SARAH LEE GUTHRIE
50th Anniversary Alice’s Restaurant Tour
The Berklee Performance Center, Boston, MA
It’s really hard to believe that it’s been a half century since the events told in Arlo’s solo monologue during his classic song have passed. Fifty Thanksgivings have gone by since he feasted in Great Barrington and got arrested for littering in Stockbridge. Tonight starts with Sarah Lee Guthrie, Arlo’s daughter, opening the night with an a cappella song, and like her father, she has a very personal and expressive voice. She tells family stories before doing a Rambin’ Jack Elliot tune and Tim Hardin’s “If I Were A Carpenter.” Both of this artists were good friends with her grandfather Woody. She then does a song that she wrote the music to with Woody’s words, and it has just one chord! Her voice is so melodic and passionate another chord would just get in the way. Ha. There are also a male and a female onstage interpreting the lyrics in sign language. I enjoy watching their faces while their hands move quickly, communicating the words to the hearing impaired who are in attendance. When a song is about pain, love, hate, enjoyment, or suffering, they dramatically change their facial expressions to better convey and match the feeling.
Before Arlo walks onstage, a long-lost, just found cartoon of “The Motorsickle Song” is shown. The crowd screams “I don’t want a pickle. I just want to ride my motorcycle” along with the onscreen caricature. When it ends, Arlo walks onstage smiling and waving to the audience. He now has long white hair and wears glasses. He tells about recently finding the cartoon after it had been lost for almost 40 years. Then he plays the tune live and the crowd sings even louder along with him. Arlo has his daughter singing backup, his son Abe on keys, and a guitarist, bassist, and drummer supporting him as he tells stories and goes through six songs including “Coming Into Los Angeles” and “Pig Meat Blues” by Ledbelly. After a short break, the second set continues and Arlo begins with “Alice’s Restaurant,” his dad’s “I Hear You Sing Again,” Steve Goodman’s “City Of New Orleans,” and “This Land Is Your Land.” By this time, everyone in the audience is singing along like where in a ’60s coffeehouse. In fact, Arlo tells a story about playing gigs at Club 47, now Club Passim in Harvard Square. He gets behind the keyboards for a few songs. When on acoustic guitar, he sits front and center next to a guitar rack containing four acoustic instruments, including a nice sounding 12 string. Arlo mentions that tonight is the 46th wedding anniversary with his late wife Jackie, and the people start clapping. Jackie passed away about three years ago but tonight is a night for celebration, not sadness, and everyone present rises to give Arlo, his children and his band, a well deserved standing ovation at the end of the performance. An incredible show by a legendary artist. (A.J. Wachtel)
JIMMY RYAN & HAYRIDE
Atwood’s Tavern, Cambridge, MA
It’s early on a Saturday but the room is packed, as people squeeze in to see the “supergroup” composed of Mike Piehl on drums, Dave Westner on bass, and Jimmy Ryan on mandolin. While I am used to seeing Duke Levine play guitar in Hayride, tonight’s special guest is no slouch. Sitting in on guitar is ex-Son Volt, ex-Blood Oranges guitarist, Mark Spencer, a guitar legend in his own right He accompanies magnificently, throwing in some of his own tunes as well. The crowd is as lively and ready to take whatever the band throws at them. Even I couldn’t stop myself from joining in and dancing. They close their set not with a Hayride tune but a Mark Spencer original, however Jimmy Ryan, the king of the mandolin, once again proves that he has earned his crown. (Kier Byrnes)
THE REAL KIDS
Midway Cafe, Jamaica Plain, MA
The Real Kids shows are always an event because they never overbook. They have a current full length Shake… Outta Control to promote with another one in the works. The night is ripped wide open with my current fave, the blasting “She Don’t Take It.” John Felice’s scratchy, metallic, chunky power chords drive the song along with Judd Williams’ jungle mating call drums. Judd and Dickie Oakes (on bass) lock into a groove, laying down a bedrock foundation for each song. Then there’s a couple of classics from the Red Star album – “Do the Boob” and “My Baby’s Book” before they charge into “Shake… Outta Control.” This is a killer dance floor anthem like only John can write and deliver. There are a few new ones “Wrong About You” and “Somewhere West of Nowhere,” once again proving John is an incomparable lyricist with the courage to bare his heart for rock ‘n’ roll. We fans simply marvel as he pours out his soul on a torrent of sound. Billy plays a twelve string Rickenbacker on the Beau Brummels’ “Don’t Talk to Strangers” and the Fab Four’s “You Can’t Do That.” That ringing sound is beauty personified! Yet the best part is always when John and guitarist Billy Cole rock back-to-back with a look of bliss on their faces and they start burning like the band Vesuvius! It’s hilarious when John says it’s his job to introduce the fans to obscure bands like Vesuvius. The encore is a stunning version of Badfinger’s “Baby Blue” and the crowd pleasing “Reggae Reggae,” which never sounds stale and rules on sheer ballsiness! Pick up Shake… Outta Control and see The Real Kids live in Northampton on November 7 to feel the presence of true greatness. God bless The Real Kids! Long live John Felice! (Nancy Neon)
Me & Thee Coffeehouse, Marblehead, MA
“This next singer has a voice like whiskey and has been called ‘Faulkner with a guitar.’ Even the soundcheck sounded amazing!” gushes Me & Thee’s gonzo master of ceremonies and storyteller Tony Toledo as he welcomes Nashville native and recent Massachusetts transplant Louise Mosrieto the stage. Mosrie, a striking woman with pale skin, raven black hair, and an air of quiet, intense grace, is opening for Nashville-by-way-of-New Orleans (and a brief but significant tenure in Boston where she honed her songcraft at open mics while running the late great Dixie Kitchen) troubadour Mary Gauthier on this chilly October evening.
With her clear and soaring voice and a elegantly fingerpicked guitar, Mosrie plays five songs in this set to the packed and rapt pews. Her first tune, “I’ll Take You In,” from her latest disc Lay It Down, feels more like a page from the other great Southern writer Carson McCullers, as she leads us into the ordinary lives of folks in a small town, an old man buying cat food and the more complicated backstory of his life.
Between songs she tunes her guitar and shares witty anecdotes and observations with us: an ex-boyfriend from her teens who finds her online and what feels romantic at first takes a dark turn when he starts calling. A lot. “It was pretty scary but at least I got a song out of it,” she quips as she plays the opening chords to the powerful “Don’t Come Looking for Me.” Another song, “Leave Your Gun”, takes us into the cellar of a home in Tennessee during the Civil War where a little girl is hiding with her family as a battle rages outside.
Mosrie’s voice is an amazing and evocative instrument which brings to mind other great singers from the American South like Patti Griffin and Iris DeMent. For her last two songs, she is joined onstage by her friend Cliff Eberhardt, who is widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of the modern folk movement. Eberhardt’s subtle slide guitar complements Mosrie’s singing and playing, especially on the hushed and prayerful song she wrote for her mother, “Singing My Heart Out.”
Essex St. (East India Mall), Salem, MA
Any weekend in October you can catch Marblehead resident Joshua Rodriguez doing his junkyard jazz drumming on plastic bins and metal pans on Essex Street in the outdoor walking mall area. The kid is a talented street performer. He first gathers a small crowd around him by doing a short drumming display. Then he gets his newly acquired fans to attract more people by getting them to scream and make a lot of noise. He’ll yell “free beer” or anything that will allow his natural circle of listeners to grow. He introduces his manager “Phil” – no wait, hat must be “Fill” since his last name is “The Bucket.” He plays a melody on his pots that sounds familiar and picks someone in the audience to “name that tune.” He rolls into his junkyard jazz beats lifting everyone’s spirit, constantly engaging with the audience in spontaneous ways. At the end it’s time to fill the bucket with money that will take him to a new town next month. Where is he going next? Los Vegas is his destination. Good luck, Joshua. (T Max)
JERUSALEM WITCH /
THE SCHIZOPHRENIC HUM /
ARMORED CARS /
OCTOBER, NOVEMBER, DISMEMBER /
Flittering Loft, Jamaica Plain, MA
I think I’ve just seen the next “big thing” in music, and it’s the most exciting development I’ve seen in years: a community of art-school-weirdo-bands in Boston that claim to have created a new genre called “stoner prog.” They describe it as “prog rock but very sloppy”! And I think they may be right!
My tastes tend to lean towards the strange, the absurd, and the fun, but this large crew of friends aren’t your run of the mill post-Butthole Surfers or post-Hawkwind or post-King Crimson type that you see most frequently in avant-noise-rock scenes. The stoner prog scene seems to be more influenced by krautrock, if anything at all. Minimalism but with bizarre rhythmic surprises and unique sounds are a theme I heard a lot of, and I must say, it felt like I was hearing a new type of music! Unlike most avant scenes, they don’t seem to have any interest in sounding like the archetypes of the past. Another thing that makes this scene special is the musical skill of many of the musicians. Rarely do psychedelic bands have the pyrotechnic chops of a Yes or Mahavishnu Orchestra or ELP. But these stoner prog bands will drop your jaws (sometimes) and that makes sense, as many of these virtuosos met at New England Conservatory, as it turns out.
My friends took me the Flittering Loft, a wonderful-if-typical loftspace where they throw infrequent parties with live bands. With no idea what to expect, I hit the $4 jack and cokes fast and hard, as the first band began: Kleenex Wasteland. (I get it. Pretty funny name.) I’d wager this band is all ex hardcore musicians, because they were a whiplash of speed but with none of the cliches. Two drummers (not playing the same thing, thank god), fuzz bass, and two male singers, it was herky jerky distorto madness, but pretty amazing. I’m not sure what to compare it to, which is a great sign. It was like hearing two different songs playing at the same time. Lots of very aggressive or complicated rhythms with the fuzz bass holding the riff down or the melody. My only criticism is that their unique sound is not fully baked (ha ha) yet. I sensed that they’re still figuring it out, but give ’em a year and they’ll have full command of it.
October, November, Dismember (another great name I think) came next, and they seemed to be going for a parody of goth (that would make a nice album title!), but that’d be selling them short. This wasn’t a sophomoric send-up like Weird Al. Their melodies were excellent, spooky, and the quartet (guitar and voice, synth and voice, bass and voice, and electronic drum pad) almost reminded me of a creepier My Bloody Valentine. I thought they were brilliant. All four wore black dresses, and the girl / boy harmonies hinted at the dissonance of Excene and John Doe’s iconic vocals in X. Great stuff. But, like the first band, no CDs for sale and no Soundcloud or anything. Bands! Those basics are important! (The problem with many of these fantastic art-school bands is they don’t have any goal of being rich and famous. But I could easily see this band on SNL within a year. They said they were working on recordings, so let’s hope for something soon.)
Next up were a band who were most definitely not stoner prog. Armored Cars is exactly what you may have suspected: a Cars cover band… who do super-heavy metal versions! I kid you not. You maybe never guessed how good “Let’s Go” sounds as crunchy doom rock, but let me tell you it does! (I’m furious I forgot my phone at home because I would’ve filmed the whole night, or as much as my crap iPhone could hold.) Listening to classics like “Just What I Needed,” “Candy-O,” “All Mixed Up,” and “Drive”(!), done as extra-heavy metal, I couldn’t stop thinking “how did no one think of this sooner?” Like peanut butter & chocolate together! They only did 5 songs and we were begging for more. The idiot costumes were pretty great too: they took cereal box cardboard (I checked) and made fake metal masks to look all Game Of Thrones and viking warriors, and suits of armor, but it was laughably crude and cheap! They should be touring with Gwar tomorrow!
Before I forget, the MC of this night deserves a lot of praise too: the strange and always charming Jonathan Wood Vincent, whom I’ve seen perform a few times before, including doing his performance-art-accordion clowning in Harvard Square. With his messy long blond hair and scraggly beard, he confounds us with his trademark linguistic surrealisms. (No accordion or keyboard for him tonight. Just words.)
The two headliners, from what I can tell, were/are the kings of this tiny stoner prog scene (maybe 75 people at this show) and, as if the show wasn’t already impossibly-great, they lived up to it.
The Schizophrenic Hum seem more of a collective than a proper band: some musicians joined them for one song and then returned to the audience. Schizo Hum, as they called themselves, were very elastic, and didn’t seem concerned with any one “sound” for their group. It was a constantly evolving 40 minutes of instrumental wonder, or odd short songs. Most of it I would describe as gorgeous and trippy, and the music was very serious. (Only the guy on theremin for the closing number was funny at all: he was dressed as a karate champion, playing the theremin with kicks and handchops in the air. Pretty hilarious.) Their set was hypnotic and I would’ve bought five copies of their records, had they had any. Two moog players, a gal on violin, an incredible psych-classical guitarist (all the musicians were quite exceptional), a brilliant post-jazz drummer, and several other sit-in musicians thruout, on avant-flute, electric uke, vocals, and cello (the fantastic Lenna Pierce, whom I’ve reviewed before for The Noise). Variety seemed to be their goal. One short piece (“Drowning In The Specific Ocean”) was fully a capella, with six of them singing. Nice!
With a distinctive name like theirs, Jerusalem Witch made me logically expect either a metal band or a doom band or a goth band, but they were none of those things. Featuring the astonishing electric ukulele playing by the same guy who’d sat in with Schizo Hum, they had the clearest link to krautrock of any of the so-called stoner prog bands tonite. I dare say he’s the best musician I’ve ever seen in Boston, like… the Hendrix of ukulele. Wow. All instrumental, this artsy-power-trio featured fretless rickenbacker bass (but with the power of a Chris Squire of Yes) and post-rock/post-jazz drums (a lot better than a Bill Bruford!) and they were monsters on their instruments too. Wow. These guys really felt like I was listening to a new type of music. The uke player (who said his name was Blankety Blank III when I prodded him) either played dreamy, soaring, backwards melodies, or built giant architectures of clean loops, while the rhythm section improvised with him. It was athletic. It was catchy. It was unique. It was fucking great. A lot of it was “driving” but super-complicated rhythmically, as all three musicians would throw accents off the steady 4/4 beat, like a hundred juggling sounds, while it was melodically very simple and spacey. It’s rare to hear experimental music this… delicious. The wild loop architectures were the most striking but all of it was incredible.
Looking for any product on the web, all I could find online were some youtube videos (The Schizophrenic Hum’s were nice but not like the live act I saw tonight), some under “cupcake kamikaze” which is an artsy promotion team who also do wild posters and “Bombastic Labs” which is reportedly a new record label but they’ve only put videos up so far. There’s evidently a bunch of other bands who are part of this scene. (I’m promised a sampler of bands called “This Is Stoner Prog” is coming soon, but we’ll see.)
One problem with stoners is… well… you know.
HENRIQUE DE ALMEIDA & WORLD NEWS
Berklee Performance Center, Boston, MA
Tonight’s music is fusion. Brazil/Afro/Cuban/Jazz/Funk to be exact. There is a lot going on in this band and you can hear what they are saying on a couple of different levels. Henrique pounding with two kick drums, Sal DiFusco (Blockyard) on guitar, Joe Santerre playing a SIX string bass, Dino Govoni blowing the sax, and Steve Hunt on keys are all incredible musicians by themselves. In fact, some of them are teachers at the music school. Whenever they solo separately, it is inspiring, creative and very jazzy. And when the solos stop and the band picks up the pace together; it sounds even better. They are all playing behind stands with charts too. How syncopated is THAT? This is a real groove band. I really dig when guitarist Sal and keyboardist Steve duel it out during the song while the rest of the guys support them and keep the groove going. Great stuff. The songs I recognize are: “Palladium” by Weather Report, “All Blues” by Miles Davis, “Status” by Billy Cobham, Herbie Hancock’s “Actual Proof”; and “Led Boots” and “Brush With The Blues” by Jeff Beck. I am enjoying the mid-song changes in tempos, the lead guitarist’s nice jazz chords amidst screaming rock leads, and how the bassist and the horn player will all of a sudden play the same riff once or twice together and then go back to what they were doing separately. Not a vocal all night. Just instrumentals and incredible performances by a stage full of very talented musicians getting their ya-ya’s out in a concert hall. (A.J. Wachtel)
Me & Thee Coffeehouse, Marblehead, MA
You have to drive through Salem (where everyday in October is Halloween as far as that city is concerned) to get to Marblehead. The gentleman who is more of a treat than a trick is playing tonight at the 45-year-old folk venue, Me & Thee Coffeehouse. Jim has an old pal, Christopher Williams who hails from Nashville, opening the evening. Although Christopher doesn’t get a formal review in this here New Englander-only ‘zine I can say he is super talented on both guitar and vocals and when he straps on his djembe, he wows us even more. He’s also experienced at conversing with and audience and just as good a songwriter – note: “Do Something Good.” This makes Chris a hard act to follow.
So after the traditional coffee break I retake my seat in the pews and hear Jim Trick, but he’s not on stage. He’s in the audience doing what I first saw him do three years ago: he’s singing a gentle version of “All You Need is Love,” fitting in that it’s John Lennon’s birthday. He hops on stage and lets us know that he wrote himself a note before he came out. It simply says, “Slow down and be here.” This tells you something about this guy who can mesmerize an audience the way an excellent preacher might. He throws his set list out to keep with the second half of his note and rolls into “All’s Not Lost” in his stoic but regular guy way. Chris Williams comes up with his djembe to accompany Jim, adding some harmony to “I Can Only Dream About You Now.” Jim has a little theme going on between songs, mentioning local people we don’t know, and following it up with that they recently departed. He mentions a problem that one of his friend’s has… their young daughter keeps singing track 4 from his CD. Doesn’t seem like much of a problem, but the main lyric is “I ain’t gonna die alone.” I like anyone who quotes Ghandi—and Jim reminds us that “We are all the same” before he starts “The Truth About Vernon.” His memorial theme continues to the end of the show when he finally reviles that his father-in-law passed away earlier today. He says he saved it ’til the end so the entire show wouldn’t be a bummer. Jim always lets the light shine, even when the message is sad. He’s a joy to experience. (T Max)