T.T. the Bear’s Place, Cambridge, MA

7/17/15

This Noise correspondent is egregiously weak for women, which is germane to this review because as he crossed the threshold of the venue one half of The Bristols breezed by his left elbow while he paused to shell out the admission charge to Meghan the door girl; thus positioned within a nexus of three of the commonwealth’s most beautiful girls, the rest of the night was passed in a pixilated rapture that was hardly conducive to trenchant criticism. [For instance, Pooka Stew was just wrapping up at the time; even if they’d been channeling Yoko Ono, they’d’ve been enthusiastically received by these ears..]

You might be inclined to dismiss anything written about The Bristols here, and that’s understandable; yet those in the know will verify that the renown of being one of our region’s pioneering female rock bands has long since given way to the status of credible musicians. Slot them anywhere on the bill; they belong here on a weekend night. By virtue of the babelicious Kim Ernst singing lead on one of the numbers, this is the best fifteen clams a clubgoer could spend.

The band name Don’t Call Me Frank suggests an unmistakable insouciance, and sure enough the five guys who take the stage under that moniker are into jocularity and horsing around; that observed, between wisecracks there’s some skilled rock ‘n’ roll performance taking place, particularly in the stringed instruments. Hey, the Harlem Globetrotters might be defined by their repertoire of antics, but don’t think those guys can’t ball!

One look at the brunette sylph who drums for Last Stand and a certain sucker for pretty faces confers his imprimatur on the act before they even play a note. What’s more, she’s more fetching in a plain black T-shirt and dungarees than the likes of Katy Perry in provocative couture. Musically, though, it seems the robust guitar and bass guitar licks are what propel Last Stand. They might not be as overtly merry as Don’t Call Me Frank, however they’re every bit as redoubtable as their predecessors.

Discerning folk everywhere appreciate that Boston and environs is home to top-rank universities, leading hospitals, first-rate art and historical collections, storied athletic franchises and so forth…. Ultimately, however, it’s Upper Crust that makes us world-class. If you’re ever moved to compose a bucket list, inscribe attendance at one of their shows at the top of your roster! Tonight it seems Lord Bendover is unusually magnanimous in permitting the Duc D’Istortion and Count Bassie to show off their vocal prowess, yet he remains in charge, casting such pearls as “Pabst Blue Ribbon: ’tis an aspirational beverage” when he’s not belting out beloved compositions like “Rock ‘n’ Roll Butler.” Highest praise to this group, which, coming hence, is really saying something, because, while they’re fancy lads, they’re not female.   (Dr. Swig McJigger)

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TIGERBOMB/

JAY ALLEN & THE ARCHCRIMINALS/

SPRAINED ANKLES/

HAMBONE SKINNY

Cantab Lounge, Cambridge, MA

8/1/15

About a million years ago I booked a show for the first time, so I’d have something to do on my birthday (and guarantee every band playing was a favorite). It was a Sunday night at The Abbey with Rick Berlin, Jay Allen, Malibu Lou… and an audience of two people. I’ve been apologizing to Jay Allen ever since. Also changing my actual birth date so it always falls on a Friday or Saturday! Tonight’s show reminds me of that first one – we’ve got more than two people here, but not much.

Hambone Skinny is the latest venture for ex-Coffin Lid/Speed Devil Skinny Mike and his hot wife Steph. I’ve never heard the band before but was betting anything these two are involved in would be cool. And it’s true! Punk blues they call it, and that’s just about the size of it. Mike on wailing guitar and Steph wailing on drums. I love minimalist two-piece bands making a huge racket and that’s definitely what we’ve got here. Mike’s always done that old blues man thing well, and while Hambone Skinny fits into that category, it’s also louder and more rambunctious. I’m totally nuts for Steph’s (often one-handed) drumming – she attacks the skins like she’s murdering someone (or beating her husband)! Linda Shore finally has competition!

Jay Allen & The Archcriminals run into trouble just a couple songs into their set: Playing with extra gusto, Jay breaks a guitar string then runs into further technical problems with the replacement guitar. Patience runs thin with the rest of the band and I’m expecting a big argument at any moment. They manage to salvage the set and the audience is probably more sympathetic and encouraging than is typical (you can tell by the strong rather than polite applause). Jay, Henry, and Larry sound terrific tonight – it’s like adversity is urging them into giving one of their best ever performances. Either that or they’re just trying to sell us on how good their upcoming single on Rumbar Records is gonna be!

From distant Maine comes Tigerbomb, a band named after a signature move of the late Mitsuharu Misawa (greatest Japanese pro wrestler ever). That’s a genuine fact… even if the band doesn’t realize it themselves. I love them so much I’m willing to be nerdy on their behalf. They’re not merely a magnificently groovy ’60s garage-meets-’70s punk outfit, they are that totally cool hip band that you don’t know about yet! You can tell by the people they attract: Look – there’s Matt from the Coffin Lids, Mitch from Triple Thick and BFace from the Queers. These are guys who know their shit! With Chris Horne fronting this combo, the sound is similar to The Brood, but her co-star Lynda Mandolyn brings a 1970s quality to it (less impressionism/Ramones, more naturalistic punk). “Peh! Nothing new.” I hear you snear. But it is new, and what makes traditional rock ’n’ roll forms new or fresh is a band’s interest and excitement in playing them. Tigerbomb sure as hell sound interested and I’m sure as hell excited. You should be, too. Check ’em out, I sez. Boy, howdy!

As has long been a Strom b-day show tradition, we have The Sprained Ankles closing the night. I want to be sent on my way with silly goofy punk rock ringing in my ears. I am not disappointed. However, I will admit to having reached a point of mixed emotions with this band. For the past few years, they’ve had a new song or two almost every show, and tonight’s set is roughly 90 percent new. On the one hand, I still want the old favorites… but on the other, the new material is great and their creative vitality itself is awesome. This is another band very interested in what they’re doing and it’s exciting for us spectators. Yeah, I want the back-up singers reinstated (I mean it!) and I wanna hear “Death From Above,” but it’s hard to complain when Ankles are doing such a great job of things. They are forever near and dear to my heart. I’m expecting them to play last at my funeral, too, ’cause that’s how I wanna go out.    (Frank Strom)

THE COWSILLS

The Happy Together Tour

Lynn Auditorium, Lynn, MA

7/31/15

It’s always a blast seeing a local act pack a house. It’s even more of a thrill when the group is on a successful national tour. And it’s the icing on the cake when you think that Bob, Paul, and Susan Cowsill have been in perfect harmony since the late-’60s. “It’s always nice to come home,” Susan tells me before the show starts as she pulls in from Newport, R.I.  Not far out of Boston, Lynn is on the North Shore, and I immediately know things are gonna be great tonight when we find a metered parking spot DIRECTLY in front of the venue. I am in awe, because there are still a few empty parking spaces within sight. And this place is jammed! Promoter Henry Ryan has Lynn Mayor Judy Kennedy introduce the night and the crowd is already hooting and hollering. It’s really cool hearing The Buckinghams do “Kind Of A Drag,” The Association perform “Windy,” “Cherish,” “Never My Love,” and  “Along Comes Mary,” The Grassroots do “Midnight Confession” and “Sooner or Later,” and Mark Lindsay (Paul Revere & the Raiders) do “Cherokee Nation.” I really dig Flo & Eddie (The Turtles) playing “You Know She’d Rather Be With Me” and “Happy Together” (with all the artists onstage for the grand finale). I also love when they do a few measures of “Peaches En Regalia” from Zappa’s Hot Rats album as a nod to their years in The Mothers of Invention. This is a night of hits and harmonies, and The Cowsills have everyone in the audience singing all the words to their songs.  The siblings open with their 1967 hit “The Rain the Park And Other Things,” and follow up with “Indian Lake,” “Love American Style” (the theme for the TV show), and “Hair.” They joke, tell brief stories, and share memories in between songs, and this great night ends with a short walk back to my car. A lot of great music. A lot of fun. It doesn’t get any better than this for all of us aging hippies.   (A.J. Wachtel)

THE FORZ

Midway Café, Jamaica Plain, MA

8/14/15

We drove here for The Connection and The Forz, and with every road from Everett to JP closed for repairs, it took Keith and me an hour and a half to get here. Turns out The Connection cancelled (every road from New Hampshire to JP must also be closed). What gives? This state doesn’t have the money for road repairs! No matter. This is the first time I’ve come out expressly because The Forz were playing – previously, I’ve taken them as a bonus band playing on Muck & The Mires shows. Guess I’m officially a fan now (even if I’m not sure if their name is alluding to Star Wars or golf). Rather than “retro,” the band is self-described as “vintage” rock ’n’ roll. Put another way, The Forz are a bunch of young guys doing mid-’60s British rock, specifically that point where it moved away from the Mersey sound but before the hippie/druggy sound took hold. So that would be interesting progressive, not boring, dull and bloated progressive. While they keep it all very authentic and faithful, their youth gives it vibrancy. Another big compliment is that they are excellent playing live, but in the studio they have even more color and nuance (check out their debut CD!). They are very, very, very good at what they’re doing.   (Frank Strom)

THE LIGHTS OUT/

AD FRANK & THE FAST, EASY WOMEN/

PARLOUR BELLS/

FRANCINE

T.T. the Bear’s Place, Cambridge, MA

7/22/15

Sins of omission are the worst kind, and if arriving too late to hear Cujo: Featuring Jen Trynin qualifies, the truth of that axiom is evinced loud and clear. The featured musician is among the crown jewels of Beantown’s indie rock scene.

Even if their infectious amalgam of blues and psychedelia didn’t hit the sweet spot, Francine would win over audiences with their warm demeanor and self-deprecating japes. Whereas “musical reference” typically denotes another act whose sound is similar to the band under review, Francine brings to mind Mercury on Mars because both instill the urge to “chillax” with the members in a conversation pit. Francine’s latest recording should be out sometime this month – wink wink.

Parlour Bells is easily the most histrionic element of tonight’s menu, noteworthy in that Ad Frank & the Fast, Easy Women as well as The Lights Out appear on the card; such is due to Gosh-darned Glen (his nickname altered by The Noise so that the pious won’t be offended) having a voice evocative of musical theater; his showmanship is more than enough to overcome some technical glitches with the sound system. Every male in the house is hoping for a wardrobe malfunction at the keyboard.

Inasmuch as Ad Frank & the Fast, Easy Women are troupers with an active schedule, they’re one of those bands you assume you’ve caught here or there along the way; consequently it chagrins this auditor to confess he’s experiencing Ad & the Slatterns for the first time. The frontman being the last word in debonair, one expects a lounge act, but this outfit doesn’t do dulcet… rather power. How Jordan Valentine can pogo with equal parts zeal and dignity is an issue perhaps best left to the scientists up the street at M.I.T.

Readers of this discriminating periodical know that The Lights Out draw plenty of water with the audiophiles here. It’s a shame that the final slot on a weeknight means playing to fewer bodies, but The Lights Out never slacken. Their current exploration of time travel and alternative universes themes rings particularly poignant due to T.T.’s imminent shuttering.   (Dr. Swig McJigger)

EARTH/

HOLY SONS/

27

Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge MA

8/23/15

The Middle East in Cambridge has three sections, the 600+ capacity Downstairs, the more intimate Upstairs where this show takes place, and the corner for smaller events. On this Sunday night, three bands have drawn a full house that packs the place.

The first band up is the Cambridge-based 27.  I have not seen of them before, but I won’t soon forget them.  They deliver a seven song, energetically atmospheric set.  They launch into “Tokes,” a progressive and spacey instrumental track with layered guitars and banging drums.  After this, they impress the crowd further with “Dog Day,” a song that will be playing in my head for weeks.  They perform for 35 minutes, then go to the merch table, set up shop, and start talking to fans. I highly recommend seeing 27 next chance you get – you will not regret it!

The next act to take the stage is Holy Sons. Unlike 27,  Holy Sons play fast paced hard rock ’n’ roll. Their songs are filled with Frusciante-esque solos, pounding heavy drums, and crowd interaction. Holy Sons rock the 194 capacity club as hard as possible for the entirety of their 45 minute set.  While my immediate thought is, “How did a hard rock band go on tour with drone metal legends, Earth?” I soon realize that the show would not have been the same without them.  I love every minute of their set. Each new song tops the last.  The crowd keeps asking for more, until Holy Sons set comes to a close at 10:15. They walk of the stage to applause, and I feel the crowd is anxious for the headlining act, Earth, to get things rolling.

This is the band everyone is dying to see – the legends – the reason drone metal is a common term. Earth has pioneered the genre.  This is my first time seeing them and I am beyond excited. Band leader Dylan Carlson greets the crowd as the rest of the band follows and readies their instruments. They launch into the first song, “There Is a Serpent Coming,” off their latest release Primitive and Deadly.  The band completes this nine-minute piece, and immediately follows it with a fan favorite, “The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull.” Earth is killing it. They hit every note with power and feel every beat with precision. The middle of the set is filled with more songs from Primitive and Deadly, such as the 12-minute “From The Zodiacal Light.” Then Dylan says the words every fan wants to hear, “This next song is the first song I wrote for Earth.” Of course he is talking about “Ouroboros Is Broken,” the one that I want to hear most. They do an abridged eight-minute version of the originally 18-minute long song, playing it flawlessly, then launches into their finale, “Torn By The Fox of The Crescent Moon.” The band leaves the stage with the crowd begging for more.  After about five minutes of crowd noise, the Earth jumps back on stage for an encore, and play the fan favorite “Old Black” to close out the night.  They stick around to meet fans and sign autographs.  I will never miss another powerful Earth show. I exit the Middle East and walk through Central Square in the dead of night with this 10/10 performance droning through my head. (Tom Barvick)

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