Rumble Night #3 preliminary round winners: Ghosts of Jupiter
Back in the mid-2000s, the Rock And Roll Rumble was suffering from a sort of self-inflicted crisis. A proud, three-decade franchise of WBCN, the bands that were winning the damn thing did not mesh at all with the hard rock radio station’s format. There were the Dresden Dolls’ punk-cabaret in 2003, the slick showman sounds of Jake Brennan & the Confidence Men in 2004, and proto-steampunk Vaudeville of Reverend Glasseye in 2005. A year later, the space-aged strato-pop of Campaign For Real-Time found itself on the mid-day airwaves a few times thanks to some hustle by Shred, but didn't stick. The winners got a few side-stage festival gigs and maybe some on-air plugs, but ‘BCN wasn’t really going to find true love with Amanda Palmer’s face paint.
PHOTOS: 2012 Rock 'n' Roll Rumble Prelim Round Night #3
“The Rock of Boston” got thrown a bone with Township’s bearded rock grooves in 2007, but then along came the country twang of Girls Guns & Glory in ’08. All the Ochocinco twitter endorsements in the world couldn’t place Ward Hayden’s boys alongside Staind and Stone Temple Pilots in the station’s playlists.
WBCN went online-only in the Great Boston Radio Station Swap of August 2009, and after a brief absence, the Rumble was resurrected by Anngelle Wood last year. Wood now skillfully hosts Boston Emissions on classic rock station WZLX -- Sunday nights at 10 pm, right after my own Boston Accents on ‘FNX -- and while the Rumble isn’t specifically affiliated with that station, its ties are strong and the call letters are displayed on the banner behind the stage at T.T’s.
So what happened last night during Night 3 of the Rumble seemed like cosmic kismet, and opened up the doors to some interesting promotional opportunities for the evening’s winner, ones that are quite specific to…
GHOSTS OF JUPITER – Ok, yeah, so all that backstory ragtime written above is really a way of saying, shit, WZLX could really get behind this band and connect their classic rock format with a killer band active right now. GOJ’s ‘70s rock influences are quite apparent, and last night they turned T.T.’s into one giant liquefied jam session, a colorwheel of grooves and psychedelic vibrancy (just look at the clip above – seven-minute songs!) from a pack of well-oiled musical pros.
It’s strange how, despite strong performances from other bands on any night’s bill, you can sense the eventual winner just by watching them play, and the Ghosts seemed to clinch their slot in next week’s semis by their third song. This could be the second coming of Township ’07.
That’s not to say the other bands weren’t on-point. In fact, last night was possibly the best prelim night, musically, so far. A few people I talked to at T.T.’s remarked how unfamiliar they were with each band on the bill, and that sentiment of unfamiliarity likely vaporized by midnight. Here’s a recap of the other three, and had any of the below ended up wowing the judges and named the night’s winner, few would have been surprised. It was a solid night featuring stepped-up performances across the board, but Ghosts of Jupiter were tough to beat. This city loves its throwback rock and roll.
THE SUSAN CONSTANT – If there was something noticeably lacking in the first two Rumble nights, it was charismatic frontmen/frontwomen ramping up the crowd and making a spectacle of their participation. This 2012 Subdued Vocalist Syndrome (with the exception of Commodore Vic of Cooling Towers in Night 1) ended early in Night 3, as the Susan Constant’s Paul Sennott took his band’s catchy power-pop melodies and volleyed them to greater heights with an animated and engaging appeal from center stage, like an alt-rock Justin Long welcoming all aboard his finely-tuned indie-pop vessel. The Constant are band with promise, their best work has yet to be written, and Boston's music scene needs more people like Paul Sennott.
THE TIN THISTLES – Here’s where the night got rowdy. Somerville’s Tin Thistles were the powderkeg this year’s Rumble was desperately lacking so far, a hardcore punk beatdown complete with Boston-bred gang vocals, street-punk smarts, and enough spilled booze to fill vocalist/growler/screamer William Callahan’s proud belly. The Thistles faster/harder songs hit like a frying pan to the face, but in addition to the shamrock neck tattoos, shout-outs to PAs Lounge, Misfits cover (a set-closing “Skulls”), and on-stage neighborhood dissing (“Somerville is the only part of Boston that matters,” said bassist Kevin Bogart. “Sorry Allston.”), the real treasure of this band’s agro-punk hurricane is drummer Arthur Bergevin. Dude is a fucking animal behind the kit.
And yes, I’ve said/written it before, but the best part of the Rumble, still, is seeing/experiencing bands for the first time, watching them not win their night, and then really not giving a fuck about the voting process the morning after as you seek out their next, non-competitive show around town. Here’s theirs: the Tin Thistles are at the Cantab next month, Friday, May 25. Go throw some knuckles, khed.
LETTERDAY – It’s really too bad ‘BCN isn’t still alive on the FM dial, because Letterday is another band the station could have had a good relationship with. Three guitars, catchy-as-Ellsbury melodies, and enough post-emo rock and roll urgency to have a pretty successful career and following. Letterday brought their fans and their hooks, opening up with a blistering rendition of “Safe & Sound,” off their latest EP Ready, and closing out with still-awesome radio-primed single “Don’t Go.” They threw in a Get Up Kids cover for good measure (“Holiday” – though I was hoping it’d be “Mass Pike”), and did enough to warrant some wild card consideration. It was good to see a band like Letterday, which cut their teeth in the all-ages scenes around and outside Boston, hold their own on a night like this and keep the crowd’s attention as the night slowly crept towards midnight. Also, their merch table accepts credit cards. Game, raised.
Tonight is the traditional Day of Rest, but the Rumble picks back up tomorrow with preliminary Night 4, featuring Parlour Bells, the Fagettes, Cask Mouse, and Never Got Caught. Pick a winner, chicken dinner.
READ MORE: Complete Rumble coverage