Thursday, January 28, 2016

That’s a Cheap Trick

Note to tribute bands:  give the people what they want.  Play the songs they know and love.  Don’t introduce a song by saying, “Caution:  deep cut!”  And don’t, under any circumstances, play a single album in its entirety.

But that’s just what happened last weekend when I went to see “Boston’s Best Tribute Bands” at Johnny D’s.  Here was the lineup:
Sister Lovers (Big Star)
Melt (Peter Gabriel)
Clock Strikes Ten (Cheap Trick)
Rock Bottom (70s classic rock)
LoveSexy (Prince)

The Sister Lovers set was entertaining, although I’ve never heard of the band Big Star, so can’t say if Sister Lovers did their music justice. 

And then the trouble began. Melt took the stage and the crowd got ready to hear some of Peter Gabriel’s hits – “Big Time,” “In Your Eyes,” “Solsbury Hill,” “Mercy Street.”  Heck, we would have even taken “Shock the Monkey.”

Instead, the band’s front man announced that they would be playing the 1980 album “Peter Gabriel 3” – in its entirety.  As Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl has said, bands that play albums in their entirety are “presumptuous and lazy.”

A woman sitting near us echoed Grohl’s sentiments by repeatedly yelling “Sledgehamma!” in a Boston accent throughout Melt’s performance.

We suffered through (we did get to hear “Biko”) and then Clock Strikes Ten took the stage. Lo and behold, this band was fronted by the same lead singer as Melt.  Again, they skipped “The Flame” and “Dream Police.”  Finally, they played “I Want You to Want Me.”

I managed to stay at the show through Rock Bottom, who performed a great set that featured “Slow Ride.”  But by the time LoveSexy came on, it was 10:45.  I lasted for three songs and stumbled home in the snow, without having heard “Purple Rain.”

Note to self:  live music is a young woman’s game.  It’s hard to see five bands in one night when your usual bedtime is 9:30.

Up next...Rhode Island's finest: John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band.

Friday, January 22, 2016

From Bowie to Zydeco

I’ve been thinking about the role that music plays in our lives – inspiration, soundtrack, mouthpiece, and marker.

These thoughts were heightened by the passing of David Bowie, of course – and the incredible outpouring of sadness and affection that followed.  Friends, colleagues, neighbors of all ages had a story about what Bowie meant to them.  We were all touched by his music and artistry – like we were members of a fan club we didn’t know existed until he died. 

Music – live music in particular – has always been part of my life.  So maybe it’s fitting that I live two blocks from a place called Johnny D’s in Somerville, MA – a nightclub that has been the go-to place for varied, affordable live music for the last 47 years.

Sadly, Johnny D’s is set to close in March – so I’m trying to see as many shows as possible up there before it does.  Last Tuesday, I took in “Jeffrey Broussard and the Creole Cowboys” – a “nouveau zydeco” band from New Orleans.   Here are some snapshots from the night (my photos and videos are crap, but you get the idea).

  •   The band kicked off the night with a song that sampled “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder.  Zydeco meets pop and R&B.  Instant fusion.  I was hooked.

  • Watching Jeffrey Broussard play the accordion was seeing a master at work. It’s an incredible instrument with a sound that can take you from a cafĂ© in Paris, to a Civil War encampment, to a polka party, to the Lawrence Welk show, to the bayous of Louisiana.  I'm sure someone out there can explain the history of the instrument to me – how it traveled through all of these cultures – and I'd love to hear it.

  • The show was on a Tuesday night after a Monday holiday - the room should have been dead. But there was some kind of boot-scootin’ country dancing club there and they didn’t leave the dance floor.  Up tempo songs and ballads and everything in between, they danced. Men dancing with women, of course, but plenty of women dancing with women and taking turns leading, for the sheer love of dancing with a partner.

  • I wonder how many collective hours this band – and others like them – have practiced and played?  Not always in nightclubs but in basements and bedrooms and dorm rooms, at church picnics, Elks clubs, and county fairs.  And are they self-taught?  From the old-timer in the maverick shirt on lead guitar to the young guy with the washboard on his chest singing “Puddy Cat” in a high falsetto.  They played one tight set.

  • You haven’t heard the theme song to “Sanford and Son” until you’ve heard it played by this band.  Complete with shout outs of “Here comes the big one!” and to “Lamont, you big dummy!” I was curious to learn more about the song – and a quick Google search turned up this:  it was written by Quincy Jones.  In a 2010 interview, with Billboard Magazine Jones said, “I wrote that song in about 20 minutes.  We had four musicians, recorded it in about 20 minutes too.  It’s amazing.  Looking back, it’s a trip.” 

  • The weather outside was freezing.  Passersby, bundled like Eskimos, kept stopping at the windows to watch the band for a few minutes, breaking out into smiles.  The power of the music reached out into the cold Somerville night, sending them off a little warmer.

Before the last song of the night, Jeffrey Broussard stepped up to the mike and said of Johnny D’s, “It hurts my heart what’s happening to this place.  There are a lot of good memories here.”

I’m not a music critic.  I don’t play an instrument.  I’ve never been in a band.  But I know what I like.  And I know that music is good for the soul.

I’ve got at least two more Johnny D’s shows planned between now and March.  And I’ll share my thoughts here, if you care to read them.  Or better yet, come with me. 

Up next...Boston's Best Tribute Bands.

Monday, April 5, 2010


A sunny, warm Easter! (Much different from last year: note the hats and coats in last year's pics). We had our annual neighborhood egg hunt. The kid gang has grown so large that we had to break into two teams this year -- bigs and littles. The celebration rolled through the day and into an evening
barbeque. Much fun had by all!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Walking home

Spring at last. Anna and I decided to walk home from her school -- which is a decent walk if you're nine years old. She snapped some pics along the way, then we stopped at High Rise bakery for a treat. Good to be with my girl.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

A beautiful afternoon on the ice at the Cambridge Skating Club.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Some pics from Halloween: the little mermaid, mother-daughter Carnaby Street skeletons (?), and Frank N. Stein. The weather was nice and mild. The Halloweens I remember as a kid were freezing cold -- always had to wear a coat over your costume!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Les pommes

I have never seen the trees like this -- so loaded with apples -- must have been that rainy summer. The cousins joined us, chattering monkeys in the branches eating all the fruit.