Calling Coyotes by Cross-Country Communication in all Counties

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Concert Review - 5/23/2009, Middle East Cafe, Cambridge, MA: Tally Hall w/Deezy and the Brobots, April Smith and the Great Picture Show, and Malbec

This was a fun concert at the Middle East Cafe, a nightclub, restaurant, and bar in Cambridge. The room was reasonably small, and the acoustics were very good from some parts of the room, though not so much in the area directly in front of the stage. The headlining band and the reason I was attending was Tally Hall, whose debut album I have reviewed.

Deezy and the Brobots

Deezy and the Brobots is sort of a country-ish 4-piece rock band. This was the only band performing that I did not enjoy. I wasn't expecting to enjoy them after listened to their MySpace page. On the recordings there, the singer has a flat nasal voice with little range that quickly gets annoying. Live her voice was not so annoying, either because of the poor balancing of volumes in mixing or because of the greater energy. Still, the music was rather generic and unmemorable. The guitar-playing was only rarely interesting, and the arrangements and song structure did not stray from the conventional. The most interesting things the band did was attempt some harmonies and have the lead guitarist switch to trumpet for one song. However, because of the poor mixing the harmonies were almost inaudible, and the trumpet playing was somewhat flat in tone.

The worst thing about the performance was that it wasn't even bad. The musicians are all competent at their instruments, and the songs were fairly consistent. It's just that the band lacked anything interesting and original.

April Smith and the Great Picture Show

This band seems like it could have a lot of potential. The band plays in a pop rock style, but April Smith sings in the style of classic musical and torch singers. This is just one aspect that makes the band stand out. The bassist does play some electric guitar, but mostly plays the double-bass, which was interesting to witness. The Great Picture Show also has a full-time keyboardist, which is used to give a theatrical feel to the music.

I really enjoyed April Smith's singing. She brings a ton of emotion, and the vocal melodies are entertaining. She is quite good at material hat call for a full-throated approach, but was wonderful in a softer song, "Beloved," which brought down the house. The band played up a storm behind April Smith, and pulled off some great theatrical moments, such as a quote from J.S. Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" to begin "Terrible Things." Just noting, Ross Federman of Tally Hall filled in on drums for the night.


Malbec is sort of a genre hybrid. It mixes pop music, techno, and hip-hop. The band has multiple guitarist, and a live drummer, but also has synthesizers prominent, and the songs are built off of grooves, and the rhythm section is very strong. The lyrics are a mixture of the romantic and idealistic. I really enjoyed dancing to the songs (Of course, none of the indie kids in the audience knew how to dance, and it was only me and three other people who were dancing). Their studio recordings seem less energetic and rhythmically powerful than live, but I'd recommend checking out the band if you are a pop rock or techno fan and your biggest dislike of mainstream hip-hop is the lack of melodicity and mundane subjects.

Tally Hall

[7/19/2011] This post stayed as a draft for over two years, and as a result this concert is almost a distant memory. Therefore, the only section of the review that was not written, Tally Hall's performance, will not get a full write-up. Ironically, this was the only reason I attended the concert and the main impetus for writing this post. I will give a few interesting points I remember from their performance.

Joe Hawley was the lead singer on more songs than I expected, including a few I'm almost positive were not sung by him on the album. They simulated the cool vocoder-like effect on "Taken for a Ride" and a few other songs with Hawley singing through a megaphone. I thought the new stuff for their second album sounded a little whimsical, and sort of like some sort of fantasy (as in the genre) rock. This is not a good thing for me. They did not perform "Banana Man", but compensated at the close of the show by bringing a tuba player on-stage, to perform first "The Whole World and You", then Biz Markie's "Just a Friend" (This was that brief time period in 2009 when the song became popular again due to its usage in an alcohol ad advocating against drinking and driving [edit 7/20/2011: apparently the timing was a coincidence, and Tally Hall has been covering this song almost as long as the band has existed. Also, any irony in this parenthetical is entirely accidental.]). It was an appropriately unserious way to wrap things up. And that's all I got.

If you told me when I started this post that it would not be finished until almost a month after Tally Hall released their next album, I would be amazed at my slowness. I would be an order of magnitude more amazed if you told me that this would be over two years later.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

5 Favorite Albums, 1996-2005

1. Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum - Tally Hall (2005)
2. Lost and Gone Forever - Guster (1999)
3. OK Computer - Radiohead (1997)
4. The Mollusk - Ween (1999)
5. Keep It Together - Guster (2003)

Monday, May 18, 2009

5 Favorite Albums, 1986-1995

1. Doolittle - Pixies (1989)
2. Trompe Le Monde - Pixies (1991)
3. Come On Pilgrim - Pixies (1987)
4. Bossanova - Pixies (1990)
5. Surfer Rosa - Pixies (1988)

Yes, I really like the Pixies.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

5 Favorite Albums, 1976-1985

1. The Name of This Band is Talking Heads - Talking Heads (1982*)
2. Before And After Science - Brian Eno (1977)
3. Fear of Music - Talking Heads (1979)
4. Ramones - Ramones (1976)
5. Remain in Light - Talking Heads (1980)

*2004 expanded re-release of collection of live performances from 1977-1981.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

5 Favorite Albums, 1966-1975

1. Abbey Road - The Beatles (1969)
2. Blonde on Blonde - Bob Dylan (1966)
3. Let It Bleed - The Rolling Stones (1969)
4. Arthur (Or The Decline And Fall of The British Empire) - The Kinks (1969)
5. Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles (1967)