Live March

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Cabot Theatre, Beverly, MA

When Charlee Bianchini invited me to review this show I didn’t know it was a benefit for the Waring School in Beverly and I didn’t know that Miranda Russell was headlining the show.

Head of Waring Schooll/ alumnus Tim Bakland takes the stage to talk about the school and the supporters of this event, then introduce tonight’s artists. The first act is Waring School alumna Charlee Bianchini (acoustic guitar/lead vocals) with Jack Tomailo (lead guitar), Chris Enright (piano), Mike Miksis (bass) and Benny Benson (drums) backing her. She confidently sings out her promising relationship originals. When she starts Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” John Aruda walks on stage with some sax blowin’. Charlee speaks lovingly of her time at Waring school – it’s where she first really started playing music. She closes her set with two more original heartfelt relationship songs. Keep an eye out for Charlie Bianchini.

After a short break Miranda Russell is center stage in a dark floral sleeveless dress that flows with her body rhythms. She has a strong country voice and a gigantic stage presence. An excellent group of musicians is supporting her – David Sparr (keyboards), Justin Piper (guitar),  Dave Landoni (bass), Joe Kessler (fiddle and mandolin), and Leo Ciaramitaro (drums) – but Miranda is the show – a total pro. She has acting skills, natural movement, a beautiful smile, and a whole lot of musical talent and personality that keeps the audience on the edge of their seat. Saying she has a strong country voice is misleading because Miranda sings her way through many genres – how ’bout some jump swing – Miranda slaps it with “Hit That Jive” – she’s helps out two female Waring students on Taylor Swift’s “Safe & Sound” – she crushes Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” – and does a wonderful “Linda Ronstadt Mashup” that includes “Blue Bayou,” “When Will I Be Loved,” “It’s So Easy to Fall in Love,” and “Love is a Rose.”  I’m blown away by her vocal range and control. She continues to bring up guest students to sing with her and she treats them all like they are stars. They cover George Michaels, Joni Mitchell, Traffic, Paul Simon and Leonard Cohen – stamping Miranda’s big splendid vocals on each as if the song were her own. What a wonderful quality Miranda exudes. She encores with The Eagles “Despardo” leaving the entire audience in love with her. (T Max)


Toad, Cambridge, MA

Standing on the floor surrounded by a group of onlookers is Box of Birds singer, Steph Durwin in a black, wide brimmed hat. She reminds me in appearance and sound, of Julee Cruise the singer from the otherworldly, roadhouse band in Twin Peaks. She has an innocent, girl next-door quality that’s balanced with a darker, more complex edge. This combination makes for a captivating performance and she does an excellent job holding the crowd’s attention. Her band is great too. I am impressed by the connection the bass and drums share as they rock out on the stage. The guitarist, with his additional support on vocals make this band sound extra tight. After the show I find one of my favorite songs of the night, “Bury My Bones,” which features some nice melodica on their bandcamp page. Great show! (Kier Byrnes)


O’Brien’s Pub, Allston, MA

Flyeater open the night with a medley of rock songs. The band is quite unique and distinctive with a style to match. Composed of a drummer, two guitarists, and a bassist, Flyeater has a solid, rhythmic sound. The drummer is seen taking off all of his clothes except his boxers as he sits at the drums. In a similar fashion, the bassist wears a sparkly top and purple leggings and the lead singer is wearing a dress. Keep in mind, this is an all-male group but their confidence shines through as they just play their songs without a care in the world.

Inside the quirky venue on a little corner in Allston, Flyeater starts with a heavy song and then follows with a slower, more rhythmic track, in which the vocals and tempo increase as the song progresses.

The crowd is pretty small, but lively and interested in all the bands performing. The lead singer of Flyeater just starts talking to some people in front of him during the middle of their set.

One of their songs, “Whisky Sour,” is more melodic in sound and, as with most of their tracks, has a strong instrumental component with a few short drum and guitar solos. At times, the vocalist nearly screams some of the lyrics, but it does not quite flow with their sound. He is much better at just singing regularly with some emotion in his voice.

The lyrics are honest and open, but at times the instruments drown out the vocals and it is hard to understand the words. Despite this, most of the songs sound very similar, so I do not feel like I am missing out by not understanding the singer.

After a few songs, the next group, Mokita, takes the stage. This rock group is not as creative or stylized as Flyeater, but are more typical of their genre of rock.

Mokita continues the melodic rock sound, but in a more polished way. The band utilizes layered vocals with lots of emphasis on the drums. They have some electric sounds mixed in with the traditional instruments, which adds a nice, modern touch.

Although there is not too much that allows Mokita to stand out, they still put on an enjoyable show. They state that they are releasing an album soon, so I will definitely be on the lookout for that.

The final band, Pulitzer Prize Fighter, plays last. I have listened to them before, but have never seen them live. The group has a funky sound with distinct vocals to compliment. They have a few guitarists which allows for a variety of sounds, as each one seems to play a different tune.

The vocals sound somewhat similar to that of the pop-punk genre at times, with a strained voice that borders on yelling. Even though the sound is difficult to master, it definitely works for this band.

With this sound as their base, the band also has some R&B influences in the style of guitar playing and the layering of some vocals with background singing.

Pulitzer Prize Fighter released an EP at the end of last year, and most of their songs are from this release. The guitars are certainly the most prominent component of the set, but overall the style are quite enjoyable and the group does a great job of providing, and staying with, their distinct sound. (Kathryn Leeber)





For the Sake of the Song: A Tribute to Bob Dylan
Me & Thee Coffeehouse, Marblehead, MA

I didn’t think I’d be able to make it to this show, but last minute changes set me free. Tony Toledo gives a big warm welcome to the packed house and the show kicks off with Patrick Coman playing an unlikely Gibson SG while a drum machine sets the groove on “Million Miles.” Patrick knows how to use his tools well – he minimizes the guitar and lets the melody line carry the song. The simplicity of the delivery is what makes his performance powerful. He continuers with “Ballad of a Thin Man, “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” and “Maggie’s Farm” then ends with his own Dylan-influenced protest song – “When the Bill Comes Due” and it is excellent. Patrick is the subtlety.

Danielle Miraglia bounds up to the stage with tunes from Blond on Blond and Blood on the Tracks and says that’s when Dylan was the most Dylan – other people had started copying his strange vocal style so he took it a step further. She plays her own composition “Chronicles” that was inspired form something said in Dylan’s book of the same name. She’s got good physicality bouncing while she plays – her hair dances with her. Greg Klyma and Ryan Fitzsimmons takes turns accompanying her on the Telecaster. She ends cooly with “Subterrainian Homesick Blues.” Danielle is the color.

Ryan Fitzsimmons manhandles “Don’t think Twice.” His energy livens everyone up. He’s got some cool effects seeping out of what looks like a wah pedal but the effect changes from song to song. He hits us with “Masters of War,” “One More Night” (his first favorite Dylan song), and “Lay Lady Lay.” Greg Klyma joins Ryan on his last couple of songs to create a smooth segue into Greg’s set. Ryan is the energy.

Greg does the best job of getting into the Dylan voice and sells it properly.  He also tells the best story of how he admired the introductory chords of a band’s song “$1000 Car.” He repeatedly demonstrated how he loved it when he heard these opening chords (as he’s paling them). Then it dawned on him that they don’t own those chords… so his own song “Sand” just happens to start with those same lovely chords. He switches over to piano for “Make You Feel My Love” and stays there while the rest retake the stage for a full group version of of “Like A Rollin’ Stone” with them each taking the lead on different verses. Greg is the light.

The audience demands one more and the four soloists encore with “I Shall Be Released.” Wonderful show.  (T Max)


Toad, Cambridge, MA

Having no idea who was playing at Toad tonight, it is a pleasurable surprise to walk into Toad and be immediately blown away by a band that I’ve never heard before. Los Goutos is on stage, or should I say more like spilling out into the front half of the room, as there are seven of them playing with guitars, accordions, banjos and noisemakers of all shapes and sizes strewn about. I am not sure exactly what the name of the band means, Goutos apparently means male pigeon in Greek, however their music is upbeat Americana that leaves me with a smile on my face. I love it when fiddler, Jakub Trasak, collaborates with Shamus Feeney on bodhran for a rousing Celtic inspired instrumental. I also really like Eddie “The Rattlesnake” Barrett on percussion and pocket trumpet. What he adds is subtle, but it really makes the music shine. The band seems to be having lots of fun – and that fun translates to the audience. However, having a band full of multi instrumentalists has its up and downs. In one sense, it keeps things sounding fresh, but there are large gaps of dead air when they all start swapping instruments. I talk to a friend at the bar that didn’t seem to enjoy it… he said, “it seemed wanky,” which I gather to mean that he thought it was a little show offy and that didn’t add to the overall show. Oh well, I guess you can’t please everybody.   (Kier Byrnes)



Putney Auditorium, Gloucester High School, Gloucester, MA

I’m off to another gig that includes my favorite trombone player – the world famous Leslie Havens (I kid you not) performing with Dan Gabel & the Abletones.  But first up in this big soft-seated auditorium is Docksiders – Gloucester High’s student big band led by Dan Fleury. I walk in a little late and slide into the first row right side. Vocalist Sadie Cook is being introduces and she delivers a spot on rendition of “The Look of Love,” the Burt Bacharach & Hal David tune made famous by Dusty Springfield in 1967. The stylish Dan Gabel joins the Docksiders for a selection, showing off with his trombone. Then Sadie is back to close the opening set singing “Save the Last Dance For Me” into the old style Shure microphone. The song was made popular by The Drifters in 1960. The Docksiders prove that the future of the big band sound is in good hands.

The stage gets reset for the 18-piece Abletones to blast away with Dan Gabel at the helm. This old styled big band sports five sax players, a pianist, a rhythm guitarist, a bassist, a vocalist, four each trombone and trumpet players, and a drummer. They start with “Song of India” where the featured sax players stand and the trombones point right then left, wahing with their mutes inserted. Dan does a kind of jazz-rap in his invigorated self-penned “Abletones Jive.” The band’s female vocalist, Elise Roth, is decked out in a billowy sleeveless red dress, done up auburn hair, heels, and red lipstick, making her stand out from the dark suited, bright blue vest and tie uniformed band members. She sings “Massachusetts” from their Homesick for New England CD. Then she croons Tommy Dorsey’s 1937 “You’re a Sweetheart.” The next one is by the King of Swing, Benny Goodman – “And the Angel’s Sing” featuring Adam “Hot Lips” Mejaour executing a wild mariachi type trumpet solo. Some of the high schoolers get to sit in with the band and hold their own reading from the charts. Sadie Cook returns stage front and center to sing “L is for the way you look at me” – Nat King Cole’s 1942 hit “L.O.V.E.” Dan tells us about Lake Chaubunagungamaug and manages to easy fit it into song lyrics – and it’s a very catchy tune. They do a popular WWII wedding song, “My Devotion” where Richard Garcia takes the sax solo. Tonight’s luna eclipses inspires “Moon Ray” with a clarinet solo and “I Can’t Get Started” has Mr. “Snow” Fleury in a trumpet spotlight. Sy Oliver gets the trombone solo in a punchy version of “Up the Lazy River,” then whole band gets to sing in what Dan calls the Dan Gabel Glee Club.  They prove that they can take a modern hit and “big band” it with Katie Perry’s “Firework.” Drummer Jim Gancarz gets to take a break from sitting down (Dan sits in on the kit) and becomes the frontman and then returns to his backbeat spot and ends the show with a ripping jungle rhythm drum solo. Dan Gabel & the Abletones are keeping the excitement of a big band show alive. (T Max)


Toad, Cambridge, MA

Tonight at Toad, Comanchero achieve an amazing accomplishment. It is something I’ve never seen any other band do at Toad. Comanchero actually fit all five of its band members on that tiny stage. All kidding aside, the band is on fire tonight. They are amazing. The combination of funk, soul, Americana, country and good ole rock ’n’ roll has the place sizzling with energy.  The extra room that the band produces by packing themselves onto the stage is used for  dancing and merriment by the audience, who cram themselves in as close to the music as possible at this already intimate show. A highlight for me is the guest singer, Krysten Muldoon, who is called up to sing some Comanchero tunes. Her soulful voice reminds me of a cross between Lucinda Williams and Carly Simon. It’s a fun show and I’m glad I made it out. (Kier Byrnes)



The Indo, Beverly, MA

Performing a benefit show for Healing Abuse Working for Change, a domestic violence organization from Salem, many acts are scheduled to perform, but I am only able to stay for these two. The Indo is a quaint pub located in downtown Beverly. The minimal lighting and intimate space make the atmosphere enjoyable, but the “stage” is awkwardly located and difficult to see from where I am seated. After a bit of a late start, Carissa Johnson kicks off the performances. Her music typically falls into the rock genre, as it is fueled by electric guitars and intense drumming. However, for this performance she only uses an acoustic guitar, most likely due to the small space.

Even still, hearing her perform, it is easy to notice the rock elements and power in her voice. She quickly strums the guitar and at times, drums on it. Despite having a softer voice, the way she plays the guitar and the control of her voice display her strengths as a rock performer, as the aesthetic and sound of the genre are still very evident. There are only two speakers and with such a small area, they are not as loud as they could be, making it a bit more difficult to hear her. My view is also blocked for most of her set, but surprisingly these issues do not hinder her performance for me. She effortlessly flows from song to song, giving a little background on each. Despite only having the guitar, the songs are clearly distinctive and each one sounds different than the others. One thing I really do not enjoy is when all of an artist’s songs sound the same, but the way she utilizes the guitar and her vocal abilities allow for a genuine and unique performance.

Next to perform is Chris O’Keeffe. He only plays a few songs, but they are very emotional and strong. He similarly only uses an acoustic guitar, but conversely has more of a singer-songwriter vibe. With Johnson, the rock sound and style were very evident, but O’Keeffe has a calmer and softer energy. He jokes about how his first song was possibly too sad, but I think it is very enjoyable and enticing. His vocals are a little rough at times and not as compelling as they potentially could be, but for only playing a handful of songs, he does quite well. Most of his songs are heartfelt and one stands out to me due to an emotional and melodic bridge that really grabs my attention.

A few more acts play for the remainder of the night, but these two do a great job of kicking off the night. Johnson has a few local shows in the upcoming weeks before heading out on a small, west coast tour. (Kathryn Leeber)



Koto, Salem, MA

Koto is a rather large open room that serves delicious Asian cuisine. Salem resident and longtime singer/songwriter Jon Waterman runs an open mic there every Tuesday night at 8:00. The large room can make it feel a little empty when the audience is spread out in all the corners, but Jon is a pro and gets up on the stage, friendly greets all in attendance, and starts the entertainment. He whips out some lively covers on his Gibson acoustic. Jethro Tull’s “Locomotive Breath” and Grateful Dead’s “Truckin” compete for attention with Superbowl highlights on two silent TVs behind the long bar that run the length of the venue. Jon ends his three-song set with “One Way Out” by Sonny Boy Williamson (made popular by the Allman Brothers), adding in a little history about Sonny Boy and ending the song soloing over an ad-libbed diatribe of the “might be your man, I don’t know” situation. The open mic then commences with a mix of folk, electronic, and rock music before the featured artist Patrick Fitzpatrick (yes, it’s his real name) is introduced. Patrick, a conservative-looking dad, sits on a stool and proceeds to deliver some songs that are instant singsongs. Good melodies, good lyrics, sung simply with easy guitar accompaniment. His first, “Devil Made Me Do It,” is so catchy I’m singing along in harmony during the first chorus. He play his “Under My Skin” about annoying people and makes sure we know it’s not the old Frank Sinatra tune. These are easy strum songs that anyone could play. A Russian character named Alex is doing some rather random percussion accompaniment on hi hat, but the songs are solid enough so it’s not distracting. Patrick plays his lullaby, “Out of My Head,” while Alex encourages him to yell at the audience to wake up. Patrick asks for more percussion from the mad Russian on his bad attitude song “Unglued.” At the end of “I Do It All For You” Patrick breaks a pick but he’s prepared with an extra one in his shirt pocket that just happens to have been owned by heavy duty New England rocker Jon Butcher. Maybe Patrick is a big fan? No – he used to work at a dry cleaner in Manchester By the Sea and did Jon’s laundry… he found the pick in Jon’s pants pocket. Patrick is pretty consistent in his good quality song writing as he runs through one with the refrain, “Even though you’re not here right now/ I’ll make you proud.” He goes a little up tempo on “About You” then ends with what I believe to be his first cover of the night – “Don’t Murder Me” inspired by Jon’s earlier Grateful Dead offering. All in all a very good night, only lacking in an interested audience. Hint – go show up for this excellent open mic.  (T Max)


Battle Road Brewing Company, Maynard, MA

Taking the stage inside this brew house, which is located inside the historic Clock Tower Mill in Maynard, Joe Peck puts on a stellar performance with only an acoustic guitar and a looping pedal.

The place is packed, but I find a seat at the bar and have a decent view of the stage. While he is warming up, he shows off his incredible talent, plucking away at the guitar and strumming a few chords.

He starts off by playing his original music, but eventually adds a few covers. Most noticeably, “The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra. While that may be a tough song to do justice, Peck does incredibly well.

He has great control of his voice, but it’s his guitar playing that is most prominent. As he strums the guitar with his fingers, he also drums on it a little bit, adding some beats to his already-lively songs. The loop pedal allows for a variety of sound making it seem like there is a whole band supporting him.

His style is clearly that of a singer/songwriter with a soft, yet powerful voice that commands the crowd’s attention. Even with so many people eating dinner and not really paying attention, they have no choice but to notice his singing and talents on the guitar.

He also performs a cover of “Valerie” originally by The Zutons. Again, the intricate and complex guitar playing stands out the most to ensure a powerful and excellent performance from Joe Peck. (Kathryn Leeber)

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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