Concert Review: Eldridge Rodriguez, Sidewalk Driver, Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys (9/19/2013)

After an extremely busy week, I found myself (in the 3 hours between finishing my laundry and packing my suitcase) at Redstar Union, a small production studio slash music venue in Kendall Square in Cambridge. I’d been there once before for the AFP Salon, and this time was a pretty similar experience, venue-wise, except for the fact that they’d removed the tables to make room for people to stand and dance. I stand by my earlier comments that a biotech park is quite a strange location for a venue. I was a little weirded out when I walked into the building and some janitor-type person was crawling around on his hands and knees, scrubbing the floor REALLY WELL, very slowly and carefully. Cleanest music venue in the world, surely! That, or one of the biotech firms had an accident involving something very dangerous. Let’s not think about it too hard.

The concert was (as is often, possibly always the case at Redstar Union) being broadcast online, and my good friend Marco was kind enough to watch from home and take some screenshots for me to use on my blog. Thanks, Marco! Here is one of them, to give you an idea of the space:
wide shot

(Bonus points if you can find the back of my head!)

The first band on the bill was Eldridge Rodriguez; I hadn’t heard them before, and due to the general busy-ness of my last couple of weeks I hadn’t even looked them up online, so I went in totally clueless. Front row center, and clueless (this is becoming a frequent theme in my life). I quite liked them, although as I was watching I kept thinking of ways I would improve their set, so obviously it was not quite A+ material for me. They had a fairly standard rock/blues sound, but with added electronics, which spiced things up some. I had a couple of major critiques which were (1) the electronics should not be doing things that the band should be doing; e.g., you should not play a drumbeat when the drummer should be able to play them just as well; and (2) I thought they needed to push harder on the live performance. There were a couple of songs where I was getting a vibe where the lead singer could and should be doing some kind of over-the-top Nick-Caveian performance, but it felt like he was holding back a little. Now, it’s hard to judge things like energy, it was a bit of a weird room (very small, mostly fans of other bands, etc.) so maybe their performances are different in a more divey-and-dirty rock club. All that being said, I thought they did a pretty good job, and I did enjoy their set. I especially liked “Run MF Run”:

The second band on the bill, Sidewalk Driver, was another one I’d never heard of before, so I was still in my “front row center and clueless” mode. I was a bit worried when I saw the band, especially the haircuts on the bassist and guitarist – I was afraid it was going to be some kind of testosterone-driven 80’s style hair metal band. But then the lead singer came out and I think I laughed out loud when I saw him – not because I thought he was funny (… he was) but because I had so badly misjudged the band. He was in an insane costume, like if you crossed 70s Elton John and/or David Bowie with a comic book villain. I’m not saying there was no hair-metal influence, but it was more glam-rock than anything. I can’t say that it’s my favorite genre in the world, but there’s no denying that it was a fun show. I wasn’t getting great photos that night because I was standing too close, but it’s worth looking through the slideshow on their website for some really fun pics of the band. Also, if you go see them, be prepared: I was shot point-blank with a glitter-confetti gun, and after 24 hours, a shower, three changes of clothes, and a trip to New York, I am still finding glitter!

The last band on the bill was the reason I was there – quickly becoming my favorite local band, Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys were headlining the night. I’ll say it up front: if you live around Boston, or if they are coming anywhere near you, you oughta go see them. Just do it. They’re so much fun! I’ll scatter some of Marco’s awesome screenshots in with my review, they are such a cool-looking band, it calls for extra photos…


(That is Walter Sickert himself; lead singer, guitarist, and bearer of awesome costumes and an array of kick-ass sunglasses.)

The Toys did a bunch of great songs, many of them from their album “Soft Time Traveler,” which is a GREAT album that you can listen to, buy, and/or download here: Even the digital download is extra cool, you get a different piece of original artwork with every song, so if you put it on your iPod (or other player capable of showing album art) you will see all the different art as you play through the album.

violinist 2

They played a bunch of my favorites, including “Devil’s in the Details,” “Baba Yaga,” and an excellent finale of “28 Seeds.” Take a listen to the studio version of that one here, and try to imagine it in a dancing, nearly-headbanging, singing-along crowd…

These are the 28 Seeds that we sow
Some up in heaven and some down below (yeah!)
These are the 28 Seeds that we sow
Some natural disasters, some man made, you know
Is it really the end of the world? Well, I hope so!

And check out another cool picture from Marco while you listen!
accordion bass

They also had the lead singer of Sidewalk Driver (whose name is listed only as “Tad” on their website) out for a duet with Walter Sickert… that was pretty fun, too. I wasn’t sure such a small venue could handle that much awesome costuming on stage at the same time, but we survived somehow. Marco got a great screenshot of Tad with some Broken Toys in the background:
sidewalk driver singer with toys

All in all, a fun and pretty over-the-top night. I was unbelievably tired when I got home just before midnight, but I still had to pack my suitcase for a trip to New York destined to contain over a dozen concerts. It’s gonna be a big week, folks… tune in frequently so you don’t miss anything! Better yet, subscribe to the blog or perhaps my Twitter feed or Facebook page (all of these things can be found on the top right hand side of this page). I’m planning on posting some Facebook-exclusive video content this weekend from the Bill Frisell concert I went to last night.

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