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Show review crush: Cub Country, The Big Big Bucks, Yoni Gordon & the Goods, Borrowed Eyes – 11/18 – Middle East Upstairs

November 19, 2009

Last night I had the pleasure of hanging out with some great people and witnessing an incredibly dynamic set of bands at the Middle East Upstairs. Each band set a different mood, showed different sets of musicianship, and rounded out this show line-up quite nicely. Without further ado, let’s get to the bands:

Opening the show was Borrowed Eyes & the Blood Red Road with a single guitar strumming and a four part vocal harmony. Already quite impressed, the band crashes in to rock mode with a full on blast of guitars, drums, trumpet, and trombone. As if that wasn’t enough dynamic instrumentation, the singer, Daniel Wood (formerly of …And You Will Know us by the Trail of Dead), takes out a harmonica and starts wailing. The band plays a plodding, choo-choo train type rhythm with Wood acting as the whistle on his harmonica. At the end, Wood repeatedly insists that “we are all just slaves.” This number set the mood quite well for the rest of their set. Dark, brooding, almost revival-esque, with an americana, folk, and blues mash-up, Borrowed Eyes delivers. Did I mention that was just the first song? The band goes on sing about the devil wanting them in hell, getting “kicked out of Texas,” being pissed at bandmates, and demons. At moments throughout the show, I truely felt as though I was in a revival tent, being preached at with a demonic sermon.
The intensity and passion of this brooding band was really quite invigorating, and their kindness both on and off the stage was endearing. The band reminded the crowd to talk to them after the set, offering to just give away their self-titled CD if one couldn’t afford the well spent $5 they proposed. Borrowed Eyes set the intensity level quite high for the rest of the show, but I knew with the talent up next that I would not be let down.

Yoni Gordon and the Goods take the stage next with their take on fun, up-beat punk. Yoni has perfected art of switching between chords and arpeggiation on his beautiful Gretch guitar. Furthermore he has a wonderful knack for laying his soprano vocal melodies over his stacatto-rythymed guitar work whilst the bass and drums hold down straight-ahead punk feel. The band eases the crowd into participating with sing along lines such as “we might be dead but we’re not forgotten.” The band crashes in and out of their songs with dramatic stop and start stutters. As a 3-piece outfit, the rhythm section has a lot of ground to cover with a guitarist who enjoys utilizing tasteful guitar solos, but they consistently manage to keep the music strong and full sounding. The band blasts through their first 4 songs seamlessly with no pause between them. They keep the show interesting by playing outside of their record, and borrowing from other songs. In their song “The Runaway” (one of my personal favorites),Yoni and the Goods throw in a breakdown of Del Shannons “Runaway Sue,” giving the crowd an old famililar allusion to sing along to. Yoni and company makes everybody feel comfortable singing and dancing during their set with great hooks and silly banter in between songs. As Yoni himself put it best, “You need more than just a couple of dudes to make love on a Wednesday night in Cambridge, Massachusetts.” It’s no wonder this band has such a loyal fan base.
When I caught up with Joe McHugh of The Big Big Bucks after the show, he asked me what kind of review I would give them on this here blog. I jokingly told him I would write “WORST. BAND. EVER.” Fortunately for the Bucks, they are far from that. They take the stage with an “I don’t give a damn” attitude, and play their music as such. Yet through this visage, they band displays an impressive amount of musicianship. The band begins their set with “Do It Or Diet” in which the lead guitar follows the vocal melody with sweeping octaves, reminiscent of an old Weezer tune. They rock this song so hard that McHugh breaks not one, but two strings on his guitar. The Bucks chug along with heavy, distorted bass lines as the guitar work is all over the neck of the instrument. Keyboard lines are splayed across intermittenly almost without second thought. The band often take breaks mid-song for a feedback interlude – pressing their instruments up to their amps. All this distorted insanity makes it sound as though the Bucks are going to self-destruct at any moment, when all of a sudden they pause and dive right back into their grungy rock. Needless to say, drummer Mike Tucker has possibly the most important job in the band – keeping everybody in time, together and tight – and he does it quite well with intense punk drumming prowess. The Big Big Bucks perform their set with an old punk vibe, utilizing a mentality reminiscent of “The Who,” and mixing it with more modern grunge and alt-rock feel. Keep your eyes and ears open for these Allstonites. Their full length record Crucial Schmooze is set to be released in late January/early February. Singles from the record will be made available on their website next month.

Closing the show was the somber folk/country-esque 4-piece outfit Cub Country. Jeremy Chatelain, formerly of Jets To Brazil, strums his acoustic guitar softly as lead guitarist, Wim Becker, tastefully sweeps up and down the guitar neck with a slide on his finger. The music swells between sparse instrumentation to driving, all-out churns. They tease the listener by teatering on the edge of full-on rock, just before lulling you back into a somber state. The band allows Becker to take guitar solos throughout the set. His amazing lead guitar work seems to borrow from the likes of Nels Cline in a modern Wilco record, to frenetic Led Zepplin solo work. In the back, drummer Matt Montaigu displays busy drum work while keeping a consistent groove with bassist Mike McCaleb. Cub Countrys fastest number, “You Want It All,” pumps along, leading some in the crowd to proceed to swing dance. Cub Country ends the show with a slower pace from the other bands in the line-up, yet keeps it interesting and with beautifully thought out parts from each of the members.

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