Live Reviews

HUMAN SEXUAL RESPONSE/

UNNATURAL AXE

House of Blues, Boston, MA

11/3/17

Shows like these put me in a reflective mood (excuse me – maybe a ROMAN mood) wherein bands that I developed a passion for years ago return from past glories and resurrect the dream that does go on forever – both for themselves and for their fans. I am forever grateful for living in Boston and have experienced so many satisfying musical memories since the mid-’60s onwards. As we all know so well, some groups grow, break-up, reform, return – this is the grand arc of a musical heritage.

Tonight we are witnessing history once more as both the Humans and the Axe return to wow die-hard fans and a whole slew of newbies. Opening the evening, Unnatural Axe hit the stage like a thunderbolt, offering such punk classics as “Rock & Roll is Dead,” “No Surfin’ in Dorchester Bay,” “Tonight We Fight,” “3 Chord Rock,” “The Man I Don’t Wanna Be,” “They Saved Hitler’s Brain” and “The Creeper” with urgency and abandon. Tonight, as a special treat, they add two La Peste tunes to their show: “Someone Somewhere” and “Don’t Wanna Die in My Sleep Tonight.” Frank Dehler (bass/vocals) and Jack Clark (drums) are crisp and relentless, firing up Tommy White (lead guitar/ vocals) through their fast-paced set, which leaves Richie Parsons (lead vocals/ guitar) to cast his wicked-intense charm by swilling beer and crushing cans off his head, just like in the old days. Even though the members all have advanced into other projects, when they come together with such pounding songs and a slosh of humor, it is easy to see and hear why they have become favorites on the punk festival scenes here in the USA and in Europe. Reunions like this are magical and the audience is primed to the max.

To remember that the Humans played their original farewell concert at Metro (the former site of H.O.B.) back in 1982, only to return occasionally through the years, is mind-baffling. And here they are one more time, just as precise, fancifully rocking, modernly attuned and snazzily attired…seemingly more popular than in their heyday. Similar to the Axe with a limited discography (only two albums), they are able to imbue their tunes with devotion, personality, and character, allowing each member to shine individually, but totally sensational when the four vocalists align. Larry Bangor, Casey Cameron, Dini Lamot, and Windle Davis had sung together before the four decided to start a rock band, adding three musician/composers, Malcolm Travis (drums), Rich Gilbert (guitar), and Chris Maclachlan (bass). Their many performances notably included cross-dressing, homosexual flirting, fancy dance moves, and more new-wave shenanigans. Though HSR met with limited success commercially, as performance artistes, they are totally unique and their success then and now is truly phenomenal. Their songs have become iconic to our local ears – “(I Want to Be) Jackie Onassis,” “What Does Sex Mean to Me?,” “Land of the Glass Pinecones,” “Andy Fell,” “Anne Frank Story,” “Dick and Jane,” “Pound,” “Unba Unba,” “12345678910” and the lascivious “Butt Fuck” have all attributed to their cult success. Tonight, they play them all, and many more, and the response is rapturous. We are dipped into the memory pool and feel cleansed – a musical orgasm that even Masters and Johnson would have approved of. Unba-unba unbelievable! If they come back in another five years, we’ll be waiting!   (Harry C. Tuniese)

MASON DARING & JEANE STAHL/

JULIE DOUGHERTY & WOODY WOODWARD

Me & Thee Coffeehouse, Marblehead, MA

11/10/17

I’ve come to volunteer at Me & Thee Coffeehouse because I have constantly been impressed with the place, the people who run it, and the talent I’ve seen on the stage. Tonight some key regular volunteers aren’t here and I can sense things running a little more roughly than normal. Lights don’t go on when the should, doors don’t open for the those waiting to find their seats, and announcements are made by second stringers (myself included). But that is not going to stop a full house from enjoying themselves.

Julie Dougherty is a household name in the neighboring town of Salem, and the headliners, Mason Daring and Jeanie Stahl, grew up right here in Marblehead. So we have plenty of local fans filling the place on the first freezing night of the season.

Julie, on guitar and vocals, plays with her husband Woody Woodward accompanying her on bass. She starts with “Salvation and Second Chances” showing off her songwriting and pro-quality voice and guitar playing. She tells us that “Heavens Gate” was written about her cat, because it can easily be mistaken for the loss of a loved one – I think James Taylor has something like this about his dog. On “I’m Getting Out” she admits it’s not about her relationship with Woody – she just wrote it. “He’s the One” is a composition describing that guy your mother warned you about… funny, it makes me wonder how much of that guy exists in me. Mid-song Woody’s bass solo draws applause. Then Julie invites her sister, Kathleen, up to help sing a honey-dripped rendition of one of the Beatles biggest early hits – “She Loves You.” In this slowed down version the sweet sister harmonies melt every syllable of the tune. It has to be the best cover I’ve ever heard. Julie and Woody end with the title track of her 2013 release Land of Dreams. The intro always reminds me of an old song by The Animals – but it quickly heads in another direction. Dougherty and Woodward are one of my favorite North Shore acts – and some of the nicest people to hang with.

It’s half time – the coffee flows and sweet baked treats disappear into a lot of happy tummies, readying the audience for the long-time Marblehead folk favorites – Mason Daring and Jeanie Stahl.

Introduced as Passim All-Stars and contributors to both TV and film compositions/performances, the duet goes right into “Sweet Melodies in the Night.” Mason and Jeanie are relaxed as they sit in front of an adoring crowd.  And it’s a familiar audience – Mason jokes that there are only five people in the pews who haven’t been in his living room. The 1941 hit, “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” fills the air with Jeannie swinging it. Why are the melodies and chord structures on older songs so much more interesting than modern compositions? On “Counting the Stars” Mason adds lead guitar bits on an acoustic (other times on a Fender Stratocaster)… he also contributes some heavenly harmonies. These harmonies are so high that I have a hard time figuring out that they are coming out of him. Mason’s “Funny,” a jazzy creation, includes a cool low-end bass solo by Richard Gates, who from my seat is hidden behind Jeanie. Ms. Stahl says the next one is appropriate with the current TV airing of Ken Burns’ “Vietnam” – the song is “Memorial” based on remembering the men and women who fought the war from the 1960s and ’70s. On “I Do For You” Mason slides on over to the piano and shows us that his fingers are multi-talented while Jeanie, in her higher register can take on the tone of Joan Baez. They pick up the pace with “San Antonio Rose” and sing about sailors last at sea in “Mermaid.” Hearts are warmed hearing the double melody of “Marblehead Morning.” Julie Dougherty and Woody Woodward join Mason and Jeanie on stage to sing the beautiful jazzy chorded “The Real Deal” penned by Julie and her niece Kelly Fitzgerald. The two couples continue with Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” and Guy Van Duzen’s “River.” Mason and Jeanie then finish us off with the absolutely lovely melody of “Nevertheless I’m in Love With You” from 1931. Another great night at Me & Thee.  (T Max)

WILLIE LOCO ALEXANDER/

THE NERVOUS EATERS/

EMILY GROGAN BAND/

THE DOGMATICS

Live At The Rat Volume II  Record Release Party

Hotel Commonwealth, Boston, MA

11/ 16/ 17

I can smell the irony in the air while walking through Kenmore Square to where Boston’s own punk den of inequity The Rat once stood. The ritzy decor of The Hotel Commonwealth stands in stark contrast to the dark and dirty glamour of the legendary club. In fact, a beer is now ten dollars and wine is more expensive at fourteen dollars a glass. A sawbuck at The Rat would have been good for a whole night of drinking back in the day. Be that as it may, the schedule for the night begins with a Live At The Rat DVD screening and a silent auction to benefit Right Turn the substance use disorder program headed by Woody Geissman (The Del Fuegos). Then a welcome by Adam Sperling the Hotel Commonwealth’s General Manager and a proclamation from Mayor Marty Walsh’s office naming the twenty four hour period  Rathskellar Day in the city of Boston. John Laurenti (WGBH) does a band introduction and this great night commences. Willie Loco Alexander, The Nervous Eaters, The Emily Grogan Band and The Dogmatics shake the roof during their sets. Willie is wearing a bright red Fats Domino shirt and fronts a three piece band, with Mark Chenevert on sax. They start off with “Life Is The Poem,” from Gloucester born poet Vincent Ferrini’s greatest hits, and Alexander announces tongue- in-cheek that Jimmy Harold wrote it. Then comes a few Boom Boom songs including: “Gourmet Baby,” “Malinda,”  and “At The Rat,” which Willie calls “At The Hop, the national anthem of Kenmore Square.”  When The Eaters do “Loretta” the crowd goes nuts and the dance floor is packed.  Emily Grogan is one of the best female vocalists on the east coast and her band is tight throughout her six song set. Her tune about Rat resident Mr. Butch, “Butch,” is appropriate and memorable. I also dig “Can’t Hurt” and “Weathervane” two killer cuts from her album At Sea. The Dogmatics are the icing on the cake. Check out their set: the group’s contributing cut on the new release, “Saturday Night Again,” “Pussy Whipped,” “Thayer Street,” “Drinking By The Pool,” “Good Looking Girls,” and “Sister Serena.” It’s very cool when they have Richie Parsons (Unnatural Axe) front them and sing lead on “Summertime,” an Axe song,  they originally did for the 2008 Unnatural Axe tribute album Ruling The World From The Back Seat. It’s a fucking trip down memory lane and my head is spinning with a night of classic garage punk music amidst a large crowd of lively local luminaries, many with white hair and many with no hair at all. All of a sudden, a well- dressed twenty something year old walks up to me while I’m smoking my chillum and enjoying the music and smirks “we don’t allow smoking in here,” so I shrugged and pretended to put my pipe away. I could hear the unspoken old man in his eyes as he spoke.  I look around the room and see who’s in the audience mingling and eating  the special James Ryan Hoodoo BBQ hor d’oeuvres on the shiny silver platters. The trays are being held by a posse of very elegantly dressed college-aged attendants wearing very un-Rat like uniforms of white shirts with black ties. Young stud waiters and cute as a button waitresses add to the surrealism present in the room as the older generation dances and the youngsters act as their eager to please servants. How punk is that in 2017? People I still recognize after all these years: Oedipus,  Bradley Jay and David Beeber (WBCN), Steve Morse and Jim Sullivan (Boston Globe), Brett Milano (Boston Herald), Robin Lane and Tim Jackson (The Chartbusters), Heather Rice-Fahey (Lizzie Borden & The Axes), Kelly Knapp (The Bristols), Dave Minehan (The Neighborhoods), Rat bartenders M.J. Costa- Byrnes and George Smart, Mr. Curt and Miss Donna, Linda Viens (Kingdom Of Love), Adam Sherman (The Billy Connors Project). Tim McKenna (Live Nation), Joanie Lindstrom, Scott Baerenwald, Joe Donnelly (The Whitewalls), Johnny Gags (The Well Babies), Johnny Black (Johnny & The Jumper Cables), Jody and Richard Moore (The Jody Moore Band), Hirsh Gardner (New England) brought his hair, Ray Fernandes (The Atlantics), Evan and Linda Shore (Muck & The Mires), Carolyn Stratton, Hope Moon and Cindy Daley (Lovelace). This is a great party and it’s just mythical that forty one years after the original album Live At The Rat was released, Jimmy Harold again defies nature and delivers big time. The only thing missing is the sticky floors that were the Rat’s trademark: and I have to smirk when I think I’m at a Rat party and the men’s room is clean, has an unbroken mirror  and a toilet bowl that actually flushes.   (A.J. Wachtel)

JIM TRICK/

ALICE HOWE/

FREEBO  first set (in the round)

Me & Thee Coffeehouse, Marblehead, MA

11/3/17

I’m ready once more to hear some great music at my favorite coffeehouse… Me & Thee. This volunteer-run venue has been offering the public the best live folk music for 47 years. Tonight the pews are mostly filled for a local favorite Jim Trick… with two other performers, Alice Howe and Feebo, on stage the whole night performing in the round. Jim Trick, standing on the right, starts off the night with “I Can Only Dream of You Now” a lamenting tune with the line “I’m getting use to lonely” standing out. Jim is a sensitive spiritual performer with touching songs. He then introduces Alice Howe, center stage, who shares “Homeland Blues” with Freebo backing her up on bass and some vocal harmonies. She a very attractive woman with a beautiful voice and great stage presence. After her song, she introduces Freebo… Bonnie Raitt’s  musical partner/ bass player during her heyday.  Alice mentions, “We all did our hair tonight,” referring mostly to Freebo’s unkept nest. Jim quips in, “I polished my bald spot.” Freebo keeps it fun with, “My Personal GPS” – referencing the growing relationship between driver and the guiding voice. After the first round, it is apparent that we, the audience, are in for a wonderful mix of interesting music professionally performed. Moving on, we find that Alice frequently works with Freebo – he’s even producing her next album – Twilight. And although this night is completely enjoyable and successful, I start feeling something. In a round with three people, they each take their turn softly competing with each other’s performance or songwriting. But something is wrong with this round. Jim Trick performs totally solo most of the time, where every time Alice plays she has Freebo’s bass and/ or background vocals chiming in. Then when Freebo plays, Alice sings harmonies. It starts not feeling like a round at all, but like a duet performing two songs for every one that the solo artist plays. Jim is at a disadvantage the entire night, but never shows any sign of acknowledging it, though I sense he knows the situation is working against him. This evening would have worked nicer if Jim just opened Alice Howe and Freebo (or visa versa). Don’t get me wrong, I loved Alice and Freebo, the night just shouldn’t have been in the round.  (T Max)

ARLO GUTHRIE

The Regeneration Tour

The Cabot, Beverly, MA

11/17/17

Arlo brought his whole family to perform two sets tonight at this beautiful old theater: his three daughters, including solo artist Sarah Guthrie, and son Abe, and his five grandchildren; two teenagers and three younger very high- pitched girls all pitching in on vocals with Sarah and Abe also playing acoustic guitars. Arlo sits in a chair next to a row of about five or six guitars and tells stories as he changes guitars and introduces the songs in a very off- hand and casual living room conversational way. Great harmonies and a really cool selection of songs is on the menu tonight. I really dig Pete Seeger’s “Midnight Special,” Guthrie’s  “Motorcycle Song” with his three daughters adding great backing vocal harmonies, Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans,” and two Dylan covers “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.” You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Guthrie cover Dylan. He plays a few of his dad Woody’s song’s including “This Land Is Your Land,” which should be our country’s national anthem. Mid-set Arlo is telling a story to the audience with his family standing next to him onstage and he plays a few choruses of “Alice’s Restaurant” playfully asking his youngest granddaughters if they’ve “ever heard this song before around the house” as the audience laughs. Arlo accompanies himself on electric piano, harmonica, and with a banjo on a few tunes and the family does a great Christmas song that has the lyrics “I don’t want your kisses on Christmas Eve, all I wan’t for Christmas is for you to leave” complete with the three sisters singing nice harmonies together like they’ve been doing their whole lives. Arlo even has the audience doing a sing-a-long after apologizing for being corny in concert. It’s always great spending the holidays with Arlo Guthrie and tonight is no exception. Special thanks to Jeff Freedman god-emperor of Wiz Security for his usual above and beyond hospitality.   (A.J. Wachtel)

THE FREESTONES/

MAX CLARK

Cantab (Club Bohemia), Cambridge, MA

11/19/17

Opening act Max Clark (son of Jerry’s Kids/ Unnatural Axe drummer Jack Clark) is a delight with his Dylan-esque angst, using the guitar as a percussive instrument to drive the statement home without a net – or a loud, active band behind him.

The Freestones are a real find, a sound not often present in the Boston area community that got a good taste of this New Hampshire group’s fun and musical style For those who have heard the amazing recordings of Alan O’Day’s “Easy Evil,” be it by Genya Ravan, Sarah Vaughan, Sylvia, Lulu – this ensemble present that kind of Rusty Kershaw cajun magic (see Rusty’s Domino album release produced by Rob Fraboni) …and in concert, it’s an electric hootenanny – an electric jugband that keeps its rock sensibilities front and center. The vocals of Mackenzie Hamilton are as essential as the guitar, bass and drums, and when she wants to wail, as on “Going Down,” she dominates the proceedings in a very good way. Not Janis Joplin taking over the show, but complementing the boys as they churn out this delightful and somewhat aggressive sound… the slide guitar and rhythm section all in unison and brilliantly powerful. John Webb’s guitar and vocals lead the group in a Jerry Garcia sort of way, not pushy but guiding the elements as they combine to generate a dance groove inside a genre that isn’t recognized as a style that invites dance. That’s because they are as much a rock ’n’ roll group as they are stylists. “I Need Never Get Old” changes the form but stays within a framework, Matt Smith’s bass and Sean Knight’s drums at times a single unit, at others dimensional parts of the whole. Is that “Tumblin’ Dice” by the Rolling Stones? Yes, morphed and melted into the netherworld Jarred Garneau builds. Just lots of fun on a Stones’ classic starting in the Freestone way, a little dash of Linda Ronstadt’s hit version, the Rolling Stones composition coming full circle as the song concludes. The encore was a most respectful, but again transitioned, approach to former Malden, Massachusetts resident Norman Greenbaum’s eternal “Spirit in the Sky.” As with “Tumblin’ Dice” your brain starts in with “is this… could it be?…” and – yes, a reinvention of a perfect song for this creative crew from Rollinsville, New Hampshire. (Joe Viglione)

 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *