Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rock 'n Rumble Semi-Finals Night #1

Live Impressions
by Julie Stoller
by 5342 Studios
April 12th, 2012

Bow Thayer and the Perfect Trainwreck!


We’re getting down to it, folks. No more messing around, the gloves are coming off, and Boston’s music fans were treated to ferocious jams on Thursday night, as preliminary winners fought hard for a place in next week’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble finals. There was ferocious 50s-style garage rock on the front end, hardcore headbanging on the back end, and sandwiched in-between, a rather breathless battle between the considerable musical prowess of Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck, and the elegant old-timey Americana of Cask Mouse.

Thick Shakes launched right into it, with Lindsay ‘s tough-chick vocals and Tim and his guitar careening dangerous around the stage, towering menacingly above the audience at the front, and then unexpectedly jumping in. Loud with relentless energy, everyone thrashed it out, with a cool vintage organ fury throughout. And what they perhaps lacked in delicacy and polish, they made up for in sheer enthusiasm, Tim succinctly summing it up and the end by collapsing onto the stage at the end of a frenetic fit.

Thick Shakes

Bow Thayer

Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck once again brought the level of the proceedings up a notch… make that a really big notch. The audience was simply blown away by their sophisticated arrangements and perfectly paced set that mixed it up between rollicking hillbilly mountain jams and sprawling, dreamy forays that focused on the beautiful interplay of Bow’s warm vocals and electric banjo and Chris McGandy’s mesmerizing pedal steel. James Rohr, as he was the last time, was a mad genius on organ and piano. They have this soulful synergy, evident by how incredibly tight they sound and how smoothly they interact. This was especially true on one particularly awe-inspiring jam, with Bow on banjo, Jeff on drums and Jeremy on bass working it into a most serious groove, becoming one soul.

Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck
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Cask Mouse

Next up was Cask Mouse. They quickly captivated the room with their sweet down-home folky-Americana that speaks of a simpler time. Their joy of performance and love and appreciation of their audience (largest of the evening) and deep respect for each other was as endearing as their music. They shared lead vocal duties, each with their own unique personality, like Bonnie Parks’ gentle country chanteuse on one tune, and earlier on in the set, playful and coy with a fun kazoo solo. Highlights included the times when they stretched into expansive, heartwarming 3-part harmonies, delightfully meandering pedal steel and the audio-visual enjoyment of ‘big man’ Joe, arms covered in tattoos, alternately sawing away at and coaxing beautifully delicate melodies from his fiddle. Though they complimented Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck (“my goodness, those boys can play”), I felt that Cask Mouse gave them a run for their money.

Cask Mouse
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I don’t think anything could have prepared me for Motherboar. Let’s just say it was sensible planning that put these boys on last. The crowd had thinned a bit but it soon became clear that those squeezed up to the front of the stage were devout Motherboar believers. It was a pummeling attack of hardcore headbanging, mind-melting, metal cacophony, superb musicianship, spewed and flung drinks back and forth from stage to pit, and audience members taking turns at shrieked vocals - a mini-Mayhem Festival, if you will. Hard, heavy, and uncompromising, I must admit I’m not typically a big fan of the genre, but I found myself transfixed. There’s no arguing with greatness.

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Winners of the evening, not surprisingly, were Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck, who are now headed to the finals. However, speculation abounds about the “wildcard” band to be added to next week’s grand finale. Who could it be? Motherboar, perhaps? [Editor's Note: Yes it was Motherboar who advanced to the finals.]

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