Review: The New Highway Hymnal, Empty Phrases, Boogie Boy Metal Mouth, The Real Tom Hanks, Sam Sawyer @ Wilder Zangcraft (4/20/13)

Artists: The New Highway Hymnal, Empty Phrases, Boogie Boy Metal Mouth, The Real Tom Hanks, Sam Sawyer
Date: Saturday, April 20, 2013
Venue: Wilder Zangcraft (Lowell, MA)

420 is here again! In addition to April 20th’s  weed themed holiday and record store day,  this date also marks the one year anniversary of the Wilder Zangcraft. At least as far as basement shows go. Since then,  I have seen some Zick shows here including, but certainly not limited to, Fat Creeps, The Migs, The New Highway Hymnal, Big Mess, Nice Guys, Kal Marks, and Atlantic Thrills. Last year I attended and “reviewed” the first Zang basement show and it was a blast. ( That was the first time I saw Lowell’s Friendship and New Hampshire’s scruffy, garage ragamuffins, The Migs! The New Highway Hymnal and Empty Phrases were also on that bill and they reprise their roles tonight along with Boogie Boy Metal Mouth and The Real Tom Hanks. Sweet, to the show!

“Ever dance with the devil in the pale moon light?”

No, but I”m sure Sam Sawyer has. Sam kicks things off in the living room with his harsh brand of stand up comedy. Sam is an angry, funny dude. Everyone sits on the floor around him as he rages through a ten minute (or more) series of rants about feces, organized religion, and fat guys. I do not recall any of the specific jokes, but I laugh my ass off and so does everyone else. More stand up or sit down or sideways comedians should play at house shows. They are funny and they need our support.

The Real Tom Hanks is the first band to play and they live up to my expectations as one of the best bands I have seen as of late. I was a fan before I even heard them. On one hazy afternoon in September 2012, at the UMass Lowell South Campus Dining Hall, drummer, Kevin Dacey told me he was starting (or had already started) a surf rock band named The Real Tom Hanks. I was sold, it doesn’t get more real than Tom Hanks. Months went by in agonizing anticipation until I finally saw Tom Hanks at Wilder Zangcraft with the Atlantic Thrills, The New Highway Hymnal, and Polaroids. That was a joyous occasion   (, but I wanted mo’ Tom Hanks…

And so on 4/20/13 the great glam goddess of rock ‘n’ roll came before me and said, “Your wish is my command, honey.” The realest of Tom Hanks, play a fun set chock full of surfy, Dick Dale/Ventures odes and probably other surf dudes I am not familiar with, but rest assured, I am positive a surf sicko would dig Tom Hanks and appreciate their surfness. I don’t know anyone that wouldn’t like this kind of music, if they exist, bring them to me and I will castrate them with a big fucking smile on my face. Perhaps, a bit harsh, maybe just a few words will do,

Any fun loving guy or gal can get down with the tom hanks, these four gents (Alex Sargent – guitar, Ben Dickinson – guitar, Johnny Gelsomini – bass, and Kevin Dacey – drums) are fantastic musicians and they create a series of insanely impressionable and danceable instrumental surf jams that bear a never ending quality. I mean that in the greatest of senses, like the movie, Dazed and Confused – I wish that movie never ended. I pray for the lad that listens to these fellas on Ecstasy or Special K or one of those club drugs that my boy from Queens constantly extols. I seriously hope he doesn’t catch a Tom Hanks set whilst tripping, tripping so far that he traps himself in a K hole of surf punk noise for the rest of his days. That’s the power of Tom Hanks, these kids aren’t fooling when they say this shit is real.

Songs like “Monkey Man,”  with its hip shakin’  60’s – Adam West era Batman and Robin finesse and self-tilted chant and “Aunts on the Beach,” are among my favorites. The latter of which makes me want to go to the beach this summer and ask some girl to dance. Too bad, most people at the beach listen to shitty music.

The Real Tom Hanks – I can’t wait for the next show! and like their page: and then go and like Kids Like You & Me: – if you know what’s good for you.

Boogie Boy Metal Mouth continue the fun spirit of The Real Tom Hanks and they are the first hip hop/rap group I have ever seen live. Though, they are  unlike most rap groups, their style and presentation is more akin to that of a punk rock/hardcore group. The performance begins as the fiery vocalist/rapper, J. Ring tells everyone to grab a hold of something, and like that the crowd starts moving to J. Ring’s words.

J. Ring is in a frenzy while he jumps around the zancraft, making use out of all the space around him and often making his way into the enthusiastic, moshing crowd. While J. Ring spits, Emoh Betta  stands behind him, taking care of the turntables and sound manipulation.

I can’t say I am overwhelmed or blown away by Boogie Boy Metal Mouth, but it’s definitely worth checking out and I’m glad they are the first hip hop/rap oriented group I have experienced. Check them out here:

J Cole, J Cole, J Cole. No matter how many times you say it, it never gets old. J Cole is here and he’s ready to party. He bashes away on the drums with Thee Empties aka the Empty Phrases – Lowell stalwarts – Andrew Dennis (bass), Evan Walters (guitar), and Ben Raymond (vocals/guitar). Tonight, they are fresh off a set of 420 shows including one at Somerville’s Deep Heaven Now. They are also introducing their latest single, “Sleeping Army” and it displays the band’s knack for mellow, dreamy, Deerhunter esque rock.

This performance is far from mellow, however, and the crowd moshes more than I have ever seen before at an Empty Phrases show.  Overall, one of the finer sets I’ve seen from the guys. You can hear their “Sleeping Army” single and all of their songs here:

The New Highway Hymnal are one of the best bands in Boston, and I am sure I have said that a million times before and I know I will say it again. They are a ubiquitous presence in New England rock music (the best of it anyway) and they have played at most of the major  bars/clubs around Boston. I’ve seen them at P.A.’s Lounge and Great Scott, but nothing beats seeing them in a packed, sweaty basement, therefore the Wilder Zangcraft is typically the best place to take in a NHH show.

It’s packed to the gills by the time Hadden Stemp (vocals/guitar), Amelia Gormley (bass), and Travis Hagan (drums) begin their set. As usual the Lowell crowd goes bonkers to the primal, droney, psychedelic rock this threesome is known to unleash.

The band plays many of the songs off of their Vanya Records LP Whispers including personal favorites “More,” “Out With The Lights,” and “Hey Kid (Gotta Run).” All of which spark a skull cracking raucous  and feature some of  Hadden Stemp’s best vocals. My mom thinks it sounds like he is being stabbed to death. Moms are funny like that.

The band as a whole  has a very explosive sound to their music that is hard not to move to and it doesn’t hurt having Hadden’s body crash into you at any given moment. Always a thrill of mine.

Listen to Whispers here:

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