Review: The Orwells & Palma Violets @ Brighton Music Hall (5/6/13)


Bands: The Orwells, Palma Violets
Date: Monday, May 6, 2013
Venue: Brighton Music Hall (Brighton/Allston, MA)

Before I kick into this evening’s performances, let me flash back a few months to Wednesday, February 27. The Orwells, an up and coming rock ‘n’ roll band from Chicago, made their live debut in Boston at T.T. the Bears, where my KLYAM co-conspirator, Glen, a long-time Orwells fan/early supporter (https://klyam.com/2011/01/31/band-spotlight-the-orwells/) was enthusiastically in attendance and ecstatic to finally meet the men behind one of his favorite bands. Local pizza punks, Nice Guys opened. It was a great show (https://klyam.com/2013/03/03/concert-review-the-orwells-tt-the-bears-22713/) or so I am told, for I could not be in attendance that night. Alas, for the last few months Glen has had the bragging rights to say he’s seen The Orwells live and I have not. Now, as the Spring semester is coming to a close, I am outside the realm of academic requirements and ready to take in one of the music world’s most promsing bands: The Orwells

Not to make it seem like The Orwells are this untouchable force, they are actually just mellow, fun loving dudes, appreciating their time on the road, being able to play for fans – new and old – and spreading the gospel of Black Lips stylized rock ‘n’ roll. Like last time, as Glen noted, the boys are playing a quick round of pool before they hit the stage. I briefly chat with Mario Cuomo (vocals) and Matt O’Keefe (guitar) and we discuss the Chicago punk scene/HoZac Blackout Fest, their current tour with Palma Violets, and opening for our favorite band, the Black Lips this past New Year’s Eve at One Eyed Jacks in New Orleans (http://artofcl.com/features/photos-nye-black-lips-king-louies-missing-monuments-orwells/).  But, before diving too in depth into a conversation, Matt politely says, “alright man, I’m going to do my thing, we’ll talk to you after the show.” Five minutes later, The Orwells  are up on stage.

They blast right into Remember When classic, “In My Bed.” The whole band rocks like they are seasoned veterans, it is nuts to think that this is a band that formed just a few years back. The quality sound system (minus the vocals, which aren’t bad, but could be better) further amplify the loud, firece delivery of The Orwells.

Lead vocalist, Mario Cuomo best captures the rock’n’roll/garage attitude of the band. He is an energetic performer and he never slows down for a moment. His charisma brings even more life to the group’s already vibrant songwriting. Mario rolls his eyes back like they are two inches away from dropping out of their sockets. His showmanship nicely complements his vocals, which are naturally loud, baritone, almost doomy. Unfortunately, the mics are not nearly loud enough to capture his vocals and other members of the crowd agree with me on this account. You can hear pretty much everything he sings, but I want it to be a bit higher. Overall, not a big deal and merely a flaw of the PA, not the band.

My favorite part of the show is when they play my top Orwells song, “Halloween All Year,” a slow, epic ballad that shows how Orwells can expand far beyond the typical, youthful garage band making noise. It’s like a dark, slow dance number from a derranged 50s-60s pop group meets the poppiest cuts from New England based garage rock revivalists, The Migs and Atlantic Thrills. The band also plays a new song entitled, “Other Voices,” which can be heard here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uS9VrCmM3iI. This is one of the quintet’s best songs to date, drawing comparisons to crisper, cleaner sounding “garage” bands such as Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, and The Libertines, while still maintaining some punk slime flavor, perhaps easier for a Spaceshits fan to digest. The band closes with a cover of The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” and to quote a fellow attendee, “What else can you ask for?” Gentlemen, well done.

We came to see The Orwells. Just to make that clear to anyone reading this. We don’t know much about Palma Violets, but it’s only 10 P.M. why not stay for the headlining band?

Palma Violets are a UK based rock band, and I stress rock. No “and/’n’ roll.” If rock ‘n’ roll is like The Ramones soaking up the sounds of the 50s and 60s with bubblegum, surf, and garage, then just plain rock is like hard rock or to be pejorative, generic rock. That’s how I feel about Palma Violets. Very generic, too commerical sounding, almost like wannabe rock stars or wannabe Arctic Monkeys or Editors. They appear to be too in love with themselves, like this is the greatest rock and roll show ever! I appreciate the enthusiasm, but I am not feeling it. I feel no connection with these songs at all. Most of the crowd, however, does. People mosh and dance and sing along to the songs of the apparently great Palma Violets. It looks like a mini soccer riot on the dance floor of the Brighton Music Hall. Seriously, one of the most enthusiastic, yet small, crowds I have seen in a Boston club. Despite my apathy, Palma Violets put on a fun show (for the fans) and they crowd surf and play their instruments in the crowd at times, and I’m jealous. I’m jealous that I can only muster a few headbangs, for this isn’t The Migs, this isn’t my music. Or as the English would say, this isn’t my cup of tea.

Here’s a video of The Orwells performing “Mallrats (La La La)” from their last Boston show at T.T. The Bears (2/23/13).

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