Concert Review: The Orwells @ TT The Bears (2/27/13)

The Orwells, The Kingston Springs, Nice Guys
Date: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Venue: TT The Bears (Cambridge)

TT The Bears is one of those venues that hosts some real solid local shows on a regular basis that we often recommend, but for whatever reason, it is just not a place that I often find myself going to. The shows I have been to at TTs have been memorable, though. There was that sparsely attended Sunday March 29th 2009 War on Drugs show, an even emptier Tuesday night Growlers show back in February 2010, and finally a more populated event on September 17, 2010 that featured the choice threesome of Those Darlins, Gentleman Jesse & His Men, and The Strange Boys.

On this chilly Wednesday night in Cambridge, it was one of my favorite bands of the past few years – The Orwells – headlining a gig at ‘The Bears. The cool thing about running a site that operates like a fan zine is that the shows we go to and end up reviewing usually feature a favorite on the bill. Well, as it turns out, the power of informing others about bands that rule went full circle on this night. A little more than two years ago, The Orwells reached out to KLYAM, seeing if we would check them out. At that juncture,  they were a little known band from Elmhurst, Illinois without much deserved press coverage. Not to mention that they were still far away from graduating high school. Well, KLYAM gave them the ole Spotlight ( Not that this did much in the way of introducing shit tons of people to a really great band; it was more of a damn, how are these guys not being mentioned alongside some of the garage greats of the day? Their debut album Remember When, self-released a year before the Autumn Tone backed vinyl, is an insane album that definitely stacks right up with some of the best of the past couple of years and I would say that is a testament to the way these guys achieved a stand-out sound that is probably more the result of extensive listening to Black Lips and Ty Segall than the stuff (’60s garage/psych) that those same dudes were influenced by. It was great to finally meet the band after a long ass waiting period of simply listening to their music. On to the show:

Starting things off were Nice Guys, who I had seen on a few different occasions prior to tonight. Those times contrasted this occasion in more than one way. The last time I caught them was at the Wilder Zangcraft in Lowell with Nice Guys being Nice Whips (all Coachwhips covers) due to the untimely illness of drummer Cam Smith. Well Cam was back behind the kit tonight, and damn right he was, given that the show I mentioned was many months ago. At any rate, the point is that up until this point I had only seen Nice Guys play teeny basement spaces with rampant moshing, oozing beer, and broken instruments. There wasn’t any of that mayhem at TTs, but there were fun times and a fine display of musicianship from the foursome. Their set, the list of which I’m really pissed to say I lost…the one that was personally given to me by always friendly guitarist Matt Garlick, mixed up a bit of Mean Songs material with newer works like the recently recorded jam “Cop Walk”. Dueling guitars, extended shredding and pounding, and a pretty consistent nod to the work of Mr. Jon Dwyer, resulted in nice vibes, some dancing, and simply a good start to a good show. They fooled me a few times at the end of their set with some ‘we’re not done yet’ teasing and – hey – that’s fine by me. []

Second in order is The Kingston Springs, a group from the South. Tennessee. I had not heard any music from them, prior to the first chords that blared from their amps. They were polished and tight, but not overwhelmingly so as in a Kings of Leon clean boy trying to be “dirty” kind of way, no, not really. The Kingston Springs’ bigger, pop-rock sound was differentiated occasionally with by some more rough around the edges country and garage twang. They definitely seemed to impress the audience as I looked around and noticed a lot of people were really into these guys. I’m not about to say The Kingston Springs’ take on southern rock/blues rock is something I find/found myself extremely into, but for what it is worth, I could see firsthand their passion for their material and how easily they got a whole bunch of people excited to be witness to their performance. Their faster stuff I definitely got behind, namely “Sweet Susie,” which I’m listening to now and enjoying. []

Back to the main band, the dudes themselves, The Orwells. Seeing them on stage, doing incredible renditions of tunes from Remember When like “Halloween All Year,” “In My Bed,” “Hallway Homicide,” and “Mallrats (La La La)” – just to name four – there were OTHERS – brought back the memories of when I first heard them and I could literally feel the energy of The Orwells. But there is nothing like seeing singer Mario Cuomo knock down the microphone stand while frantically pacing around the stage (and nearly off of it), all while singing/screaming at the top of his lungs. He’s a character for sure, a naturally manic front-man who never takes a minute off. None of the members take a minute off, though, and hey that’s probably why this was one of the best things I’ve seen all year. Their live pace is more frenetic than on record and with that said, they only played for about a half an hour. But in that time, they jammed in all those aforementioned classics and a smothering of new songs that we should see later this year on a new full-length that is nearly complete. The new songs I can tell are going to be special and why wouldn’t they be? With Orwells being one of the more distinct bands out there today. Some bands are great performers without necessarily having individual songs that are instantly recognizable. The Orwells got both of those things going on. Of course I would loved to have heard another half-hour worth of jams, but in due time. Maybe on a different stage. Maybe on the same. But it shouldn’t be a surprise why these guys are touring a shit load and playing some choice venues around the country. This isn’t 17 year old pop punk Warped Tour shit, this is passionate rock ‘n roll that can be enjoyed by all ages – hence why it was and yeah, the middle aged dude perpetually rocking out next to me seemed to know what was up. See you soon Orwells. []

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