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Concert Reviews

Destroy Babylon at The Middle East

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Everyone has missed out on something—it’s the reason that we have cover bands and Ren Fairs.  Like a Ren Fair, patrons of The Middle East broke out their favorite masquerade costumes and came in character.  Costumes of note included several Cat Women, the Black Swan, Elwood Blues (I didn’t see Jake…), and Hunter S. Thompson (pray for us).

As the last few straggling children finished goading candy out of neighbors and began jumping around the house in sugar-induced frenzies, The Fat Mikes opened strong as NOFX, re-kindling the music of their childhoods—the music of Fat Mike, NOFX’s lead vocalist, jumping around stage.  Recently re-formed, they came on with all the energy of their predecessors.

They played songs from several different albums, mostly from the Punk in Drublic and I Heard They Suck Live!! days, centered around the mid 90’s as well as “Stranger Than Fiction” by Bad Religion.  As a tribute to Destroy Babylon, they included “Kill All the White Man,” a NOFX reggae song.  Lacking a trumpet, one of the members took up the mouth-trumpet (an instrument composed only of his mouth) and continued with it for “Bob.”

The Sterns, a Boston-based band composed of former members of ska bands Mass. Hysteria and Westbound Train, came on next, playing Fleetwood Mac covers—imitating the classic rock sound popular for half a century.  They had a strong vocal presence that mirrored Christine McVie’s original vocals and came together the way that Fleetwood Mac always did, playing classics from the 70’s like “Say You Love Me” and “Go Your Own Way.”

Destroy Babylon took the stage in trippy 1970’s apparel.  Riki Rocksteady of Riki Rocksteady and the Arraignments sang a solid accompaniment.  They played the entire The Harder They Come soundtrack, the album commonly credited with first popularizing reggae in the United States.

The songs had a little more of an electric sound than the original album had.  Even so, they did Jimmy Cliff justice.  The reggae sound wasn’t an affectation—their own music has roots in the Rasta tunes of the 1970’s, as was revealed in the encore.

There wasn’t a person in the room who wasn’t moving, swaying or dancing.  The crowd gave Destroy Babylon a lot of love —many of them will be back to see the reggae group on stage again soon at The Middle East in December.

Concert Reviews

Jonah Parzen-Johnson at Lilypad

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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.

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Concert Reviews

Speedy Ortiz “riiiiise above and gliiiiiide away” at The Sinclair

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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.

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Concert Reviews

Years & Years at Royale Boston

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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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