Halloween Festivities 2013: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari; Muertos III; and Cirque of the Dead

I can’t believe it’s been over two weeks since my last blog post! Excuses include: a concert was cancelled, I’ve been ill, I’ve been working overtime (and throwing in freelance hours on weekends), it was my mom’s birthday… you get the idea. Anyway, in between all that (and slotted in between World Series games) I did manage to attend three music-oriented seasonal events for Halloween and Day of the Dead.

The most recent one was called Muertos III: A Day of the Dead Fiesta of Local Food and Fantasmic Music. I don’t like to badmouth well-intentioned people too much in public, so I’m not going to name anyone but the bands. The dinner/drinks side of things was basically a disaster as far as I was concerned, so they are better left unlinked and unpublicized. (I’d been there for an hour and a half before I managed to score a glass of water, to give you an idea… and I only got that because one of the people giving out samples for Slumbrew , a local beer brewing company, was nice enough to take a moment to help me out when I was about to be turned away from the bar for the third time without a drink. I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer beer companies with kind employees!)

There were two bands playing at the Muertos event, and both of them were great: first up was Mariachi Estampa de America, who are – you guessed it! – a local mariachi band. They walked around the dance floor and played acoustically while people were (mostly) eating dinner and/or waiting in line for the buffet. I am not exactly an expert on mariachi music, but I thought they were good and I enjoyed their set very much. The other band playing was Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys (with special guest: Dr. Teeth) – I’m a big fan of theirs and it was the prospect of seeing them that dragged me out into the depths of Somerville. I was not disappointed!
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That right there is Walter Sickert and Dr. Teeth, and yes, of COURSE they have matching sunglasses. Dr. Teeth was notable not just for being the only Muppet-American in the band, but also because (more…)

The most egregious collection of catching-up mini-reviews the world has ever seen! Featuring such luminaries as Goblin, Secret Chiefs 3, the Dresden Dolls, Bill Frisell, Jason Webley, Chris Thile, and more.

So… in the last 5-6 weeks, I’ve seen 29 concerts (and spent 17 nights away from home doing so). I managed to review 21 of them, which is respectable – but it still leaves me pretty far behind. Some of the shows were particularly good (and there is some good video footage) so I didn’t want to leave them completely unblogged, but I really can’t remember them all well enough at this point to write full reviews. So: to the mini-reviews! I present them to you in chronological order.

Sept 20, 2013. Bill Frisell, Sam Amidon, Jason Moran, Alicia Hall Moran: The show was entitled “Gershwin & Beyond” and was part of the Frisell-curated “Roots of Americana” series at Lincoln Center. The concert was in the absolutely beautiful Allen Room (it’s hard to imagine a prettier place to see a show, for my tastes) and I had a front-row seat. Perfect, right? It was the first concert in my 10-day trip to NYC for Zorn@60, and unfortunately it was a poor match for my mood: I was EXTREMELY EXCITED about that week, I’d been looking forward to it and making plans for months, but the concert was almost universally downtempo and often sad music – I had a hard time switching gears. There were a few very pretty songs, though. I remember really liking “Shenandoah,” sung by Alicia Hall Moran. I unfortunately deleted, by accident, a bunch of videos and photos from that show. (Sorry…)

Sept 24, 2013. The Tri-Centric Orchestra: This event was at Roulette in Brooklyn, on the Tuesday night during our Zorn@60 week when John Zorn apparently decided to take a night off. I like Roulette a lot, but don’t get to go there very often. I was attracted to the show by the orchestra lineup, including 30 or 40 musicians and vocalists – lots of names were familiar to me (Taylor Ho Bynum, Jessica Pavone, Marika Hughes, Ken Filiano, Nate Wooley, Curtis Hasselbring, etc.). They performed three new works (by Ingrid Laubrock, Taylor Ho Bynum, and Mark Taylor) as well as premiering an Anthony Braxton piece written in 1973 but never performed, Composition No. 27. This was a fun night of new music and I especially liked the Mark Taylor composition, even though he was the only one of the composers I’d never heard of before. I’ll have to check out some more of his work.

Oct 7, 2013. A Tribute to Rebecca Rosenthal (including the Dresden Dolls, Jason Webley, etc.): This was a concert organized as a fundraiser and memorial/tribute to a local woman, Rebecca Rosenthal aka Becca Darling, who died unexpectedly and far too young. (You might have seen her in Amanda Palmer’s “Oasis” music video – NSFW – or Neil Gaiman’s short film, “Statuesque,” both of which were screened for us during the concert.) There were many performers during the night, including friends and favorite musicians of Rebecca; but the headliners would probably be considered the Dresden Dolls (with Jason Webley as, er, runner-up headliner). I really liked both of their sets, and filmed some of it. See Jason Webley by clicking here and/or watch the Dresden Dolls here:

If you are interested in making a donation to a scholarship in Rebecca Rosenthal’s memory – click here.

Oct 9, 2013. Secret Chiefs 3: The next concert I went to, at the Sinclair in Cambridge, was Secret Chiefs 3 opening for Goblin. (more…)

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:
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(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 (more…)

Concert Review: The Nines Festival (8/10/2013)

My friend Jen won a pair of tickets to The Nines Festival in Devens, MA this weekend. Thanks to Boston Emissions for giving them away and thanks to Jen for bringing me along :) I don’t normally go to outdoor festivals (partly due to not having access to a car, partly because the sun hates me and my ghostly pale skin) so it was a bit of a novel scene for me. There was a pretty eclectic selection of music and a lot of them were not bands I would have seen if left to my own devices; but it’s always good to open your ears to something new and remind yourself that there’s a big world of music out there.

This was the inaugural Nines festival, so we didn’t know exactly what to expect, aside from what was on their website – ten bands on two stages, a comedy tent with half a dozen comedians, and art installations/exhibits. We were in the unusual position of being most excited about the very first band of the day, Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys. (Regular readers of my blog probably remember them, as I have reviewed them twice already this summer – here and here.) They put on an excellent show as usual, although it was distinctly weird to be seeing them at lunchtime, outdoors on a hot and sunny summer day. Not their natural habitat. The sound was far too loud for my little camera to deal with, so I’ll have to pick a random awesome Youtube video for you to watch:

After this first set, I went to get some lunch and then caught the end of the Air Traffic Controller set. Like the Army of Toys, they are a local band, but I hadn’t seen them before. I liked them, but having only seen 10-15 minutes of their set, I don’t have much to write about. They’re a fairly light-hearted indie rock/pop band, from what I heard. Check out one of their songs here:

After ATC we headed back to the main stage for Shuggie Otis, whose career the New York Times has referred to as “baffling.” 2013 saw his first (more…)

Concert Mini-Reviews: Tiger Lillies (7/15/2013), Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys (7/19/2013), Hot Club of Somerville (7/20/2013)

I had to work too much overtime this week to keep up with my concert reviews, so I’m giving you a quick three-fer of theatrical musical performances from the past week.

Last Monday I went to the always-lovely Oberon in Harvard Square to see the Tiger Lillies. I think of them as a real “love it or hate it” kind of band, although I may be the exception that proves the rule – I’m more in the “like” camp. They’re a lot of fun, and they know how to put on a good concert, but I can’t say their music really reaches me on any deeper level. That said, there’s definitely a place in my life for bands that are just fun!

They are a unique three-piece band featuring mostly-falsetto lead vocals and a variety of instruments including accordion, drums, upright bass, piano, and theremin. Their music recalls theatrical styles like cabaret and vaudeville, while their lyrics tend to be both filthy and macabre. Monday night’s show was a lot of fun, they received a very enthusiastic response from a fairly diverse audience. (I’ll be honest, the people sitting next to me were scaring me a little. But that’s a story for another day.) The band took some requests for the encore, which made a lot of their fans very happy.

This video will give you a good idea of their sound and style:

The other two concerts of the week were part of the Outside the Box Festival on Boston Common, at the Spiegeltent, which turned out to be a (more…)