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- 1 SAM REID & THE RIOT ACT
- 2 HONEYFOOT/
- 3 HONEYSUCKLE
- 4 WORSHIPPER
- 5 ABBIE BARRETT
- 6 USLIGHTS
- 7 ERIC SALT & THE ELECTRIC CITY
- 8 THE CASCO BAY TUMMLERS
- 9 6 STAR GENERAL
- 10 SICK PILLS
- 11 CHANDLER TRAVIS PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
- 12 YANI BATTEAU & THE RODEO
- 13 ALASTAIR MOOCK’S PASTURES OF PLENTY
- 14 HEAVY METAL HORNS
- 15 BEST NOT BROKEN
- 16 SCISSORFIGHT WORSHIPPER WEAKENED FRIENDS USLIGHTS
- 17 THE GHOSTS OF JOHNSON CITY
- 18 DON WHITE & CHRISTINE LAVIN
- 19 RICK BERLIN & NICKEL & DIME BAND
- 20 WILLIE “LOCO” ALEXANDER & THE FISHEYE BROTHERS
- 21 ELIZABETH & BEN ANDERSON
- 22 THE OLIVES
- 23 Related
SAM REID & THE RIOT ACT
Nightshift Brewery, Everett, MA
I guess it’s better to get there early to a Sam Reid show. I wish it was an April Fool’s joke but I’ve been waiting outside in line to get into the venue for 20 minutes. Fortunately, it’s that not cold out and I know there are a lot of cold beers waiting for me on the inside. Finally, it’s my turn to get past the bouncer and I beeline it to the stage, making a quick pit stop at the bar for some of Nightshift’s Santilli IPA. The band is on fire. Sam Reid is picking away like a madman with a personal vendetta against his acoustic guitar. Aaron “The Pipe” Goff is slaying it on his mandolin while bassist Johnny Ransom and drummer JC Campbell hold it together like a big roll of duct tape. The crowd feeds the band with applause and cold stews and all too soon, it’s time for me to grab a refill. Thanks for the great evening of music guys! (Kier Byrnes)
The Burren, Somerville, MA
Honeysuckle and Honeyfoot came together for one honey filled evening at The Burren on Saturday, April 16th. The two bands were also joined by Cambridge -based honey seller Follow the Honey, who offered locally sourced honey ranging from the volcanoes of Hawaii to the Louisiana bayou – making the night a full on honey pot.
Honeysuckle opens with “It’s Getting Late,” a song that shows off all the secret talent of this young, progressive folk band. Holly McGarry, who stands center stage between Ben Burns on banjo and Chris Bloniarz on mandolin, lets loose with an unexpected, powerhouse voice against the soft strumming of her guitar. Her vocals are deep and smooth, contrasted with her flower dress and unassuming look. Backed up by Burns and Bloniarz’s harmonies during the chorus, the trios voices fill the room as Burns starts stomping on a kickdrum. The secret weapon in this band is truly Bloniarz’s mandolin; under his fopp fro and boyish face is a vault of exciting sounds. Bloniarz uses an array of pedals for reverb, distortion, and even looping to produce ambient noise and melodic soloing from his mandolin. His playing style is one aspect of this band that pushes the boundaries of folk. While the mandolin and banjo are traditional to bluegrass and folk music, these instruments are used by Honeysuckle to make music completely their own. “Let in the Light,” one of the band’s most uptempo songs, enters with a banjo roll, but is soon overtaken by McGarry’s eerie voice and pounding guitar. This is definitely a song that makes you want to stomp your feet along with the kickdrum, as Burns rocks on the banjo. While Honeysuckle’s mostly acoustic sound is often soft enough to fade to the background of the bustling Burren, their harmonies, inventive sound, and complex song writing are often enough to pull the crowd in. Close to the end of their set, McGarry takes the banjo from Burns and he picks up a sunburst acoustic guitar. “Dog Song,” written and sung by Burns, is a heartbreaking and lonely song that shows off his and McGarry’s multi instrument chops. “Dog Song” is also an opportunity for Bloniarz to push the boundaries of his mandolin even farther; using a loop pedal to play a lead riff over ambient picking. Honeysuckle ends their show with “Canary,” a favorite off their self titled album.
Honeyfoot, the main act of the night takes the stage with frontwoman Gillian Grogan smiling – she’s shoeless and has stickers on her forehead. She encourages us Honeyfolk to get some honey before blasting into “Early Sunday Morning.” Otto Briner pulls a bow across his standup bass, as Chris Chronopoulos picks the banjo. Grogan’s voice is spectacularly powerful and she is able to dance between high notes to speed talking folk rap. Before “Fire,” a song about consuming destruction and eventual rebirth, Grogan tells the crowd she wrote it while touring through Oakland. For this song the band is joined by fiddlist Elice Boeurr as Chronopolous moves to acoustic guitar. “Fire” has a rhythmic feel that pulses like waves. It’s syncopated and cyclical sound pairs well with lyrics about destruction and eventual regrowth. Boeurr’s piercing fiddle pulls back and forth with the Briner’s deep bass. Despite appearing so natural with the rest of the band, after the show Boeurr tells me that she had only met Grogan a week earlier, and was invited to play after only a few jams.
Watching Honeyfoot on stage is a ton of fun. Later in the set Honeyfoot is joined by Chris Bloniarz of Honeysuckle, filling the stage with talent and multiple instruments. Grogan, Briner, and Chronopolous exchange head nods and mouth who wants the next solo, as they perform an incredibly fun jam. Their fluidity and ability to jump right in makes their show feel alive and especially new. Then Grogan begins singing an original song in the style of a traditional ballad that silences the Burren. Written as part of her senior project at MIT, Grogan’s ballad is about lost love and crumbling hearts, and as she sings, the band backs her up with a faint and ambient buzz. The song weaves back in forth from Grogan’s massive pipes to the band jamming as she claps, stomps her feet, and hoots along, all driving the Burren wild.
You can catch a Honeyfoot show at Atwood’s on May 4th, and make sure to look for new releases by the band coming in July. (Leonard Paul)
ERIC SALT & THE ELECTRIC CITY
Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble Semi-final #1
Once Ballroom, Somerville.MA
Around when Washington steered the economy into a ditch and we of the canaille took a shot at being kinder and gentler to each other amid our shared misery, a meme developed around the Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble that “it’s really more of a music festival than a music competition.” Based on the cordial vibe permeating Once Ballroom for the first of two semifinal nights, that idea appears to hold water. Audience and musicians alike are suffused with good cheer.
Wild card entrant Eric Salt & The Electric City (Eric Salt, guitar and vocals; Eric Anderson, bass; Denny Saulnier, drums; Mike Oram, guitar) take the stage first. Perhaps the glibbest modifier one can apply to the well-liked outfit’s sound is Americana. Multiple pauses during the half-hour set compromise its pacing; that said, “Landed on My Feet” makes a pleasing, upbeat finale. All in all, Salty and his mates do a bang-up job of adapting vintage strains to contemporary ears..
Back in ’79 when the Rumble was hatched, a band like usLights would’ve been an anomaly; the dreampop purveyed by usLights (Gregg Kusumah-Atmadja, vocals; Matt Nastri, keyboards; Shawn Pelkey, drums) is as far from the garage as you can get. Initially, Noise co-reviewer B.A.D. (Bitter, Angry Douche) is poised to disparage the trio for lacking a bass guitar. However, the lush soundscape conjured by the likable youngsters overcomes his constitutional cantankerousness.
The key determination of Rumble eligibility is that applicants be unsigned; under said rubric, Abbie Barrett (Abbie Barrett & the Last Date are deemed unwieldy) jumps into the fray not a moment too soon. The irascible B.A.D. has nothing but praise for the third act up: “polished set”; “good singing”; “good musicianship”; “good songwriting”; “great presentation”… Abbie Barrett (herself, guitar and vocals; Ed Valauskas, bass; Rice Edmonston, drums; Mike Oram, guitar) comprises a RAFT of talent; consider: Herself: 2014 Boston Music Award for Best Singer-Songwriter; Ed Valauskas: Inarguably one of local rock’s leading lights, he happened to produce Eric Salt & The Electric City’s Please Say Yes; Rice Edmonston: Driving force behind respected Rumble competitor of yore Full Body Anchor; Mike Oram: Vital cog in TWO (2) Rumble playoff acts tonight alone.
B.A.D. opined that the night’s acts got progressively better, ergo final contestant Worshipper was the best of a stellar bill. Reasonable men will agree with his assertion that they “rocked the room to the nub.” What’s more, they did so with a recent change in the guitar slot, with Craig Small of Waltham stepping in for Alejandro Necochea)… Worshiper (John Brookhouse, vocals and guitar; Dave Jarvis, drums; Bob Maloney, bass) is not exactly a secret, having been crowned Metal Act of the Year at last summer’s Boston Music Awards. While the judges conferred (ultimately legitimizing B.A.D.’s assessment), this critic essayed to ingratiate himself with Worshipper’s enchanting merch girl; there you have why Dr. McJ. will NEVER be impaneled qua Rumble arbiter! (Dr. Swig McJigger)
THE CASCO BAY TUMMLERS
Port City Blue, Portland, ME
The great thing about living in Portland, Maine, is that I can drive away from my house and within 15 minutes I can find myself sitting in a venue listening to live music. The Casco Bay Tummlers, a Klezmer band, are appearing here in Blue on this Thursday night. About a dozen people are here when I show up and I am able to grab a table for myself close to the stage. The band is composed of clarinetist Steve Gruverman, percussionist Eric LaPerna, John Clark on stand-up bass, and visiting violinist, Sarah Mueller. I saw them a long time ago when a few more people were in the band. Tonight’s performance features no vocalist, it is an instrumental show. I’m awash with chills with the first mysterious tune – the klezmer clarinet is like nothing else. The tunes all long for something, the scale is wistful. In my head I see women wearing colorful scarves dancing – it’s almost like Persian belly dancing music. The musicians are talking about Dixieland klezmer music, Rastafarian klezmer music, any kind of klezmer music. They ask, “What do Rastafarians and Klezmer musicians have in common?” I suggest “Curly hair?” The band laughs. The songs are from the Balkans, from Turkey, from Jews emigrating to America. It’s a timeless kind of blues music, emanating from the enigmatic heart of Eastern Europe. If you’ve never heard it, treat yourself when you have the chance. The ancestors fill the room, invisible though they are. (Kimmy Sophia Brown)
6 STAR GENERAL
The Parlour, Providence, RI
Winter is winding down but it is still bitter cold as I brave the frozen tundra to ride my sled dogs to Providence to see two great bands for a 75orless records night. Where are all the sunny tundras? The Parlour is a nice place to play a show or see one. I just don’t like the paintings of giant Marshall amps on the rear of the stage. I think it makes the real amps look small and is distracting, it makes it cheesy if you videotape your set or take pictures, but hey, what do I know about sliced bread? 6 Star General have small amps but big sounds. Singer and bassist Mark is ever entertaining as a frontman, with asides, introductions,observations, and conversations between songs. 6 Star General have been winning hearts and minds with their blend of 90’s college rock and punky alternative for over a decade and they have this down to a sweet science. Well placed covers of Daniel Johnston, Grandaddy, and Camper Van Beethoven give you a glimpse of their influences. The night might have been running late, because their set seemed a bit short to me, but that’s rock and roll sometimes.
After a short break Sick Pills storm the stage, like well mannered Vikings. Singer/ guitar player Chris Evil has been playing around New England in Blood Moons and Chris Evil & the Taints for many a year. This band mixes his punk and garage influences with a bit more straight up rock ’n’ or roll. They do a cool version of “Goodbye Horses” from Silence of the Lambs, but rely mainly on their well crafted catchy punk nuggets. This is their first show in a couple of years with their old drummer, but they sound pretty well rehearsed. These two veteran bands of the Providence punk and whatever scene make the frostbite worthwhile. (Eric Baylies)
CHANDLER TRAVIS PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
YANI BATTEAU & THE RODEO
Johnny D’s (Closing Weekend), Somerville , MA
For so many many special years, Johnny D’s has been a mecca for disparate entertainment. Easily one of my fave rooms in the Boston area, it has championed national and local acts with a honest and healthy attitude towards its patrons and staff. With seating in close proximity to the stage, we always felt treated to an intimate showcasing of talent. But, this past weekend it all comes to a close after forty years of extended family effort. Another club bites the dust… such a goddamn shame!
Two bands that have dazzled at past shows return to a rousing welcome. First up, the singing banjo-queen Yani Batteau and her group spin out country-folk-bluegrass yarns with low-key humor and tight ensemble playing. Usually a trio, today she is sporting a larger outfit with drums, trombone, and backing singer. Song by song the admiration grows until the floor is filled with barn-dance stompin’. Only an encore will suffice… darn tootin’.
Next, the amazing, thrilling, grinning, crooning, lounge-(or is it bedtime?)-lizard – Mr. Chandler Travis and his Philharmonic Orchestra appear. Opening with “This is Home,” and then an ode to Somerville, he sends the crowd into overdrive. The club is packed wall-to-wall, people are bursting with laughter and love, dancing dervishes devoted to his care-free manner and wonderful pop tunes. No wonder his entertainment factor has been a perfect ten for umpteen years. He brings the owner Carla DeLellis on stage to rousing cheers and presents her with a gift of engraved chopsticks and the sly joker serenades her and the audience in a hyper-climax to this afternoon showcase. Sweet memories are made of this. (Harry C. Tuniese)
P.S. – I hear that this evening’s surprise entertainment was The J. Geils Band – after the sold-out Rickie Lee Jones show on Tuesday, that’s truly going out in style!
ALASTAIR MOOCK’S PASTURES OF PLENTY
Me & Thee Coffeehouse, Marblehead, MA
Kids! There are kids with their kid voices filling up the pews of Me & Thee with a youthful din that can only be made by kids. I’m told that these are third graders from the Glover School in Marblehead and they are part of tonight’s show.
As soon as the lights go down the room hushes to a silence and Alastair Moock (guitar/ banjo/ vocals), Eric Royer (banjo/ vocals), Sean Staples (mandolin/ guitar/ vocals), Paul Kochanski (bass/ vocals) and the 10 year-old Fiddlin’ Quinn (fiddle/ vocals) set the stage like it’s their living room for the night. “Hard Travellin'” commences and country bluegrass bounce has those kids in the front row doing a heavy sway right and left. Alastair lets us know that his Pastures of Plenty has been kickin’ its heels for 20 years. The idea of the project is that each member brings in songs from American history and stories are told about each tune. The audience sets the music and a bit of history thrown in. Each member takes the lead vocal on their song and the rest follow along giving it a fresh semi-rehearsed feel. Even Quinn’s dad, Chris Eastburn, swaps places with Alastair to play along with some songs that Quinn sings. His young voice still untouched by puberty cuts through volume of the instruments easily, like on “Rocky Top Tennessee.” That’s followed by Dave Van Ronk’s slippery slidin’ “Baltimore.” One of the funniest songs of the night is “The Bright Side of Me,” a rolling Moock original that is sung from a kid’s perspective about looking on the positive side of their doings. Mr. Moock invites one of the third graders, his daughter Cleo, up to join him on vocals for a couple of tunes from the 2012 Grammy nominated Singing Our Way Through Songs for the World’s Bravest Kids. Cleo is one of these kids who battled through leukemia when she was five years old. They do “When I Get Bald” and “B-R-A-V-E” and the talent is obviously flowing in the Moock family. Sean Staples gets featured with his song “Joy Comes Back” and tells the story of how a video was made by one of those BRAVE kids singing this song. Next Elsa Moock (Cleo’s twin sister) is up leading “This Little Light of Mine.” Then the group of 17 third graders get their spotlight time singing “Glover School Song” and all the parents in the audience are standing with their iPhones recording the momentous occasion. Time for a well-earned coffee and treat break.
Fifteen minutes later the audience thins out with a lot of the parents escorting their star children home for bedtime. But the show is not over yet. Eric Royer picks an interesting song, “Pegging On,” about how a man who pegged shoes for a living in the mid-1800s was replace by a machine that could do the job faster. Quinn shows off his fiddlin’ skills with the classic “Orange Blossom Special.” And Alastair tells an intriguing story about how the song “Freight Train” was written by the 12-year-old Elizabeth “Libby” Cotten and by a strange set of circumstances, and a 25 year break from playing guitar, ended up performing her classic folk song at the Newport Folk Festival at the age of 80. Paul Kochanski executes the lead vocal on “I Just Destroyed the World” and surprisingly sounds a bit like Johnny Cash. Eric rolls into “Pastures of Plenty,” the groups one-chord theme song penned by Woody Gutherie. Then Sean claims the next composer must have been showing off with the TWO-CHORD “Take Me back to Tulsa” where Paul takes an extended bass solo. They see us off with “You Are My Sunshine” and “Good Night Irene.” (T Max)
HEAVY METAL HORNS
25th Anniversary Reunion
Johnny D’s, Somerville, MA
Tonight’s music is being played in front of a packed house and is sorta like Tower of Power meets Chicago, and I can feel the excitement in the air. The original rhythm section has come to the club from all over the place just to be at this gig. Peter Calo (Carly Simon Band) on guitar and vocals is from upper state New York. Drummer Jim Sturdevant journeyed up from PA. Pengbian Sang on bass trekked all the way from the Dominican Republic. With fellow founding member John Mathews singing and on keys joining the incredible horn section of Henley Douglas and John Vanderpool on saxes, John Ferry (Bim Skala Bim) tooting trombone and on vocals and Garrett Savluk on trumpet for a great night of brass and funk. The crowd is going nuts and getting louder and louder as the night proceeds. Check out their set list: Old Heavy Metal Horns tunes “Shake” and “99%” by Calo and “You Make Me Want To Rock” and “The Horns Are In The House” by Berklee legend Thaddeus Hogarth. And they cover “Champagne” by The Del Fuegos, “Hang Up Your Hangups” by Herbie Hancock, “Can’t Find My Way Back Home” by Blind Faith’s Stevie Winwood and Tower of Power’s “You’re Still A Young Man.” Trust me. The roof and walls of the club are shaking! The band says they’re gonna be back for another gig or two real soon and I can’t wait. New music from this legendary old band? Keep your fingers crossed and on the valves. (A.J. Wachtel)
BEST NOT BROKEN
Blue Ocean Music Hall, Salisbury, MA
The storm-whipped waves pounding against the Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury, Massachusetts, provides the backdrop for Best Not Broken (“BNB”) from Manchester, New Hampshire, as they open the night for the iconic Jefferson Starship. Eric Jackson (vocals, guitar), Carlo Carluccio (drums), Brian Eyberg (keyboards), and Mark Oswald (bass) take the stage for this sold-out show not knowing what to expect. The band opens with “Anarchy,” an upbeat melody with the story of a crazy love affair that contains lines like “I’ll forget you’re a psycho crazy bitch.” They then perform “I Won’t Stop Loving You,” the story of growing old with your only love. After another slow love song “Breaking My Heart,” the band goes straight into “Listerine,” a simple way to explain the sting of a lost love. “What The Night Has Left” brings the crowd back from tears and they are moving again.
The Jefferson Starship biased crowd gets into Best Not Broken’s power pop material with bobbing heads, chair dancing, and arm waving that leads to rich applause after every song. Eric entices the crowd by saying if they go to Facebook and like the band, they will get a free CD at the end of the show. Immediately cell phones begin lighting up all over the venue indicating that the band will be handing out quite a few CDs. Continuing with their set, BNB goes into the danceable “Tell Me That You Want Me” that gets a few of the chair dancers up out of their seats. This song was debuted on the radio by Chris Desimonie on Frank FM 106.3 and featured by Pat Monahan of Train on his Sirius XM show Train Tracks last November.
The band closes their 40-minute set with a cover of “The Letter” by The Box Tops just to show this crowd that BNB can bring the R&B and sound amazing doing it. Best Not Broken exits the stage to rousing applause and whistles leaving them with no doubt that if they were not the opening band an encore would be in order.
The band meets a long line of new fans to sign CDs before and after Jefferson Starship’s set; a sight you rarely see when you are the support for the night. It’s a great night for a local band starting to catch the eye and ear of New Englanders by giving fun performances of great songs with sometimes funny and sometimes thoughtful lyrics combined with killer melodies. (Brick Mason)
Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble Finals
Once Ballroom, Somerville, MA
So here we are at the finale of the nine-installment (a half-dozen preliminary dates occupying the first week of April, two semifinals last weekend, plus tonight’s climax) Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble, and it’s clear in its 37th iteration the event remains a highlight of the local-music scene; the great majority of musicians and audiophiles who make Boston and environs a hotbed of indie rock have followed the Rumble to its new – slightly more remote – home.
UsLights is the wild-card delegate and, appropriately, its sound is contrapuntal to the clamor of the semifinal winners that will succeed the trio to the stage. Lamentably for usLights, however, in these challenging times folks need the catharsis afforded by noisy squall; the dreamscape crafters are politely received in the fashion of an obscure opener for a boffo headliner. That said, if you ever get the chance to shoot the breeze with front man Gregg Kusumah-Atmadja, grab it! N.B. Matt Nastri – like Stephen Konrads of Eternals last spring – demonstrates that Amanda Palmer isn’t the only Rumble keyboard virtuoso…
If you ever need to flee the people’s republik of Massachusetts yet desire to stay in New England, head up I-95 to Portland! That way, you’ll increase your opportunities to hear Murcielago, grunge-rockin’ semifinalists of last year, moreover Weakened Friends (not quite the double entendre of Raw Blow, but still)… the latter have already won over Rumblegoers with their three-chord power punk, yet lead singer/ guitarist Sonia Sturino further endears herself to the throng by explaining that although she’s from the city of Maple Leafs, Raptors, and Blue Jays, she REALLY digs being a part of our rockfest. If your answer to “Who’s the sunniest person you know?” isn’t Annie Hoffman, that means you’ve never met Weakened Friends’ bassist.
Worshipper has been gaining momentum since the transition from Alejandro Necochea (off plucking on the Continent) to Craig Small (Waltham/ Airport) at guitar went without a hitch; if the truth be known, it’s hard to imagine Small being a step down from anyone; therefore it says a lot that “Bawb” Maloney’s prowess on bass is discernible through Small’s slinging. Yet it’s John Brookhouse’s vocals that’re the fundament of Worshipper; surprisingly, when he addresses the packed floor between songs, his voice is quite mellow.
Scissorfight, the noncompeting or guest band, bats cleanup; they’re an apt invitee; you want ’70s-style, arenaworthy might? These’re your guys. [It’s almost touching that they make a point of showing pride in their home base, bucolic New Hampshire.] The “string section,” if you will, Scissorfight’s two original members in the current lineup, have all the hard-rock mannerisms and chops down pat. [Off-stage, the lead guitarist is a male, grizzled version of Annie Hoffman: The essence of geniality.]
After the moshing’s completed and the night’s contesting performers et al. have congregated on the stage, there’s so much good cheer at 156 Somerville Ave. that the announcement Worshipper has taken the tiara is practically an afterthought; immediately thereafter everyone is celebrating to the tune of “1999”; you haven’t lived ’til you’ve witnessed Nicole Tomarro cutting loose on the dance floor. (Dr. Swig McJigger)
THE GHOSTS OF JOHNSON CITY
Port City Blue, Portland, ME
The last time I saw these guys I said I was going to see them again as soon as possible. So here I am again in Blue with skads of other people – the place is packed. As the “Ghosts” assemble on stage they tell us that tonight all the songs will be original compositions. They begin with “Fare Thee Well,” an acoustic and harmonic minor-key dirge featuring the sociopathic lyrics of a cruel, possibly jealous husband who carries out the demise of his golden haired bride right in front of us. Musically, that is! Next is a song honoring the explosion at the Stag Canyon Mine in New Mexico, the second worst mine disaster in American history taking over 250 souls. Now we hear “Evelyn McHale” about a most beautiful death of Ms. McHale who, in her red dress and pearls, leaped from the Empire State Building and landed on a parked limousine, where she looked like a woman sleeping in folded blankets of metal. A theme somewhere between Edgar Allen Poe and America’s Most Wanted is emerging. More story songs: one about America’s first serial killing family, the Benders; correspondence of heartsick lovers of the Gold Rush; Civil War tragedies; The Sultana Steamboat disaster claiming over 1800 souls; the influenza epidemic of 1918. And more. I find myself getting emotional, realizing that remorse and sorrow linger near the earth, and this band is a mouthpiece for stories that long to be told. I imagine more ghosts lining up behind songwriter Amos Libby, tugging on his sleeve, “Tell my story now, tell mine.” Their mission is profound. They are bringing back a genre from a bygone era that feels prescient and important. Doug Porter, Erik Neilson, Erik Winter, Ian Riley and Amos are supported this evening with help on vocals by Bridget. (Kimmy Sophia Brown)
DON WHITE & CHRISTINE LAVIN
Me & Thee Coffeehouse, Marblehead, MA
On a day that commands us to “march forth” (through the snow), Don White celebrates his birthday in front of a crowd of adoring fans. Me & Thee is quickly packed so I squeeze into a tight space in the front pew – I love getting to see the nuances of performers facial expressions. New Yorker Christine Lavin starts with a hilarious opening set and though I could elaborate on every well-chosen comic tale, I have to follow The Noiseformat and move on to our New England-based artist of the night, the afore mentioned musician/ storyteller/ comedian, Don White. For those not in the know, Don is practically the Mayor of Lynn, Massachusetts, by way of his never-ending attention to his local community. His quick wit earns him big laughs, like when he boasts about being married for 38 years, then looks out at the mature audience and adds, “but I can see I’m not gonna win any awards here.” He sings about his relationship with his dog, his kids growing up, and his wife, and every song brings on gut-busting laughs. But what really makes Don the master of his audience is his ability to turn around and hit you with a serious life lesson sewn into a song that practically brings tears to your eyes. He introduces vocalist Christina Thompson and violinist Jackie Damsky to back him up and also lets them take the spotlight for their own song. Don follows that up with about 15 minutes of real life standup comedy. Then Christine Lavin joins him and the laughs keep coming. She also manages to get everyone up shaking and dancing. The surprising highlight of the night is a serious one, when Don delivers the simple yet beautiful title track of his latest CD, More Alive. In it he tugs on our heart strings with advice from of his wild 82-year-old Aunt Betty Mae who lives life like she’s 22. Other great songs at the end of the night include a Don/Christine duet of “I’m Glad S/he Can’t Read My Mind,” a version of “Goodnight Irene” impaled with some creative new verses, and “Sensitive New Age Guys” where a dozen or so male members pile on the stage offering their untrained baritones to the chorus. If you get the chance, buy a ticket to go see Don White in concert, it’s one of the better things in life. (T Max)
RICK BERLIN & NICKEL & DIME BAND
WILLIE “LOCO” ALEXANDER & THE FISHEYE BROTHERS
ELIZABETH & BEN ANDERSON
Nickel & Dime CD Release Party
Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA
Totally amazing – it’s icon time at this venerable establishment. Celebrating the release of Rick & Nickel’s EP Badville, we are treated to a major showcase from two local legends, still plowing the fields of creativity. Settling in for some prime entertainment, the opening act is the very young brother/sister Ben & Elizabeth Anderson, who offer a set of Irish jigs, reels, and folderol… mildly interesting.
But then, we quickly step into the realm of the sublime with a short powerful selection from Rick & Co., who introduce some of the new tunes and several classics from Rick’s oeuvre. Tonight they are doing two sets and the band is whip sharp – the audience relishes it. As always, Mr. Berlin is brilliant and the crowd adores him. Obviously, we are being primed for a rare local appearance by Mr. Alexander & The Fisheye Brothers (Jim Doherty: drums and Mark Chenevert: clarinet & saxes).
In a ten-song explosion of energy, we get a concise primer of Willie’s vital spirit and songwriting hijinks. Opening with a twisted reworking of “Great Balls of Fire,” and his two initial classics, “Kerouac” (it was his birthday!) and “Mass. Ave” (Willie says: “just cause it’s right outside”), we get a cross section of his decades-long career. Other stopping points were “Shopping Cart Louie,” “Ogalala,” “Life is the Poem,” and “Dirty Eddie.” Pure rockin’ bliss!
When we return to the Berlin & Dime Band, they are rejuvenated by Loco’s set, and unleash a sampling of their torchin’, tender, terrific tunes from their past few albums. The new EP’s title track, “Badville” is an apt metaphor for this group – honest and true, down-home, catchy, enthusiastic, talented BAD-ASS daddios (Jesse, Mike, Sam, Ricky, Rob, Al, and the exceptional Jane Mangini)! We are totally wiped out and awash in admiration for a tremendous evening. Thank you very much! (Harry C. Tuniese)
The Foundation Room in The House of Blues, Boston, MA
These guys don’t get out and play as much as they used to because they all have other responsibilities. And that’s a pity because they’re as good as the handful of other Grateful Dead inspired bands in the area like Max Creek, Playin’ Dead, Crazy Fingers and Dead Beat. New Hampshire guitarist Leo Ganley (Lemon Fresh Kids, Weed,Inc.) on lead vocals and guitar, George Chambers playing lead guitar, Jeff Wyman (The Fiends) on four strings and Norm Fuller (The Cause) pounding play really well together. There is a lot going on onstage between the tight playing and good arrangements. The guitarists sound great and like they’ve shared the spotlight forever and the bass and drums keep it jumping. They remind me a bit of 10,000 Maniacs meets R.E.M. This is a real good party band and the nice harmonies and power pop sound make original songs like “New England Town,” “Eskimo Pie,” “Mary Goes ‘Round,” and “Mother Earth” sound like familiar tunes you’ve heard on the radio before. “Don’t Let Me Down” by The Fab Four, “Big Railroad Blues” and “Don’t Ease Me In” by The Dead are cool covers people in the crowd are swaying and singing along with too. A lot of fun. Let’s hope their next gig is sooner than later. (A.J. Wachtel)
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