As of my experience Sunday afternoon at the Middle East, I now know exactly what it's like to be inside someone's mouth. As observed by Chestnut P. Growler of local openers and Best Music Poll nominees the Swaggerin' Growlers, the sold-out room was like an oral interior - moist, dark, claustrophobia inducing, and in dire need of some Scope. Yuck times a million. Headliners Bomb the Music Industry would be an awesome band if so many friggin' people didn't come to their shows.
"Feels nice to have people clapping after you play, not talking while you play," mused Laura Stevenson mid-set. I can't help but think that's been a consistent problem for Laura Stevenson and the Cans throughout this tour with hyper-kinetic outfits BTMI and Andrew Jackson Jihad. Stevenson's voice has a serene, lullaby-like quality, and there were accordion and violin parts sprinkled in for some pizzazz. But the Cans' open-mic-night-style folk irritated me with its comparative blandness. I took some brutal notes, but the kids seemed to dig 'em, so I'll chalk it up to surliness on my part.
Fortunately for anyone getting burned out on the acoustic punk thing, the highly scruffy duo of Andrew Jackson Jihad bore more sonic resemblance to the Violent Femmes than to Billy Bragg. I enjoyed their danceable little folk-pop tunes with lyrics like, "Do you remember me?/I killed your family./And now I'm going to kill you, too!" I thought this bill was kind of incestuous when I noticed that Jeff Rosenstock, mastermind behind BTMI, also played saxophone for the Cans, but when Stevenson and Rosenstock both accompanied Andrew Jackson Jihad at various times (along with several other musicians whose names I don't know), it became clear that all three groups were functioning as one big band.
BTMI has toured as Rosenstock solo, and Rosenstock with one other dude. This time, he's been firebombing with a wildly impractical amount happening on stage at once. There were horns! A xylophone! Synthesizer! A melodica! Etcetera! The sound got a little muddled at times, and that would have mattered if everyone weren't having so much goddamn fun. You try to play songs as fast as "Congratulations, John, on Joining Every Time I Die," or "It Shits!" with an eight-piece and we'll just see how tightly it pans out. The entire Andrew Jackson Jihad and the Cans contingencies bounded on stage for the final two songs, and I gave up on tallying accurate headcounts. I'll guesstimate more than 12, less than 27, all of whom commemorated the end of the show, and their tour, with a big fuzzy (or more likely, sticky) group hug.