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Me & Thee Coffeehouse, Marblehead, MA

(Warning: this review includes alternate facts.)

I grab a front row seat while Tony Toledo, with his big voice and big personality, gives the audience directions “in case we lose air pressure.” Wow – I didn’t realize I’m in a jumbo jet that is going to take off tonight.

Brian Dunne – he must be a co-pilot – comes to the front of our wide-bodied aircraft with a sunburst Gibson acoustic guitar. Maybe the video screens are offline and we’re going to get a live performance. Wow – I must be in first class because this guy can play. He says he that he attended Berkeley with Liz Longley (a female pilot?) who must be flying the plane right now. I didn’t know there was a flying school in Berkeley, CA, but who cares, Captain Dunne is quite a fine finger-picker and singer (he may have chosen the wrong vocation). He says he just came from playing on another ship. He does rocket ships too?! Maybe he’s destined to be the first guitar-playing astronaut to perform on the moon. He sings “Don’t Give Up on Me” – hey, we’re counting on you if Captain Longley can’t finish the flight. This must be some kind of religious flight because he keeps noting that he’s half Jewish and worried about being in this craft as he looks up toward the rafters. Oh oh – he’s singing “I’m Gonna Die Down Here” and I’m a little worried about this flight. Tony Toledo never mentioned anything about oxygen or life preservers – I check under my seat – nope, nothing there, and the guy behind me looks a little out of place (did they check his ID?). The rest of the passengers start clapping a whole lot when our co-captain is done. I have to say it was the best performance by a co-pilot I’ve ever seen.

Now I’m used to being served a drink and pack of peanuts from a cart coming down the isle, but Me & Thee flight 3.3.17 is different. The steward (Tony) and stewardess (Kathy) encourage us to fly Me & Thee again and then direct us to coffee and baked treats in the rear cabin. Very futuristic.

With a flick of the lights passengers are directed back to their seats and the steward introduces us to Captain Liz Longley. And I have to say, from the front row it’s impossible not to notice that our sexy captain is wearing thick six-inch heels – how does she step on the breaks with those things? Her whole image looks more like a rock star and she’s got an amazing octave-jumping voice. Wooo – what are they teaching at that Berkeley Flight School? I guess the San Francisco area has always been at the forefront of style and fashion. She sings a song about Nashville called “Memphis” and I’m a little worried about this pilot’s accuracy when it comes time to land. She starts singing “Weightless” and I realize she also must be a training astronaut. Now wait a second – she invites the co-pilot up to join her to entertain the passengers. Who’s flying this aircraft!? And the guy behind me is fiddling an awful lot with what could be some kind of detonating device. Captain Longley has a couple of guitars (where did they find the extra cargo space when all my belongings are stuffed into a square foot?).  She says that break-up songs make you feel better about yourself, but if communications are breaking up – I’m not feeling that good about it. The pilot and co-pilot are quite a team of entertainers – it’s hard to believe they don’t rehearse when the plane is on autopilot. They rock out with “Camaro” and “I’m Alive” and I wonder how long this plane can fly without one of these pilots in the cockpit. When it appears that the performance is over, half the passengers stand and clap, encouraging the pilots to continue – the other half pray for their lives that we will safely land at our destination. The captain sings one more song at the piano (?!) mirroring Joni Mitchell’s presence. We land and all are safe and sound. Many of the passengers stay to talk to the two pilots and pay extra for the entertaining flight – purchasing discs that must be from the dismantled brake system. I think I’ll fly the entertaining skies of Me & Thee again. (T Max)





Outside the Lines Benefit

Thunder Road, Somerville, MA


Tonight is a benefit for Outside The Lines, a non- profit school for artists with developmental challenges. This show  is being hosted by entertainment journalist and Berklee teacher Steve Morse and long time scenester Patricia Colley Moore on behalf of their autistic children. Steve’s son Nick is an accomplished and very talented artist who’s works are part of the silent auction held between sets to raise more money for the school. The place is packed as Danielle starts her set.  This woman is one of the best female vocalists on the scene today and her set is very well received. Danielle sings and plays guitar and backing her are: Chris Anzalone on drums, Laurence Scuder on violaJim Larkin on bass, and special guest Big Jack Ward on screaming lead guitar. They play “See the Light,” from their 2011 release Box of Troubles, “Turtle Blues” a Janis cover, “Get Off” a Prince cover, and “Shine A Light” from the Stones psychedelic period with Jesse Dee joining in on the backing vocals. I really dig her originals “Warning Fair Warning” and “Famous For Nothing,” two recent releases and “Don’t Pray For Me,” from her upcoming CD. Next up is blues guitarist Jesse Dee, with Jim Larkin on bass and “Pie” Beaulieu behind the kit. They play originals “Sweet Tooth,” “On My Mind,” and “In My Heart” and the crowd really digs their sweet sound. When the band covers Mark Sandman’s “Patience” the knowledgeable crowd goes wild.  Local legend Dennis Brennan comes on next with his acoustic guitar and the two songs that really stick out for me are his “When You Were Loving Him” from his album Engagement and “Just My Luck” coming out on his next release. Just an incredible artist pouring his heart and soul out to an appreciative audience that is really focusing on every word he sings. There is an electric aura in the air as Sister Kate Taylor is introduced and starts playing. Joining her are guitarists Steve Mayone who sings harmonies with her, and Stu Kimball (ex-Face To Face) who is taking a break from his continuous tour with Bob Dylan’s touring band to come play guitar with this tremendous trio. Hearing Kate sing “I Fell In Love,” “Stop The Wedding,” and “You Don’t Knock” is the icing on the cake for this incredible evening of magnificent music. Do you really think they have nights like this in Butte, Montana?  (A.J. Wachtel)


Back Page, Lowell, MA


Inside Back Page in Lowell, Bruce Marshall Group plays a set filled with blues, jazz and rock components that make for quite a fun night. This type of music is not usually what I listen to, but the band is clearly enjoying themselves and just having a good night, so the whole room can’t help but appreciate the music as well.

The atmosphere adds to the mood, with minimal lighting and Christmas lights hanging around the small room, it feels like I am the only person there as I become engrossed in the music.

Bruce Marshall Group is comprised of two guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer, and I am blown away by the talent. As the lead singer, Bruce, notes he has been playing for 43 years and this is evident by their stage presence and incredible playing.

The group plays “Overpaid My Dues,” which references their many years of experience and history of playing.

Joined by two other guitarists, a bassist, and drummer, Bruce Marshall also plays the guitar while he sings in his bluesy style. Smooth rock and jazz elements flow into the set. The drummer is quite talented, as well, relying heavily on the cymbals and high-hat which complement the other instruments quite nicely.

There are a few instrumental solos and they especially put the guitars on display with funky riffs that Bruce himself dances along to as he plays.

Even with a crowd of only 35 or so people, Bruce talks to them as if they are all his close friends. He encourages the audience to sing along to a certain part of a songs, and the drummer stands up and starts snapping his fingers to get them going.

Even though it is not the usual style of music I listen to, I cannot help but enjoy myself, seeing the band have such a great time on stage. With incredible and unmatched talent, Bruce Marshall Group puts on an excellent performance for all to enjoy. (Kathryn Leeber)

XTC Tribute Night

Lizard Lounge, Cambridge


Once upon a time in the late ’70s in Swindon, England, there emerged a brilliant frenetic band who inhaled the helium-pop-music magical dust which eventually transformed them into the Second Coming of The Beatles. Not just content with well-crafted lovey-dovey relationship themes, they added a rapier wit, clever socio-political angst, a fine amalgam of new-wave and ska, and brilliant musicianship. If you connected with their sensibilities, you were definitely working overtime. And, like The Beatles, they stopped touring to concentrate on building a recording cupboard of many coats – true believers in the forward march of pop progress, creating an impressive catalogue of songs to make you feel free. They united the zeitgeist with the poltergeist – they were four wise dukes of the stratosphere – they were XTC!

Tonight I’m sitting in a sold-out club of cheering fans, thrilled at the chance of witnessing an evening of XTC classics from their 1979-1981 period. The ambitious audacity to perform these intricate gems is lost on no one – this is an A+ stellar ensemble: Jerome Deupree (DRUMS!), Erich Groat (guitar/ lead vocals), Michael Rivard (bass), Ken Lafler (guitar/ keys/ vocal), Milt Reder (guitar), Paul Janovitz (percussion/ vocals) – and they prove it all night! Vigorous replications of these tunes has the crowd singing along in rapt admiration… [side note: Whilst I’m not a clone band enthusiast, this venture got me thinking about the validity of such projects. We’ve all seen our share of “cover bands” that employ various methods of tribute. Because there’s a generational audience that appreciates oldies music or may feel challenged by the present or the future, this turns out to be a successful endeavor. I guess there’s a sliding scale in choosing the right artist to honor. Is it from the heart or does it just fill the pocket? The further away from classic rock heroes, does it become more responsible? The deeper into eclectic, esoteric, iconic artists who never made it big but exerted a major stylistic influence, does this makes it more hip? When does reverent authenticity translate as  spiritual musical fervor? Jest sayin’…] …and everyone is smiling broadly as they recognize each successive tune. Here’s the magnificent set list:  “Respectable Street,”  “Generals and Majors,” “Life Begins At the Hop,” “Ten Feet Tall,” “Towers of “London,” “Paper and Iron,” “Helicopter,” “When You’re Near Me I Have Difficulty,” “Roads Girdle the Globe,” “Rocket From a Bottle,” “Millions,” “Burning With Optimism’s Flame,” “Sgt. Rock,” “Reel by Reel,” “Living Through Another Cuba,” “Battery Brides,” “Crowded Room,” “Making Plans for Nigel,” and the encore, “No Thugs in Our House.”  Wow and whoa!

Witnessing the sincere dedication to these compositions is mind-boggling. To actually hear these tunes played live with such gusto makes some folks feel forlorn, having never seen Partridge, Moulding, Gregory and Chambers perform in their day. At the end of a stunning 90 minute set, the group receives a most deserved standing ovation!  BRAVO!  ENCORE!   (Harry C. Tuniese)


Atwoods, Cambridge, MA


The walls of this small dive bar are shaking. The people at this Saturday afternoon show are dancing wildly. And the three piece band on stage is taking no prisoners. Roy Sludge plays acoustic rhythm guitar and his low basso profundo voice reminds me of Sleepy LaBeef. It resonates within your inner ear and is passionate, lecturing and extremely powerful. When I later tell him the roof vibrates with his amplified voice he smirks at me backstage and says “and the ladies like it too.” Jimmy Scoppa plays his electric Telecaster like no one else on the scene. Imaginative riff after incredible solo is the nature of his game and he is clearly just as good as Brian Setzer, Eddie Cochrane or Gene Vincent. Watching his fingers fly up and down the guitar’s neck during the set is a real lesson on how to play rockabilly guitar. During one song Scoppa suddenly reaches for a tuning peg and lowers the note perfectly in the middle of his stunning solo and then tunes the peg right back up so it’s perfectly included in his stream of thought. What a showman. Johnny Sciascia, on upright bass, sends shivers down your spine with each note he slaps. I love when in the middle of a song he just twirls his upright bass around 360 degrees without missing a beat. “I’m just showing off” he later smirks at me  backstage. Original tunes “I Got Hammered Then I Got Nailed,” “Back The Truck Up,” and the melody they always open up their second set with, “Too Drunk To Truck,” the title cut from their last release, really gets the crowd going. Their cover of Bob Luman’s “Deep Dark Jungle,” where the song starts off as a ballad, the threesome abruptly stops and then restarts the song and continues it as a rocker and then repeats this unique arrangement to finish it off, is just killer; and really showcases what this great group is all about. Very tight and very good.  I really dig “Two Glasses Joe,” the Ernest Tubbs tune and Hank Thompson’s “On Tap, In The Can, Or In The Bottle” too. Honky tonk at it’s best. The place goes wild during their encore where they do a slightly slowed down and vicious version of The Doors’ “Love Her Madly.” When Roy growls “don’t you love her as she’s walking out the door. Like she’s done a thousand times before,” you can feel the sadness in his voice and the communally communicated message throughout the room as the packed floor dances. Carl Perkins or Elvis or Scotty Moore would be real proud of this tremendous trio they impressionably influenced. There are young and old people in the audience and it’s cool seeing the rockabilly girls who look almost asexual with their closely cropped hair short on the sides and greased back high on top. Onstage and off there are no cowboy hats. These cats are my new favorite band in Boston and they should be yours too.   (A.J. Wachtel)



Me & Thee Coffeehouse, Marblehead, MA


I feel the good energy in Me & Thee tonight and with a big Tony Toledo introduction, folk artist Jim Trick jumps into the center isle between the pews with his guitar and starts singing and spreading the love. The acoustics in this church are good enough for Jim to sing away from the PA and he always takes advantage of it. The audience takes in every word as Jim sings “You be you, and I’ll be me.” Jim Trick performs in the present and encourages everyone to be there with him. He tells a funny story about how his friends had to take his latest CD, Further From the Tree, away from their young daughter because she kept singing track 10, “Fly Me Home,” to everyone she came in contact with. The song is about death. Jim refers to himself as tonight’s appetizer… and to Ellis Paul as the main course. Jim is full of gratitude and his ability to be in the moment and spread the love is wonderful to experience.  He knows how to get an audience singing with him without even asking… he just leans in and it’s obvious that we are supposed to join him, as he does on “Come Dance Slow.” Jim picks an Irish tune to end his set – after all it is St. Patty’s Day – but it’s not a traditional selection. It’s “With or Without You” by U2. The audience loves him and gives him a rare standing ovation for an opener. I was expecting an encore but there is a respect thing going on about not overshadowing a headliner.  Later on I asked Ellis if he would have minded, and of course he replied “no” – but I believe he meant it.

So after the coffee and baked treats break we return to a special introduction that Tony Toledo orchestrates.  Four people from the audience plus Tony stand on stage and each one states something personal in praise of Ellis Paul who is celebrating 25 years of touring. Ellis takes the stage with the remark, “That was a little like a funeral” – and the audience laughs. He starts his set with a love song that expresses “The only miracle I’ve seen is I can call you mine.” For inspiration Ellis looks to the late ’60s and early ’70s from artists like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. He demonstrates how how guitar makes up a whole band – breaking down the sounds that come from it. There’s a percussive element (the drums), the low strings (bass), the chords (rhythm guitar) and the melodies that run through them (lead guitar) and he continues the demonstration right into a song. Throughout his set he refers to Neil Diamond – trying to show a difference in style of what is cool and what is not. He lets the audience decide. At one point the spectators start making a lot of entertaining comments and Ellis shuts them down with a friendly, “Don’t be funnier than me. The show is up here.” It’s as if a stand up comedian was using the crowd. Before “Kick Out the Lights” Ellis tells an interesting story of how Johnny Cash got banned from the Grand Ole Opry. He has men and women sing separate parts –asking the women to make it sexy. Like Jim Trick Ellis comes down to pew level to sing “He Ain’t From These Parts” with fresh verses written about every state in the union. Then he reads from his children book The Hero in You – the section on Thomas Edison and it is easy to see why this book has won awards. He sings “Sweet Mistakes” off the stage, down with the listeners again to earn himself a hardy standing ovation. Ellis gives us one more on the piano about his man love for Tom Brady. The New England crowd loves it – he might get lynched elsewhere singing it. Super wonderful evening tonight at Me & Thee.  (T Max)




O’Brien’s Pub, Allston, MA


The female-fronted group Ozlo kicks off the night at O’Brien’s Pub. Fueled by guitar medleys and heavy drumming, Ozlo showcases the talent of all three members. The dense and melodic drumming, courtesy of Joren Carlson, drowns out the vocals during some songs, yet in others it sounds complex and has the crowd, myself included, bopping along.

The dual vocals between lead singer/ guitarist Jess Schmid and bassist Tallie Hausser are incredible. Even with their soft voices, the vocals blend quite nicely with the instruments.

That being said, the instruments are definitely the main statement of the set. Schmid focuses on her intense and skillful guitar playing and as some songs  end, the band would flow smoothly into the next track seamlessly changing sound.

A few songs speed up at the end, where the drums and guitar gradually increase in tempo, yet both Carlson and Schmid maintain their composure and it sounds great.

There are a few pedals that add effects to the guitar and bass, but they are not too noticeable, in a good way. The effects are subtle, but contribute to the powerful sound of the group.

Ozlo closes out their set with “Call the Police,” from their latest EP. This is one of the tracks that picks up speed at the end and is a strong finale.

Next up is singer Mateo Garcia. I spoke to him after his set and he explained that Du Vide was scheduled to play, but as that band was practicing before the show, the lead singer felt too sick to play, and thus we were graced with Garcia’s performance.

Garcia, a member of the group Gauntly, plays solo sitting on a chair. It is much more laid-back and acoustic-sounding than the other two groups that play tonight, yet he does an excellent job of captivating the crowd.

He says that he is not as prepared as he would have been had the whole group been there, but he plays a few songs with the composure and style of a seasoned musician.

He warms up with some funky guitar strumming and then moves right in to his emotionally-charged acoustic songs. Despite the somber guitar sounds, his playing has a distinct tone and a bit of a beat to it.

At times, Garcia’s guitar playing sounds like its straight off of a recording. He says he is “making it up as he goes,” but you can’t tell by the way he is playing and singing.

The crowd is pretty small, but everyone is respectful and quiet, making the set even more special. At some points, Garcia screams the lyrics which is a bit jarring given the quiet room. Other than that aspect, this set continues to display the strength and incredible talent of the night.

Ricecrackers take the stage afterwards and contrasts the lone singer with their five-piece group, taking up most of the stage. Composed of two guitarists, a bassist, and drummer, Ricecrackers has a unique style.

The soft vocals of the lead singer compliment the heavier instruments surprisingly well, much like Ozlo. The crowd dances along to Riceracker’s almost classic rock sound.

The drums, quiet at some points, give way to the shining vocals, as well as the other accompanying instruments. Although the vocals are strong, the lyrics are a bit generic. The group may have some interesting compositions but the lack of originality feels too noticeable.

All in all, these three acts provide some great tunes in many styles and genres. (Kathryn Leeber)



Studio Crepe, Rockport, MA


I heard some tracks by this guy Tony Frontiero at Rockpile Recording and was interested enough to make an extra trip to Rockport. Studio Crepe is a lot bigger than I expected and sits adjacent to the Rockport train station. I take the table right near the performing area designated by two speaker boxes on stands with a lone mic in the middle. Tony’s playing a mix of covers and originals on his red sunburst Epiphone acoustic guitar. He plays the covers well but I’m more interested in what he’s penned because his songs have a familiar comforting feel about them – kind of ’80s rock hits with a touch of jazz. The jazz element is what keeps his tunes interesting… good melodies and atypical progressions – but like I said, they feel familiar. He lets us know that he has about 100 originals and 3000 covers charted out. When I peek at his song sheets, they’re all written out by hand. I could tell you why now, but I think I will leave Tony’s story to an interview. Believe me, his life has been an interesting one. One other thing – the creamy garlic shrimp crepe is outta this world. More on Tony later.  (T Max)



O’Brien’s Pub, Allston, MA


There is a very small crowd for this show, only about ten people in total here to watch, yet the performers still put on a wonderful show.

Gianna Botticelli opens the night with just herself and an electric guitar, but wow, is she talented. Despite seeming a little nervous, once she gets playing all you can focus on is her voice. It’s a bit deeper than expected and has a soulful edge to it. Her guitar playing is just as incredible. She plucks the guitar for the most part, but adds some variety to the sound when she strums.

With such a small venue and crowd, it is really nice to have such a relaxed style of music filled with so much emotion. Her sound is not overwhelming in any way, but just the right amount of power to match her style.

She mentions she released an album last year and mostly plays songs off of that. “No Amount of You” is one of her stronger tracks, and she prefaces the song by talking about the recorded version saying it is bass-heavy. Obviously, without a bass tonight, the audience might not get the full effect, but Botticelli makes up for that with her skills.

The way she plays the guitar makes it feel like she has multiple instruments supporting her. Her voice is magnetizing and makes for an excellent performance.

Next up to play is Carissa Johnson. I have seen her play before and can honestly say she is one of my favorite local artists and she puts on such a sincere show. She is joined onstage by a guitarist while she plays the bass.

Her sound is very rock-heavy with a punk style, yet her voice is fairly soft and composed. She does a great job of sticking to her sound throughout all of her songs.

Even with the still small crowd size, she interacts well just like Botticelli. Their sounds are fairly different, Botticelli’s is more melodic and emotional, while Johnson’s is heavier and has more energy with the two instruments.

Her last release was also last year, but she has an extensive discography and is able to play a variety of songs

These two performers do a solid job of catering to a smaller crowd, but still putting on a show that matches their respective styles.  (Kathryn Leeber)


Battle Road Brewing Company, Maynard, MA


Taking the stage in front of a smaller crowd at Maynard’s Battle Road Brewing Company, Hit the Bus is essentially a cover band, taking requests from the crowd and playing popular hits from many decades.

They begin with a cover of The Lumineer’s “Ho Hey,” more of a folk song to start on a mellow note. Out of the group’s five members, only two are here tonight. The lead singer, David Garden, plays the acoustic guitar while Eric Yanaway provides backing vocals and plays the electric guitar.

The fact that they are able to take requests from the audience on a whim show how talented they are and their knowledge of various styles. Someone requests U2’s “Beautiful Day” and they smoothly transition into that song, playing it as if it is one of their own songs.

Yanaway throws in a guitar solo every few songs, which again displays their talents. The vocals are not the best but their guitar skills make up for it and they make for an enjoyable night.

Since tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, they of course have to play a few Irish songs. Garden’s voice immediately switches to sounding like an Irishman who has been singing native songs his whole life. He nails the Irish accent and continues to get the crowd involved by having them clap along.

They continue to play some current songs, such as Elle King’s “X’s and O’s.”  King has a singer-songwriter/soulful style, which also matches that of Hit the Bus. The two performers stick to that realm of current folk-pop songs and also  throw in some older tunes.

Hit the Bus does an excellent job of engaging with the audience and playing what they want to hear, despite only having two of their members. Covering various genres and generations of music, the two are able to seamlessly transition between every song. (Kathryn Leeber)

Write live reviews and start saving on the entry fees you’re paying. Get notoriety from the acts you would love to tell the world about. Send T Max an email tmax@thenoise-boston.com with LIVE REVIEWS in the subject and T will get you started.

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