Thao Nguyen and friends filled the Iron Horse in Northampton with beach drums and ukulele strums last Tuesday night. Together, we bobbed our heads and braved bee stings and all (read: these intimidating characters and a phenomenon sweeping the nation that has come to be known as the Antagonistic Bro).
Samantha Crain & the Midnight Shivers of WTBU rotation fame opened first. Crain's voice shined, big and countrified, sometimes approaching a Joanna Newsome level of strange. Sister Suvi played next with a set that could be the ocean's official soundtrack. They were at their fiercest when ukulele toting Merrill took lead vocals and ordered the crowd to dance in a tone that let us know she meant business.
Thao Nguyen and the Get Down Stay Down, her backing band, took the stage next after setting up some homemade monsters made of wood and earthy colors. She kept the energy high with upbeat favorites from her debut LP, We Brave Bee Stings and All. The trio kept things fresh by pressing the fast forward button on choruses to end songs. Merrill of Sister Suvi and Samantha Crain also joined Thao for a couple songs with Crain's voice making for a rich, peculiar harmony. Thao put an exclamation point on album opener "Beat (Health, Life & Fire)" with a percussion party break around the drum set as she, Merrill and the band gathered around and went to town midway through.
Thao debuted some new songs with the same beat-heavy grooves and sad but sharp observations on the dysfunctionality of past infatuations for which we have grown to love her. "So what am I, just a body in your bed?" she shouted in the chorus of a standout new track. She ended things with "Feet Asleep" where the crowd kept the chorus going long after Thao stopped singing. Girl's got fans.
For more WTBU coverage of Thao Nguyen, including an interview and past show review, click here.
Recently DJ Lana Tkachenko caught up with the electronica/house band Future Rock. The guys are playing at the Summer Camp Festival in Chillicothe, IL May 22-24, so be sure to check them out if you're in the area.
The Boston music scene, as we all know, is varied, yet often quite insulated. The bands we know well are the ones that no one else in the country has ever heard of, save for through the somewhat indiscriminate outlets of Boston blogs.
However, the adorable band You Can Be a Wesley proved their deserving of national recognition when they opened for Now, Now Every Children at T. T. The Bear’s Place last Friday.
Each song distinct in its own right, yet still sticking to the band’s adorably earnest theme, the set was a refreshing wake-up that brought a remarkable crowd for a second-opener. Several super-fans repeatedly screamed their allegiance to lead singer/guitarist Saara Untracht-Oakner, and another presented a drunkenly earnest interpretive dance in the band’s honor. In fact, all in the venue seemed to be at least bobbing their heads.
Though the sound system was unsurprisingly imbalanced and the snare that drummer Dan Goldenberg was working with was of a quality reminiscent of my third-grade marching band, the obvious musical gifts of all four members shone through any technical difficulties (…not to mention that it’s been awhile since this critic has seen a genuinely talented instrumental break that couldn’t classify as mediocre musical masturbation). SXSW 2010, PITCHFORK, PLEASE TAKE NOTE. The next big, unabashedly indie-adorable thing is coming out of Boston.
The Boston stop for the T-Mobile and Grammys sponsored Grammy Celebration Tour included performances by Lady GaGa and Kelly Clarkson, and was hosted by season 4 American Idol contestant, Blake Lewis. The exclusive concert, which fans could only win tickets to, was an effort to bring together different types of music under one roof. While the two artists seem like complete polar opposites in terms of songs and performance, the two came together to perform two fantastic sets that were the audience thoroughly enjoyed. With Blake Lewis starting off as the DJ and beat boxing his way through big radio hits, the crowd got warmed up as a giant white curtain covered the Grammy-decorated stage. As Lady GaGa’s image was projected onto the curtain, the crowd grew wild and excited. It is interesting to note that despite a huge mix of different types of people and fans, the crowd was extremely respectful of each other. There wasn’t any pushing or shoving, and there were no fights to break up. As Blake Lewis wrapped up his set and the lights dimmed, Lady GaGa’s intro video played.
Lady GaGa, famous for hits such as “Just Dance” and “Poker Face,” had just been in Boston a little over a month ago for her own tour, The Fame Ball. While she didn’t have as many of her props with her, she performed her full set from the tour. The crowd enthusiastically sang along to every song, causing Lady GaGa to break out of her strange persona and smile at the crowd during her acoustic set. She had all of her crazy costumes, and put on a fantastic hour-long set. As she finished with an encore of “Poker Face”, the crowd immediately began to shout for Kelly Clarkson.
As Lady GaGa’s props were moved off stage and Kelly Clarkson’s band’s equipment was rolled onto the stage, Blake Lewis returned to his DJ podium. He also threw free goodies from T-Mobile out into the crowd. While his own song didn’t get too much attention, he succeeded in keeping the crowd pumped for the show.
The lights dimmed for Kelly Clarkson to the beat of “Walk Away,” one of her many hits. As she moved into “Behind These Hazel Eyes” and new single “I Do Not Hook Up,” it was clear that the crowd was even more into Kelly Clarkson than they were for Lady GaGa, screaming the songs louder than Clarkson at many points. She put on a very different performance to Lady GaGa – showcasing her voice, and only her voice. Her band also gave the show a lot more energy. After complimenting Lady GaGa’s set and singing a bit of Poker Face, she began her one of many ramblings during the concert. Clarkson’s natural ability to interact with the crowd was fantastic, showing her personable character and funny personality.
One of her many classic moments was when she grabbed a phone from a fan in the front and spoke to the person on the other line, saying, “Hey, what’s up? This is Kelly Clarkson.” She then continued by telling the crowd, “I always feel like a douche saying, ‘This is Kelly Clarkson.’” As she wrapped up her main set with Grammy Award-winning “Since U Been Gone”, the crowd jumped up and down in unison and screamed every word.
As she quickly returned for the encore, she exclaimed, “I hate this whole encore thing – pretending to leave when it’s pretty obvious that I’m coming back.” After taking a request from her hardcore fans at the front and singing hidden track “Chivas” from her third album, she wrapped up the show with #1 hit “My Life Would Suck Without You.”
As a fan of both artists, this was a fantastic opportunity to see both artists in their element. While it would have been interesting to see the two artists collaborate, they both put on fantastic shows that are worthy of selling out venues on their own. I would definitely see both of them again next time they come out to Boston, and with the sounds of the crowd singing every one of their songs still ringing in my ears, I expect that will happen quite soon.
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