Café 939’s Red Room became a ride along in Tom Joad’s beat up truck Wednesday night; a caravan rolling through solid country, attitude, and kicking desolation where the sun don’t shine. Honeyhoney was on board to promote their new album Billy Jack, bringing Levi Lowrey and Joshua James along for the ride. Of all the nights I forgot to wear my damn cowboy boots!
Georgia’s own Levi Lowrey got the show on the road with “Whenever I Break Down” from his recent I Confess I Was a Fool. Accompanied tonight by Danny Macadams, the pair provided some dry banter through their set. After “Whenever” finished, there was some movement in the audience, and an exclaimed “Yes!” popped from within. People started to plop down to the floor. Levi looked amused, and said “I feel like I’m going to read some poetry to everyone.” Levi continued with “Space Between,” pausing for a few seconds, and sheepishly admitting he lost track of his words for a moment. He picked right up, quipping after that he started imagining felt boards, like the kind in elementary schools. Danny deadpanned, “I felt bored.”
“You’re really punny!” Levi responded. He strummed his guitar. “The next song’s about suicide. Sorry.”
Continuing with “Something More,” “I’ve Held the Devil’s Hand,” and “The Problem with Freedom,” Levi’s set stayed strong and consistent, a solid and raw country sound that rolled along angry and free under big blue skies and open roads.
When Joshua James hit the stage, everyone remained grounded on the floor and he requested the lights be brought down very, very low, preparing the room for a dark and theatrical set. Sitting turned out to be the best thing; this, I believe, allowed the audience to engage in Joshua’s movements and Great Plains-phantom tracks.
A dapper and wiry young man, Joshua looked like Bat Masterson, but his presence thundered like Jesse James as he maintained a gentle rasp on songs from Build Me This and The Sun is Always Brighter.
The songs had strong support from stirring backing instruments, all roaring cyclones of symphony—Joshua could muster up a frightening howl as well. From the pulsating “Daniel”—- which exploded into an exciting cacophony that stirred the blood —- to the oscillating “Coal War,” and the meditative and silvery “Pitchfork,” Joshua ended his set with a dark, sensuous and faithful cover of Tom Waits’ “Green Grass.” He dragged a sole cymbal out to the floor, stick in hand and had the lights reduce him to a shadow.
Without fanfare, Honeyhoney got right into their set full of syncopated attitude. Suzanne Santo’s vocals were indeed reminiscent of Bonnie Raitt’s husky tones, also a kindred spirit in flame hair. Ben Jaffe played his guitar, and everyone was standing again -— he requested they stay up.
Honeyhoney pretty much threw a saloon get-together for their set. This was the closest thing on tour they’d had to a hometown show for Jaffe; his sister goes to school in the area. Suzanne had a cold, which only sounded apparent when she’d talk between songs -— otherwise she barreled through, strong and like she never had to take any sort of lozenge for relief. The set featured the ambling-road track “Ohio,” the toe-tapping “Not for Long,” “I Don’t Mind,” and “Sugarcane.” The audience bounced along to the lovely yet gritty tracks. Honeyhoney brought Levi Lowrey and his fiddle in for a cover of Hank Williams’ “Lost Highway” before moving on the sultry surf rock of “Little Toy Gun.”
Honeyhoney seemed to glow with a radiance emitted from Suzanne and Ben themselves, and it burned brighter in the crescendo of “Oh Mama,” the last song of the night. Regularly slow and steady, the song became a wild gathering on stage, showing that Honeyhoney was not afraid to modify their sound. They did it masterfully. After all was said and done, it was time to hit the road to New York, out to the van whose spot Suzanne diligently guarded from the police.
Honeyhoney is delicious. I look forward to hearing more from them in the future.
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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