It’s a last-gasp attempt to be timely, to be sure, but I feel I must mark the occasion. A favorite Boston band — no, let’s call them a musical art ensemble — by the name of Jaggery is officially releasing a new album today. It’s called Crux. This evening, they’ll be hosting their record release party at ONCE Ballroom at Cuisine en Locale, with what will most certainly be a stunning performance by this wonderful group of musicians. Because, truth be told, I have yet to see a performance by them that isn’t stunning. And that includes the one at the dearly departed Church, which was done in darkness with people shining their smartphones onto the stage when the club suddenly lost power.
I’m listening to Crux as I write this. Beginning with Singer Mali’s ‘War Cry,’ like an eagle warning the planet of imminent catastrophe, the album embarks on a mysterious journey through jungles and tropical rain forests, deserts and savannas, open tundra and grasslands. Such is the breadth and depth of these musical passages, like unique, self-contained acts of a life-long, epic musical. I’m quite used to Mali’s playful, threatening, taunting and soaring vocals being jaw-dropping, but she has reached new heights (and depths) here. It’s the voice of a million colors.
The musical accompaniment provided by Mali’s exquisite piano and her insanely talented mini-orchestra â€“ Daniel Schubmehl (drums, percussion), Tony Leva (upright bass), Rachel Jayson (viola), Dylan Jack (drums, percussion) and Petaluma Vale (harp, vocals) â€“ is downright kaleidoscopic, begging for a thousand dancers to be flinging themselves around, under and over each other on a vast Broadway stage.
In this incomprehensible world we now find ourselves in, with so much discordant noise and nonsense all around, there are thankfully those extremely rare occasions of brilliance. Think of it as a tiny glistening diamond in a sea of shit. A sensible and sophisticated environment in endless rows of tacky used car lots and strip malls. And for that moment, as we behold that impossibly perfect gemstone forged from the chaos that surrounds it, against all odds, we are simultaneously taken out of ourselves and back into our center.
04/29 Somerville, MA â€“ ONCE Ballroom â€“ album release party
06/21 Kingston, NY â€“ BSP Lounge
06/22 Philadelphia, PA â€“ TBA
06/23 Baltimore, MD â€“ The Crown
06/24 Washington, DC â€“ 16th Street House
06/25 Reidsville, NC â€“ Brad & Tammyâ€™s Listening Loft
06/27 Indianapolis, IN â€“ 10 Johnson Avenue
06/28 Chicago, IL â€“ Martyrâ€™s
06/29 Detroit, MI â€“ TBA
06/30 Toronto, ON â€“ Transaz Club, Southern Cross Room
07/01 Buffalo, NY â€“ Hickory Sanctuary
07/03 New York, NY â€“ TBA
Holy crap, it’s the end of the year already!? If you’re like me and the closing of this crazy year has caught you flat-footed, you might appreciate a few suggestions of how to regain your equilibrium and get 2016 started off in grand style. We’re taking a little break from introducing you to new bands to check in with a few old friends and see what they’re up to on New Year’s Eve.
First Night Boston is alive and well, and though stripped down from its former self, it’s now completely free! This family-friendly event actually begins at noon on New Year’s Eve and runs through the next day. Check out the schedule. Even if you have NYE plans, you still have time to catch the annual “People’s Procession” that moves from Copley Square to Boston Common, culminating in everyone’s favorite early-bird “Family Fireworks” right on the Common.
Cuisine en Local, if you haven’t been there, is an extremely cool caterers featuring locally sourced food. In addition to top-notch catering and meal delivery, they also opened their ONCE ballroom, which is a really nice function hall with a lounge upstairs that overlooks it. This is a prime location for concerts, and they’ll be celebrating their 10th anniversary with a huge blow out on New Year’s Eve. It’s a tremendous lineup featuring Eastern European Gypsy Party Punk band Somerville Symphony Orkestar, Ruby Rose Fox, Cask Mouse and Cactus Attack. I’ve had the great pleasure of seeing the Orkestar and Cask Mouse over the years, and I can attest to the fact that these are top tier bands. The others sound great as well, so if you’re a local music aficionado, this looks like the place to be.
If that’s not enough to entice you, ONCE will be designing a special menu of munchies centered around “traditional local foods” and tickets will include a complimentary champagne toast at midnight. So ::: purchase tickets now ::: and you’ll have a warm, cozy and fiddling place to ring in the New Year with great, festive music!
I suppose what threw me off was the billing. The advertisements said “solo performance by Andrew W.K.” rather than his full band. But leave it to Mr. W.K. to require nothing more than a Roland keyboard, a few microphones and a straight man in the form of someone known only as “Krenshaw” to bring the party.
Clearly this was going to be a very different affair from the last time I saw him — a collaborative performance at a civilized Brookline theater with the uber-classy Calder Quartet. Though the headbangers were in full attendance that evening, they were joined by an equal portion of genuinely baffled symphony subscribers, in unfamiliar if not hostile territory. Tonight, I was on their turf.
In addition to being somewhat of an Andrew W.K. virgin, it was also my first time at Cuisine en Locale, a Somerville-based caterer specializing in (quite delicious) locally sourced foods. As it happens they’re also a bar, restaurant and concert venue. At first, I thought the show was to be upstairs in their cozy ONCE Lounge, but was confused by the solitary drum set on the small dance floor. As it happened, the show was downstairs in the ballroom. In retrospect, it was an incongruous sort of venue for what was to transpire, amidst its elegant carpet, dance floor and chandeliers. But for this unique triple-band lineup, presented by the Keynote Company, it felt just like home.
Mike Woo’s Raging Bone was virile and relentless, pounding away hard and keeping it up through a panting and breathless set. This exceptionally hard-rocking hardcore quintet is paradoxically from the North Shore, but don’t let that fool you. And don’t think that they’re all muscle and no method. Beneath that hard, brute force exterior is some mighty fine skill.
After the furious pace of the Raging Bone, CMB (Casey Desmond’s latest project) felt like an exotic hand-rolled smoke in a silver and tortoise shell cigarette holder, savored while lounging on a red velvet divan. She was exquisite. Well-known among the Boston music community and progeny of local music legends Bill and Katherine Desmond, Desmond is a real life goddess. She took us all on a magic carpet ride to distant galaxies. A woman armed with an ethereal voice, a Mac laptop and a bunch of twiddly knobs is a dangerous weapon indeed.
Finally, it was time for the main attraction. The festivities began with a motivational warm-up, a sort of rock ‘n’ roll party pep rally. A siren wails and the police are called in to investigate. A party is about to begin, and we’re all invited.
“Tonight is about all of the positive feelings. Tonight, all of the people here are all friends. Tonight is about having the best night of your life.”
When Andrew bounces in, all enthusiasm and smiles and biceps, dressed head to toe in white like a maniacal Mr. Clean, delirium ensues and all bets are off. From the opening notes of “It’s Time To Party,” we all become a violently churning singular living organism, throbbing and pulsating with life force. W.K. and his wing-man Krenshaw, more an insane asylum court jester than a backup singer, roughhouse their way through classics and massive audience favorites from I Get Wet.
It was an exhilarating, exhausting and life-affirming aerobic exercise — a full mind, body, soul and ears workout. The sound system, suitable for a room ten times the size of this 300 capacity ballroom, bellowed out W.K. and Krenshaw’s athletic antics while the crowd barked, brayed and cheered in appreciative response.
Three or four songs in, it was fast becoming too much of a good thing, and my eyes darted madly around me, wondering if anyone knew the safeword.
I decided to move — no, actually I physically hurled myself to the left, letting the circular motion of the human whirlpool eventually deposit me at a breathable distance. Photographic evidence proved difficult if not impossible under such circumstances, but video footage tells the story. Mixed into the breathless collection of powerful party anthems was their cover of his friend Aleister X’s “Bangers and Beans.”
Andrew W.K. is one of a kind, a genuinely unique entertainer (and some might even say educator). One third hardcore headbanger, one third motivational speaker (brilliantly demonstrated in this recent article of his Village Voice column) and, though it’s not heralded as it should be, one third extremely accomplished and classically trained pianist.
Indeed, I could have quite happily listened to Mr. W.K.’s mad scientist ministrations on that Roland synth for hours. Now that’s a party.
And just in case there was any confusion about where they were performing this evening, W.K. altered the lyrics to “I Love NYC” in loving tribute to this special occasion, to the delight of everyone in attendance.
It was a crazy and rambunctious scene, but a supportive one. When one of the many crowd surfers had a rough landing near me, everyone rushed to his aid. He was fine. Adrenaline and endorphins, raucousness and rock ‘n’ roll — the perfect, maybe even the only, way to spend a Friday night.
If all this sounds like your idea of a good time, I have great news for you. Andrew W.K. is about to embark on a big tour which will comprise solo appearances like Somerville, full band extravaganzas at festivals and even a few lectures.
Check it out! And Party Hard!
Andrew W.K. Tour
8/30 Denver, CO – National Western Complex – Riot Fest (full band)
9/2 Fargo, ND – The Aquarium (Dempseys Upstairs) (solo)
9/3 Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock Social Club (solo)
9/5 Kalamazoo, MI – Audiotree Music Festival (full band)
9/6 New Albany, IN – The Rustic Frog, Befuddled Festival (solo)
9/7 Columbia, MO – Rose Music Hall (solo)
9/9 Nashville, TN – Exit In (solo)
9/10 Charlotte, NC – Neighborhood Theater (solo)
9/11 Columbus, OH – A&R Music Bar (solo)
9/13 Chicago, IL – Douglas Park – Riot Fest (full band)
9/15 Birmingham, AL – Saturn (solo)
9/16 Atlanta, GA – Terminal West (solo)
9/18 Toledo, OH – Frankies (solo)
9/20 Toronto, ONT, Canada – Downsview Park – Riot Fest (full band)
10/10 Los Angeles, CA – Shrine Expo Hall & Grounds (solo)
10/12 Edmonton, AB, Canada – The Starlite Room (solo)
10/13 Calgary, AB, Canada – Nite Owl (solo)
10/15 Winnipeg, MB, Canada – Pyramid Cabaret (solo)
10/17 Des Moines, IA – Vaudeville Mews (solo)
10/17 Des Moines, IA – Iowa Historical Building (lecture)
11/1 Gainesville, FL – Lot 10 – FEST 14 (full band)
11/8 Austin, TX – Fun Fun Fun Fest (lecture)