screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

First Night Boston 2011: A Recap

A few sights of Boston\'s First Night: Johnny Blazes @ the Hynes, Judgement Day, the Bunny Collective, a parade!, bright & noisy fireworks on Boston Common, Somerville Symphony Orkestra.

A few sights of Boston's First Night: Johnny Blazes @ the Hynes, Judgement Day, the Bunny Collective, a parade!, bright & noisy fireworks on Boston Common, Somerville Symphony Orkestra.

Wow, what a busy and chaotic 2011, just one week in! While I’m swamped with new shows to list, bands to possibly profile, and a host of other things, I thought I’d show you what I did on New Year’s Eve, though it now seems like a distant memory… Only in Boston do First Night celebrations include parents with their children watching a parade, a man at Downtown Crossing advertising Judgment Day (May 21, in case you were wondering), impressive ice sculptures (melting in the unusually pleasant evening), little kids petting policemen’s horses, and a full-on protest for Palestinian rights. Such were the scenes in and around Boston Common, capped off by a wondrous and satisfyingly loud early fireworks display, and then an evening of awesome music.

The Kominas

A Pakastani-American punk band with Hindi lyrics, singing both in English and Punjabi, would have been enough to pique my interest, but The Kominas are more than just punk rock. They have the ferocity, attitude and politically-social confrontational lyrics, but musically there’s some blazing guitar work and a musical sophistication that develops into some serious jamming. To end a blistering set, they performed a wonderful cover of MIA’s “Paper Planes.” Very highly recommended.


The rest of the evening I spent at the SteamCrunk Lounge (a.k.a. the Hynes Convention Center), presented by Mr. Walter Sickert of the Army of Broken Toys (who ‘headlined’). While I full intended to hop around to different events, this one proved so compelling as to keep me captive. It began with the 60s surf sounds of Trabants, who very convincingly brought a sunny California beach and whimsical fun to the austere interior of the Hynes. A dance party ensued, especially during their wild cover of “Wipe Out”.

Dezrah the Strange

Band set-up time was expertly and oddly filled by various performers such as Dezrah the Strange (and he was). Extremely twisted and off-kilter magic acts and curious spectacles (his “psychic surgery” on a hapless audience volunteer, pulling bloody ‘oddities’ from her extremities, was especially bizarre, disturbing, and hilarious).

Johnny Blazes

A very impressive cabaret performance from drag-burlesque artiste Johnny Blazes. While the families with kids began to thin out and the hipsters filled in as the evening wore on, there were still quite a few youngsters kicking around, and everyone was quite entranced. At one point, the parents were congratulated for being so open-minded as to consider this family fare; I would have liked to hear the parent-child conversations during Johnny’s sexy, PG-borderline act…

Somerville Symphony Orkestar

The Somerville Symphony Orkestar are a serious party – like a Jewish wedding, but on hallucinogens. They rocked out with violin, sax, trombone, trumpet… and oh yes, a song about an elephant (complete with an actual dancing elephant) which I think was a cover of some Disney thing? Great fun.

Johnny Blazes and Madge of Honor

Johnny Blazes and Madge of Honor

Johnny Blazes and Madge of Honor

Johnny Blazes came back out before the Broken Toys took to the stage, joined by his/her partner in crime, Madge of Honor. A totally bizarre aerobic/strip routine by Madge to “The Distance” which culminated in the two of them in their undies shaking some ass, to audience laughter and delight. I’m guessing this may have been a bit more PG than their usual schtick?

Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys with The Bunny Collective

When these guys play, it’s always a dark Victorian carnival celebration, but this was a special night indeed, and so the full complement of The Bunny Collective were in attendance and weaving their magic in and around the music in poignant little vignettes, adding drama, beauty and elegance to Broken Toys staples like “Cataclysm”, “Hole In The Boat”, and “ViktaGraph”. Just beautiful. Mali Sastri of Jaggery made a cameo appearance on the opening number, with her siren-like vocals a lovely counterpoint to Walter’s Tom Waits-invoking bluesy outpourings. Some more drama at the end, during their crowd-rousing classic “Ghostbusters,” when organizers literally pulled the plug. Undaunted, the band continued on for another verse acoustically before reluctantly calling it a night.

The Fatal Flaw

Ushered in the New Year with The Fatal Flaw and a big crowd at the Parkman Bandstand in Boston Common. Cool bouncy pop with acerbic, cynical and sharp lyrics; I’ll have to take in a full set of theirs sometime in the near future. First song of 2011: a rousing rendition of Tom Petty’s “American Girl” with complementary drunken audience revelry. Which actually was quite poignant.

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  1. the tiny instrument revue opened the night, actually a bit before you came. but we know you love us! thank you for including such thoughtful commentaries, as always. i’m glad you and your friend made it in!!!

  2. Thanks for the kind words! “Bizarre, disturbing and hilarious” is exactly what I’m going for. Can I quote you on that? 😉

  3. julie

    jojo – I *will* make it to one of your “revues” one of these days, promise! and Dezrah, yes sir, most certainly, glad to be of service. 😉

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