Willie J. Laws Band

WillieLaw-webTHE WILLIE J. LAWS BAND 

 by A.J. Wachtel

Willie J. Laws is a Texas transplant to our area who plays a hardcore, authentic and soulful mixture of Southern Texas blues mixed with zydeco, R & B, funk, country and rock ’n’ roll. He calls himself “The Last Prophet of Funky Texas Blues”: and that’s both a truism and an understatement; he is a whole lot more. This cat can play!

Noise: You’ve spent the past 25 years performing your music all over the world. What are some of the changes you see in the blues world and the music industry in general?

Willie: In the past 25 years, the music industry has “ceased to exist.” I have a few theories and opinions, none of which I really have the time to expound on. We don’t have the space! I DO have an analogy though. The music industry at one time was like a fatted calf. The calf was let out to pasture and the vultures of greed, economics, horrible decision making processes, and a dysfunctional education system has killed the music industry; there is no more “Music Industry.”

Noise: You were raised on the Gulf Coast of Texas and one of your influences was the late Texas Bluesman Phillip Walker. In fact, sometimes your guitar playing invokes his unique style. Name some of the other artists you listened to growing up and how they’ve been important to you.

Willie: My guitar influences range from many to a whole bunch. To name a few, of course the four Kings: B.B., Albert, Freddie, and Earl. Also Lightning Hopkins, Jimi Hendrix, Lester Reese, John Lee Hooker, Mark Knopfler, K.K. Downing from Judas Priest, and my friend and band leader from The Los Texamaniacs; Max Baca. Each of these artists have had an influence on my approach and technique for both live performances and in the studio. Basically I try to take a little from them and mix it with 90 percent of me.

Noise: What brought you to live and perform in Boston?

Willie: I moved to New England to be closer to my youngest child who is now 10.

Noise: It’s been said that you developed your “funky blues” guitar and vocal sound by mixing Texas blues and R&B, Tex-Mex, tejano/conjunto, Louisiana zydeco, and country. I’m from the North: can you briefly explain the differences between these genres? Help the novice Northern listener discern between these Southern sounds.

Willie: It’s all from down south, in particular three areas: Texas, Louisiana, and Mexico. The music created by natives from these three areas of North America has had enormous impact on everything we listen to in American music today. Texas Blues is more swingin’ than Mississippi Delta or Piedmont and a bit more edgy and riskier than Chicago style. Conjunto (con-who-n-to) is a music that was created by Mexican farm workers in South Texas. The area where I grew up is known as the birthplace of Conjunto. It has heavy influences drawn from the music of the German, Polish and Bohemian settlers in that region. The main instruments of Conjunto are accordion, and a twelve-string guitar called a Bajo Sexto. Then there’s influence of the zydeco from nearby Louisiana, the combination of French/Creole and Native American elements but also blues, funk and R&B are mixed in too. The primary instrument is the accordion being played with a lot of pentatonic minors, but the time signatures are a bit tricky. Country is country; however that fact is up for a huge debate at this point.

Noise: You’ve performed in the house band for The House of Blues in Las Vegas and New Orleans. How did these gigs help your career and how are the scenes down South and out in the Southwest differ from your audiences in New England or are they pretty much the same wherever you play?

Willie: I have been and I’m still involved with the House of Blues (HOB) now and for sometime with their Blues Schoolhouse program. I started working with, and performing at HOB in New Orleans. While I was there the opportunities to perform more frequently came to me at breakneck speed. I started opening more shows for top tier performers and started traveling to Europe to play. Performing at the HOB in New Orleans really boosted my confidence because of the encouragement I got from guys like Eddie Bo, Snooks Eaglin, Herman Earnest, Earl King, Coco Robicheaux and so many others. I moved to Las Vegas in 1998 as part of the opening team of the HOB at Mandalay Bay. As the house band my career path pretty much took a turn. I didn’t have to go on the road in the U.S. because in Vegas the “road” came to me.

        I had lived out West before working in Texas, Taos, and San Diego. I prefer the South and the East coast. I LOVE the South  because that’s home, the deep funk and the 21st century field hollers. It’s bone deep. The East Coast is the edge, the beginning of the country. The sun rises here first, that’s one of the reasons I like it in New England. The friends and fans I have here have been incredibly kind and willing to take little musical journeys with me, and my guys. Malcolm Stuckey my bassist has been with me since I relocated here and is a phenomenal musician. My drummer Osi Brathwaite is also great. I think what is making our sound unique is the mixing of our musical cultures, with each of us bringing different ingredients to the stew. Malcolm is more of a funk and jazz player and Osi brings HUGE Caribbean grooves. Mix all these elements up with that Texas sound and feel; and viola! We are primarily a trio but occasionally I have the opportunity to bring in keys and horns. When that happens I like to have Bruce Mattson, Ron Levy, Bruce Bears, Anthony Geraci, or Travis Colby manning the boards. On horns, Doug Woolverton or John Moriconi on trumpet, Eric Bridson on trombone, Scott Shetler, Amadee Castanell, or Doug James on sax. These are my East Coast guys.

Noise: You use a Fender guitar. What type of equipment do you use and why?

Willie: In regards to equipment there is a saying in Spanish that is “No es la flecha, que es el Indio. Pero una buena flecha del Indio deberia tener.” It translates to “It’s not the arrow, it’s the Indian. But a good arrow the Indian should have.” It’s all about the feel and the tone for me. I have been using Strats for most of my career but now I play my Tele mostly. I think mainly ’cause as my sound matures, so does my tone and feel.

Noise: While living in Texas, Louisiana, Nevada, and California you’ve opened for B.B., Etta James, Buddy Guy, Willie Nelson, Hall & Oates, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Care to share a story about your adventures?

Willie: Honestly, I don’t feel as if I know more than anybody else. The most interesting and inspiring moments were their mechanization of putting together a show. How night after night, show after show, these ladies and gentlemen got up on stage in front of people they didn’t know: how they opened up and exposed the true meaning of their existence; it is very inspiring as an artist witnessing another artist. In the interesting story department: Etta James used to hold my baby daughter while I opened her shows at HOB in Vegas. One night I put Ray Charles on the phone with my mom. She was a huge fan and knew him back in the ’50s in Houston. I’m related to Hubert and Ronnie Laws and Billy Preston.

Noise: Your last two CDs Cornbread Man and Running Out of Lies are killer. Do you have any plans for another release in the near future and what can new listeners expect to hear on these? What are your favorite songs on each CD and why?

Willie: Thank you, glad you like them. Off the Cornbread Man CD I am partial to “The Smuggler” ’cause of the truth in the lyrics written by my friend Terry Canales from Premont, Texas. My favorite from Running Out Of Lies would have to be my cover of “Angie” by Jagger and Richards. We re-arranged the time signature and I wrote horn parts (on my guitar) and then Al Gomez from San Antonio’s West Side Horns charted them. It took a few tries to get the mood and feel to sound convincing to me.

Noise: You’ve been described as Robert Cray meets B.B. King with a bit of Jimi present also. Is this a fair description of your playing?

Willie: Oh we DO need our little boxes, don’t we? [laughs] I have borrowed heavily from them as well as many others to form my own sound. It is difficult for me to describe my sound. South Texas heat and Southern mellow with a Northeastern bite. It is a combination of where I’m from, where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going.

Noise: What’s in the future for The Willie J. Laws Band?

Willie: The future is not a predictable thing but I hope to be able to continue the journey as an artist and grow a legion of fans around the world. I recently performed with Malcolm and Osi in a fairly remote part of Russia (Volagda Oblast). The band received a certificate of appreciation for being ambassadors of the arts from the U.S. Consulate General in St. Petersburg. I felt like: “Here I am in Russia and I’m not famous and there are more well-known artists than me who don’t get an invitation like this.” I would definitely like to do more work like that. On November 8 my band is playing at Chan’s in Woonsocket, RI, featuring Charles Neville on sax. I am really, really looking forward to playing with one of the Neville Brothers again.

Rita & Lolita

Rita&Lolita7R+LBirdMancini-webOOO YOU’RE A HOLIDAY

Rita: Since this issue does come out right before the Day of the Dead we have one more chance to say how much we enjoy the history and celebration of Halloween. And yes, we look forward to the family feast coming up later in November, but we could do without the spotted, contrived story handed down in history books. Let’s just call Thanksgiving a day to be thankful for the people who are around us now.

The November issue is bursting with talent—so much so that we had a hard time figuring out who would get the featured spot on the cover. You pick—Continental (Rick & Stephen Barton’s national touring band), Willie J. Laws (Texas blues with a New England bite), Greg Klyma (old school troubadour with contemporary savvy), or Western Education (new wave/ alt rockers from Lowell). They’re all at the top of their game.

MUSIC-RELATED BIOS

Rita: In the previous two issues we’ve published bios of the people who help out with making The Noise be as good as it can be. Lolita: We thought it would be a good idea to get bios from the folks who answer our questions each month. You’ll get to know a lot about them very quickly.  KEN FIELD (Revolutionary Snake Ensemble): In Providence I played sax and flute with the avant garde Sound/Silence Ensemble and the jump blues group Johnny & the Luncheonettes.  In Boston, I had the honor  of playing with a slew of interesting groups: psychedelic funksters Skin, modern loungers Lars Vegas, the amazing Willie Alexander’s Persistence of Memory Orchestra, crazy lunatics the Bad Art Ensemble, instrumental cosmic-art rockers Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, my ownexperimental second line project Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, ’70s funk supergroup Crown Electric Company, twisted genius-led Chandler Travis Philharmonic, improvisational groovsters Board of Education, ’70s R&B-ers Alto Reform School, Armenian-American jazzers Musaner, Gabrielle and her group Agachiko, and activist street band Second Line Social Aid & Pleasure Society Brass Band.  Plus solo projects and soundtracks for film and dance. *** PETER RINNIG (QRST’s): I have been doing artwork/ printing T-shirts and doing photography for bands since 1983. As the owner of QRST’s, we print thousands of band shirts a year. The earliest that my name appeared on an album or 45 was for The Pajama Slave Dancers’ first album and 45 in 1983 (I took some of the pictures on the album and took all the photos on the 45). In 1984 some of my photos appeared on the back of The Neighborhoods’ High Hard One album. Since then I have designed over 65 albums, 45s, and CD covers and have printed hundreds of thousands of shirts for bands. *** TOM HAUCK (Telamor/ The Atlantics): At Tufts University I learned how to play guitar. This was in 1974. My friend Howard had a Sears Silvertone guitar. Amazingly, even though he was from upstate Vermont, he knew all about the New York Dolls, Lou Reed, and The Stooges. Howard showed me how to play a few chords. I bought a Black Widow electric guitar from Jack Griffin’s Record Garage, a little Peavey amp, and a Mosrite fuzz box. In Howard’s dorm room the first song we played together was “Sympathy for the Devil,” the version on “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out.” We played the song, and Howard said, “That was pretty good, but you’ve got to put a little bounce into it.” That stuck with me. Forty years later, I’m still trying to put a little bounce into it. *** CLAY N. FERNO (Middle East Nightclub/ Wild Zero): Once popular, now just busy, Clay spreads the love in Boston by working with bands Dropkick Murphys, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and Roll the Tanks.  He promotes nerd culture and video game music with League Podcast events, in association with his comic book podcast pals. Follow him on twitter—@claynferno. *** TERRY KITCHEN (solo): I moved to Boston from Ohio in 1981 with my band Loose Ties, and began doing live reviews and the occasional interview for The Noise. Loose Ties released an album in 1985, and we were in the ’86 Rumble (where we were stomped by Gang Green). We broke up in ’87, and since then I’ve remained based in Boston, recording a string of mostly acoustic CDs and performing on the folk coffeehouse scene, while my ‘day job’ was as a production assistant for Rounder Records. In 2013 my debut novel, Next Big Thing, set in the ’80s Boston rock scene, was published, and to celebrate Loose Ties did a reunion gig at a benefit for the Let’s Go to the Rat documentary. *** JOEL SIMCHES (Count Zero): A multi-instrumentalist born 10/18/65, Joel Simches has been an active member of the Boston music scene for 30 years, played in well over 40 bands, traveling the world as a musician, audio engineer, tour manager and record producer. He has worked with a diverse array of bands including Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys, DeVotchKa, Bang Camaro, Dresden Dolls, and Big Dipper, to name a few. He has also written for The Noise andBoston Soundcheck Magazine. Currently a staff engineer at Watch City Studios, Joel also plays in Count Zero, Joe Turner & the Seven Levels, Butterscott, Nisi Period, Didactics, Curious Ritual and is executive producer/talent booker of On the Town with Mikey Dee on WMFO. *** PREACHER JACK (solo): I’ve been touring since my first group, a garage band called “Jack & the Jupiters,” played our first gig in Irving Fineberg’s backyard in 1958. I am presently on the “Wealth Won’t Save Your Soul Celebration of the Spirit Never Ending Tour” but these days I travel solo. Fifty-six years on the road and still going strong! From Arnie “Woo-Woo” Ginsburg’s sock hops to being shipwrecked on Revere Beach at the Shipwreck Lounge to Frank’s Steak House to Geezer’s Garage Nite at the Granite Rail in Quincy, I’ve played them all. My music has ALWAYS been for the fans! The “stealers, dealers, and sidewalk spielers; the con men, sly flies, flat foots, reefer riders, dopers, smokers, and boiler stokers; the dead enders, stew bums, tough guys, bar flies, rich men, poor men, and long shore men.” Thank you all for a lifetime of support! Lolita: Preacher Jack, you’re the best!

GOOD NEWS

Rita: I don’t watch the news on TV anymore because it’s full of fear-inflicting information with no balance of healthy “good” news. Lolita and I are here to balance out your intake and let you celebrate with the recipients of our news.  On Sunday, October 6, JENNIFER TEFT sang the National Anthem before the Pats/ Bengal game at Gillette Stadium. *** TOM HAUCK (Telamor/ The Atlantics) has written a new thriller Avita Doesn’t Love You, and it’s been published by Whiskey Creek Press as a downloadable eBook. *** We ran into MICHAEL BLOOM (Tim Munganast & his Pre-Existing Condition/ Sgt. Maxwell’s Peace Chorus) dressed as a pirate and performing with Captain David & The Crew of the King Serpent at the Topsfield Fair. *** Giuseppe’s (Gloucester) closed its doors on October 5.  Good luck to whatever JOE THOMAS and MELODY LANE choose to pursue in the future. *** JOE PERRY (Aerosmith/ Joe Perry Project) released his new book, Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith and had a signing at Guitar Center on October 10. *** In celebration of folk/blues icon CHRIS SMITHER’s 70th birthday and 50th anniversary as a songwriter, Signature Sounds has released Link of Chain: A Songwriters Tribute to Chris Smither. The album features his friends and peers like LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III, BONNIE RAITT, and DAVE ALVIN performing gems plucked from Smither’s deep catalog. *** MARINA EVANS married BERNARDO BAGLIONI on September 20, 2014. And what a beautiful bride she made. *** Our favorite folk opera divaANAIS MITCHELL is touring Europe throughout  November and into December. *** Veggie Planet, the dining area connected to Club Passim in Harvard Square, has closed. *** Have you seen AMY FAIRCHILD’s sex tape? It looks like it could be a publicity stunt. *** Beverly, MA’s ANGIE MILLER (from American Idol) has planned a release party for her new EP on November 12 at Brighton Music Hall in Allston, MA. *** After 37 years in business, the quaint Gloucester Music no longer will be serving musicians of Cape Ann. A big thank you and best wishes to SUSAN EMERSON.  We need more mom-and-pop type stores, not less. Support your local businesses.

MORE BIOS

Rita: Get to know the people in the music business a little bit more thoroughly. Here’s more bios for you to digest. DAVE PINO (Andrew WK, Waltham, PPL MVR): I got possessed by the spirit of rock ’n ’roll at 10 when I got my first KISS album. Soon after, Van Halen records inspired me to sell my soul to the devil. I wrote my first song “Topless Women” at 12 years old and eventually went on to play countless shitty bar shows to 40 people or less for a solid decade. When my brother and I formed Waltham things turned around. From there I had a band called Damone that signed to RCA. I also joined several bands since including Seemless, Powerman 5000 to name a couple. I now play in Andrew WK and also started a new band called PPL MVR which Elektra Records signed and is releasing in November! *** AD BOC (AfterFab—The Beatles Solo Years/ Miranda Warning/ Jumprope):  1960s—born in Dorchester and played dad’s Meet the Beatles every day;  1970s—learned guitar in the suburbs and bought every Beatles record;  1980s—saw The Neighborhoods and formed three successive Boston indie-rock trios;  1990s—more rocking/ recording/ touring with Miranda Warning and Jumprope, and wrote a bunch for The Noise and You Could Do Worse;  2000s—got married, found my tapes of 200+ unfinished songs, and learned home recording;  2010—two solo albums and then formed AfterFab, so, back to The Beatles, and dad comes to every show. *** HEATHER STYKA (solo): Heather Styka, a Chicagoan turned Mainer, has been singing since she can remember, songwriting since awkward teenage years, and touring since 2010. *** ROGER C. MILLER (Mission of Burma, The Trinary System, The Alloy Orchestra): When I was five years old I had a canine tooth removed from between my two front teeth.  Under ether, I had a short dream of a man beckoning me to play the piano.  I started at age 6.  My life was totally changed seeing The Beatles on Ed Sullivan in sixth grade, and guitar rode the tide.  When psychedelia (and its associated side effects) kicked in, rock came together in my first original band Sproton Layer (1969-1970).  By the mid-’70s, rock was so conservative I dropped out in favor of music school.  When punk rock reared its ugly head, suddenly anyone could try anything and at least get a chance of being heard.  Beautiful.  I’ve been freely bouncing around ever since. *** LYNN TAYLOR (Liz Frame & the Kickers): The daughter of a folk musician and a poet, Lynne grew up Kent, Ohio during the ’60s and ’70s, and absorbed the social consciousness of that time. She has always felt that music was her calling.  Lynne’s music is characterized by poignant, brutally honest songwriting combined with powerful vocals and unique piano accompaniment.  A staple on the music scene in her adopted hometown of Newburyport, MA, she has been performing professionally across the Eastern US since 1985. In addition to being a popular regional solo artist, Lynne can be found having a blast playing upright electric bass with Liz Frame and the Kickers, and as an undercover punk in Halo and the Harlots.  *** JOHN TAMILIO III  (JT3): My introduction to music occurred in the mid ’70s when my (now ex-) brother-in-law Gary Shane, of Shane Champagne and Gary Shane & the Detour fame, taught me my first open chords on the Les Paul copy I had purchased from Salem Music, now Bill’s Music in Peabody.  Gary’s earliest hits (e.g. “Stepped On” and “Shadow World”) inspired me to become a songwriter and to see the voice as an instrument itself—as did the songs on Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous album, which I pilfered from my brother Doug.  Since then, I played with 3D, J.T. & the Scream, Tuesday Blvd (a band out of Cleveland), and now Mercy Street.  Jim Lindroth, the drummer of 3D, and I still make music under the 3D moniker.  I am grateful for Jim’s gift—and all the players who have blessed me with their talents. *** RUBY BIRD (Bird Mancini): Billy and I met in Tucson, Arizona in 1978 and we’ve been playing together ever since. Our career goes something like this: 1980s—The Nick Adventure Band, four band members and a full time sound and light crew, moves east and makes a living on the road playing originals and FM rock. 1985—Band breaks up, we move to Boston not knowing anyone. Mostly open mic and showcase gigs. 1990—Second Story Studio opens its doors. 1990s—The Sky Blues play New England rock ’n’ blues club circuit, make decent dollars, release two CDs. 2002—Bird Mancini debut.  All original.  Work harder, make less. 2014—Twelve years and five more albums later, we’re still at it. Career highlight—probably The Cavern Club, Liverpool, 2008. Lolita: Bird Mancini is one of our favorite acts to see and hear—memorable songs, talented musicians, and the best kind of people on the planet. The kind you’d like to have around your on Thanksgiving Day because we are so thankful for them in every way.

Live Reviews

JimTrick-webJIM TRICK/LINDA SHARAR

me&thee coffeehouse, Marblehead, MA

9/26/14

Me&thee is hoppin’ with energy for their hometown optometrist/guru of sorts—Jim Trick.  Host Phillip Murphy reminds us that me&thee is “the oldest church-based coffeehouse in Marblehead on Mugford Street,” then he brings up his evil twin brother who wears the most ridiculous hat (a Yankees cap) and raps about the fire exit instructions.  

First up tonight is Linda Sharar who is quick to pleasantly correct that she’s from Andover, not North Andover. She strums an open tuning and with E’s and B’s ringing on every chord she sings about gratitude. Before the next song she says that this week she’s turning nine, then rolls into “Treasure Map” with some beautiful fingerpicking. Dressed casually and comfortably, Linda has an easy natural way of addressing her audience. She encourages all to continue creating their art in what ever field they choose and echoes the thought in “Say Yes.” She’s got four CDs out and works with producer Tom Dube who gets some major artists on her recordings. She ends with more gratitude pouring from her in “A Little Will Do” and as she leaves the stage she gets the biggest longest hug from her five-year old daughter. The roar of the audience and the silence of a warm hug is a nice range of appreciation. 

After the coffee-and-treats break, Jim Trick lands on stage and he is obviously overwhelmed with gratitude by the support of his community that is overflowing from the pews. His first song with the refrain “All’s not lost and you’re not lost at all” sets the tone—and there’s something about the chord progression that reminds me of Paul Stookey’s “Wedding Song (There is Love)” which may have been mindfully orchestrated by Jim. His wife Allison joins him to harmonize on “The Truth About Vernon” and then he lets us know that he raised $12,00o with his Trickstarter campaign. He abruptly returns to the now and gasps—“I can’t believe all you guys are here.” He’s gentle with his guitar, able to fingerpick melodies on the high end while a slow moving bass lines add complimenting support. He mentions that he grew up in Haverhill, the town that starts with an H, ends with two Ls, and has an E in the middle—which leads to the sad song, “Long Road Back to Love.” He quicky shakes the feeling and breaks into the upbeat/happy “I’m A Little Hula Baby,” strumming a uke and sharing a single mic while bopping with Allison.   The next song goes back in time to his grandma taking him to the to the nearby Baseball Hall of Fame and this song floods my memory of going back to my grandpa’s house in Brooklyn. Then Jim takes us on a visual tour of his recent trip out west. A large screen fills the back of the stage and a slide projection commences. He’s picked out stills of people and things that tell simple life stories. The way Jim puts it is all quite fascinating. An old bearded man reading the newspaper in a town in the middle of nowhere; a teenage boy nervous about doing his first public rodeo; and Jim trying to duplicate a photo of Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison and being reprimanded for going over the line by the voice of the guard over the loud speaker—“No.” I love Jim’s words of wisdom: “Talking to strangers when we are kids is dangerous—talking to strangers when we are adults is essential.” The rest of the set flows easily and ends with “Who We Were to Be” which states, “I’ll be you and you be me”—the whole idea of this song is a lesson in understanding each other. Jim gets a wonderful standing ovation and you know his quiet confidence is overjoyed. He invites Linda Sharar out  and they perform two covers in the middle isle of the church: Christopher Williams’ “Each Others Blessing” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer.” Both are beautifully harmonized and the creamy feeling created from the beginning to the end of the set overflows. It’s one of the most joyful nights of music I can remember.  Jim Trick is on track to uplift audiences ’round the world.               (T Max)

BARRY & THE REMAINS/CARDINAL/THE DOWNBEAT 5

The Regent Theater, Arlington, MA           

9/27/14

This is the way rock ’n’ roll is meant to be played. A few cats with something to say just plug in and wail. The Downbeat 5 starts the night off with tightly knit, powerful garage rock fronted by stunning singer Jenny Dee; whose powerful voice is sometimes sweet, sometimes sultry, and always very good. J.J. Rassler from Thee Cuban Heels and DMZ plays with feeling. I enjoy what he plays ’cause he may not be the best guitarist on the scene but he is certainly one of the most passionate players around—short and sweet and every note counts. Pounder Dan Styklunas, also from Thee Cuban Heels, and bassist Mike Yocco sound tight and add much of the soul in the band’s sound. They play driving and thumping rock ’n’ roll and I love it! I really dig their original songs “Get Down” and “Dum Dum Ditty” that was featured on Little Steven’s Underground Garage. “Foggy Notion” by The Velvet Underground and “Come On Now” by The Kinks also get me moving. 

Next up is Cardinal, who are sorta out of place for tonight. They are an acoustic folk band whose lead singer is a guy from Australia. There is a cello being played with a bow, a violinist, and a keyboardist in this eight-piece and when the male singer says their next song is titled “What’s The New Mary Jane?” I immediately think how cool it is they are doing the famous Fab Four pot ditty; but I am wrong. The song is a folk original and I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would plagiarize the title of a Beatles B-side cut to write a different song? 

Then Barry Tashian and his great band The Remains, with original members Vern Miller on stellar bass, and Bill Briggs on cool keys and newbie and Berklee grad George Correia on drums, start their show. It’s part nostalgic and part just great power pop. They were the first garage rock band and they haven’t missed a beat. Correia had to replace original drummer Chip Damiani who passed away earlier this year and his presence is rock solid. This band formed in Myles Standish Hall, where I lived years later, a Boston University dorm still in Kenmore Square. Barry tells stories about their rise to stardom as the set goes on. Hearing stories about their tour in ’66 opening for The Beatles is the icing on the cake. How often do you hear firsthand stories about them anymore in 2014? I really dig Bo’s “Diddy Wah Diddy,” “Say You’re Sorry” from their first album, “Why Do I Cry?,” Chuck’s “I’m Talking About You,” “Rt. 66,” The McCoy’s “Hang On Sloopy,” “Don’t Look Back,” and their encore poppy version of Muddy’s “Mannish Boy.” It’s also very cool when Barry and Vern catch eyes and smile onstage mid-song while they are locked into a groove and they know, and hear, that after almost 50 years together they can still rock ’n’ roll as well as anybody today. A great night is brought to us by Bob Dubrow as part of  a series of WMBR’s Pipeline 25th anniversary celebrating 50 years of Boston Music.   (A.J. Wachtel)

CHAMBER-A-GO-GO 

Erik Lindgren’s 60th Birthday Concert 

Distler Performance Hall, Tufts University, Medford, M

9/27/14

Dear Erik: Thank you very much for inviting us to your birthday extravaganza. T’was a wonderfully magnificent evening of stimulating and evocative musique with astounding performances from your collected ensembles. We woke feeling refreshed and invigorated. Two pieces, “Suite de Danzas Criollas” and “Progressive Music for String Quartet” were awe-inspiring. (Dig those strings!!) Chatting with you afterwards, as in the past, still retains the whimsy of your zany ways. Many many thanks for the bonus gift of your latest album, “Yin Yang A-Go-Go.” Will settle down for a wrestle very soon… expecting many mind-twinkling moments! Paramount kudos and best wishes always!  –  Harry

Anyone who has experienced the multi-faceted talents of Erik Lindgren never feels cheated in the diversity department. As a member of the Boston music scene, he has entertained us with such memorable acts as The Moving Parts, Space Negros, and his premier ensemble for over thirty years, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. He also runs the Arf! Arf! record label, dedicated to 1960s garage/ psychedelic/ outside music and has worked with such luminaries as Willie Loco Alexander, The Turbines, Oral Moses, Roger Miller, and Ed “Moose” Savage, in addition to a profitable career creating film scores, commercials for TV and radio, amongst other various productions. 

As a contemporary classical composer, Mr. Lindgren has a catalog of over seventy works, ranging from solo piano pieces to chamber music to orchestral compositions and that is featured tonight with a dozen offerings written during the past two decades. Each selection is a pure knockout, utilizing a varying panoply of instrumentation: flute, clarinet, two violins, viola, cello, upright bass, piano, vibraphone, percussion, laptops—all under his direction (he personally did not play a note). Almost three hours of concentrated eclectic genius and I do not say that lightly. Wish you were there!               (Harry C. Tuniese)

TIGERBOMB

Tavern at the End of the World, Charlestown, MA 

 8/29/14

In this dreadful, dreary, digital media, cell phone society, can rock ’n’ roll survive? I got my doubts, though some people still want to hear it and some people still want to play it. Case in point: Maine’s own Tigerbomb. Described as garage-punk as they’re fronted by Lynda Mandolyn (from San Francisco punk band Fabulous Disaster) and Chris Horne (from Maine’s garage legends The Brood). Joined by Andrea Ellis (bass) and Cindy Allison (drums), they’re already the coolest band in earshot after just a handful of performances. They’re more garage-y than punk-y to be honest, but not as entrenched in that ’60s swamp sound as you’d expect from Goddess Horne. Hell, I’m not even thinking they need an organ! It’s all original material, too, which is awesome (not sure how many are actually new as I spot a couple of Brood chestnuts in the set). Okay, forget all this fanzine writer bull and listen: Tigerbomb is seriously life-worth-living rock ’n’ roll played by a bunch of seriously groovy chicks, man. This should be of great consequence to you! Even more so because they’re heading into the studio to record. Consider yourself tipped off to a good thing. And heads up, you college radio DJs!     (Frank Strom)

THE GROWNUP NOISE

CD Release Show

Arts at the Armory, Somerville, MA

 9/24/14

This is a celebration of the group’s third album and first in three years, The Problem With Living In The Moment.  A definite buzz greets me as soon as I walk in:  a fairly nice sized crowd of excited people mill about on the main floor.  A big video screen rests above the stage.  A camera to record the show is set up with the main lighting rig on the mezzanine level.

The Grownup Noise incorporates elements of the symphonic and baroque that meet the rock and the folk.  Generally I find their most engaging songs integrate this with a chorus and a great guitar chord hook.  Excellent examples of this tonight are “New Outsiders,” “Love Struck,” which lead singer Paul Hansen wrote for his young boy, and “Great Outdoors,” about how watching too many horror movies can ruin being out in nature for you.  The show starts with an exception to that model with a video of the song “Astronomy as Therapy.”  Lyrical subtlety is how this song has always engaged me. When the band later plays it live, they gradually build the instrumental mix.  First banjo… then cello… with pedal steer guitar slipping in to paint the picture.

The group billed the event as sort of a band family affair, bringing back musicians who had previously been involved with the group and who all played on the new album.  Two songs include a second cello player.  One song includes two drummers.  The finale, “Outside,” includes both cello players plus a third drummer—who walks on stage to set up his kit while the song is being introduced.  So many added musicians can be sonic overload.  But it enhances the Grownup Noise’s sound, especially in terms of vocals.  The incorporated harmonies and background vocals really add color to the music. Tonight, the Grownup Noise demonstrates that they continue to evolve.                 (Perry Persoff)

BLACK HELICOPTER/MINIBEAST  

The Middle East (Upstairs), Cambridge, MA

8/22/14

In this line of work I get to see lots of sparsely attended shows that deserve way more promotion and exposure. Of them all this Black Helicopter/Minibeast show at The Middle East’s upstairs room takes the cake.

Half way through Minibeast’s set of guitar-based analog/electronic soundtrack music I decide I need to make sure that I don’t forget this band. When the keyboard player starts messing around making crazy sounds with what appears to be the digital version of a theremin, I whip out my phone and Google them. After a paragraph or two my jaw drops to the floor—the keyboard theremin guy… well… that’s Peter Prescott. Yup, the Peter Prescott. Mission of Burma’s Peter Prescott.

Maybe I should have known this going in but keep in mind that I’m here to see Black Helicopter and hadn’t given a second thought to who would be opening. Now, halfway through Minibeast’s set I realize that I’m watching a Boston rock legend in action—only ten feet from my nose—in a room occupied by less than 100 people. Talk about serendipity. I love my job.

For another 10 minutes Minibeast continues their strange, gothic-psychedelic instrumentals before nonchalantly switching their instruments off and leaving the stage to no fanfare whatsoever.

Headliner Black Helicopter takes the stage to a room of a little more than 100 people. What I can’t understand is how many times the guys in this band can almost hit the big time, but come up short. It’s such a freakin’ shame—so much talent with, apparently, very few people listening. In the early ’90s, in Green Magnet School, just about the time that Nirvana’s Nevermind was breaking, and with a sound that was reminiscent of Bleach-era Nirvana, they were positioned to be the East Coast’s answer to Seattle grunge. In Kudgel, they were poised to take over Boston’s heavy rock scene.

Finally, in the new millennium, with a new batch of songs, and some personnel changes, Black Helicopter emerges. It looks as though the favor of the rock gods might shine upon them. After being picked up by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth’s Ecstatic Peace label, it looks like there might be yet another shot at a seat at the big boys’ table. Then what happens? Thurston Moore, Sonic Youth, and the label all implode in the wake of Moore’s divorce from Kim Gordon. The black rain cloud still follows.

The boys of Black Helicopter certainly don’t dwell on the sob story that I’ve crafted when they take the stage. On the contrary, they tear through at set of deep, heavy, inspired tunes, as though they are simply happy to have the opportunity to play at all.

It’s hard to categorize a band with this much pedigree and history behind it. They bring with them over 30 years of experience and influences. They’ve participated in the coming and going of three different musical eras. To be certain, there’s a hint of Sonic Youth in the noisier bits of their delivery. But Black Helicopter also loves a good melody. In their hearts, many of their songs would sound great on acoustic guitar played in a coffeehouse. But let there be no mistake, these guys play heavy rock, delivered with a ton of power by three guys simply pounding away at their instruments.

Vocally, Tim Shea keenly rides the line between slacker genius and frustrated punk rocker. Here again, a bit of Sonic Youth slips in. There are moments when when you might picture Tim as a slightly younger Thurston Moore but there’s much more musical range hidden in his vocals. When I listen closely I can hear Cracker’s Dave Lowery and the Drive-by Truckers’ Mike Cooley. That’s a winning vocal combination in any indie rocker fan’s estimation.

During a pre-show chat with the band I learn that they have a full-length record’s worth of material recorded and ready to release, which has been sitting on a shelf since the collapse of Ecstatic Peace! I’ve heard the songs. All I can say is, “Someone pick up this band and release their record already!” I know in my heart that these guys still have a string of hits in them.          (George Dow)

THE DAN LAWSON BAND

Blue Ocean Music Hall, Salisbury Beach, MA                 

9/27/14

Dan Lawson has been a blazing North Shore guitarist since the ’80s in his band The Keep. This cat is a great guitarist! Tonight his three-piece group is opening up for Foghat; Dan’s Jeff Beck meets Z.Z. Topp meets Gary Moore sound sets the mood for a great night of music. This cool club is right on the beach and I can see the incoming tide flowing right under the elevated, over the sand (by cement blocks), venue. Pretty cool. Before the band goes on, I’m watching the tide wash under the building through the big windows facing the ocean. The songs that really stand out for me during his set are four cuts from his new album “Soldiers of Fortune” including the title track, “Gimme No Reason,” “Miss Me,” and “Lied To Me”; and they cover “Good Time” by Arcangel, Peter Bell’s “I’m Funky But I’m Clean,” and Gary Moore’s “Story of the Blues.” Dan even goes up and joins headliner Foghat, with their wall of Marshall amps, for a few songs. I really like his playing on “I Just Want To Make Love To You.”        (A.J. Wachtel)

MATT BURNS BIRTHDAY SHOW

Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA 

9/13/14

Matt Burns is one of those people I think of as a real rock ’n’ roll  guy—a musician you see all the time at just about every show you go to, whether one of his bands is playing or not. Mitch and Henry from Triple Thick, Jay Allen and a few others are likewise. All contributors and supporters of the local music scene. Me, I know Matt as ace drummer of the Coffin Lids from the Abbey Lounge days, but apparently he’s been kicking around a lot longer than that in a bevy of different bands. Tonight there’s a whole host of  folks from Coffin Lids,  Prime Movers, Kenne Highland, Litehouse, Andrea Gillis Band, Heavy Stud, Rock Bottom, Upper Crust, Handymen, Port Charles Quintet, various permutations of all the above, plus friends and relatives (I spot at least four guys who look just like Matt!). No bands proper: It’s a mix of different band members putting together four sets of covers. This is the only birthday show I can remember where the honoree played the whole night (Or nearly. Matt drums in three out of four sets.). I’m disappointed that all the Coffin Lids are in attendance but don’t play a reunion set! Still, there are some terrific highlights like Melissa Gibbs covering the Pretenders and master Kenne Highland bombasting his way through an entire wog-boggling set of early prime era Alice Cooper! I’m glad to be here as witness!    (Frank Strom)


You can read more live reviews on www.thenoise-boston.com.

We get a lot of calls and emails from bands requesting coverage of their live shows. Please be advised that shows are never assigned for review. Noise writers cover what they choose to attend. The Noise has always had its ears close to the ground in Greater Boston. If you’re doing something even remotely exceptional, we’ll be the first to tell the world. If you’re horrible, same thing.

CD Reviews

Wheat-webWHEAT 

Wishing Good Things for the World   

7 tracks

Wheat has been a victim of circumstance since its inception, really. An alt-pop band with enormous commercial potential, they bubbled to the surface in the late ’90s to considerable critical acclaim, landing a few choice soundtrack gigs and substantial left-of-the-dial radio airplay. But then the music industry imploded, their CDs were bulldozed into landfills, and Wheat was left floating like radio-ready ghosts through barren indie-rock back alleys ever since. But they’re not complaining. Just the opposite, in fact. The Wishing Good Things For the World EP is the opening salvo in a full-frontal media assault from Wheat, to be followed by a feature-length documentary on the band and their first LP in five years. It’s a quietly triumphant clutch of songs that expand on Wheat’s mellow-but-upbeat radio pop, incorporating Flaming Lips-esque lite-psych and, in the case of the epic title track, a thoroughly Eno-worthy exploration into digital pocket symphonies. Tracks like opener “Rescue” and the dreamy “C’mon Song” float weightlessly in the ether, pleasant hazy daydreams of blissful summer days in 1997 when we were all young and optimistic and turning on the radio was like diving into a warm pool of golden light. I mean, make no mistake, we’re all gonna die, probably sooner than you think, but Wishing Good Things will at least let you forget that for a few minutes.               (Sleazegrinder) 

DOUG MACDONALD BAND

Dual Speaker                             

8 tracks

There’s a feeling of urgency within this two-pieces band’s CD when it breaks out with “Misunderstood Man”: Patty Short’s drums, EQed heavy midrange with no bottom, rock for two measures then get sucked though a time portal where the full-audio-range kicks in. A single distorted guitar line enters, followed by Doug MacDonald’s distinctive high-pitched vocals (think of an energized Neil Young fronting a garage band). The song is about a disliked nonconformist who moves ahead in his life despite what goes on around him. This one may have some have a hidden autobiographical nature to it.  In “No Fighting,” guitarist/vocalist Doug MacDonald has his say against the way people treat each other. It’s got a great chorus that could be sung to kids in a  sandbox, an abusive husband, or two nations up in arms against each other. “Moving On” is lyrically potent with the singer searching for a woman that can ease the pain from his previous relationship. Dual Speaker closes with “Rock And Crumble”—Doug’s plea from the rock ’n’ roll in his soul. Doug and Patty know how to keep it real and frequently create magic with the whole being greater than the sum of its parts—a great listen.   (T Max)

RICHIE PARSONS   

Lawless Records

Honey and Tears                     

11 tracks

These days it seems you can’t throw a pair of Doc Marten boots without hitting a middle-aged punk who has turned his attention to the more gentile fare of roots music.  Fortunately, we have a lot of talented aging punks in this town.  For The Unnatural Axe frontman, those roots aren’t found so much in the twang of country or Americana (although those influences are definitely detectable) as they are the in the sugar rush of Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison.  Parsons has a fittingly smooth voice that may surprise those who only associate him with “They Saved Hitler’s Brain,” and the album is replete with dreamy background vocals.  With power pop legend Ken Stringfellow at the helm, this record is lush, thick and lustrous to a degree that would make Tom Selleck’s hair jealous.  While at times things go down a little too easily, Parsons alleviates anyone who fears he has forgotten his more rocking side with a raucous shout-out to The Outlets and The Modern Lovers on “Mixtape.”             (Kevin Finn)

DAVID GREENBERGER & THE PAHLTONE SCOOTERS  

Pel Pel Recordings

Fractions by Stella                 

20 tracks

This is abstract music welded to spoken word passages which are excerpted from Greenberger’s long-standing Duplex Planet contributors. Highlights include: “No Fear for People” and “The Wrong Kind of Serum” two uniquely twisted takes on the Frankenstein legend; the backwards tracking at the conclusion of “Something Will Happen;” the circus-like background accompaniment to “Smoking Is a Pleasure;” and the gratuitously silly “32 Causes of Headaches.” Other high points: my personal favorite, the whimsical and strangely choppy and grand “Saddle Kate, She Cried;” the whacky deconstructed hillbilly music of “Pone;” the cartoonish prog-rock of “Waiting for Snow;” the disconnected ruminations of “Herbie,” and the eerie percussive undertow to “Leave This Happiness.” These recordings include talented musicians such as Eugene Chadborne and Frank Pahl. They were recoded in 1994-95 and are of historic interest as Greenberger’s first foray into what we might term as a hybrid form.                (Francis DiMenno)

WILLARD GRANT CONSPIRACY

Loose Music

Ghost Republic                         

13 tracks  [only available as an import]

When WGC first appeared on the Boston music scene in 1995, they were a unique, fresh voice for a new style of Americana. The ensuing years have seen numerous incarnations of the band, both live and on record. Their huge critical success in Europe was a welcome surprise, though they still remain a cult act here in the USA. From the once 30-member cooperative, one of the most enduring partnerships seems to be singer/songwriter/guitarist Robert Fisher and viola player, David Michael Curry. In many ways Ghost Republic is a celebration of this musical partnership. The viola and myriad instruments that Curry plays offer examples of his unique style that has made him a valued member of WGC (as well as a constant member of the Thalia Zedek Band).

       The low-key duo approach works well with each story-scape and the sparse instrumentation creates the aura and mystique needed to weave its spell. Fisher’s dark brooding tunes (“Perry Wallis,” “Rattle and Hiss,” and “The Only Child”) set up a chordal pattern which gradually opens up with evocative coloration. As the album progresses, sounds become more intense, experimental, and  even discordant—the instrumentals “Early Hour” and “New Year’s Eve” are mesmerizing. Album closers, “Incident at Mono Lake” and “Oh We Wait” offer a positive hope that more music is yet to come. Hard to find, but highly recommended!    (Harry C. Tuniese)

BIG OL’ DIRTY BUCKET 

Bucket Express

10 tracks

Big Ol’ Dirty Bucket has been wrecking dives all over New England for the past five years, laying a thick slab of creamy mid-’70s funk on the heads and hips of the soulful and soulless alike. Fronted by velvet-throated disco queen Lil’ Shrimp Seminski, BODB is a many-tentacled groove machine of considerable ferocity. Inevitably, a ten-piece, multi-gendered funk band is gonna be compared to either the JB’s or Funkadelic. On Bucket Express, the band leans more toward the former. There’s not a lot of acid-fried gibbering pesudo-Satanic hippie babble in Bucket’s delivery. Everything’s on point, disciplined, well-groomed and sharp-suited. No one’s gotta tell these cats to trim their mustaches. They are on it. They could saunter around in capes, and you’d dig it. The jams generally waver between horn-blasting, funky hip-hop (“Real,” “Bucket Express”) and sweaty Ike n’ Tina dancefloor stompers (“Mizz Green,” “Boss Hogg”). I prefer the latter because I remember when life actually sounded like this—seriously, half this record is the perfect soundtrack for the endless hot summer of ’75—but the modern tracks have their own kinda kick. There’s also a sweet and mellow ballad (“Central Ave Blues”) that sounds like a deep cut on an old Laura Lee record until it explodes halfway through into a gritty R&B blaster. This is not greasy basement p-funk, it’s high-gloss and crystal-sheen, free of the druggy indulgences and angry politics that often marked this style of music. And while I miss all that shit, I can’t really fault BODB for not doing enough heroin or not joining the White/Black Panthers, can I? Anyway, great record. If you don’t dance to this then I can only assume your toes have been chopped off. Or you’re some kind of dick.                   (Sleazegrinder)

DOCTOR X                        

Lowbudget 

Room with a VU                      

12 tracks

The posthumous adoration of the mercurial Lou Reed is a baffling scenario. For years, revered by a chosen few, ignored by many, he forged his own trail of honest downbeat rock and never looked back. He was a true iconoclast and his influence was undeniable. Doctor X [Tim Casey] acknowledges all of this in the exquisite liner notes to his latest tribute album (past efforts have included many of his heroes—Dylan, Beatles, Eno, Monkees). But, having spent a lifetime admiring Reed’s talent, I have mixed feelings about these renditions—some work (“I Can’t Stand It,” “White Light White Heat,” “Pale Blue Eyes,” “I’ll Be Your Mirror”) but some don’t (“Sweet Jane,” “Heroin,” “I’m Sticking with You,” “Femme Fatale”). The well-known songs sound a bit contrived, while lesser tunes shine. I’m surprised that the poptimistic attitude that Doctor X usually exudes is missing. Maybe Reed’s recent death cast a pall over the proceedings. Overall, a fine album that deserves a listen or two, just to appreciate the reverential effort involved.             (Harry C. Tuniese)

ROTATING STRAWBERRY MADONNA

Hit All the Walls 

6 tracks

This album reminds me of Evil Dead the Musical, Bikini Kill, and Our Band Could Be Your Life so, yeah, sign me up.  I’m not saying it’s as awesome as any of those things, but this is a band that is clearly striving for something and doesn’t want to sound like every other band out there.  We need more of that.  The music owes a debt to the heavier end of ’80s and ’90s indie rock and would fit in nicely on a bill with contemporaries like Speedy Ortiz or Potty Mouth.  Isn’t it nice to see the kids picking up electric guitars again?  Thank God.  Anyway, the band members all hold their own, but it’s singer/bassist R. Logan that draws you in.  Her vocals are playfully sarcastic with more than a little mischief thrown in for good measure.  She can sound sweet one moment and like a spawn of the devil the next.  At times the music gets a little too histrionic or sludgy, but I’m certainly interested in hearing more from these folks.  (Kevin Finn)

LADY RAY    

Glass Dahlia                               

9 tracks

Lady Ray consists of Rachel Barringer’s ethereal vocals and melancholy cello, an instrument on which she displays amazing skills. Upon first hearing, this could easily become lost in a sea of music within its genre and seem unremarkable within its realm. Upon listening closely however, there’s an aural journey here that would make Nietzsche proud, for this is his abyss manifested as sound. This music is haunting with more than a little of a Nico-esque vibe. It’s not going to be a hit at parties. I can see myself using this to induce some sorrowful catharsis while painting perhaps. It might work well for me for meditation if it weren’t for its somber and often somewhat disturbing intonations.

The title track drew me  in—peaceful and hypnotic. Another that resonated well with me was “Ba-Tampte.” Melodic and calming. “Cabuya” conveyed a sense of menace and foreboding to me, never quite reaching a conclusion. Perhaps a good thing? “Moon Yekah” was a piece I couldn’t get away from fast enough. I found it impossible to remain calm while hearing it. Like nails on a blackboard, it was a funereal march, pounding redundantly.

“Filomena” was one I courted with liking, but in the end my nerves were frayed. “Las Tortugas Perdidas” was lovely, invoking a dangergous, seductive siren, luring you closer to doom as you tread the treacherous waters in which she resides. Perhaps it’s appropriate that I’m writing this review during the Halloween season, since this CD would make an extraordinary score to a truly mind blowing horror film. I feel as if I need sunshine at this moment and a strong, tropical drink with a brightly colored umbrella. Sorry, I just can’t recommend this one, but I must say, it does cast a formidable shadow rather beautifully.              (R.J. Ouellette)

ONSLO

Onslo

12 tracks

Full and fair disclosure—Onslo has been one of my favorite emerging, greater-Boston bands of the last few years. This review reflects my bias and a tendency to love every bit of weirdness these guys produce.

After years of sporadically self-released EPs Onslo has collected the best of their catalog into this 12-track, self-titled, full-length debut.

Imagine, if you will, that you could take Yes’s Tales From Topographic Oceans, distill the songs down to Ramones-like length, remove the keyboards, and add blazing guitars.  The results might might sound a lot like the noises that Onslo produce. It’s as though Freddie Mercury was fronting your favorite punk rock band doing its best to imitate King Crimson.

The two minute seven second “Harpies” is built on top of blistering guitar scales and has more melody changes than an entire Rush concept album. “Hoagland” could be the theme song for some new hipster Saturday morning cartoon that parents enjoy as much as their kids.

Another compelling piece of the Onslo experience is Aaron’s bass playing. With whacky, home-made pedals, his fuzzed and distorted base takes the lead in many of the tracks, leaving Ethan’s guitar to either provide the treble to the riffing, or solo around the edges. Whichever the case, the effect is stunning.

Onslo’s over-the-top, completely insincere, tongue-in-cheek-sounding choruses are a wonder to behold. Those Yes and Queen influences get fed through a Weezer filter and come out the other end sounding like a cross between Monty Python and Spinal Tap.

Buy this album. Support this band. All hail Onslo!         (George Dow)

HEAVY NECKER  

Reptile Kings             

4 tracks

It would only make sense to say so in these pages, so I will: Heavy Necker is like the second coming of Cracktorch, or at least their enthusiastic younger cousins from the ‘burbs. It’s all there, really. A charismatic, high-impact, dancin’ fool frontman (in this case, Gibson SG-wrangling prodigy Christopher Cardone), a deep and open affection for ’60s/’70s riff rock (more Cream than Lizzy, but whatever) and an up-for-anything vibe that can turn a sparsely-attended gig into a Bacchanalian orgy of blood, guts, beer, and sex fluids. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but this town is a lot more fun with a Cracktorch in it. Reptile Kings offers up four sweaty, blues-inflected rock ’n’ soul jammers that don’t sound like anybody, really, but sorta feel like early Rose Tattoo or maybe Circus of Power, like maybe Heavy Necker aren’t bikers themselves, but they’d hire them for security. It’s bar-brawl rock for well-dressed hedonists and boozy gangster molls. Things probably snap together most effortlessly in the cranking “Crocodile Tears,” but it’s the signature acid-blues riff in “Memento Mori” that’ll probably put these dudes on the map. An exciting and crucial document of a band with an entirely unique take on classic heavy rock. Finally, another local rock band we can all fight and fuck to.                    (Sleazegrinder) 

SLANT OF LIGHT        

Is 5 Records

“If This Ever Happens” b/w “Last Of Its Kind”                  

2 tracks on 7” vinyl

Banjos and standup bass abound on this two-track offering from Slant of Light. These gentlemen are clearly looking for a seat at the table set by the likes of the Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons. On the upside, they lack the overwrought earnestness of Mumford. On the downside, they lack the punky exuberance of the Avetts. 

In an interesting twist on the most recent batch of modern folk rockers, guitarist/vocalist M.E. Foley delivers his vocals with a distinctly British flair. He comes across somewhere between the Velvet Underground’s John Cale and Donovan (of “Sunshine Superman” fame). It’s that unique vocal delivery that sets Slant of Light apart from other run-of-the-mill knock-offs of this newly hip, old-fashioned style of traditional music.      (George Dow)

JAY DiBIASIO   

Battuto                                        

11 tracks

DiBiasio, lead guitarist for Three Day Threshold, has emerged with a diverse and worthy and downright fun solo project; it is mostly rock and roll with a strong strain of Americana, particularly on the irresistible opening track “North Carolina Hymn.” “Buried Treasure” continues with the down-home strain, with its truncated march rhythm yoked to an attenuated heavy metal (!) refrain and a lunatic space rock middle eight. “Dirty Bird” is a whimsically cockeyed love song with a huge percussive sound linked to a country-rock guitar feel. “Old Egypt Fantasy” is an eldritch fantasia with a keening throughline full of melodic loveliness and a racing percussive break which is dynamic and exciting. “Arkansas Bob’s Corn on the Cob” is a goofy chantey; “My Bike! My Bike! I Want My Bike!” is another goof–a foray into farcical heavy metal. “Penny Candy” is a lushly atmospheric number which puts a spooky lid on the proceedings. The best of these songs are full of surprises and this is a truly worthy solo outing.   (Francis DiMenno)

RYE PINES

“Good Health” b/w “Blood Orange Blossom”                 

2 tracks on 7” vinyl

Usually when an album arrives in slap-dash packaging the musical contents reflect the lack of attention paid to the presentation. If that rule held true here, Rye Pines’ Good Health 7” would be one for the record book. The disc is in a plain white sleeve and the label on the 7” has been handwritten with a Sharpie, scanned and printed onto the adhesive label. “This ought to be great,” I think with a mental eye roll thrown in for good measure. 

What follows, when the needle hits the vinyl, is a shockingly good pair of indie rock tracks. Both sound a bit like Modest Mouse as reinterpreted by J. Mascis and Lou Barlow. “Good Health” uses the Pixies’ loud-quite-loud formula in good measure and is the poppier of the two tracks— jangly acoustic-ish verses followed by driving electric choruses. “Blood Orange Blossom” hits harder, showing the Dinosaur Jr. influence with noisy guitar wailing. 

Damn, I’m glad I set the packaging aside and gave this one a good listen.      (George Dow)

BEDROOM EYES

What Are You Wrong With    

11 tracks

Bedroom Eyes are a Boston band that has been around a few years. I had not actually heard their music until right now. Big mistake. These guys are right up my alley. Hey! Get out of my alley, damn kids! Bedroom Eyes are too heavy to be labeled shoegaze, but too poppy for prog. If this band came out 20 years ago they could have gotten rich. Don’t give up, guys. When the next wave comes, ride it to the top. Until then, just keep making good, really interesting albums like this.          (Eric Baylies)

LLOYD’S LLAMAS  

75 or Less Records

Cool the Burn                             

6 tracks

“The Barker” is a synth-laden quasi-country instrumental pleasantly reminiscent of both the Meat Puppets and Wendy Carlos, among others, with a friendly vibe. “Worn Out Welcome” is more anodyne; snotty power pop with a good-time psychedelic guitar line. “Whiskey” is a snazzy (and bluesy) shuffle with elements of prog rock. “Midnight Clover” is generic thrash metal; “Dabbler” the best of show, is an epic drum and synth confection with a strangely resonant guitar line and cab-mike distorted vocals. Bueno. (Bonus: There are six more tracks–which sound like backwards renditions of the original six songs.)       (Francis DiMenno)

JOHNNY FURY

Johnny Fury                            

10 tracks

Christ, my life is littered with rock ’n’ roll Johnnys. Johnny Machine, Johnny Flash, Johnny Anguish, Johnny Outlaw—is there really room for another one? Just how many goddamn Johnnys does it take to make a rock record in this town? Anyway, as his Hollywood surname implies, Johnny Fury shares some kinship to Billy Fury, the early ’60s Brit Elvis clone with the bitchin’ blonde pompadour. Billy created music that had the outward appearance of sweaty masculinity, but a few licks revealed a gooey pop center. Same deal here. It opens with “Without Me,” a stab at jittery ’50s skiffle/rockabilly, but the album quickly settles into light blues-rock (“My Heart is Yours,” “Tomorrow Is a Day Dream”) and ends in a couple of fluffy, entirely pleasant ballads (“Rosalie,” “She’s The One”) that owe as much to doo-wop as they do to The Beatles. It’s a schizophrenic stew cooked up by an earnest young dude who is very clearly in love with rock ’n’ roll in it’s formative years. That’s cool and even admirable, but all this vintage genre-jumping makes for a disjointed album. It’d work a lot better as singles, as scratchy 45’s, fished from a four foot stack at In Your Ear, maybe. It just seems bizarre that any of these songs would be on a CD. I mean, if we’re gonna get retro, we might as well take it all the way. Is that too much to ask? Clearly it is. In summation: Johnny Fury, 2014’s answer to 1962. Your call.   (Sleazegrinder) 

SLEEP CRIMES

EP

4 tracks

I’ve learned to set aside preconceived notions when reviewing records by bands that I’ve never heard of and for which I have no context on which to base an opinion. It’s a skill that has served me well. Sleep Crimes’ four-song EP is a case-study in why this is a sound practice.

The CD comes in a brown cardboard case with the band name airbrushed on the front and daintily bedazzled with plastic jewels and candy stickers—lollipops, popcorn, cotton candy, etc.

The band’s title track, “Sleep Crimes,” sounds like heavy, female-fronted, gothic metal. Three-and-a-half minutes in the track morphs into the rockabilly-goth nonsensical, “Even Cows Sing the Moos.”

All vestiges of seriousness are thrown from the window with “I Pledge My Love (to Satan),” which is a Grease meets Little Shop of Horrors ’50s-style show tune which makes me smile wider with every listen.

The too-short EP ends with “Psychic Cockroach” which, on one hand sounds like Safari-era Breeders, while on the other hand sounds like the vintage British punk of Vice Squad.

The four songs that comprise this EP may, at first glance, sound all over the map, but I can assure you that there is a common thread of awesomeness that makes Sleep Crimes’ EP a worthwhile listen.    (George Dow) 

GEORGE McCANN                            

River King Records

Shades of Blues

7 tracks

This seven-song release is killer. George’s guitar tone and incredible solos make these blues and R&B songs completely red hot and blue. Five of the cuts are written by him and the two covers; “This Is My Life” originally done by Blues singer Chick Willis; and an eleven and a half minute version of B.B.’s “You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now” are packed with McCann’s intense creativity jumping out of the speakers. The instrumental opener “Yeah Man” and “Same Old Thing” are uptempo R&B, more New Orleans than Chicago, that sound like they are recorded live in the studio. You can FEEL the heat. “Shades of Green” and “Young Woman’s Love” are slower, introspective and more traditional. My favorite song is “Barnburner” that really showcases the great interplay between the guitar and the keys evident in all the tunes. It’s a rough and ready uptempo song that would be a great opener for their live set. The guitar playing’s virtuosity, creativity and passion push this song to the head of the class. George also is the blazing guitarist in The James Montgomery Band but rarely sings with them. With his own band his vocals are surprisingly good and are perfect for the sound. George is on guitar and vocals, Jack Bialka on bass, Dave Limina on keys, and Forrest Padgett pounds the drums—they play great together. I like it a lot.     (A.J. Wachtel)

DAVID CARRADINE

Chronic  

17 tracks

David Carradine’s new CD on Providence label Riotus Outburst Records is a short and not so sweet mix of old school Boston sounding punk with some grindcore thrown in. With titles like “We’re David Carradine and We Don’t Sing About Kung Fu” and “Kyle Listens To Techno in His Car With Bob Ross In His Memory” you may get the impression that this is a joke band. They use humor as a weapon and are not really a joke band at all.  Most songs clock in at under a minute and are right to the point. David Carradine is a great live band, too, so watch out Boston!    (Eric Baylies)

BUNDLES

7” vinyl EP

4 tracks

Bundles play anthemic barroom punk in a classic three-piece form. There are lots of heartfelt, earnest lyrics delivered in a sing/shout manner with lots of gang-vocal-ready choruses. 

Bundles have an ear for melody, like Gaslight Anthem but much rougher edges. At the same time they know how to let out a hardcore scream reminiscent of a less abrasive Fucked Up. 

It’s a satisfying midpoint on the punk rock pendulum. Just because a band doesn’t break new ground doesn’t mean they’re not worth a listen.            (George Dow)

HOLD/TRANSFER 

Hold/Transfer

13 tracks

Like any band in this overstuffed, incestuous burg, Hold/Transfer is rife with known quantities, including Mike Taggart, formerly of Good North, and Heather Mars of Midnight Creeps fame. Who cares, really, it’s a new dawn and all, but I just figured you might wanna know. Their sound is post-punky and shoegazy, with a creepy coldwave edge that suggests nobody in the band will ever truly love anything or anybody. It’s like five Ian Curtises, sitting in their respective kitchens, scribbling harrowing death poetry on the backs of envelopes stuffed with unpaid bills while a warped JAMC record skips in the background. On first blush I sank into an inky black well of depression—Jesus, one of the songs is called “What Is Friendship Anyway?” and half of them are about walking around by yourself—but after a fistful of Zoloft I gave it another try, and it all started to click. It’s definitely a mood piece, but a solid one, perfect for losing an afternoon sunk deep into the couch of woe. There are herky-jerky stompers like “Hang Tight and Wait” or “Hissfits” that would not be out of place at a panicky death-rock rave, but it’s the slow-burning doom-pop gut-churners like “Subways,” “Sofia,” and “Spoken For” that really crawl under your skin. Heavy.    (Sleazegrinder) 

DAN BLAKESLEE

Lightning Plug Records

Owed to the Tanglin Wind    

10 tracks

This sounds to me like a set of songs out of the playbook of Paul Simon’s “The Boxer.” Every so often Blakeslee turns out a pleasant tune with guitar accompaniment in its skilled minimalism reminiscent of John Fahey, as in the excellent “Poet on the Porch.” Overall, this is, on the one hand, a thoroughly pleasurable excursion into folksy singer-songwriter territory, sometimes with spooky overtones, as on “My Lightning Valentino” and the solemn title track. “Love and Confection” and “To Count On” explore a more bare-boned style. My sole caveat: the solemnity of many of these numbers tends to produce an effect which, overall, is underwhelming, except perhaps on “Picture in My Wallet,” a lovely closing track replete with reverential harmony vocals.              (Francis DiMenno)

METAL PISTOLS  

FNB Productions

Magnum Force

10 tracks

There was a reason I left behind the hair-metal ’80s in favor of the punk/hardcore scene. Very quickly I learned to hate the sterile production that made the music sound like it was produced in a level-five clean room. The whole thing reeked of insincerity. Metal Pistol embody all the reasons I made that transition away from hair-metal.

That said, I think I can objectively speak to why this record might appeal to those that still carry the torch for this brand of metal—and I understand that there are still a large contingent that do.

Let’s take the guitars. Set aside for a moment the fact they they have been filtered and sterilized to a point where you could perform surgery on them with no fear of contracting infection. Suspend for a moment my preexisting bias and I will tell you that Steven Stanley can shred. The riffs and solos rival anything that’s come out of the Scorpions’ in the last 30 years. In fact, if you strip away the Scorpion’s tendency for arena-sized power ballads, Metal Pistol, musically speaking, sound quite a bit like anything from the post-1990 Scorps’ catalog.

Vocally, Sunny Lee, sounds like a less polished Lita Ford, which I mean as a compliment. Maybe a Runaways-era Lita. Again, for my taste, they’ve been squeegeed far too clean. When she delivers the vocals for the environmental activist rant, “Pollution Solution,” she sounds more like she’s singing from inside a hermetically sealed haz-mat suit as opposed from on-the-ground at a toxic super fund site.

Metal Pistol show that they may have some dirt beneath the gleam on a couple of tracks. The instrumental title track, “Magnum Force” is built atop a ZZ Top-esque blues riff that chugs along for three minutes. The track shows the rhythm section’s skills at driving the beat while letting Steven solo over the top. “Destruction In Action” finds Sunny Lee growling like a slightly less pissed off Wendy O’Williams once the power ballad intro drops out and the early-Prong-sounding power riffs take over.

My best advice to Metal Pistol—next time out, leave the Clorox and hydrogen peroxide behind and go take a roll in the mud before hitting the studio.   (George Dow)

Noise Live Picks

NoiseLivePicks346Every Tuesday in Nov.  KMBG
@ Jalapenos, Gloucester MA

Every Wednesday in Nov.  DENNIS BRENNAN +
@ The Lizard Lounge, Cambridge MA

Every Thursday in Nov.  NATALIE FLANAGAN +
@ Tavern at the End of the World, Charlestown MA

Every Thursday in Nov.  JULIE DOUGHERTY’s Open Mic
@ The Grapevine, Salem MA

Every Sunday in Nov.  PARKER WHEELER’s Blues Party
@ The Grog, Newburyport MA

Fri Nov 28  FREE TIBET +
Rock Off Main Street
@ TCAN, Natick MA

Sat Nov 29  LEO*LEO +
Benefit for the Animal Rescue League of Boston
@ The Midway, Jamaica Plain MA

Sat Nov 29 (6:45)  ANGIE MILLER +
@ Brighton Music Hall, Allston MA

Sat Nov 29  THE STOMPERS +
@ The Bull Run, Shirley MA

Mon Dec 1  ALLOY ORCHESTRA
Live soundtrack to Lonesome
@ Coolidge Corner Theater, Brookline MA

Fri Dec 5  DOUG MacDONALD BAND +
@ The Midway, Jamaica Plain MA

Fri Dec 5  HEATHER MALONEY +
@ Club Passim, Cambridge MA

Fri Dec 5  COLD ENGINES +
Benefit for Our Neighbors Table
@ Steeple Hall, Newburyport MA

Sat Dec 6  EVAN GOODROW BAND
Funkadelic Christmas
@ Barn Jam #9, Hopkinton MA

Sat Dec 6  WILD MAPLE
@ Loretta Restaurant, Newburyport MA

Fri Dec 12  THE REAL KIDS +
@ The Midway, Jamaica Plain MA

Fri Dec 12  MUCK & THE MIRES +
US record launch for Dial M for Muck
@ Church, Boston MA

Fri Dec 12  CHELSEA BERRY +
Holidays and Wintertide
@ First Parish Church Congregational, Manchester-by-the-Sea MA

Fri Dec 12  THE LYNNE TAYLOR BAND
@ Blue Wave Fine Art Gallery, Amesbury MA

Sat Dec 13  ROBBY ROADSTEAMER +
@ The Middle East, Cambridge MA

Sat Dec 13  RAY MASON +
@ Cat in the Cradle, Byfield MA

Sat Dec 13  THE F.U.’s +
@ The Cantab, Cambridge MA

Sat Dec 13  MAMADOU
@ Philanthropic Hall, Marblehead MA

Sat Dec 13  AMY FAIRCHILD +
@ Crossroads Music Series, North Andover MA

Sat Dec 13  HEATHER MALONEY
@ The Press Room, Portsmouth NH

Sat Dec 13  ZOE LEWIS
@ Simple Gifts Coffeehouse, Nashua NH

Sat Dec 13  HENRI SMITH +
@ Larcom Theatre, Beverly MA

Sun Dec 14  JOHNNY A +
Boston Music Awards
@ The Revere Hotel, Boston MA

Tues Dec 16  CHRISTINE OLHMAN & REBEL MONTEZ +
The Buzz Ball
@ The Palace Theatre, Manchester NH

Thurs Dec 18  T MAX +
The Minglewood Shuffle debut
@ Minglewood Tavern, Gloucester MA

Fri Dec 19  JAMES MONTGOMERY BAND +
@ Johnny D’s, Somerville MA

Fri Dec 19  THE NICKLE & DIME BAND +
@ The Midway, Jamaica Plain MA

Sat Dec 20  HARRY & THE POTTERS +
@ The Middle East, Cambridge MA

Sat Dec 20  RUSTIC OVERTONES
@ Stone Church, Newmarket NH

Tues Dec 23  TIM GEARAN & THE TUESDAY LOOP
@ Atwoods, Cambridge MA

Fri Dec 26  HALO & THE HARLOTS +
CD Release Party
@ The Chit Chat Lounge, Haverhill MA

Sat Dec 27  DARLINGSIDE +
@ The Sinclair, Cambridge MA

Wed Dec 31  THE FOOLS +
@ Blue Ocean Music Hall, Salisbury Beach, MA

Sat Jan 3  GOLI +
@ The Middle East, Cambridge MA

Thurs Jan 15  T MAX +
The Minglewood Shuffle
@ Minglewood Tavern, Gloucester MA

Sat Feb 7  LUCRETIA’S DAGGERS +
@ The Middle East, Cambridge MA

Thurs Feb 19  T MAX +
The Minglewood Shuffle
@ Minglewood Tavern, Gloucester MA


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Walter Sickert

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WALTER SICKERT & THE ARMY OF BROKEN TOYS

by Meghan Chiampa

Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys are a septet of seaside carnival Steamcrunk intergalactic wizardry. Musically talented as wildly theatrical, the Toys talk about their deep-set philosophy of their performance and art.

    They will be playing a Dia de los Muertos show at Cuisine En Locale on November 1st.  The Toys talk to The Noise about that show and have plans for a tour next summer, lots of new music and scoring video games (Walter is working with American McGee scoring a short film based on his Alice video game).

Noise: I have been following your band for almost seven years—since at Jerkus Circus at the Lizard Lounge. I remember it was only Edrie and Walter. How long have you guys been a duo? A full band? Where did it begin and why?

Edrie: Walter and I met when I was running an artists collective called the Cracked Ceiling Society. I would sponsor shows at the Lily Pad and bring in crazy avant-garde acts to do whatever it was they wanted to do. Walter’s band came in and they blew everyone away. Such a confusing and delightful mixture of weird and awesome. Walter and I each had a life partner at that point. It seems those two people got to know each other quite well (unbeknownst to Walter and I) and ran off together soon after. This threw Walter and me into a strange place where we had to call each other with updates on sightings of the two and where my stolen car and credit cards had gone off too… Neither one of us saw the other partner again. To cope with the heart-ripping loss, Walter wrote some songs and gave them to me; I stuck them in the CD player in the car and drove around some rural roads listening to them at full volume. They were so sweet, sad, and beautiful that I called Walter, crying, and sang harmony to one of the songs over the phone. A few weeks later we put on a duo show at the Sky Bar and the rest is history. We were a duo for a couple of years before other Broken Toys started to come into our lives. Now we’re a seven-piece in our fifth year and couldn’t be happier with how things are going.

Noise: Your sound is quite unique and only can be simply described as a SteamCRUNK seaside horror carnival rock on mescaline. What have some of your influences (musically) been over the years? 

Walter: My fascination with music started when I was very young. My grandmother would sing songs to me about monsters and giants and tell me stories about the devil. I began playing piano on her old house piano that had a family of mice living in it; we called it the mouse piano. When I was living on a boat with my dad he would play songs on a salt water-warped acoustic guitar. That was my music education until the boat burned down and the woods got paved.

Noise: You’ve been together for a long time, how has your sound evolved? Obviously the addition of more Broken Toys switched things up?

Edrie: Our sound has evolved a lot, we started out as a two piece, but for many shows we’d invite random guest musicians up on stage to play with us. Anything from a trombone to a chainsaw and everything in between. Some of those guest musicians ended up staying a while and the band grew one Broken Toy at a time. We met Jojo who would play the interrupting cow routine by heckling us in the middle of a song, we’d invite her on stage and she would do a spoken word burlesque act during our set. Once, when we were on tour together, Jojo bought a ukulele and ended up playing it and joined the band.

Walter: The seven of us are very much a family, but we love collaborating with other musicians, artists, performers.

Noise:  I love the outward costuming style (you guys have cool outfits) of WS; you have been known to wear a beautiful feather headdress, lots of corsets.  Is there a method to the madness? Do you consider yourselves in costume on the stage or is what the audience experiencing the real deal? How important do you think it is for a band to have an outward style or costume stage presence? Does it work more for you because of the carnival puppet show style of the music?

Walter: My handmade headdresses allow me to tap into the great energy of the invisible god monsters of artistic expression. They also provide me with a psychic link to the band and audience.  I think when you make music from another world; you tend to look like you’re from another world, in whatever way that manifests itself.

Edrie: Everyone on stage is exactly how they are off stage. We’re not consciously different—we just are different. Walter—and Jojo dress like that all of the time. Rachel is super put together and maybe doesn’t do the corset off stage all of the time, but certainly the shoes and everything else. You’ll find Meff being a dandy any time you see her and Mike has a Rat-Pack style regardless of where he is. TJ always has that fresh-from- the-factory je ne sais quoi combined with the occasional animal head. I tell people I wear various wigs because I love how differently people treat me depending on if I have purple hair, a jet black bob, or long flowing red locks, but I actually just have a collection of interchangeable heads.

Noise:  You’ve been lucky (talented) enough to play and collaborate with some very successful artists like Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman, John Zorn, and American McGee (I know there is more—fill me in). How has this experience been for the band? Who else would you love to play with or build a project with (national or local)?

Walter: The goal with the Toys is to have musical projects that are unique and exciting and somewhat out of the normal realm of rock band. That’s why we are honored and excited to be working with American McGee scoring a short film based on his Alice video game. We’re also working with director Ian McDonald on a film called Some Freaks which is in principal photography now.

Edrie: In addition to the yearly events like live scoring silent films at the historic Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH (this year we’re doing Nosferatu on October 29), and our yearly collaboration with First Night Boston, we’re working with the Slaughterhouse Sweethearts on a remake of the Labyrinth, and on a new collaboration for 2015 with Company One to put on Shockheaded Peter which is being directed by Stephen Bogart (who did Cabaret with Amanda Palmer). Shockheaded Peter was first performed by our friends the Tiger Lillies some years ago. Our version will be the Boston premiere of the musical and will have music and visuals in the Broken Toys style. We’re also planning a movie/album combination project for which we will be running a Kickstarter later this fall with the goal of the album coming out in time for our July tour.

Noise:  Your next show is your annual Day of the Dead show. Can you tell me more about it?

Edrie: Cuisine en Locale has been putting on a Muertos show for a few years. Last year we helped them christen their new space at the old Anthony’s in Somerville. It was a spectacular event with sugar skulls, drinks, fabulous food, and amazing music including us and a mariachi band. We’re doing it again this year on November 1. Look for more exciting surprises including a possible collaboration between the Toys and the mariachi band.

Walter: We think it’s important to celebrate those we’ve lost and the life we have and there’s no better way to do that than with awesome friends, insane music, flowing booze, fantastic food, and sex, but we don’t know if the sex will happen at the party.

Noise:  Why are the Toys broken? You have a bunch of weirdos coming from really bizarre backgrounds who’ve all found each other in Boston and make art together. Do you think there is an advantage to being broken? Do you think being rugged and damaged helps influence art? People argue that all the time.

Walter: Everybody is broken in some way. Some people are smart enough to admit it and make it work for them. I think like-minded Broken Toys seem to find each other. Being broken is to have lived, to have been played with, and if you haven’t lived what the hell are you creating about? All of us are broken toys. Broken is beautiful. We are the nerd table in the lunchroom.  We are the island of misfit toys in an ocean of sameness. We are an army of art-spraying love -shot wounds. We want nothing less than everyone to join us in animalistic self-expression and the freedom to be weird and accepted. A revolution of Love & Tentacles! No shame, just kindness and the unknown.



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NRBQ

NRBQ-WEB345NRBQ

by A.J. Wachtel

Founded in 1967 and known for their incredible live shows and their unique blend of rock, pop, jazz, and blues in their music, NRBQ has a strong connection with New England. They have decades of legendary local shows under their belt, and in 1994, when their guitarist, Big Al Anderson, left the band to write songs full time in Nashville, original bassist Joey Spaminato’s younger brother Johnny replaced him. Johnny was and still is a member of the Cape Cod-based surf-rock band The Incredible Casuals. I talked with founding member Terry Adams and ask him about the band’s history and music. Here you go:

Noise: Bonnie Raitt saw you for the first time at a 1969 gig at Boston University while she was a student at Radcliffe. Do you remember that college gig and care to share a cool story of Bonnie with us?

Terry Adams: I remember playing in Boston many times. Maybe among the first times was a concert that included Ricky Nelson. He had his brother David with him. So for a few minutes the Nelson brothers and the Adams brothers were alone to talk. It was mystical. As for Bonnie, we’ve known each other for many years. There are TOO many Bonnie stories and the coolest ones can’t be shared.

Noise: Peter Wolf has said about NRBQ: “They had astounding musicianship and live, they had a kind of amorphic quality that made each time you saw them like the first time.” How did you meet Wolf and have you ever gone club-hopping in Boston with him holding court? Care to share a cool Wolf story with me?

Terry: He said that? He’s known for having good taste in music, so that’s nice. Actually, the last place I’d like to be is club-hopping. I would be expecting to be paid! [laughs] I have seen Peter perform recently and it was very good. He’s a great talent and his whole band knows what the heck they’re doing.

Noise: NRBQ was briefly managed by pro-wrestler Captain Lou Albano. Looking back was this a smart or not so smart move?

Terry: We met in New York City around 1979. The first thing I was to ask him was if he wanted to get in the music business and pose as our manager and he readily agreed. He was mainly my responsibility from then on. On gig days, he’d show up six hours early, knocking at my door. Wherever we went during the day before the show he was really popular and always telling jokes to those who crowded around him. Lou was one of the smartest persons I ever met. The most fun, and a true inspiration. You wouldn’t believe how controversial our partnership was at the time. TV stations, radio stations, all refused to play the ads that we produced. They’d send the money back!  What happened with the so called “rock and wrestling connection” after that was a disgrace. Wrestling stopped being family entertainment and became a teenage comic book.

Noise: You guys were signed and dropped by at least six different record labels. Why?

Terry: I don’t remember being dropped by any label. We signed deals with various different labels to make one or two albums. And we fulfilled them, making their catalogs richer! I like to give everyone a chance.

Noise: You did a great version of “The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald.” Have you ever met Gordon Lightfoot and what did he think of your different version?

Terry: There was no difference in our version from his; we did it very straight. But there was a difference just by the fact it was NRBQ doing it. As a composer, I couldn’t help noticing that there was no melodic theme development and that for a pop record, it was quite lengthy. So I wanted to demonstrate that. MY arrangement is HIS arrangement. So many people remember that, and some people think we were purposely turning off the audience. But it couldn’t be further from the truth. We ALWAYS got big encores when we closed with it.

Noise: Terry, you play piano and clavinet with your fists, elbows, and even feet. Who were your influences growing up?

Terry:  I’ve used a forearm to get a two octave percussive smash. I’m a drummer really and I’m the third part to one of the world’s greatest rhythm sections. I’m the rhythm guitarist in a sense. That’s what the clavinet is about in NRBQ. I’ve never played piano with my feet despite what has been written. I hate to see that. It looks stupid. Even when Jerry Lee does it, I hate it. As for influences; I’ve got a very open mind. I’ve never been closed to the beauty in different musics. And it’s very important to let things that might not be considered music to influence or affect one’s music too.

Noise: As an artist you have been described as part Thelonious Monk, part Chico Marx. Is this a fair statement and in plain English, what does it mean?

Terry: I only remember Chico Marx making his hand in the shape of a gun and shooting the keys for each note. I could never do that. That’s his. It looked great on film. I don’t know what I do, but I’m doing it to get a sound.

Noise: Keith Richards is a big NRBQ fan. What’s it like to have a Glimmer Twin in your fan club and care to share a cool Keith story with me?

Terry: Keith met all of us when drummer/producer Steve Jordan brought him to hear us at the Bottom Line in NYC. Steve told me the original idea was to hire all of  NRBQ to be the band for the Hail Hail Rock And Roll movie. But when Johnnie Johnson surfaced he was the obvious choice for piano. Then Steve said to himself, “Wait a minute. I wouldn’t mind playing drums on this myself.” Anyway Joey [Spaminato] remained the best choice for bass, and did a great job. Every time I’ve been around Keith, before and since, he’s been a friendly fun guy who happens to have a very good job.

Noise: Several of your songs and even your cartoon images have appeared on The Simpsons. (In one episode, there is a cartoon likeness of the band performing in a biker’s bar). In your opinion, are there any things that have happened to you that are cooler than this?

Terry: It was great. I arranged “The Simpsons Theme” for NRBQ and that’s what we do in the flesh on the end credits.

Noise: The band never chased musical trends and you’ve stayed true to yourselves and to what you enjoy musically. Has this helped or hindered your career?

Terry: Helped. Everything we do helps our career because WE are defining our career.

Noise: You’ve been called The Best Bar Band In The World. Is this a fair legacy for the group?

Terry: Once, a lazy management company made the mistake of duplicating a review that used that phrase. And you know how easy it is to repeat things in your business. No one with any depth or knowledge of what we do actually calls us that. We take the music to the people wherever they happen to be—festivals, theaters, clubs, indoors, outdoors, private parties, TV shows, big stages, little stages. You know… Jesus in the Tabernacle or the Sermon on the Mount… same guy!

Noise: Your new 12-song CD, Brass Tacks, was just released. It has rhythms that swing with a pounding bass and great guitar and your jazzy, chiming piano. What should we be listening to on it?

Terry: Oh, rhythms that swing, a pounding bass, a great guitar, my jazzy, chiming piano, I guess. After that, you’ll notice a band running on clean energy that is connected to our hearts. All four members of this band are dedicated musicians.

Noise: Your live shows are legendary. Is there a follow-up to 2012’s release of your live We Travel The Spaceways in the works?

Terry: Thanks. Live music is where a lot happens. So yes, our next release will be an album of my arrangements of the music of Thelonious Monk; recorded live recently. It is something that couldn’t have happened until now. The challenge for years has been how to apply the music to myself and NRBQ. I wanted to arrange and play it my own way without compromising the original intent. The guys are brilliant on this work. I brought in the multi-instrumentalist Jim Hoke too. His talent and dedication made it a lot easier for me to see it through. Jim, by the way, also wrote one of my favorite tunes on Brass Tacks. It’s called “I’d Like To Know.”

Noise: In 2007, NRBQ gave a pair of 38th anniversary performances in Northampton, MA. Both Big Al Anderson and Johnny Spaminato played guitar in the lineup. Is everyone on good terms and will this ever happen again?

Terry: I love getting together and playing with all members. We’re coming up on our 50th year. People like round numbers like that so you never know!

Noise: Do you have any advice to artists struggling to get their music heard in these tough times?

Terry: You’ve got to make music good enough to get people to struggle to hear you.

nrbq.com


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