Live – Feb

If you have any interest in writing about the musical acts you see, please contact Write LIVE REVIEWS in the subject box and T Max will fill you in on how to help out your favorite acts.


Chianti, Beverly, MA   


I’m liking Chianti – with it’s early start time (8:00pm) I can catch the first set of an act and still have the rest of the night free. So I head over to see 3rian (yes, I spelled it correctly) King’s popular cabaret/R&B group, What Time is it Mr. Fox? Tonight the group is a five-piece – 3rian (guitar/ keys/ most lead vocals), Nathan Cohen (fiddle/ trumpet/ backing vocals), Renee Dupuis (keys/ melodica/ vocals), Joe Cardoza (double bass) and Dennis Monagle (drums/ backing vocals). Missing is their female background singers, The Furies… and without them the show feel less like the circus/cabaret I’m use to experiencing with them.  Instead I get a good band, some great vocals, and a relaxed context to enjoy it all in. Chianti is booming with business. I have intentions of sitting down to eat, but with no seats available I stand in the back of the room by the bar and take notes of the show. 3rian says “We wrote this one this morning” and the band goes into Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love.” The audience eats it up, clapping and singing along. “We gotta write more songs like that” follows the crowds excited reaction. Mr. Fox’s songs range from serious “You’re So Mean” about 3rian being abandoned on a Caribbean beach to “Lyla” a very funny song about Lyla the librarian who is accused of eating liberries.  They do a slow sizzeler originally by Irma Thomas – “Cold Rain,” an old traditional number “Sail Away Ladies” (their first song ever performed on the streets by 3rian and Nathan), and they end their first set with a soulful rendition of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” complete with a nice muted trumpet solo. They’re a cool, comfortable band with an enthusiastic following. Hop on board and add some fun into your life.  (T Max)


The Midway, Jamaica Plain, MA


Swooning time for Ms. Courtney Swain all over again! When I first stumbled upon her music over two years ago with the release of her second solo album, Monstre, it hit me like a train and sent me into bliss. It seemed like she had channeled the visions of Bjork, Kate Bush, Joanna Newsom, Carla Kihlstedt, Regina Spektor, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, and many other progressive female artists into a vibrant, coherent contemporary statement with bravura vocals, stunning keyboards, and sublime dashes of electronics. While interviewing her for a story in The Noise, she mentioned her main project, the progressive art-rock ensemble Bent Knee. And sure enough, they are incredible – destined for national prominence and a formidable future. Their 2016 album, Say So was my #1 pick of the year. They ARE that good!
As they plot their next move, Ms. Swain returns to the circuit with select solo shows, brandishing a new repertoire of dense, introverted tunes. Tonight, she opens with three older songs – “Queen of the Conquest,” “Monstre (I Assimilate Late),” and “Grow Up.” To me, they shimmer in their familiarity, dynamically challenging and welcoming. With her voice bared-to-the-world style, the audience stands transfixed. She pauses and then proceeds to offer the next five stunning pieces without introduction – an on-rush of swooping piano runs and intense contemplative musings. They are “Wish Bone,” “Snow Globe,” “Moon Stalker” (“Now where can I rest peacefully/ Is there a moon stalker colony/ Where we stay awake silently/ Watching the world sleep” – phew!), “Glitter Bomb” and “Prickly Thorn.”  Still too new for me to fully digest, I just let their glow wash over me. When eventually released to the public, it will be time to dissect further. Now I just accept in awe. Great stuff and highly recommended! (Harry C. Tuniese)


Breaking Grounds Cafe, Peabody, MA


After a day of recording and having a new pickup installed in my acoustic guitar I head over to a new little cafe in Peabody where my favorite professionals are playing – the husband/ wife team of Julie Dougherty & Woody Woodward. I walk in and they are mid-song (“Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”) playing with comfortable confidence. There’s about 40 people here – all the tables are full and quiet activity is abound. I grab a coffee and blueberry muffin and find a place to squeeze in while a folkish rendition of The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes” has people hummin’. This is a casual place, Woody’s wearing jeans and a Witch City sweatshirt while Julie’s got a black glittery top and her signature black mini skirt. He plays a Music Man bass through an amp faced up at him, while Julie handles the vocals (using a cool harmonizer at times) and effectively plays a Taylor Mini acoustic guitar with her metal fingertips, all though a Fishman acoustic combo amp.  Julie’s seasoned voice carries the show with Woody adding his well-known hammer-on solos way up on the neck. They mix in an original here and there – “Count on Me” fits right in with the other proven hits and lesser known gems, like Tom Waits’ “Temptation, Carol King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” and Seals & Crofts’ “Summer Breeze.” When their entertaining set is done, Julie introduces me to the cafe manager Timothy Brown who lets me know that the place runs a program through NortheastArc that provides training and education currently for six young folks who run the daily operations of the cafe. It’s the first time Tim is dealing with hiring musicians (for Friday nights) and I can see by his friendly smile that he’s enjoying the whole process. Hiring Julie and Woody means he’s stepping in the right direction of good talent on the North Shore.  (T Max)


The Menotomy Grill, Arlington, MA


On the scene today, many restaurants are pushing the dinner tables back at nine and having bands come in and play for a later, different crowd at no charge. For one thing, this allows musicians to have much more flexibility because they are free from having to play all their hits and known repertoire for paying customers expecting to hear the familiar tunes they paid for. This is very cool and sometimes great things happen. Tonight is such a night.This band of known blues musicians includes Duke Robillard and Mike Welch (Sugar Ray And The Bluetones) on guitars, Jesse Williams on upright bass, Mark Texeira behind the kit and Bruce Bears playing keyboards. They perform with style and bend their notes with soul, country and uptempo swing influences. This is a groove band. With screaming guitars. Duke’s tone is warm and thick and Mike’s sound is very bright and more trebley. Both play with a lot of creativity. A lot of notes. And a lot of passion. Sometimes Duke will start off a riff and Mike will finish the lick. Then they’ll play together. A real lesson in Chicago blues at it’s best. Almost like seeing a show with B.B. and Freddie King in the same band. Sometimes the group will slow the tempo of a song in the middle and then find the groove again and really take off. There are people dancing between the tables and in the aisles which is pretty cool too. The first of the two sets showcases a bunch of solos from all the musicians on songs “Backstroke,” by Albert Collins, Duke’s “You Gotta Hold Me,” “The Jumpin’ Blues” by Jay McShan, Welch’s “Stapled To The Chicken’s Back” and a few other classics. The cameos start when harp/vocalist Cheryl Arena comes up and tears up Tom Waits’ “Temptation.” Duke does another Waits song “Make It Rain,” and then Jesse ends the set with their rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Lodi!” The second set has Diane Blue sing her heart out on B.B.’s  “Little By Little” backed by singers Kit Holliday, Cheryl Arena and William’s daughter Ella. Ilana Katz Katz is playing her red hot Appalachian blues fiddle on this song too. 17 year old guitar prodigy Tyler Morris sits in on guitar for the last number to end this great night. If this happened in NYC it would be reported in Rolling Stone magazine. Do you think they have gigs like this in Duluth? Special thanks to owner and long time supporter of the local music scene Billy Lyons for keeping the flame burning bright in his house.  (A,J. Wachtel)


M. Ruth Norton Auditorium (Salem High School), Salem, MA


How often do you get to see a philharmonic orchestra for free? Well, this is the second week in a row that I’ve come to see the Salem Philharmonic lead by conductor John Koza. Trombonist Leslie Havens tipped me off to this free Sunday afternoon series. Today’s program at the stadium-seated M. Ruth Norton Auditorium starts with the strings buzzing like bees while the horns keep the beat in a rousing “Overture” to Ruslan & Ludmilla by Glinka. Conductor John Koza then tells us the the next number is featured during holidays in Europe the way the Nutcracker is played in the States. The orchestra then launches into Humperdinck’s slow building “Prelude” to Hansel & Gretel. The theme of the next piece rings a bell, and after researching it I learn that Blood Sweat & Tears used Satie’s sweet and gentle  “Gymnopedie No. 1” (featuring strings and harp) on their eponymous album released in 1968. Playful melodies within a 3/4 beat follow with Lehar’s Gold & Silver Waltz.

It’s time for the featured performer as Jasime Atabekyan takes the stage at the grand piano that is front and center and dazzles us with Andante Spianto et Grande Polonaise Brilliante by Frederick Chopin. Not to be overshadowed by her mother’s piano playing, 14-year-old Emily Gasparyan steps out with her violin and goes nuts on it with “Zigeuner Weisen” (Gypsy Airs) by Sarasate. It’s as if she’s a heavy metal guitarists shredding super fast melodies with gypsy flair and style. Mother and daughter each bring the large audience to its feet.

We move to the final section of the philharmonics program… where selections from The King and I are powerful at times and hopping at others, offering an overall majestic quality. I recognize a theme in The King and I that was used in Vanilla Fudge’s 1967 rendition of Sonny Bono’s “Bang Bang.” Funny that it has taken me this long to realize that the Fudge borrowed the introduction from the classical master Richard Rodgers. Next up is Percy Faith’s Swedish Rhapsody with its familiar fun little bouncing melody theme. The Salem Philharmonic wrap up the day with J.P. Sousa’s Saber & Spurs march, putting some pep into the step for those in attendance, preparing them for an exit back into the winter cold.

Bravo to all the musicians and sponsors: Salem Trust Fund Commission, The Salem Five Charitable Foundation, The Salem Cultural Council, and the generous support of individuals and businesses of the North Shore.  (T Max)

If you have any interest in writing about the musical acts you see, please contact Write LIVE REVIEWS in the subject box and T Max will fill you in on how to help out your favorite acts.

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