The year was 1977 and it was a magical time for music in England and America. Punk was beginning to bloom. It was an intriguing flower that was both beautiful and ugly at the same time. It was misunderstood by many who looked upon it but there was a select group of people who saw this flower and not only loved and understood it, it became a beacon for a new way of life. One of the most influential American bands to blossom in the punk garden was Bad Brains. Bad Brains was a group of four youths from the nation’s capitol that had a unique point of view and a lot to say. Ask any of the musical heavies that came after them and they will tell you that bad Brains influenced them. A band to be remembered and respected.
I say all of this as if I am eulogizing Bad Brains and maybe in some ways I am. We can never really go back to 1977 or the decade that followed but we can do our best by seeing the bands we loved “back in the day” when they grace us with a new tour. Bad Brains ended a very short tour in Atlanta Saturday night. The original line up took stage at The Masquerade to a respectable full house. The band was and always has been one of the tightest, most talented bands that I have ever seen. Sadly, HR seems to be a ghost of his former self. Gone are the hard, intense muscles and the “in your face”, sometimes literally in your face energy of HR. Now we see a small, frail man who, even as he’s singing to the crowd seems to be talking to himself. Gesturing to things we can’t see and wearing a towel over his head only adds to the impression that this is a eulogy and HR is indeed a ghost.
One can only wonder how the other band mates must feel about their longtime friend and band mate along with his demeanor. Earl Hudson on drums, Darryl Jenifer on bass and Dr. Know on guitar seem to play consummately and patiently as we all watch to see what wacky thing HR will do next. Maybe that is part of the show for Bad Brains right now. No, we can never go back to the show where kids stage-dived from the balcony at The Metroplex or The International Ballroom but they are Bad Brains and they are history.
Jonah Parzen-Johnson at Lilypad
Jonah Parzen-Johnson has an innate ability to make the baritone sax sound like bagpipes, and maybe that’s why I cried.
Mostly I cried because Jonah tells radiant stories with his saxophone and analog synth, working the brass and pedals to recreate the framework which surrounds his album Remember When Things Were Better Tomorrow: Parzen-Johnson wanted to make “something of myself that’s for everybody else.”
Jonah opened his set with “Stay There, I’ll Come to You,” showcasing the harmony between synth and sax right off the bat. With haunting lilts, the two combined into a ribbon of melody, pulsating inside the ear as well as the heart. Much like the song’s title, Jonah was the one approaching the audience as an experimental troubadour of tête-à-tête.
The back stories and thoughts behind each song tied in so well with the raw, almost throaty sax, developing such strong, emotional resonance with the musical layers. The skeleton shook.
Speedy Ortiz “riiiiise above and gliiiiiide away” at The Sinclair
The Sinclair was a packed house Wednesday night for the Speedy Ortiz CD release party; as a hometown gig for the Northampton, MA-based band, kinetic warmth buzzed through friends and fans alike as Sadie Dupuis and crew played their freshly-release Foil Deer track-by-track.
What’s a party without some guests, though? That’s where Krill and Mitski come in.
Krill kicked off the night with some tracks from A Distant Fist Unclenching, other goods from Lucky Leaves. Lead singer/bassist Jonah Furman brought to mind early (read: good) Billy Corgan, which I’m not sure he will appreciate. But I think he’ll appreciate this: I couldn’t stop laughing because then I kept thinking about Marilyn Manson telling Billy Corgan that he looked like Charlie Brown.
Opening with “Theme from Krill,” the Boston trio has a knack for rhythm and melody that burrows into your brain. The dreamy bleakness of “Purity of Heart.” The discordant garage rock and hiccupping guitar and warbly Scooter-ness of “Foot.” Krill’s sound is a good, comfy noise that keeps you wiggling and all that good stuff. Be sure to catch the band at Boston Calling.
Years & Years at Royale Boston
During winter storm Juno, UK electro pop group Years & Years were forced to cancel the first show of their two-night stint in New York City back in January. After the snow finally melted, they made the rounds again this past March, playing several shows in California, South by Southwest before finally landing in Boston.
Due to popular demand, the show was moved from The Sinclair to the Royale in downtown’s Theater District.
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