BY JEFF LEVEN
I’ve got to admit that I’m one of many HLS students who makes a hobby, nay, an absolute sport, out of bitching about Boston. If it’s not one thing it’s another with me really – it’s either cold and gray and so desolately bitter I’m griping about the weather or it’s sunny and nice and picturesque and I’m complaining about the way people drive on Mass Ave. or the way this, that, or the other fact of life is better in New York or L.A. or Texas or Chicago or what have you. Sometimes, maybe even often, I’m right – it is cold, it is bleak, it is cramped and the roads don’t make any sense and the stupid T can’t get you home from the stupid bars that close so stupidly early. But damn if Boston doesn’t have its occasional moments. This October I am, to put it mildly, flat-out dazzled and impressed. You could go to the Paradise Rock Club alone almost every night this October and come away seeing an arrestingly vital cross-section of today’s musical landscape. And that’s just one club. Just-shy-of-big-name rock and hip hop rarely gets any better than it will in the clubs of Beantown this time around, and this particular whiner is just flushed with enthusiasm:
SEPT. 29 – Built to Spill (Paradise Rock Club): It only seemed fitting to sneak in a late September treat, and who better to treat yourself with than indie royalty Built to Spill. One of college radio’s greatest guitar armies, Built to Spill croons and crashes through one great song after another, creating a sonic collage that’s dense, cozy and kinetic.
OCT. 1 – Aesop Rock/El-P/Mr. Lif (Paradise): Simply put, the cutting edge of American underground hip hop these days is the Def Jux stable of artists, centered around the jagged, tormented post-apocalyptic production genius of El-P. Mixing a dizzying array of sonic textures with a street-smart knife-edged lyrical bluster, the Def Jux family has done the heretofore nearly impossible: bridging the cavernous gulf between the self-fascinated environs of ambient noise rock and the vicious swagger of hip hop’s angrier incarnations. Featuring the “El” himself along with Aesop Rock, perhaps his most confounding visionary prodigy, this show promises to be a scabrous excursion into grit and rhythm, poetry and passion.
OCT. 2 – Pat Green (Paradise): Singer, songwriter and homegrown Texas hero Pat Green is well on his way to being one of today’s biggest success stories. With thoughtful lyrics, lovingly constructed songs and a certain nostalgic ring to his voice, Green is hitting that special emotional chord with bigger and bigger audiences nationwide in a road campaign that will, if there is any justice, transform him before long from a regional favorite into a national phenomenon. See him here, see him now and find out that a couple hundred thousand Texas kids really can’t be wrong.
OCT. 6 – Peaches (MidEast): Despite my natural suspicion of the oh-too-trendy and yet still so-frighteningly-retro “Electroclash” movement, the one performer who will probably stick around long enough to mean something has got to be Peaches. She’s pornographic, she’s perverted and she’s got about as distinct a voice, swagger and schtick as any twisted rock-harlot since Wendy O. Williams. If a few hours of crotch-grabbing and orgasmic moans set to frenzied Kraftwerk-in-a-blender beats in a Cambridge basement sounds like your idea of fun, your moment has indeed arrived. See you there?!
OCT. 7 – Black Keys (Paradise): Fresh from seeing them this summer, all I can say is that it really doesn’t get too much cooler than the Black Keys. While the two-person band is all the rage these days (White Stripes, Soledad Brothers, etc., etc.), the Black Keys pull it off with a menacing minimalist presence that set them way apart. Snarling and reverberating their way through one great song after another, they play blues so gritty, thick, and primal you could close your eyes and forget that these two little shaggy Akron boys weren’t John Lee Hooker’s long lost sons howling to the ghost of some Delta moon. Visualize if you must, but keep your ears open for every last second.
OCT. 8-9 – Hot Hot Heat (the Axis): If Billie Joe from Green Day joined a 60s garage rock band and tried to ride the coat-tails of the White Stripes, it would sound a lot like Hot Hot Heat. Which, come to think of it, would be nothing less than a big barrel of fun. An added plus for having the Caesars open on the 9th, although the French Kicks keep the 8th an equal exhibition of spunk and frenzy.
OCT. 9 – Calexico (Paradise): Mariachi music, American alt. country and a dash of Ennio Morricone’s classic sphagetti-western twang-drama makes Calexico pretty much the most exciting thing going in today’s Americana music scene. With absolutely panoramic songs and more thematic cohesion than some of their earlier efforts, their recent release Feast of Wire is a zenith, and all the more reason to see their sun-baked vision realized onstage.
OCT. 10-11 – Sheila Divine “Final Performances” (Paradise): So somehow my favorite little-band-that-could-and-should is apparently breaking up before they ever got to bask in the fame they so rightly deserved. While perhaps singer Aaron Perrino’s new band Dear Leader is a possible culprit/ascendant replacement, I for one will rue their passing. With two nights at the Paradise, at least they gave us one last chance to say goodbye.
OCT. 10 – Radio 4 (Middle East) or Cowboy Mouth/Cracker (Avalon): This just isn’t fair. Not only does the Sheila Divine play one of their final shows tonight, but you also have to choose between the flat-out frat party glory of Cowboy Mouth and the swirling, sinister post-punk funk energy blast that is Radio 4. Flip a coin and grab a cab.
OCT. 11 – Mofro (Middle East) or Spiritualized and Soledad Brothers (Avalon): More close calls. Again the Sheila Divine competes with, in this case, the psychedelic rock waft of Spiritualized or the funky, funky, down-home groovy, booty-shaking wallop that is Mofro, the South’s best-kept jamband secret. Mofro’s astounding Fender Rhodes (electric piano) player is probably the tie-breaker for me, but perhaps the aforementioned Soledads are a reason to cruise down to Landsdowne in their own right. Still got that coin?
OCT. 14 – Fishbone and King’s X (Middle East): Two random shows I went to for the heck of it in my younger years were Fishbone and King’s X. As it turns out, those two shows also happen to have been among the twenty best I’ve ever seen. Incredible audience rapport, extended sets and sincere and committed performances on both counts. As such, to see the punk-funk-prog rock-pop stylings of two of music’s most underrated outfits in one dank basement bar is an offer I for one simply can’t refuse.
OCT. 16 – Iron & Wine (TT the Bears) or Interpol (Avalon): If you missed the echoing atmospheric sonic overload of Interpol last year, take a trip to the Avalon and wear your skinny black tie. Otherwise, opt for a night of bare backwoods acoustic confession at TT the Bears as Iron & Wine’s Samuel Beam proceeds to beat Will Oldham (aka Palace Music aka Bonny Prince Billy) at his own jagged, rustic and beautiful game.
OCT. 17 – Gov’t Mule and Chris Robinson (Orpheum) or Evan Dando and Vic Chestnutt (Paradise): Ironically, if anyone is capable of filling the void left by the Black Crowes’ hiatus, it probably won’t be Kate Hudson’s hubby himself so much as Gov’t Mule, guitarist Warren Haynes’ traveling exposition of jam-band virtuosity. Arrayed back-to-back, the rootsy vibes and Southern rock rollick of the two outfits together will be a force to be reckoned with. Across town, recovering addict Evan Dando and unrepentant genius Vic Chestnutt offer equal parts weighty songwriting and smiley charisma.
OCT. 18 – Josh Rouse and Leona Naess (Paradise): Continuing its amazing month, the Paradise brings yet another titanic songwriting duo. The Oscar intro would read as follows: “he’s a heart
land poet in the tradition of Westerberg, Joe Pernice, Elliot Smith and James Taylor, she’s a big city songstress in the tradition of Edie Brickell, Tori Amos, and Joni Mitchell. Please welcome Josh Rouse and Leona Naess.” Bring an open heart for an evening of introspection, sonic resonance and two of America’s unique ascending voices.
OCT. 21 – Dan Bern (Club Passim): It’s rare you get to see a guy this celebrated and this clever in a room this small. Unfairly saddled with all the usual “new Dylan” comparison crap, Bern is funnier, punchier, more political and more unflinching than those who dwell on his simple writing talent would ever let on. If you’re lucky maybe he’ll get snide and do “No Missing Link,” his rather salty theory on the real story behind human evolution.
OCT. 22 – Pharcyde, People Under the Stairs (MidEast): As a bookend to the Def Jux show at the beginning of the month, the MidEast goes blisteringly hot old school tonight as the up-and-coming People Under the Stairs and the now-legendary Pharcyde bring the beats and bring ’em hard.
OCT. 23 – Echo and the Bunnymen (Paradise): One of the more intriguing shows I’ve seen in Boston was Echo at the Avalon. Playing nearly two hours in a constant swirling fog, the mysterious shadows of Neil Sargent and Ian McCulloch belted out one shimmery warbling gem after another. Amazing that they are still so affecting after all these years.
OCT. 24 – Paul Weller acoustic (Avalon): If the Jam, the Style Council or Paul Weller himself doesn’t ring a bell, run don’t walk to the Avalon to see what you’ve been missing. To say that Weller is the truest heir to the Who, the Kinks and a tradition of British working class musical soldiery is only to state what an hour tonight should render pretty much obvious.
OCT. 25 – Death Cab for Cutie and American Analog Set (Middle East) or Killing Joke (Axis): Windy, tight songwriting textures at the Middle East or the pointillistic disco-punk fury of an 80s underground stalwart at the Axis? Cozy and earnest acoustica or brash and confrontational sonic assault? A last-minute mood choice if I’ve ever seen one.
OCT. 26 – Rooney and Travis (Orpheum): I’ll come clean with it. I love Travis. I tolerate Rooney. Despite what the cynics say, Travis is not a Radiohead tribute band. Despite what the mainstream press says, Rooney probably is a Weezer tribute band. Even in the worst case scenario neither is that bad a thing to be and you could do a lot worse than several hours worth of tight songs and earnest vocals. So just suspend a little nagging disbelief and enjoy.
OCT. 29 – Ween (Avalon): Ween!!! Ween!!!!! Ween!!!!!! The thing you’ve got to love about these guys is that they try so hard to disguise how completely dripping with musical talent they are – unabashedly hiding their instrumental and writing prowess behind one giddy joke after another. Country, funk, soul, light rock, metal and most points in between all figure in the perverse mix-tape that is the Ween experience. Hopefully in between blasts like “It’s Gonna Be A Long Night” from their new platter Quebec and older favorites like “Voodoo Lady,” the boys will find some time to play some of their more sensitive numbers- touching classics like “Waving My Dick in the Wind,” or “Piss Up A Rope.” Bring a sense of humor and maybe some Scotchguard and brace yourself for some side-splitting madcap slapdash from the mean Ween machine.