Concert Review: New Highway Hymnal, The Migs, Friendship, Empty Phrases @ Wilder Zangcraft (4/20/12)

Artists: New Highway Hymnal, The Migs, Friendship, Empty Phrases
Date: Friday, 4/20/12
Venue: Wilder Zangcraft/ Wilder Woodcraft (Lowell)
Comments: So, I am glancing at my 30 rack of Natti Ice and thinking I should start my Spring Weekend festivities off early this year. I have a lot of work to do this week, but nothing is more important than the music. So, here’s a review, if you want to call it that.

Firstly, 420 was so much apart of this show, I might as well give it its own section. So, I will.

Act I: 420– I myself am never overly enthusiastic about 420, because I don’t smoke “on the reg,” so to speak, but it seems to bring out the party in everyone. And I am glad for that because that always makes a show special. If people are joyous, then the occasion will be spectacular. High spirits (no pun intended) always makes an excellent concert dish. I’ve had some fun 420s in the past, but this one will go down as my favorite thus far. This is the first basement show at the Wilder Zangcraft and I am happy to have been apart of it. I hope they put on many more shows! Before the music begins, I take a gander at the space. Walking down the narrow staircase, using my poorly lit, 2001 model flip phone, I do my best to find my way to the basement and not fall flat on my ass, which has happened before. When I reach the floor, I see an interesting space indeed, which I was promised. The set up is odd in a good way. I suck describing shit like this, but basically the basement is more rectangular shaped. So,  if one was to walk down the steps they would see a group of kids facing the band to the right of them, if that makes any sense. Also, I have to mention there is a nice little “stage,” here, which is in fact just a little step up, but it sure is fun to leap off of when you are rocking out! Tonight, we have Empty Phrases, Friendship, The Migs, and none other than the New Highway Hymnal. I like to write about my life experiences, so here is my reaction to what I saw. Happy 420 kids.

Act II: Empty Phrases– Empty Phrases are a Lowell based quartet and it is always a pleausre of mine to see them do what they love. I have dubbed them “The Empties,” and I am hoping that others will continue this trend, though it seems I am alone in this. Speaking of empties, I need to grab a few more beers. What’s a lowell basement show without a few beers or many beers or my lovely back pack full of beers as singer/guitarist, Ben Raymond points out to me. Yeah, that is right this back pack is locked and loaded, and no studying will be taking place tonight. I left the books behind. As the band is about to go on, I crack open another beer. Everyone is feeling pretty high at this point and Empty Phrases, thee empties themselves, begin their set. A great transition I must say. I have always thought their music had summery vibes to it, even in the dead of winter when I froze my balls off many a night. On those cold evenings I could have made myself a cup of hot cocoa or turned the nozzle up on the thermostat, but instead I turned on Empty Phrases, and a feeling of warmth ran through my soul. On this evening, I am practically sweating, but even in April it feels like Summer and the band’s music becomes a fitting soundtrack. Perhaps that is where the Incubus vibes people (including myself) speak of come from; a mellow, almost psychedelic tone, but with an ability to rock and get you moving at the same time, hopefully get you moving, unless you are a square. Earlier in the evening I discussed Incubus with some fine gentlemen and I believe one of them spoke of Incubus’s albums having this seasonal appeal. Incubus aside, I think the empties have got a great sound and this is my favorite performance by them. They are astounding young musicians, but what is even more astounding is how they got J Cole to this show on such late notice. Haha, I just had to say that! J Cole core is the next big thing.

Act III: Friendship– Friendship is a local band that I have heard of, but I have not seen yet. They are a three piece and behind their set up they are accompanied by an inverted American flag, which I love by the way. I love America too, but the American flag is a piece of cloth after all and at the end of the day no matter how great America may be it still is totally fucked up, unjust, inequal, and simply upside down. A fitting backdrop.  Friendship is a fun live band and they have a pretty sweet dynamic to them.  I love how they opened the set, playing a clip of Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping” from a vintage cassette player before rocking right into their set.  Friendship is tight and the jams roll out within a blink of an eye. Anthony’s drumming stands out the most to me, he is defintely a powerhouse with those drum sticks. My favorite moment is definitely when Anthony starts mumbling the lines to Linkin Park’s “In The End” at an extremely rapid rate while Nick Eggs from Big Mess standing in the crowd joins in unison. When they reach the line “in the end” the band starts rocking instantaneously, right where they left off. I walk away impressed, cannot wait to see them again.

Act IV: The Migs– When I hear the word migs I instantly think of the psychopath Migs in The Silence of the Lambs.  You know the one that flung his “babies” at Jodie Foster (Agent Starling). Well, these migs do not toss their semen in my face, which is always a good start, NO bodily fluids in my face, maybe at the end. The Migs are great though, a garage/rock and roll kid’s wet dream. Before each song they start off by stating “We’re the Migs and we love you!” What an introduction! Reminds me of great one liner intros such as “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” or “We’re the Black Lips from Atlanta, GA.”  More bands should do this or maybe less bands should do this, because they are not cool enough. On this evening,  the crowd is a little mellow, 420 really kicking in at this point, but the Migs do not give a fuck, they just have fun and rock, jumping into the crowd and rolling around on the floor, playing guitar. I appreciate the energy,  it really gets me going. This is why I love this music, it is just all about fun. The band has a nice grip on the garage sound, but they venture off into other territories, dishing out doo wop and R&B numbers as well. Lukas from New Highway Hymnal joins the boys on “stage” for a cover of Them’s “Gloria,” and my balls drop, never to be found again.

Set List:
We Da Migs
What I Want
Follow Me Home
Take Take Take
You & Me
All The Things
Soul Records
Hate You More Than Satan
Achy Breaky*

Act V: New Highway Hymnal: The New Highway Hizzle, always an act I look forward to seeing.  NHH are one of Boston’s finest and I cannot recommend them to you enough. NHH keep the Migs’s spirit alive and provide plenty of vigor and showmanship. Singer/guitarist Hadden Stemp and bassist Amelia Gormely hop into the crowd in classic NHH fashion. Every member is exciting to watch. In particular, I love how drummer Travis Hagan bashes away at his set and often makes use of the wall as a source of percussion. Guitarist/vocalist, Lukas Goudreault, keeps the garage rock flowing and his guitar playing reminds me of Thee Oh Sees; both bands are definitely on the same psych wavelength. Alas, the set has to be curtailed because of some pesky policemen in the surrounding area. Overall, it is a solid show as I expected.

Set List:
Through Stained Glass
Beach Glass
Killing Town
Factory Song
Breath, Bleed, Dream
Hey Kid!
*Bo Diddley*

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