Last night the Middle East Downstairs was as packed as I have ever seen it on a weeknight. Fans of the Austin, Texas rock group The Black Angels had come out in droves to support the band as they travel across the US and Canada on their fall tour. The smell of one particular plant species (a favorite of those who enjoy psychedelic music) filled the packed room in what space was left over after everyone had crowded into the cave that is the Middle East Downstairs.
The band wasted no time in showing what earned them a late-night spot at Bonnaroo 2011. Personally I was a bit peeved that Explosions in the Sky did not earn a late-night spot at Bonnaroo this year and because of that I decided to skip out on The Black Angels at That Tent. I’ll never make that mistake again.
Their set was a storm of sound laden with heavy reverb and soaring guitar solos, which created a surprisingly tight sound. Many times bands can get carried away with soloing and turning up the volume ad nauseam and lose sight of what the music actually sounds like to the audience. This was certainly not the case with The Black Angels as they played for well over an hour in front of a psychedelic lighting backdrop, which probably added a whole new level to the concert experience for the aforementioned botanists in the crowd last night.
Some of the highlights for me were the ’60s psychedelia driven “Yellow Elevator #2″, the fan favorite “Bad Vibrations” and the title track off of 2010′s Phosphene Dream. The band continues their tour tonight with a show in Philly and then wrap up next month with a couple festival dates in South America. If you’re in any of the East Coast cities remaining on the tour don’t make the mistake that I did at Bonnaroo and do yourself a favor by grabbing a ticket for The Black Angels.
The Middle East isn’t exactly known for being a pristine or pretty music venue. But that fact only enhanced the gritty sounds of The Movers & Shakers and Those Darlins at last Saturday night’s show. The combination of these two unique bands resulted in a one-two punch of noisy, impassioned country rock. The Movers and Shakers came on first, with guitarists Matt Price and Marc Valois and bassist Dan Wallace aligning at the front of the stage. The three shared vocal responsibilities with impressive grace. A stand-out was “Lay Down With Me,” a slow-burner off their upcoming album, National Harvester. The boys powered through up-tempo rock jams without trouble, but more deliberate songs like “Lay Down With Me” really showed off their talent. As The Movers and Shakers continue to tour for National Harvester and streamline their musical vision, they should only increase their reputation as a Boston-based band to watch.
After the Movers and Shakers’ set, everyone in the Middle East was ready to rock with Those Darlins, especially the Darlins themselves. They stormed the stage with a vengeance and immediately dug into their first single from Screws Get Loose, “Be Your Bro.” I’m telling you, this song will (or at least should) be a big hit. But I’m also warning you, it is almost too catchy for its own good. Go ahead, listen to it, you’ll like it. But you may be humming it until you die. Having set the tone, Those Darlins blazed through every track on the new album and then some. The greatest thing about Those Darlins is that they’re a very specific flavor of music, which I might define as whiskey –soaked, smoked-out country rock with hints of sarcasm and white trash, and they don’t waiver from who they are. They serve up each song from their unique repertoire with a wink, because they know that it’s working for them. Their songs let you into the life of a Darlin, even the daily minutiae: like on “Fatty Needs a Fix,” where Jesse Darlin is so hungry that she starts dropping bacon puns. Not many bands could pull that off. But especially after seeing them in concert, it’s clear that the Darlin girls live each and every one of their songs. Those Darlins set a precedent for steadfast authenticity in their music and performance—other rockers, take notes.
Those Darlins Set List:
Be Your Bro
Burn me up
Wild in the streets (garland jefferies cover)
Why can’t I?
Fatty needs a fix
Red light love
Screws get loose
Shakin all over
Whole damn thing
Every year at the Newport Folk Festival I get my fill of bluegrass from the likes of Trampled By Turtles, Chris Thile, and Sam Bush to name a few, but back home in Boston I never know where to turn to get my fix. That was until I hit the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge on Tuesday night to check out Hickory Strings.
Each Tuesday night of the month Cantab hosts some of Boston’s best bluegrass musicians and with this past Tuesday being my first look into the Boston bluegrass scene, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I can tell you that I was pleasantly surprised to say the least. Hickory Strings played an hour long set highlighted by some impressive musicianship from each band member.
Geoff Brown led the charge with his entrancing mandolin skills, and showed off some versatility on a few Celtic inspired songs while Mark Whitaker made playing the banjo look easier than making fun of Donald Trump’s hair. Guest fiddler Eva Walsh transported me back to Newport with a performance reminiscent of Sara Watkins and bassist Gian Pangaro pulled it all together.
What was most surprising though was the turnout that the show attracted, and on a Tuesday night nonetheless. I was expecting share my evening with a few bluegrass diehards telling stories of how they were at the very first Newport Folk Festival, not to be squeezing my way through a crowd of 20-somethings to find the exit once Hickory Strings left the stage. I applaud the Cantab Lounge and Hickory Strings for giving Boston residents a place to share some beers and some tremendous bluegrass music, can’t wait for next Tuesday.
I’m going to be honest here and tell you that up until about a week ago I was not planning on going to this show. If this isn’t your first time reading the blog you will know that we are certainly fans of both Explosions in the Sky and The Antlers, but with so many shows making stops in Boston this one kind of slipped through the cracks. Looking back on last night’s performances it could have been one of my biggest regrets of the year had I not made it out to the Orpheum last night.
The Antlers took the stage right at 730pm and I was immediately drawn in and blown away at the same time by the sound filling the room. When I listen to Hospice or Burst Apart my main focus is usually on the despondent lyrical content, but what stood out to me the most last night was how incredibly tight their live show was. The flowing soundscapes that you hear on the records are still there, but Michael Lerner’s drums were much more prevalent in tying together the swirling guitars and the sharp ring of the keyboards.
This was especially apparent on “Rolled Together” and “Putting the Dog to Sleep” as lead singer Pete Silberman showcased his impressive falsetto chops on the former and keys player Darby Cicci manufactured walls of sound on the latter all while Lerner kept a steady pace. The Antlers’ set seemed a bit short, but the great ones always do.
When Explosions in the Sky took the stage they immediately captivated the audience with the very first note and held them there up until their very last. Watching their intricate guitar work is like watching the pocket watch of a hypnotist, as I found myself lulled into a stupor by the band’s beautiful guitar build-ups only to be kicked in the teeth minutes later as each song erupts into a flurry of riffs hitting you from every angle.
The real highlight of the night for me was “The Birth and Death of the Day.” It has always been my favorite EITS song and one that definitely gets the crowd on their feet. Unlike most of their songs, they got right to the point with this one and followed an almost inside-out structure compared to the rest of their set. The song opened straight away with screeching guitars and an aural assault of cymbals and from there it continued to build and build until I felt like my head was going to explode…and it did.
Both bands worked their way through tremendous sets last night and it was totally worth having to help the Orpheum staff sweep up the pieces of my exploded brain off the floor.
After The Head and the Heart wrapped up at Royale we jumped on the Green Line to make our way over to Paradise for Rubblebucket. Since seeing them last at Brighton Music Hall in April the band still has the same uncontainable energy and killer dance moves that got them the reputation as the best live act in Boston back in 2009.
In a bit of a contrast from the THatH show that we had just come from, Rubblebucket entertained the crowd with extended jams and plenty of interaction with the crowd. Highlights from last night’s set included guitar player Ian Hersey’s face-melting solo on “Triangular Daisies” and trumpet player Alex Toth’s signature robot-esque dance moves on “Red Line Beat.” Playing a set that was heavy on their recent release Omega La La, the band inspired a constant flow of crowd surfers and even a few stage dives from the most daring of fans.
Toth was joined out on the Paradise floor by frontwoman Kalmia Traver and trombone player Adam Dotson during M&T fave “Came Out of a Lady” as they passed through the crowd horns in hand to bring the set to a close. After some minor technical difficulties the band came back for an encore that included the spacey stoner jam “Phillip’s Van” and the partially French “L’Homme.”
Take a look at the full setlist from last night’ show below and check out a clip of “Triangular Daisies” from Audiotree.
Last night we did a concert double-dip with our first stop being Royale for Seattle folk rockers The Head and the Heart. The first time that we caught these guys was back in February opening for Dr. Dog at Paradise and they really blew us away. We had only listened to the record a few times going into that show, but when Charity Rose took her turn on “Rivers and Roads” we were hooked.
Since then the band has become festival darlings, hitting Telluride, Bonnaroo, Sasquatch and Newport all this summer. Last night you could tell that the band had truly come into their own since that show back in February as they played to a sold-out crowd at Royale. Now I know this band gets comparisons left and right to fellow Seattle folk favorites, Fleet Foxes, but last night’s show had very much the same atmosphere as Fleet Foxes’ show at the Orpheum Theatre back in May.
The crowd joined in enthusiastically on nearly every song and the band certainly fed off the energy. The majority of their set featured tracks from their self-titled debut release, but they also brought out some new cuts which I can only guess will be appearing on their next release.
The new songs sounded like more of the same but hey what’s not to like about the first record? Check out the setlist from last night’s show (feel free to comment if you know the name of the one I missed) and watch a video of Jon Russell performing “Gone” for the first part of the band’s encore last night.
Peter Wolf Crier is currently touring on their recently released album Garden of Arms. Their first stop was at the Middle East (Upstairs) in Cambridge, along with Milagres, who will be accompanying them for part of their 6 week tour. There was also one more opener last night, Some Like it Hot, but the Red Sox were in a pretty important game so we made the executive decision to watch as much of the game as possible. To be completely honest, neither me nor Eric had heard anything by Milagres going into the show, luckily someone told Eric that they are worth checking out. They were right.
It’s a really great feeling when you go into something with little expectation or knowledge and get completely blown away. Despite the noticeable cold that lead man, Kyle Wilson, was battling throughout the night, the band sounded tight. On their last song, Wilson was letting out Jim James-Wordless Chorus like screams, often reaching for his throat in pain. Awesome, great set, I’m sold on Milagres.
When we saw Peter Wolf Crier open for Dawes, I was so impressed by how much sound two people could create. Well, on this tour, they have three members. Needless to say, last night was loud. Peter Wolf Crier was definitely excited to be back on the road playing new songs. Lead singer, Peter Pisano, expressed that they were so excited that they might get a little crazy. They completely focused the set last night on Garden of Arms with the exception of “Down Down Down,” which is off their first album Inter-Be. My personal favorites last night were: “Beach”, “Krishnamurti”, “Settling it off”, and “Right Away.” No matter what song Peter Wolf Crier is playing you will be absolutely entertained. At any point of the night you could see: Pisano playing the bass line of the song with his feet, looping different screams and guitar riffs, and absolutely shredding out solos. Let’s not forget about Brian Moen, dude tears up the drums. My only complaint about last night was that they didn’t play “Hard As Nails,” that track cracked the Maimed and Tamed top 20 last year, how can you not play that?
I cannot wait to see Peter Wolf Crier again, especially because he promised free tickets to everyone who was at the show last night.
Last night Wilco took the stage at the sold-out Wang Theatre as part of a tour to promote their new record The Whole Love which is due out next week.
They kicked off their set with three tracks from their latest release including album opener “Art of Almost,” and what better way to grab your audience’s attention than melting their faces off and leaving them speechless after your first song?
Listening to the record I thought that the band may have a difficult time translating “Almost” to their live performances, but then I realized– they’re Wilco. Led by the vigorous pace of Nels Cline’s guitar, the band screeched through the 7 minute epic jam and that was only the beginning.
From there the band delivered a set that was heavy on new tracks along with a balanced mix of cuts from their 7 previous albums. Throughout the set there was plenty of room for Cline to show off his impressive guitar playing skills whether it was trying to blow up the speakers on “Bull Black Nova” or trying to blow up people’s minds on “Handshake Drugs,” Nels was on point. The real treat though came on his eloquent yet aggressive solo on “Impossible Germany.” Every time I see Wilco, Cline has something new up his sleeve for this one and last night wasn’t any different.
Right when you thought it was Cline’s time to steal the show, Jeff Tweedy showed why he wasn’t about to let Cline one up him on the guitar with one of my favorite Wilco tracks, “At Least That’s What You Said.” This is one of those songs that I can listen to over and over again and the live version is no different, because much like “Impossible Germany,” it evolves with each show.
While we are on the topic of musicianship, drummer Glenn Kotche may be the most underrated member of Wilco. He is the one who holds everything together through Tweedy and Cline’s shred sessions and his penchant for incorporating various percussion instruments (the occasional cowbell or gong are staples of a Wilco show) adds another layer to the band’s set. Kotche shined most on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot standouts “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” and “I’m the Man Who Loves You.”
Of course no Wilco show would be complete without a little banter from Tweedy and the crowd couldn’t help but laugh when Cline brought out his double neck guitar for “Dawned on Me” at which time Tweedy remarked, “You might catch a venereal disease from that thing.”
What makes Wilco so special is that no matter the setlist it is hard for the crowd to be disappointed. With such a large catalog of fan favorites to choose from I wasn’t even let down when the band didn’t play the requests we submitted via the Wilco World website (“Spiders”, “Via Chicago” and of course the song that gave us our name “Sunken Treasure”).
Although they didn’t play 39 songs like they did on their last trip to Boston, no one was complaining when they ended their set with “Outta Mind (Outta Sight)” bringing the total to 20 face-melting jams on the night.
All we can do now is wait for Wilco to come back around and pray for another Solid Sound Festival at Mass MoCA this summer. In the meantime check out the setlist from last night’s show and a video from this year’s Solid Sound below.
1. Art of Almost
2. I Might
3. Black Moon
4. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
5. One Wing
6. Bull Black Nova
7. At Least That’s What You Said
8. One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)
Last night in the first leg of my Middle East/TT The Bear’s doubleheader (see Neil’s Liam Finn review below) I was able to catch the sold out Japandroids show at Middle East Upstairs. The location for the gig was a bit curious given that the band has played the larger downstairs room in the past, but I was not complaining about the showing taking place in the smaller, more intimate upstairs room.
The Vancouver duo kicked off their set with “Younger Us” sandwiched between two new tracks which are slated to appear on the follow up release to Post-Nothing later this year. They followed this up with “The Boys Are Leaving Town” and “Rockers East Vancouver” and then added in one more new track to bring the total to three on the night.
I must say that the harmonies were a bit shaky on the new tracks, but when frontman Brian King told the crowd that they had only played these songs a handful of times, all was forgiven. There was a noticeable contrast between the old and new tracks especially near the end of the set with “Sovereignty” and “Young Hearts Spark Fire” being so tight. The band may not be ready to take the training wheels off the new tracks quite yet, but they assured the crowd that they would be back to Boston once the record comes out to play a longer set than their short and sweet 45 minute performance last night. We will be sure to post more details on said return show and the new album so keep checking back to M&T for your Japandroids news.
For those who came out to fill in the intimate space at TT the Bear’s in Cambridge, there was nary a face in the crowd that was not blown away by Liam Finn and opener Marques Toliver, who raised a ruckus as they kicked off their Fall tour of the US and Canada. Unfortunately, a late T carried us in a bit too late to catch opening opener Dan Blakeslee (who produced a killer print for the show, which I was lucky enough to snag a copy of thanks to the kind lady behind the merch table).
But it came in the good graces of the concert gods that we decided to not overstep our beer bounds at the Middle East bar and decided to check out Marques Toliver. Toliver who, according to The Guardian, was born in Daytona, moved to NYC to start busking, and was eventually discovered by TV On The Radio’s Kyp Malone and introduced to “the scene”. All I can say is, I’m glad Liam Finn found him too, because Toliver’s divine mix of R&B/soul vocals backed by some grandiose violin playing (which, taking a page out of Liam Finn’s book, was masterfully looped on the fly into backing tracks) got the crowd into a pleasant mindset. Toliver was amiable on stage, interacting with the crowd and making sure he was at the right levels to compete with the electro thumping beats pouring into the space from upstairs. Toliver’s sound could probably gain something from having at least a percussionist on stage, but the fact that he flew solo made his set that much more impressive.
The crowd filled in considerably to watch as Liam Finn was joined on stage by familiar face/vocal and percussion accompanist EJ in addition to his touring bassist and drummer. Finn brought the energy right away as he jumped on the second drum set and attempted to deafen everyone right off the bat with a dual drum cymbal smashing attack. After that Finn was his usually music ADD self, not standing still for a moment and never playing the same instrument for more than a song and a half at a time. The crowd was treated to I’ll Be Lightning favorites and new FOMO growers and even granted a crowd request during the encore. The thing that struck me most about last night’s show was seeing just how much fun Liam and his band were having on stage. New tour, new album, new band, fresh off performing with Eddie Vedder and friends at PJ20–all ingredients for an electrifying show. Check out the setlist below, as well as a gem from Toliver.