ACLU Benefit – Mr. Benefit is one of our favorite guys around Boston, no shit. I don’t mean to ass kiss, but it’s true. We’ve had the pleasure of catching him two weeks in a row. Last week was at Noah’s (Mr. Benefit) favorite venue in Boston and possibly the whole world, the Whitehaus. That show was superior (more environmental, can’t compete with ACLU in a basement), but this doobie is on the level.
Everyone is seated, gazing as Noah in sweat pants (I think) starts to strum his guitar. He invites anyone up to the front and Glen and I make our way, why not? Noah’s voice calmly roars – an oxymoron that is amazingly accurate. Ahh those deep baritone vocals start to serenade the audience. He’s got the “mmmmmmmm” down pat, rivaling Calvin Johnson, Adam Green, Leonard Cohen, and that Crash Test Dummies guy. I’m way too lazy to actually look his name up, come on now.
The set begins with “Love Your Family,” one of the dude’s strongest hits. It should be a hit and Noah could play in front of thousands, but then it wouldn’t be as fun. It would lose those campfire, sing along vibes that are a vital part of any ACLU Benefit set and is what largely separates the man from most other singers and performers.
Audience participation is key and as Glen mentioned in his review last week or whenever that was, you feel the desire to sing along more here than you typically would in other performances. Often, singers will ask everyone to sing along or say this word/phrase over and over again or clap or tap or do this or do that and I just don’t feel it. It feels like they’re just trying to get a crowd going and that’s fine, but it doesn’t feel like a real moment for me, it’s not really about me or anyone else in the crowd, it’s about the singer, it’s about the band. When Noah asks the crowd to sing a line or clap their hands together (which is minimally requested and he also suggests stomping, which I prefer!) it matters.
Many of his songs are seemingly written with an audience in mind, meaning a physical group of people singing a certain part, otherwise the songs don’t work. A chief example is the classic (alright, alright I’ll do my best to lay off the ass kissing) “Love Of My Life.” Noah instructs us to sing “Love of my life, I’ll never get over you” the entire song while he sings his own thing, eventually joining us in what becomes the chorus “Love of my life, I’ll never get over you.” It’s hard to articulate it in print, but trust me it’s riveting. You’ll just have to see it and sing it for yourself at an ACLU Benefit show coming soon to you.
A more professional writer would have gone out on that last line, but I’m not a professional writer. Thank God. “Don’t worry about professional, worry about it being good” – Ian Mackaye. Thanks Mr. Mackaye. Anywho, another terrific and distinguished quality to an ACLU show is Noah’s constant interaction with the audience. This is in addition to all of the sing along instructions and so forth. Before, in the middle, and after songs, Noah converses with the crowd, often recounting stories that led to the creation of the song, and not in a boring lecturey way or corny “unplugged” way, God I hate that shit. He tells a different story each time he plays and in this way you never see the same ACLU Benefit show twice. With most bands (even the best I’ve seen) they end up doing the same stuff practically every time, it’s only natural, and even Noah isn’t totally free of this, no one is. Here though, hearing these amusing little anecdotes and seeing how they bounce off the crowd makes for a fresh experience.
ACLU Benefit provides a range of emotions, ultimately uplifting. There’s a striking amount of humanity in Noah’s music and in particular in the performance, where the songs really come to life. I know that sounds hackneyed, but in this instance for the reasons stated in previous paragraphs, it’s true. These songs aren’t just Noah’s, they’re for everyone in the room. He’s the Bill Hicks of music, transcending their given medium and reaching out into the audience and becoming one. It’s a catharsis. More on this Bill Hicks comparisons in future “reviews” I assure you. I’m a nut.
I vowed to not suck too much cock in this review and I failed. I’ll think of something negative to say. He closes with a new song called “Everyone Will Die,”(not exactly the most life affirming in his catalog, but not the most depressing either) a number he claims is an awful closer. I agree. A good tune, just not a great closer. That’s all I got for now. KLYAM LOVE. http://aclubenefit.bandcamp.com/
Willy Mason – I didn’t realize until now Willy Mason has made quite a name for himself over the last decade. He’s a big deal apparently. On Virgin and EMI and shit. I had never heard of the man or his music until tonight. Willy plays guitar and a woman delivers backing vocals. He plays a bluesy, folksy country set and tells tales of touring and travelling. About halfway during the set, Willy is accompanied by Noah Bond on guitar and Jesse Gallagher on drums. In the words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that. http://www.willymasonmusic.com/
Bong Wish – This is my first Bong Wish, though this certainly isn’t my first time seeing Mariam Saleh rock out on guitar. I’ve seen Mariam a million times before in Fat Creeps and she’s brought along a friend, a Bongette, Ana Karina Dacosta of local groups, 28 Degrees Taurus and Slowdim. It’s a slower, mellower set, though from what I am told they usually have a full band or something like that. They even throw in a Fat Creeps jam, “Last To Know,” an oldie I had actually never heard live until now. http://bongwish.bandcamp.com/
I only catch a couple minutes of Goat Of Arms, before I have to depart. Ahh well. A pleasure as always at the Lilypad.