Live Reviews – June

CHELSEA BERRY/

PRATEEK PODDAR

Lindentree Coffeehouse, Wakefield, MA

5/6/17

Tonight I’m drawn to the combination of a new and old friend performing at this popular Wakefield coffeehouse that I’ve yet to visit. Lindentree queen bee Liz Freeman handles the welcoming and introductions for the night, the final show of their 2016-2017 season (though two outdoor performances are planned for the summer). The small theatre-type stage looks out on a room with reserved seating at tables upfront followed by rows of personally labeled foldout chairs. Inexpensive coffee and treats are sold in the back of the room. Liz introduces Prateek a 20-something singer/songwriter who’s been playing since he was 11. He starts with the fast finger picking of his CD’s title track, “Walking in My Sleep.” Then he connects a very late night spent in Connecticut to his song called “No One Gets What They Deserve.” At 19 Emma stole his heart and in his song to her he admits he’s “No good at tellin’ lies.” Maybe he overdoes his story telling of how he brought another songwriter to tears with “When You Were Loved,” but he’s a talented young man with a long career in front of him. He exits with “Love Song,” though “this ain’t no” precedes it in the lyric. The dynamics of the song crash down with Prateek’s last line… “I was hoping you might stay for a while.”

Chelsea Berry gets rollin’ with “Any Other Way” – all funky on her guitar sounding like she’s covering a James Brown song. Chelsea tells us that she’s training for a 200 mile bike ride to raise money for AIDS awareness and vaccine research. She just came off an 80 mile ride up to New Hampshire where she wasn’t ready for all those mountains. She can be so graceful in her performance as she flows through “Fields of Gold.” On “Don’t Call Me Baby” she belts it out, backing three or four feet off the mic without losing any volume. Her mom, in the audience tonight (from Alaska), gets the dedication on “”Devil And the Deep Blue Sea,” a song that would normal go out to her brother who has served in the arm forces. Chelsea shows her instrumental diversity when she moves over to the piano to perform the sensitive “I Never Saw Blue Like That.” There’s no light over by the piano but there isn’t a microphone either. She doesn’t seem to need them. This takes us into the coffee and treat break.

Second set, Chelsea is back on the piano starting with “Walk Away” from her  solo CD Remedy. She shows her angry side on “The War Isn’t Over.” Then she plays “Forgiven,” the title track of her new CD, and I can’t help but notice similarity in the verses to The Beatles “Don’t Let Me Down.” Then she borrows from E.E. Cummings’ “I Carry Your Heart.” She brings up Julianna from the audience to join her on a song she did with Livingston Taylor – an old Elvis number, “(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love With You.” She tells us that she was once asked to play at a wedding – then the soon-to-be bride and groom requested that she also perform the ceremony! She plays Cake’s “Love You Madly” as she did during the wedding. Chelsea covers the solum “Starry Starry Night,” Don McLean’s tribute to artist Vincent Van Gogh. Everyone sings along to John Denver’s “Country Road” with uplifted spirits. Chelsea is always gracious and grateful as she thanks Liz and the Lindentree volunteers before she starts her exit with the powerful a cappella version of “The King of Rome” where she acts out the song as if she’s performing in a musical. The audience doesn’t let her go so quickly with a standing ovation so she brings Prateek and Julianna back up to close the night with sweet three-part harmonies in Ryan Adam’s “Sweet Carolina.”  (T Max)

THE PIXIES

Paradise Rock Club, Boston, MA

5/21/17

“You know My Name (Look Up the Number)” is playing over the PA.  I know we are seconds away from being transported. I am thankful. It could have been “Oh Babe What Would You Say.”  Greetings from the whacky world of The Pixies, where the subject matters range from biblical to alien, from elevator ladies to whores, from Puerto Rico to space travel, and insanity to incest.  Where the ultimate rock ’n’ roll band doesn’t even look like a rock ’n’ roll band. Whatever that is. Doesn’t sound like one, either.

I hate fawning all over anyone or anything. Death to The Pixies.

Okay. The first few songs Joey’s guitar isn’t up front enough and then they sleepwalk through “Where is My Mind.”

Way down here in the subbacultcha that doesn’t matter.

Everyone misses Kim Deal. That doesn’t matter.

I’ve been tired. I live cement. None of it matters.

“Monkey Gone to Heaven.” Check. “Caribou.” Check. “The Holiday Song.” Check. “Planet of Sound.” Check. “Gouge Away.” Check. “No13 Baby.” Check. “Crackity Jones.” A very crackity Check. “Bone Machine,” “Cactus.” Check. “Levitate Me.” Higher, please.

I mean this band’s first disc, culled from The Purple Tape, was an eight-song EP (remember those?) and they play at least five of those eight songs! There is very little bull shit to this band.

Uriah hit the crapper.

The new stuff is not as well received by the geezers in the crowd as the stuff from Come On Pilgrim or Surfer Rosa or Doolittle or Bossa Nova or Trompe le Monde is. Fuckin’ purists. I think “Um Chugga Lugga” is my new favorite song to drive 100 MPH to.  But then I’d miss all the um chugga lagga on the side of the road, wouldn’t I?

This band still delivers the frenzied goods. The Pixies kick ass. That’s a funny sentence to write. Baal’s Back!

They play a fever dream. In dreams you can do things you can’t normally do. There is magic. You live fears. Colors and sounds are not quite right. You touch things you shouldn’t. In fever dreams those things are further distorted.

The Pixies are a distortion of rock ’n’ roll reality. Forever on the edges.  Sometimes gorgeous. Sometimes frightening. Pop convention be damned. Adore all things pop. A rollicking conundrum they are.

I don’t think another band since has changed rock ’n’ roll as much. We are passed 30 years since they started and that is what I think. If you haven’t seen them live, you need to, before you die.

They should do another encore. Entitled bastards.

They should have let David sing “La La Love You.” (Harry Zarkades)

RESONATE

Chit Chat Lounge, Haverhill, MA

4/22/17

It’s a warm spring night on April 22. A posse friends, family and fans climb the stairs to the dark and sticky-floored second floor performance space at the Chit Chat Lounge in Haverhill to witness the launch of Resonate, the new power metal band comprised of the core members who were Age of End (Mark McKellar, guitar; Alex Wagner, drums; Matt Sheehan, bass), plus second guitarist, Matt White and new lead vocalist, Jake Packard.

The room is full and moodily lit as the band breaks into the first of two sets; this one acoustic. It’s a risky way for a metal band to make their live debut to the public but it pays off. These guys are not a gang of lumbering knuckleheads. Every one of them is a musician in his own right. Three-fifths of the band spent years honing a tuneful and melodic brand of metal touring New England and beyond as headliners and supporting some impressive national acts. Jake, on the other hand, spent years on the solo acoustic circuit before throwing his lot in with with a full band to form Resonate. And Matt White is a regular axe-slinger-for-hire, playing in at least three bands around town at once.

The acoustic performance pays off by showcasing what a solid group of musicians these guys are. The performance comes off like a well-produced MTV unplugged session from any of a half-dozen Mudvayne-era bands. My bother-in-law helps me out by pointing out that their acoustic set sounds a bit like Puddle of Mud.

And forgive me, this review is going to be riddled with mid-nineties, early-two-thousands metal references. And it hurts me to use some of them. That era produced an endless stream of forgettable, sound-alike bands that are largely best left forgotten. The thing is, Resonate play a brand of metal that is steeped in that era. But they do it with passion and tunefulness while still incorporating a rock-hard, pummeling edge. If more bands of that time had played with this level of heart, maybe “NÜ-metal” wouldn’t be the brunt of so many bad metal jokes.

While the acoustic set showed of the band’s musicianship, it’s the electric set that reveals what the band is really all about. Jake moves from sing to scream while the band switches from hard-rock to chug-a-lug, hardcore riffs all within a single song. They play delicately without being milquetoast. They riff and shout without being ‘screamo.’ The range they cover over the course of a couple of songs is truly impressive. Two songs in and moms and dads, grandparents and girlfriends, hell, the whole room is up and dancing in a crush to the front. Mid-set they break out a cover which sounds an awful lot like Tool (and which I later learn was in fact “Hooker With A Penis.”) This is the moment at which I remember that there were some truly great metal bands from the era that Resonate is now carrying the torch for.   (George Dow)

CLASSIC GROOVE

Cantab Lounge, Cambridge, MA

4/29/17

When drummer Rich Marshall calls out to “All you hamburgers and cheeseburgers” it’s quoting the late Little Joe Cook of Peanuts fame, the legendary R&B singer who ruled at the Cantab.  On Saturday, April 29, three members of Little Joe’s band, bassist Lee Lunday, guitarist Candy Delgado and Marshall with Daemian Allen on keys, Steve Tajian on saxophone and Susan Jeffrey on vocals rock the packed room called one of the best “dive bars” in America.   Taking Gnarls Barkley’s classic “Crazy” and putting a woman’s voice on it works effectively, this veteran blues and rhythm band with a pulsating presence that has the 20-something audience captivated.  It’s what separates the Cantab from other nightclubs, a college crowd that wants its bluesy pop, found on a Cambridge sidewalk that the city named Little Joe Cook Square.  Members of the band host an open mic on Sunday nights, but Classic Groove only performs once a month.  Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” rocks, while “I Love the Nightlife,” the 1978 Alicia Bridges hit, evolves from its disco roots to smart dance R&B.   When that concludes a set the band decides to give the audience the instrumental encore of  “Unchained Melody” with the leader of this Waltham-based group, Steven Charles Tashjian, front and center playing saxophone and singing. Their set list is stunning, from Motown to Grand Funk and The Doors, and one wonders if the flock of young club goers are aware of the heritage the players from Little Joe’s band bring to the party.  Like having Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding or Janis Joplin’s Full Tilt Boogie band on a Saturday night bringing the sounds that endure from the power and the glory of the Little Joe Cook days.   (Joe Viglione)

JULIE DOUGHERTY & KEN FIELD

Nat’s at the Hawthorne Hotel, Salem, MA

5/7/17

It’s Sunday high noon by the time I hop on my bike and ride through Witch City to reach my destination. I lock my non-polluting vehicle to the iron fence that encircles Salem Common. Cross the street I enter a National Historic Landmark established in 1925 – The Hawthorne Hotel. I’m looking and listening for Julie Dougherty. She’s not in the Grand Ballroom where I see her every Christmas Eve… I try the room opposite it where waitresses see to the needs of those doing brunch. But there’s no sound that resembles live music. I ask and find out that Julie is on break. Outside again, I’m determined to find her and her accompanist, old friend Ken Field. I hear music and follow my ears… the sound leads me to Glenn French on acoustic guitar by the Salem map fountain. I stand on cobble stones and admire Glenn’s ability to simultaneously fingerpick the melody and bass line of a popular ’60 tune. A buck falls into his case and I continue my search. I return to the room that is known as Nat’s, and there are Julie and Ken, readying for their second set. I sit right next to them, looking like some sort of coffee drinking chaperone. I’ve come prepared with a pen and pad to report another segment of music being played in New England for The Noise.

Julie Dougherty rolls right into “Summertime,” George Gershwin’s 1934 lilting masterpiece. She’s on guitar while Ken Field plays soprano sax (no curves in this straight horn) accenting counter melodies between Julie’s easy flowing vocals. When the solo section of the song arrives, Ken bends the flavor towards jazz. The waitresses are scurrying and the table talk is gentle as Julie utters the first line of the next one, “When I Fall in Love.” The music of this 1952 Victor Young/Edward Heyman standard flows through the room creating an atmosphere that enhances the visitor’s experience. Ken picks up a flute for the intro of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” as my mind floats to seeing Frankie Valli front The Four Seasons at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. I distinctly remember breaking down what each musician was doing and was amazed at how the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. Julie sounds like Carol King pushing a jazzier side of the tune. Ken adds a Brazilian butterfly melody, bouncing it more like a bossa nova. One thing I’m aware of about Julie is that she has the ability to go from folk to pop, jazz to rock – she’s a fully expressed musician, comfortable where ever she chooses to roam. Ken says he rarely gets to play his soprano sax now that Birdsongs of the Mesozoic play so infrequently. At the end of “What a Wonderful World” he adds a tag of “Jingle Bells” and a smile appears on everyone’s face. It’s amazing that a few out-of-place recognizable notes have the power to change facial expressions. I love music. Between songs I ask them if they ever rehearse and the both look at me cross-eyed. “Of course not.” Ken quips, “Not for these standard kind of gigs.” They continue with “Making Whoopee” first popularized by Eddie Cantor in 1928. Julie explains that she has a rotating cast of accompanist for this regular Sunday Jazz Brunch. They do The Beatles’ “And I Love Her,” Julie adjusting the melody with a twist of Bessie Smith. The Classic IV’s “Stormy” follows and if you connect all the songs performed I feel like I’m experiencing a relationship in action. Ken’s background notes start flying unexpectedly lifting the enjoyment level of his audience with their forks and knives in hand, unable to naturally express their appreciation. Most of those dining have an elegant $24 three-course brunch before them that includes choices of Mimosas, Bloody Marys, Billinis (a peach drink), fancy coffees and teas, fruit, salad, soup, waffles, eggs, seafood, and last but not least – fit-for-the-gods desserts.  A little discussion about the author of “Smile” follows. It’s true that Charlie Chaplin wrote the music to this classic. The lyrics were added by John Turner and Goeffrey Parsons 18 years after the tune first instrumentally appeared in the soundtrack of Modern Times (1936) starring Charlie Chaplin. Julie’s sultry application is accented by Ken’s slipping flute lines. “Happy Birthday” breaks out among the brunchers, Julie sings along and Ken completes it with a melodic outro. Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Want to Be With You” and the early 19th century folk song “Oh Shenadoah” peacefully fill out the rest of the afternoon. The whole experience has me floating in a harmonic mindset while pedaling back home. Thank you Julie and Ken for a wonderful dose of musical medicine.  (T Max)

THE BILLY CONNORS PROJECT

Sally O’Brien’s, Somerville, MA

5/5/17

It’s been a long time since I doused in good ole-fashioned Boston rock, with its chunka-chunka, chutzpah, and classic characters. Semi-super groups still exist and with a little more time to spread their influence, this B. C. Project will bring a lot of smiles to local fans. Comprised of Billy Connors (vocals/ guitar), Adam Sherman (vocals/ lead guitar), Ray Boy Fernandes (drums/ vocals), and Mike Quirk (bass), this is the perfect amalgamation of then & now – honoring both the legendary status of their earlier bands: The Boize, The Souls, The Atlantics – and carrying that legacy into the present. Good for them! We’re awaiting their debut EP (recorded at Wollly Mammoth with David Minihan), which will be the proof in the putting. This is all-new material with some outstanding tunes – “Nothing Left to Lose,” “Hurry Up Sundown,” “My Baby Walks,” “Stranded.” “Knockdown Day” has both Billy and Adam sharing lead vocal duties. We get sweetness with the grit when Ray Boy adds some nice harmonies. The audience responds enthusiastically and the band can feel the love. I hear one audience member exclaim: “Wow! Just like the old days, but even better!” That’s a lot to live up to – let’s see how they continue to deliver. Bravos to Mike, Adam, Ray and Billy – so good to see you all again!
(Harry C. Tuniese)

SICK JOKE

Club Bohemia, Cambridge, MA

4/29/17

You couldn’t have a more diverse night than Classic Groove playing R&B upstairs, while through the downstairs dungeon door of Club Bohemia it’s heavy metal thunder. Twisted lead vocalist Aaron Sickniss is constantly on the floor with the sledgehammer dual guitars of Bill Cunningham and Jeremiah Morelock activating a blitzkrieg assault on the senses. Sickniss describes it as “punk rock.”  Punk attitude, absolutely. Punk rock? Definitely not.  Bassist Ralph Moore pounds ’em down (beers as well as basslines) – it amazing that the bottles on his amp don’t fall off at that volume. Drummer Mike Mahoney looks like he just left Z.Z. Top in an angry rage over playing their formulaic rock and decides to descend into the depths, wailing away.  Their set list includes a couple of new tunes along with their old classic:  “Kill the Sun,” “Spins,” “Self Destruct,” “Rope Swing,” “Lab Rats” (about human beings) “Anti-D,” “Disgrace,” “Apathy” and “Sleaping.”  In-between bludgeoning, Sickniss says that they are all from bands in the ’90s and that he’s a “Viagra incarnate” up since 3:00 AM the previous night – do the math… Loud, hard, heavy and just want the derelicts in the audience want.  Good stuff.   (Joe Viglione)

CARTER ALAN (and Charles Laquidara)

Norwood Space Center, Norwood

4/29/17

In 2013, Carter Alan released his best-selling overview of WBCN, Radio Free Boston. With a studied tone and many personal insights, the story captured a very special era in underground FM-radio that soon catapulted into mainstream success amidst excess. Carter was part of a crew of like-minded radio warriors who brought wacky enthusiasm, distinction, and innovation to their roles as deejays. The tale unfolded through both the struggling and the boomtown years until the final crash. Through great press response and book-selling tours, it became a major hit.

It appears that good fortune only whet Carter’s attitude towards writing. When I interviewed him for The Noise several years ago, he offered this comment:  “Writing a book is a craft – it’s a skill – and as the mechanics get better, you build courage. That’s the development I want to embrace. But that’s hard, creating a total world and then going to live inside it, establishing characters and their desires – but I’d like to try. I did love the excitement of seeing the WBCN project come to fruition and carry that energy into something else without waiting too long.” In addition to his daily role as deejay/music director of WZLX-FM, he has done just that and followed with his newest offering, The Decibel Diaries: A Journey Through Rock in 50 Concerts – fascinating anecdotes about many of my favorite groups, told with personal poignancy and perception. Excellent! [See T Max’s outstanding review in the May issue.]

Today, it’s another stop on his current tour to promote the new book. We are in Norwood for an all-day event with live music, arts & crafts booths, exhibits, vintage markets, and several Q & A panels of speakers. When Carter comes to the stage, he is greeted warmly by a cadre of fans as well as some curious bystanders. He reads some selections from the choice concerts he’s attended, often stopping to engage the audience. Everyone is thrilled, especially this one gent in a Hawaiian shirt, who starts to needle him… uh-oh… but, oh-my-gosh, it’s a surprise visit from WBCN legend, Charles “Duane Ingalls Glasscock” Laquidara, just passing through town. Carter invites him to the stage and off they go! For almost an hour, they share stories, quips, jokes, inside info, and create wonderful spontaneity as their past light up the crowd. We have been dipped into their memory pool and we are lapping it up. Finally, Carter’s book agent has to reign it in to sell some product – there’s business to be done. After purchasing, we collect both of their autographs. This was most special. We are quite content. (Harry C. Tuniese)

PESKY J. NIXON (duo) opening for Irish Mythen

Me & Thee Coffeehouse, Marblehead, MA

5/11/17

With a warm introduction from their manager, Kathy Sands-Boehmer, one half  of Pesky J. Nixon takes the stage. The duo consists of Ethan Baird and Jake Bush from the band that had the most request for a return performance at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in 2012. They switch off on lead and backing vocal chores while the former strums a guitar with precision and the later squeezes an accordion and romantically hammers piano keys. Jake starts on piano where they get into Ryan Adam’s “Two,” with a Michael McDonald sounding chorus. Ethan handles the lead on “Wildflower” and admits he was trying to write a love song but it kind of went in a different direction. The song shares a similar chord progression with The Who’s “Baba O’riley.” Ethan reminisces about how the accordion was embraced by the band. You see, Ethan originally owned a big 85 lb. keyboard and would have to lug it to every gig for Jake to play – and some of those gigs were out in the woods and up on mountains. No wonder he strongly encouraged Jake to pick up his own squeeze box that weighs in at less than one third of the keyboard. Jake is back on lead in a song he penned titled “Atlanta” that sounds like it could have been written by Billy Joel. They’ve got nice gentle harmonies and trade off on lead voice in Tom Waits’ “You Gotta Hold On” from their Red Ducks vol. 1 that contains all covers.  They have also released Red Ducks vol. 2.  Choppy guitar rhythms drive their final selection, “Breathe in Autumn” from their original CD Monkey Business & Mislaid Hopes. The gentlemen thank Me & Thee and all its volunteers. They’ve set a nice stage for a power punch from the headliner, Irish Mythen.  (T Max)


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