This was the unofficial first show of AS220′s 95 Empire Black Box Theater space. And it was Valentine’s Day. Here’s the rundown:
/\ (pronounced ‘arc’…) looks like a skeleton who failed karate class. And then went on a gloom & doom rampage assault of digital house music. A friend of a friend said this guy was his arch nemesis. He may be a witch. Or Robert Smith. Anyway he’s entertaining. Would make a good movie Sophia Coppola soundtrack.
The next act was either Taboo or Ancestral Diet. They started their set with militant marching, a candle vigil, and a dramatic banner unveiling at which point my friend leaned in and asked if I wanted to bail and get drunk at the bar. I think we made the right choice.
Think of your fantasy band. Wait, you don’t have a fantasy band?! Okay, well, imagine your coworkers. You have a job, right? Fine, imagine the a tv show about a coworkers. Maybe its The Office. You’re asking which one? It doesn’t matter! Yeah yeah sure, the British Office is more bleak and artistic! Okay, fine never mind; it doesn’t matter!! What I’m trying to say is a couple of coworkers at AS220 got together and formed a band. And they’re wonderful. Monkeehead is part gypsy, part country and all punk attitude. They combine a twangy banjo, snapping drums, a speeding electric violin, and Bert Crenca shouting obscenities over the whole weird lot. It sounds abrasive and chaotic, but actually creates quite the shoe-tappin’ dance scene. Plus they annihilate a rendition of Shortnin’ Bread.
Switched Off Bach consists of one man (Joe DeGreorge from Harry and the Potters), one keyboard and one Baroque period costume. You usually don’t expect musicians to be exactly what their band name states, but this is it; Johaan Sebastian Bach being played on a keyboard that has been switched off. Hilarious, dweeby and pleasantly short. His puns throughout the performance were never necessary but charmingly delightful. I’m glad he “is Bach in Providence!” too.
Entering the Bellows show at AS220 I told the volunteer door guy to prepare for a busy night. Unfortunately I must have jinxed the show (sorry bands!) and only 12 people showed up. I know it’s a Tuesday night but what’s up with that, Providence? It’s not even winter yet. And this local band has a beautifully unique sound, with a sousaphone (as bass), saxophone (as guitar) and drums (as drums).
Anyway, this turned out to be just fine because Bellows creates a desolate lost-at-sea atmosphere, perfectly fit for a reclusive post-Columbus weekend audience. At their most interesting they made heavy metal whale calls, both complicated and gorgeous. It was a loud, heavy burden of sound that, appropriately, bellowed. However, a lull would occur in the middle of each aquatic venture where all three instruments played the same rhythm at the same time repeatedly. This snapped my out of Davy Jones’ locker and into a circus with somber elephants on parade. I did not like that. Luckily they would dive back into instrumental variation and I could regain my psych metal trance. I highly recommend seeing this band live and getting completely engrossed in their sweeping sound.
Waiting outside in an Olneyville parking lot for a rambunctious show to start often makes you wonder, “Am I in the right place?” In the dim light people migrate in and out of a scary looking (essentially abandoned) warehouse building. A light above the door flickered on and over the course of 45 seconds it goes from a soft orange light to blinding white only to shut off entirely and start its phoenix like cycle again. I guess the reality of taking your life into your own hands is half the fun of Olneyville shows.
Japanther plays as a two piece, which seem to be all the rage these days (Hella, Lightning Bolt, Pink and Brown, Matt and Kim etc). But Japanther didn’t seem to want that to be the statement of the evening. They were accompanied by a third invisible member (a tape deck) who spewed nonsense vulgarities between and occasionally during songs. That singular element broke up the potentially homogenous party-punk they belched. An interesting element of their live show is their use of payphone receivers as microphones. Apparently the receiver and earpiece act as a feedback loop that helps distort their vocals. Not to mention its a clever way of having a cheap monitor.
My one complaint would be that without tempo changes (not to mention a drum beat that may as well have been the same throughout), it was difficult to notice any real nuance in what they were doing. In the end, their frenetic brand of Flaming Lips-meets-Ramones punk isn’t meant to be figured out, its music to shove and fall to.
“Finally! Jeff the Brotherhood! In Providence! Yes!!” That’s my word-for-word-train-of-thought when I found out from LotsOfNoise. But as I’m sure you read the title of this post, since its got the biggest words, you can see I did not make it to the Providence showing of my new favorite garage rock duo (all my friends got sick and lame at the same time and I didn’t feel like entering into a monologue with that blond kid who goes to every show in PVD) and instead ended up in Boston at the Great Scott.
Great Scott is an Irish punk bar in Allston that thinks it’s real gritty but it’s not. Still it’s a well known establishment and the sound wasn’t as bad as everyone claims. It had an outdoor porch area and the bouncers were goofballs so I shall someday return.
The bands went like this:
Luau kicked off the line-up with some bouncy pop punk. Fun to pogo-dance to but they desperately need to hire a new lead singer. Or just play instrumentals. But there were too many great hooks, so just get a good singer, guys, cmon.
Skimask, who I kept referring to as Bobsled for the night, which has the same seasonal theme and number of letters, was like Kiefer Sutherland being attacked by a plague of locusts. In a bad way.
And then, my heroes, JEFF the Brotherhood saved the night. Seriously folks, this is what Black Sabbath would sound like if they were from Nashville. Heavy slow and brooding with sudden spats of explosive riffing. Their artlessly innocent lyrics about love and t-shirts counters the seriousness of their metal. But I don’t think they think that way. I don’t think they think at all.
The Roots (formerly Roots Cafe formerly the Black Rep) just opened this past spring and is a pretty solid venue for salsa dancing and reggae nights. So I was a little surprised when they announced a rock show featuring members of Blue Öyster Cult and Alice Cooper’s band (aka Blue Coupe. Pretty clever, guys). But how could anyone pass up a chance to rock out with a bunch of 40-something white men screaming like tweenagers? So I went.
Providence staple, Lolita Black opened the evening and lead singer, Scarlett Delgado killed it! You know when a singer can burrow a hole into your stomach and spill out all the guts you keep in there? Well, my intestines were literally gushing over the nicely tiled floors. I remember seeing Lolita Black last December and not being impressed by Scarlett’s spastic vocal range. Now, there’s much more fluidity between her Bellatrix-fierce screeching and monstrous growls. Of course, being backed by thunderous drums never hurts.
Then Backwash came on and I never thought rock n’ roll could be so boring. I also never thought I’d see a real life guitarist-on-bassist shoulder blade rub.
All the dudes (because all the girls had left for some reason) went ballistic when Blue Coupe took the stage, opening the night with “Burnin’ For You.” They were amazing. I was shocked by how skilled they are with their instruments. Brothers Albert and Joe Bouchard, founding members of Blue Öyster Cult, play drums and guitar while Dennis Dunaway, from Alice Cooper is on the bass. The seasoned rock n’ roll vets completely transformed the small space with their stadium sound. And they gave the crowd everything they wanted, from special requests and high fives to drunken bear hugs. Every song ended in a grand cliche electric guitar finale. It was epic. What they lack in creativity when it comes to writing new material, they definitely make up for in talent and showmanship. They even pulled a fake show ending and came back for a non-surprising encore. The night culminated with Scarlett Delgado jammin’ on (more and more) cowbell as the guys rocked “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” It was classic rock; you had to be there.
Every year I attend AS220′s summer block party/music shit show and every year I manage to see only 2 or 3 of the 22 performing acts. But every year it’s also the best day of the summer with tons of art installations, food and people I haven’t seen since last Fest. So here they are, some reviews of 4 bands I managed to hear in between waiting in line at the bar and pissing off anarchists at the book fair (why don’t they accept high fives!?).
Tallahassee: I’ve known these guys for a long time and I’ve refrained from writing about them because, personally, grassroots folk rock ain’t my thing. I own a number of Tallahassee songs and listen to them while simultaneously doing other things. I don’t particularly enjoy going to shows in tiny venues where everybody sullenly appreciates the music minus excess body movement. Usually seeing them live just makes me sleepy. But outdoors at Foo Fest was another story. The sound was much more complex, with lots of extra instrumentation filling the open space. I was thoroughly absorbed. But I was also eating a burrito so that may have helped.
The Silks: Wow! What a tight-knit, well rehearsed band of musicians. If you’re craving a night of fun, bluesy rock n’ roll I definitely recommend this crew. My only regret is that they played on the indoor stage. C’mon, these folks deserved a large-scale dance arena for their hoedown pandemic.
AS220 Youth Studio’s Zukrewe: Although all their songs seemed to be about rain, or maybe it was just one really long song, these kids put on a great show full of energy and fantastic choreography. In past years, the Youth crews had multiple sound problems or just too many confused teens hanging around on stage. This year the kids got it together with modern beats and a more polished live sound.
Andrew WK: Ah the Foo headliner. Months of comic build up and only an hour of spastic body flailing and chaotic motivational speeches. His aerobic clad wife, Cherie Lily, should have had her mic confiscated during his performance since all she could muster were a couple of annoyingly screechy “yeahs!” and “all rights!” Her husband on the other hand put on an eventful performance. Anyone who could fling themselves onto the stage got to hug, headbang and grind alongside their idol, who loved every minute of it. The whole show felt like a Kidz Bop rock n’ roll cd with looped keyboard background noises and sarcastic Beastie Boy “Fight For You Right” aggression. So, yeah, it was pretty awesome. Mr. WK paused for just a few minutes to remind us all that “AUGUST 13, 2011 WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN!!!” Neither will the hangover.
Haven’t posted in a while but wanted to a give shout out to an awesome new gang of lovely ladies singing and banjolele-ing together around town. I had only heard Sugar Honey Iced Tea acoustic at Thursday open mic nights at The Salon. The foursome harmonize their voices terrifically, with gorgeous highs and sultry lows. Being plugged in on Friday, there was some minor vocal awkwardness, the bass especially got a bit loud at points. But the set was enjoyable, friendly and supportive. These ladies are definitely the next big thing.
SUPPPEERR BOOOOWWLLL SUNNNDAAAYYYY!!!!!
But never mind that, we went to a rock show.
I walked into Machines With Magnets to the set of opening band Pujol, a young, Nashville band who has been accompanying Monotonix on their last US tour. They’ve got the cute and solid garage rock sound that’s been boppin through the South these days. At times they delved into the super-hip-right-now fuzzy guitar thing but for the most part it was your basic youthful rock n’ roll jams and a somewhat odd precursor to the cacophony heard later in the night. Despite my (…) Pujol’s star is on the rise since signing with the same record label as Jeff the Brotherhood and Turbo Fruits, garnering positive reviews from Spin and Nylon magazine and received a kiss of approval from Senor Jack White.
Megasus has become somewhat of a Providence institution over the past few years. And they know it. Their professional sound and demeanor, a result of having real jobs is like a footnote to their haphazard drum and guitar, showing wisdom and skill for the hardcore genre. Their doom metal noise is fully encompassing, creating a wall of sound that surrounds your entire being. To see them at Machines With Magnets, a recording studio with near perfect acoustics and immaculate white walls, was godly (and I mean more Hades than Zeus). My only problem is the vocals. On recordings, the lead singer’s voice is manipulated with echoing distortions and thrashing rumbles. In reality, the vocals are weaker and incredibly out of place. His physical performance is dark enough, but if he could reach deep down into the back of his throat (and soul) and muster up a gruffer version of himself, Megasus would really take flight.
Monotonix at MWM
After the steady but stationary headbanging during Megasus, I was worried the crowd at MWM wouldn’t want to wile out to Monotonix. Fortunately, these three hairy Israelis refuse to let a crowd simply bob their heads, cross their arms and think about math. Frontman Ami Shalev looks like a deranged old geezer at the beach with sweaty, silver hair flowing down to his neon swim trunks. But gramps can move, jumping and shouting from the merch table to the bar, to the air space above the crowd! They really show up the younger bands, putting on a show that can create a live community out of a stoic audience. Yes it’s loud and it’s a spectacle but they also know how to play riffy, drippy, punkish rock n’ roll in a contemporary way, regardless of whether it’s on a stage or crowd surfing eight feet above the ground. I’m just glad PVD made the cut on their last tour.
At my father’s suggestion, we went to see country swing great Bill Kirchen at the
Mill in Greenville RI. The Mill is a renovated practice/performance/music store.
The space itself is an odd conjoined twin of what looks like a living room and a
warehouse space. While rough, it has a rustic, improvised charm.
I’ve never considered myself a country or Americana fan, but its rare that you get
to see a living legend in a room that can barely hold 30 people. Kirchen cut his teeth
in Ann Arbor, Michigan and then moved with Commander Cody and the Lost Planet
Airmen to California where they ruffled the feathers of Willie Nelson, the Allman
Brothers and the Grateful Dead. Country swing has never been a choice soundtrack
for the love generation, but combining it with lightning fast playing, jazz chording
and drug culture lyrical content, Kirchen earned his place in rock n’ roll after
endearing himself to greats like Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Link Wray.
Kirchen, who is currently 62 still plays and sings with the fire of an 18 year
old virtuoso. During his 3 ½ hour double set, Bill and his band played classics
like “Down to Seed and Stems” as well as a 10 minute collage of the greatest blues,
country and rock guitarists of the 20th century hitting on over 50 musicians. Starting
with country standards I had never heard of, Kirchen blazed through quick licks
of Django Reinhardt, Les Paul, Link Wray, shredding all the way up to B.B. King,
Buddy Guy, Hendrix and Eric Clapton. Perhaps more incredibly he was able to distill
the raw style of each musician into 1 bar or less without making it seem snide or
This is the second time Kirchen has played at the Mill this year and I hear he’s a big
fan of the place. Keep and eye open for Bill and his band around these parts, highly