Bands: 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 (https://klyam.com/2011/01/31/band-spotlight-the-orwells/). 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. [http://niceguys666.bandcamp.com/]
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. [http://thekingstonsprings.bandcamp.com/]
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. [https://www.facebook.com/theorwellsband]
Damn, first Colleen Green, now The Orwells! We’ve been following Orwells and anticipating this moment for two years now, so this is a real treat. They’re hitting up T.T. the Bears on Wednesday, February 27 and then touring the rest of the East Coast, check the dates below and see them when they come to your city!
Feb 27 2013 – TT the Bears – Cambridge, MA
Mar 01 2013 – Santos Party House – New York, NY
Mar 02 2013 – North Star Bar – Philadelphia, PA
Mar 03 2013 – DC9 – Washington, DC
Mar 05 2013 – The Basement – Columbus, OH
Mar 06 2013 – The Hoosier Dome – Indianapolis, IN
Mar 08 2013 – The Vernon Club – Louisville, KY
Mar 10 2013 – Masquerade – Purgatory Stage – Atlanta, GA
Mar 11 2013 – One Eyed Jacks – New Orleans, LA
Mar 12-16 2013 – SXSW – Austin, TX
Mar 17 2013 – SPILLOVER 2013 – Dallas, TX
Mar 20 2013 – The Waiting Room – Omaha, NE
Random new feature that tells of shows that happened in Boston (because that’s what we’re familiar with) that look highly unusual or unbelievable in hindsight.
#1 – BLACK LIPS Opening for THE PONYS @ TT THE BEARS – MARCH 27, 2007
There are a few oddities in this one! Obviously, Black Lips opening for The Ponys just wouldn’t sound right today. Since this gig, they’ve played a show at the Bank of America Pavilion opening for Raconteurs (reasonable) and three at the Middle East Downstairs. As for the Ponys, they’ve only been back here once and that was later in 2007 opening for Spoon. The Ponys did “breakthrough” before Black Lips with their March 2007 release of Turn the Lights Out on Matador. Black Lips would get their big break in September with their Vice studio debut Good Bad Not Evil. And finally…this was at TT The Bears, the little venue for national bands just starting to make the rounds across the country! Black Lips were doing their thing for 7 years before this show and The Ponys for at least 6!
Bands: Forest Fire, The Married Men, The Growlers Venue: TT The Bears (Cambridge, MA) Date: February 16, 2010
Act One – Forest Fire –Unlike most of the bands that we see, the singer actually had an amazing voice to back up an amazing band. He also did a few song solo acoustic set which was pretty sweet. Campfire folk songs mainly, both of the depressing and uplifting variety.
Act Two – The Married Men – Picture like five dudes and one lone female who just got of work, but really didn’t. Dressed up for the junior prom or some shit like that and ready to kick some ass, they banged out a lengthy six song set that admittedly had some decent points, particularly the instrumentals. The music was a bit drawn out and stuff. The only thing they seemed excited about was their CD coming out that day.
Act Three – The Growlers – Oh shit The Growlers!!! The second Brooks Nielsen made it on stage, I could tell we were in for an experience. He was a genuinely funny man during set up, asking for one of his mics to be “wet as hell” and jokingly requesting if one of the guitarists could get some piss in his monitors, because he really had to go to pee. At any rate, the band performed two songs under your average white lights: “Sea Lion Goth Blues” and “Acid Rain.” These songs were among my pre-show favorites and it was just great to see them performed. Brooks then said “I know why people aren’t getting into us. It’s because of the lights. Turn them to fucking red or something.” And just like that Brooks was “stoked” and so wasn’t the rest of the audience and groupies/band members (hard to tell because they outnumbered the hoi polloi). Their fifty minute set had a bunch of other fun psychedelic numbers that entranced us all quite easily like “Stranger’s Road” and “Something Someone Junior.” The cross-dressing percussionist is a pretty damn random member, but he gets the job done well.
Final Grade:B+ – In terms of performance, persona, stage antics, and attitude, The Growlers definitely will long be remembered. I had an enjoyable time and I’m glad I found out about them so if they ever do come back (this was their first time in Boston) I’ll definitely attend.