Nato Bardeen and Todd Eisenkerch of The Drowning Men
I had seen The Drowning Men on several occasions as support for The Airborne Toxic Event, mostly in larger venues. I had become so accustomed to seeing/hearing them take over the room and captive big crowds in a big space, that nothing quite prepared me for the sonic onslaught of that huge sound of theirs in the small confines of T.T. the Bear’s Place. This is a happy problem to have—being too good for a small venue. As Nato himself said, when headlining, they’re still a “small band,” though they sure as hell don’t sound like one.
Crazy times. It’s scary how fast this year is whirling past, but the one piece of good news is that we’re already on the eve of The Drowning Men’s show at T.T.’s, as they make a stop in Cambridge midway through their tour. They’ve been celebrating the release of their extremely fine new album, “All of the Unknown” (Borstal Beat Records), which I reviewed on Ryan’s Smashing Life. Last time I saw these guys, it was almost a year ago at the Orpheum Theatre, supporting The Airborne Toxic Event, whom I definitely have to thank for introducing me to these wonderful musicians. I’m really looking forward to Nato Bardeen’s ‘grasping wildly at a life raft’ vocals, keyboards and mandolin, the band’s sheer exuberance and their ‘pirates on the high seas’ vibe. And oh yes, the theramin, which gives their Eastern European, wistful Americana, sea shanty rock an off-kilter carnival air. If you begin to feel dizzy, put your head between your knees.
Be there when The Drowning Men come careening onto the stage of T.T.’s. And find me up at the front sometime around midnight to wish me a happy birthday.
10/26 Fri – Cambridge, MA – T.T. the Bear’s
10/27 Sat – New York, NY – Mercury Lounge
10/28 Sun – Pittsburgh, PA – Club Cafe
10/30 Tues – Chicago, IL – Schuba’s Tavern
11/1 Thurs – Denver, CO – Lion’s Lair
11/2 Fri – Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court
11/3 Sat – Las Vegas, NV – Palms Hotel Lounge – FREE SHOW
Levon Helm, Crooked Fingers, Toyah Willcox with The Humans
Ok, so last year I had a ‘Top 10’ list. What can I say; 2011 was kind of a struggle. But I did discover a common theme for this year’s favorites: delivering a stellar performance in the face of adversity. Whether it was a legendary performer who had overcome personal struggles to come back, absolutely blazing (Toyah Wilcox, Levon Helm, and Eric Bachmann with his band Crooked Fingers); or just a rough night (lead singer Evan Way of The Parson Red Heads being really sick but soldiering on anyway, and The Drowning Men and their ‘road trip from hell’); my soaring admiration combined with musical prowess to create these special evenings.
At first I thought this was just a very strange band name, but no, T.T.’s is having a flea market tomorrow. Being T.T.’s, it’s not just your standard flea market – it’s combined with a ‘Bloody Mary Bash.’ It promises cool vintage items & clothes, knick knacks, books, vinyl, arts & crafts, and other stuff. Plus a DJ, face-painting and photo booth, and yes of course, Bloody Marys and also Mimosas and spiked cider. In other words, a perfect event for an autumn Sunday.
You’ll probably need to go home and take a nap before coming back to welcome Portugal’s The Gift, who bring their psychedelic synth pop back to the states to celebrate their latest release. The most popular alternative band in Portugal, they’ve been together since 1994, toured in the U.S. with The Flaming Lips back in 2003, and have just released their new album Explode.
As I told the Siara boys after their deeply gratifying set of life-affirming rock ‘n’ roll, “thanks man, I really needed that.” Yup, tough year. What can I say? Read more of my heartfelt gratitude on Ryan’s Smashing Life. I gave him the photos that didn’t look like I shot them in a dark underwater cave. Apart from the ridiculous volume level for two dozen of us in a place the size of a shoebox, they also have a rather creative lighting technique, whereby they illuminate the audience but leave the performers in semi-darkness. Actually, we later decided that was good for bands with bad hangovers; Joey said it was nice and subdued, and he could see all of us just fine. Awesome.
Joey raises his plastic cup to the 20 of us. No man, here's to you.
Brotherly love: Andy and Joey Siara of The Henry Clay People (The Trocadero, Philadephia, Oct 10, 2009)
Just a quickie to commemorate this happy event: The Henry Clay People back in Boston, this time as headliners (yay!) at T.T. the Bear’s Place on Sunday night. They go on at 11, after sets from Cambridge-based Wildfowl and NYC’s The Dig. Have a look at my little preview on Ryan’s Smashing Life.
Amanda Palmer in Cabaret (photo by Marcus Stern), Otis Grove (photo by Arthur Shim), The Action Verbs, and wildfowl.
Welcome back to this weekly – or not so weekly – feature. This, or rather next week we have a few interesting things of note: A “Late-Night Fucking Cabaret” (yes, that’s exactly how it’s being billed) at OBERON, five Boston-area bands on one bill at the Middle East, Otis Grove’s CD Release Party at Lizard Lounge, and Cambridge-based wildfowl (that’s a band, not a bunch of birds) supporting a favorite L.A. band of mine who kinda snuck their way in…
The big and exciting news of this show is the first Boston appearance of The Happy Hollows. Having just been proclaimed by Radio Free Silver Lake as “the best band playing regularly in Los Angeles right now”, they’ve just released their debut album Spells, and will be performing a few shows here on the East Coast along with an appearance at CMJ.
The last time I saw the wonderful Silverlake band The Local Natives (also at T.T.’s, with The Union Line & Voxhaul Broadcast) was back in January, and I was amazed at how good they were. It was a Sunday night, the weather was cold, slushy and miserable, and there were maybe 20 people in the audience, most of them the other band members and their friends. Even so, and considering they had come from L.A. cross-country to play for us, they put on an enthusiastic, fantastic show, and this really impressed me.