Now that the 33rd annual ROCK N ROLL RUMBLE has wrapped up its 24-band preliminary week -- and readies to take on T.T. The Bear's Place once again on Thursday for the first of two back-to-back semifinal nights -- let's compile all six of our Rumble recaps into one convenient mega-post. Here's what we saw, heard and eventually wrote, posted the day after each night (semifinals schedule after the jump).
Rumble Night #1 preliminary winners: The Rationales
BY BARRY THOMPSON
A few things I didn’t expect happened after WBCN went under a few years ago: The ROCK 'N' ROLL RUMBLE continued unabated by the demise of its corporate overlords, and because its administration fell under the auspicious of flesh-and-blood humans instead of a radio station that plays Sublime and Dave Matthews every 20 minutes, it was no longer fashionable to affect a snarky, jaded, bitchy attitude about the venerable battle of the bands.
PHOTOS: 2012 Rock 'n' Roll Rumble Prelim Round Night #1
There’s sound logic behind that philosophy. The bands competing this year are almost all too good at what they’re doing to trash in good conscience. Practically everyone who comes out to this thing has a blast. Cheap whiskey and pickle juice are the tits. It’s wonderful that we have this lovely little community of rock bands to enjoy and not all towns have that so let’s appreciate the situation and sing "Kumbaya" and blah blah blah.
But I realized something last night. For as long as I’ve known the Rumble existed, bitching about it has been part of the tradition. No matter who wins or what happens, it’s not really the Rumble unless somebody cries “fix” or “bias” or “there should’ve been more accordion in the monitors” or something.
With that in mind, there is a seemingly disproportionate presence of straight-ahead rock bands this year. Out of the 24 outfits tapped for the preliminary rounds, I see (and sorry to anyone I'm missing) only two punk bands (THE TIN THISTLES and THE GRINDS), one metal band (MOTHERBOAR), one arguable metal band (SHERMAN BURNS), one general weirdo contingent (STRAIGHT ANGULR), and GARVY J left to represent electro all alone. I’ll be happy if any of them take home the Rumble championship, but to disclose my own bias, I shall root hardest for THE FAGETTES, unquestionably the most evil of the entire lot of participants.
THE GROWNUP NOISE -- An apparently nasty back injury sidelined guitarist Paul Hansen, forcing the Noise to bow out of their spot at the last minute. Let’s wish him a speedy recovery, and hope the rules are bent next year so the Grownup Noise get still their chance at Rumble glory.
ENDLESS WAVE -- The sexified, stratosphere-soaring licks and downright menacing bass hooks of Endless Wave melded into what would’ve been my personal choice to advance to the semis. They’re among the best of a recent contingency of Boston bands who have introduced shoegaze to an audience who had no idea who My Bloody Valentine was until six months ago. Guitarist Tim Ryan treated us to a spastic bunny-hop dance while slamming down chords.
THE RATIONALES -- ...are not a country band. I’m not even sure if they could be called “country influenced.” Still, they made me wish I was driving an 18-wheeler across the Midwest, or perhaps engaged in a Thelma & Louise style road trip where I'd stop at every liquor store I passed, have all my money stolen by Brad Pitt, then explode after driving off a cliff. Though they’ve unquestionably penned a few great songs, particularly set-closer, “Radio,” their easy-accessibility makes them the exact kind of band I don’t want to win. They’re not dangerous enough to offend my parents. I need some legit EVIL in my rock ‘n roll.
COOLING TOWERS -- I’ve got to dock points from Cooling Towers for a cosmetic reason. Their guitarist had a Joe-Perry-thing happening. He could’ve easily had a far-preferable Slash-thing-happening if he’d only worn a big hat. Then again, I also have to award them cosmetic points for their kickass drummer’s apparent hatred of haircuts. Though he wobbled around and gazed at the ceiling throughout the set, vocalist Commodore Vic didn’t seem to miss a note. It was hard to tell if he was legitimately intoxicated, or just wanted us to think he was. But there was nothing to knock about Cooling Towers' smoky, loungey spin on post-punk.
To my lack of surprise and mild-disappointment, the judges gave the semi-final nod to the Rationales. On the upside, we’ve overheard whispers that Endless Wave and Cooling Towers could be serious contenders for a wildcard slot, so it’s possible the 2012 Rumble hasn’t heard the last of them. And by the way, thanks to whoever brought the cupcakes. I snagged peanut butter and coconut flavored cakey deserts on my way out, and they were delicious.
Rumble Night #2 preliminary winners: Garvy J
BY MICHAEL MAROTTA
After a pretty solid opening night on Sunday, the Rumble trudged on last night with perhaps the series’ most eclectic bill. Looking back on it, I guess you can say it was fairly predictable that the gravel-pit glam rock of rock of GARVY J would take home the honors (disclosure: I was a judge, and the end result was accurate), but the night offered three other glimpses into varying scenes that proved just as interesting as who was going to win.
PHOTOS: 2012 Rock 'n' Roll Rumble Prelim Round #2
We’re two nights in, and so far we have a Rumble without controversy (the Grownup Noise had to bail on Night 1 due to a bandmember suffering from back injury, an ailment that never happened when they were The Teenage Noise) and one without any sort of pure “Did you fucking see that?!?!” highlight. Seven bands have performed, and all have brought pretty straight-laced, head-down, off-to-work efforts. Hopefully we won’t have to wait for Streight Angular’s closing set on Saturday to witness some sort of ruckus that’ll get everyone tweeting.
That said, the lack of “holy shit!” moments so far have been overcome by two nights of solid, well-played rock and roll, and last night saw four different worlds of the Boston music scene on one stage. Let’s open up this pit.
THICK SHAKES -- It was a weird feeling watching Thick Shakes walk onto the TTs stage while Animal Talk, a band that would go on right after them, had one of their songs blaring out as the pre-show house music. But Lindsay and her Cru(dele) were undeterred, playing one of the more spirited opening sets in recent memory (admission: I missed Endless Wave’s Sunday night commencement en route from the WFNX studios). Armed with an untamed Farfisa organ, some tight, fuzzy garage rock bangers, and vertical-smile plumber crack from the sweet cheeks of guitarist Tim Scholl, the Shakes put TTs in a noisy spin-cycle. Midway through their whirling-dervish-pop set you kinda knew that Thick Shakes aren’t the kind of band to win things like the Rumble (they aren’t the kind to woo a judge and certainly don’t give a shit about trying to), but their involvement alone is what makes the Rumble so awesome. Get in, get out, sod off, go home. See you back in the garage. Or at the Rosebud on Cinco de Mayo.
ANIMAL TALK -- There were two disappointing factors at play during Animal Talk’s double-sided set: one was the band’s insistence on playing their two best songs, “Can’t Dance With It” and “Into The Sun,” at the very end of their performance (livening up the crowd a bit too late), and their decision to abandon their fiery cover of Phil Collins’ “Easy Lover.” Something was slightly off about Animal Talk’s throwdown, lacking their usual passion early on and allowing their tracks to get lost in the sound, depending on where you were standing, almost entirely (I heard zero synths in “Can’t Dance,” which was a shame and would have allowed them to stand out from the pack a lot more). But it was a straight-ahead rock effort, and Animal Talk’s funk-laden indie slices, individually, are some of finest songs displayed in this year’s Rumble. Personally, I'm a huge fan of this band and I'm probably being a bit hard on them here because I thought they had a legit shot to win it all. But it just wasn’t their night.
GARVY J -- There’s a prevailing feeling that the Rumble, at least this current stretch of it, is tailor made for Boston rock scene veterans. And perhaps aside from BrownBoot (on tap for Friday), there’s no greater pedigree battling it out this year than Garvy J. With Tony Savarino on guitar and hat goggles, Garvy's biker squad looked the part and sounded heavy, tight, and polished as fuck. Spell-bent for leather, his Secret Pockets of Hope and Resistance were a united blackened front of rock and roll, and while we tagged them as repping electro in yesterday’s Night 1 recap (a result of us listening to the studio cut of “Celebration” too much, methinks), the band injected a lethal dose of energy into the Mun-day night. Truthfully, and this is no slight to the first two bands, but it felt like a rock show only when Garvy J hit the stage and rolled out his band’s thunder. These fuckers even had intro music! Like that old New York Lottery slogan several years ago, “You gotta be in it to win it,” and they came to Rumble. There’s always a bit of on-stage showmanship at play in this so-called Battle of the Bands, and the relatively elder statesmen around town always go into these things determined to W-I-N. Garvy J delivered, and then some.
GREY VALLEY GHOST -- While Garvy took home the night’s honors in somewhat of a runaway fashion, the buzz backstage during the voting process was that the grunge assault of Grey Valley Ghost flashed perhaps the most promise. And that’s not just because we suspected the new guitarist, making GVG a quartet, was no older than 16 years old (he sat in a car outside the venue most of the night, according to reports). EDIT: Organizer Anngelle Wood has confirmed his age to be a ripe 19. “We’re a lot less grunge, and more pop,” bassist Rob Black informed us midway through their set. “We’re no longer grunge, we’re no longer alternative rock. We are evil pop.” That’s all well and good, and the “evil pop” tag should move some units, but we’re still keeping the grunge tag on GVG. The boys opened their set with a bit of cock rock flair, then settled into a nice 1994 groove that you just have to respect in 2012. Their second number, “The Way We Kill,” was one of Boston’s finest cuts of 2011, and still slays in every setting. While the band never seemed to lose gas, the crowd ultimately did, and by night’s close GVG were playing mostly for friends and fam. Which is a shame, because they deserved a larger collective ear.
Rumble Night #3 preliminary round winners: Ghosts of Jupiter
BY MICHAEL MAROTTA
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.
Rumble Night #4 preliminary round winners: Cask Mouse
BY MICHAEL MAROTTA
The first time I had ever heard the name CASK MOUSE was via text message last January from Carl Lavin, who was at O’Brien’s Pub the night they rootsy folk act played on a bill with Jim Healey, Zip-Tie Handcuffs, and Keith Pierce of Mellow Bravo. It was one of those “You should see the crowd reaction this band is getting” messages I’ve occasionally gotten from Lavin over the past decade or so (the first one was for like Black Rebel Motorcycle around 2001). I walked down Cambridge Street, hit up the O, and he was right: the room was packed out, people clapping up a storm, dancing around, and Cask Mouse, as a whole, seemed kinda shocked by the screams and applause that countered the end of each song.
Knowing that sort of thing bodes well for Rumble hopefuls, even those who open up a given night, it was obvious that Thursday’s slate at T.T. The Bear’s Place in Cambridge would display some full-frontal awesome from beginning to end.
But the biggest mystery, to me, would be how Cask Mouse would go over. They certainly roll more than they rock, with some carefully-jagged Devil’s Music edges to help down the whiskey. But up against some sludgy hard rock veterans NEVER GOT CAUGHT, a determined wham-bam-thank-you-Glenn effort from PARLOUR BELLS, and the anything-goes west-coast ‘60s pop unisex-tacle of THE FAGETTES, Rumble Night 4, like the one before it, was anyone’s game.
I certainly don’t want to suggest Cask Mouse ended the competition before 10pm – because my money was on the Bells as the clock struck midnight on more than just the Fagettes bass amp -- but Kevin Boldwin’s crew raised the bar fairly early in the night and were the ones to beat from the start. A game of cat and Mouse, you might say.
Here’s some video and recaps of each performance.
CASK MOUSE –- There was so much to like about watching Cask Mouse stomp-their way through a textured, fireside set of warm, folksy numbers: the timeless cool of a stand up bass, Heavy Set Joe holding it down on the fiddle, and front man Boldwin’s physical Ray-Liotta-meets-Evan-Dando thing he’s got going on. But if there was one element that elevated Cask Mouse last night – and maybe all the time, probably – it’s the angelic voice of organist/pianist/kazooist Bonnie Parks. For all the talk of spectacle and wooing judges and Rocking The Fuck Out, you really just can’t beat a pretty lady singing her heart out. Even when relegated to backing vocals, Parks seemed to steal the spotlight on a stage full of confident, able players that, all meshed together, have some serious breakout potential. Their chemistry and stage presence was fun to watch.
NEVER GOT CAUGHT -- Two nights after the Tin Thistles proclaimed themselves as the Rumble’s “token punk band,” Never Got Caught could claim they were last night’s token hard rock band, sandwiched between Cask Mouse’s compassionate hoe-down and the sly mascara-pop wink of Parlour Bells. But on the day that Jim Marshall died at age 88, there certainly was an appetite for a sludgy hard rock quartet playing it loud, straight, and riffy. With ties to bands like Tree and Tired Old Bones, Never Got Caught – not to be confused with Indiana butt-rockers Never Been Caught – filled the Rumble’s boot-cut-jean-and-tennis-shoe-rock quota, and people seemed to dig it well enough.
PARLOUR BELLS –- If Never Got Caught were the straight band playing rock and roll the way God’s heavenly thunderstorms intended it, then Parlour Bells were the crooked merchants peddling pale sunburned skins on the boardwalks of Venice Beach. Equal parts Perry Farrell and Hedwig Robinson, frontman Glenn DiBenedetto was in fine form as Post-Millennial Bowie Kin, swigging from his flask, prancing around in a red blazer and disco pants, and egging on the crowd at every change. Parlour Bells’ loungy glam rock got the boys dancing harder than the girls, especially Oldjack’s Dan Nicklin, who I’ve never seen rock out so hard. Brendan Boogie’s bassline in “Pet Names” was a seductive wink from across the bar, and Boston Band Crush’s Richard Bouchard said it best when he wrote that keyboardist Magen Tracy “looks like something that’s about to be painted on the side of a WWII bomber.” Songs like “Gargoyle” and “Holiday” packed a pretty sweet sonic shag.
But in the end, Night 4 was about solo efforts stealing the show, and guitarist Nate Leavitt was as much a commanding presence as Bonnie Parks’ striking vocals a few hours earlier. Just an incredible, balls-out showing from Leavitt.
THE FAGETTES –- The performances at the Rumble are often judged by tightness, presentation, craft, nose-picking, finger-licking, cover-song-selection, and all those other basic tenants of putting on a solid rock and roll show. Which means garage rock bandits the Fagettes were pretty much doomed from the start. Ryan Major, Melanie Bernier, Peaches and the crew are at their best when shit flies off the rails, and that’s pretty much what happened in their Rumble turn. Bernier first crashed the stage by being birthed by a giant paper mache robot (held still by Sammy from Birthdays), and by the second song I swear I smelled w33d sm0ke creeping out near the front of the stage. But anyone looking for this band to “own it,” well… I suppose it was all downhill from there. A weird sound mix, faulty gear – bass go bye-bye oh no! – and a crowd pretty much unsure what the fuck to make of the Fagettes sunny-pop-gone-vindictive sound dried out their California vibes rather quickly. But that’s the Fagettes! If everything went right, they’d… well they’d not be the Fagettes. It’s sloppy, it’s mouthy, it’s muddled and puddled and kinda all over the place. Not exactly elements that lead to Rumble victory. Bernier blowing on the saxophone is always a great sight and sound, but by the end of the night the band seemed a bit flustered by the whole experience. Whatever man, it’s rock and roll. The Fagettes still rule.
Rumble Night #4 preliminary round winners: Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck
BY MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER
For a Rock N' Roll Rumble novice like myself, the event witnessed Friday night was an absolute affirmation of not just the strength of Boston music, but the supportiveness that the bands have for one another -- despite the ridiculous contrast in styles and personalities. Sure, everyone had to hang out until the end of the night to find out who would advance to the semis, but it’s not like those who played were sitting down post-set at the bar immersed in a pint of something hoping that time would pass more quickly than it already was; mingling and cheering one another on was on the agenda.
All that said, the lovefest has to be an eventual aside, because there was to be a winner to be named for the evening, and none of the acts were about get caught slacking musically or in performance leading into a pastel-heavy weekend.
Let’s get at it…
PRAY FOR POLANSKI -- They had the dubious slot of opening the show while people were still milling about exchanging greetings at best, or at worst figuring out if T.T. The Bear’s was the place to be or if the Middle East was more jumping. It was obvz the former, as PFP made abundantly clear. The funky rock and roll hillbilly leanings rapidly drew those in attendance to the stage as guitarist Aviv Rubinstien, looking and sounding like a bushy Les Claypool at times, traded vocals with the hyper-impassioned Anne Warnock. Personally, I couldn’t take my eyes off guitarist Jordan Johnston. If there is a winner for best outfit of the Rumble, he owned it; pressed white Oxford, candy-striped bowtie, skinny jeans and black wingtips? Dude should have his own fashion-based reality show. By the time the five-piece broke from the swaying lament of “Desperation, CA” into the frenzied “9191991” the tone for the rest of the night was set: bring it or lose.
BROWNBOOT – Hey, it’s a rock and roll rumble right? Just checking. Because if there was any doubt, BrownBoot made sure to remind folks that this wasn’t some singer/songwriter open-mic at the Cantab. Boston’s go-to gun for hire guitarist Matt Sullivan brought the sickness on the six-string, frequenting the lip of the stage with his 70s influenced histrionics, making more than a few doe-eyed girls weak in the knees. There was the always risky move of braking out a few new numbers, but when you debut something as energetic as “Sweet Gasoline,” with its ridic bass work courtesy Randy Knight, there’s no worries. Rodrigo Van Stoli had enough attitude to fill a room, imploring the audience to help out on the last note of “Mae Stay,” adding a bit of encouragement with “It’s a high one, but I think you can do it.” Buoyed by the enthusiasm onstage – yeah they could.
BOW THAYER AND PERFECT TRAINWRECK – And this is when the atmosphere completely changed. Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck set up their gear, got comfortable, and proceeded to raise hell. Suddenly, T.T.’s was packed, like, uncomfortably chock-a-block, and if it were winter, I get the feeling that it would have been populated by a lot of dudes in dusters. This is what Southern Rock is supposed to sound like; lots of people in cowboy boots, using them to stomp in time to the music on an old wooden floor. Hard. It doesn’t hurt to have Chris McCandy on pedal steel looking like the twin of Skynyrd’s Rickey Medlocke either. Together, these guys have such a groove that it’s barely contained. Bassist Jeremy Curtis spins in place and is so clearly moved by his own sounds that it’s infectious. The last song was completed, but there was no way it was over. A hastily arranged encore went off, which in itself is a rarity at the Rumble, making it clear: here are your winners.
THE BYNARS – The victor of the night may have been decided, but nobody thought to inform the Bynars. Looking like they wandered out of MIT and decided, “Hey – we should start a band,” this trio brought Rentals meets Mylo noise replete with laptops, jangly guitar and synthesized sound. The set was tinted with a few covers, highlighted by Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” whereupon a few willing lasses vied for the Courtney Cox crown, jumping up on the stage to shake out some moves. Frontman Matt Jatkola looks like Smallville-era Michael Rosenbaum’s double, and he was all too happy to turn the evening into Dance Party USA, even if that meant chicks from Mattapan tried to infringe on the spotlight. And major props for turning the hideously overplayed Sheryl Crow suckshow “All I Wanna Do” into a fucking swatch of boppability that would turn even the most jaded music fan into a blubbering mess of attempted ass-shaking swagger. Lex Luthor would have been proud.
Rumble night #6 preliminary round winners: Motherboar
BY BARRY THOMPSON
Al Polk sprinkled all kinds of warm sentiments of community and togetherness throughout the pageant of ridiculousness that bookended the 2012 ROCK 'N' ROLL RUMBLE preliminaries. “Fuck egos!” “We’re all winners!” Those sorts of sentiments. Maybe the STREIGHT ANGULAR ringleader wanted to be classy loser, having already gleaned that metal-marauders MOTHERBOAR had locked up an express ticket to the semis. Perhaps the occasion merited genuine neighborly feelings for all. Probably, both of those things were true.
Previous primary round advancers Cask Mouse, Bow Thayer and the Perfect Trainwreck, and the Rationales don't necessarilly sound anything alike, but they're all playing with toys found in the same traditionalist and/or throwback-rock sandboxes. By its sixth night, the Rumble had slid into peril of predictability. As legendary imaginary bassist William Murderface would’ve said, the Rumble needed to ride “the Zazz-train to Zazzville.”
It needed...Hm...Maybe something like some fucking demon fucking summoning fucking METAL. UP IT'S ASS. After that, perhaps a prefab dance party where a gorilla, a lucha wrestler, and a glitter-bombing wolf showed up.
It's sort of like a cartoon Christmas special, where the characters all learn the true spirit of Christmas isn't materialism. I no longer have any reason to complain about who wins this thing, because it doesn't matter. Someday, somebody will say to me, “Hey, remember that time Sherman Burns, Motherboar, and Streight Angular played back-to-back and afterwards there was beer and squashed candy all over the place?” and I will say, “Yes, I do. That ruled.” Nicely done, Rock 'n Roll Rumble....Nicely done.
THE GRINDS - Last week, I called the Grinds a "punk" operation. Turns out, by attempting to familiarize myself with 20-or-so bands via listening to the first song on each of their bandcamps, I set myself up to oversimplify. (Hence my partially-true but mostly clueless tagging of Garvy J as "electro.") But if many of this year's Rumble all-stars are a little bit country and a little bit rock 'n roll, the Grinds are more like if Donny and Marie were kidnapped and brainwashed by Darby Crash. The Charlestownian combo is, indeed, "punk" but there's more to the story. In addition to definitely punky nail-spitters such as "I Don't Need You," they threw down a song you could swing dance to, and another that reminded me of AC/DC. A former Rumble judge explained to me that, due to the perpetuating results of feeding judges alcohol, opening the bill of any Rumble lineup always makes for a disadvantage. Unless your band is called something along the lines of "Mask Couse" and it happens to be Thursday, there's certainly some wisdom behind that statement.
SHERMAN BURNS - And then, shit got real. The erstwhile judge also told me he expected Sherman Burns to get docked for vocal delivery. I didn't understand WTF he was talking about, until it dawned on me that I was feeling what Josh MacGregor and Andrew Mildenberg drawled and screamed, but I didn't generally hear it. Perhaps the guitars were too loud, perhaps Sherman Burns had some difficulty reigning in their tidal waves of distortion, intricately weaved post-punky excursions and monstrously-killer drum smashing. They're still my new favorite out of all the Rumble bands I've experienced thus far. They're like if Protest the Hero dropped out of Berklee two months into freshman year and moved into a meth den in Allston. MacGregor bouncing onto the kick drum and then onto the floor was the craziest thing I had seen at the Rumble this year, and would remain so for about another 10 minutes.
MOTHERBOAR - I wrote "Theyre(sic) going to win" and underlined it in my notes between some scribbling about devil horns and the observation "needs more blast beats." I like being right, but I don't feel especially self-congratulatory about noticing the almost-obvious. Strictly in terms of crowd-enveloping calamity, The Grinds and Sherman Burns were in way over their heads. A brief list of what Motherboar brought to the game: Shades of '80s Metallica and '90s Pantera, blood-curdling exasperated bellows, a proverbial tornado of flying beer cups, multiple instances of crowd surfing, a woman riding around on somebody's shoulders punching nothing, and a mosh pit preemptively and single-handedly broken up by Anngelle Wood. During Sherman Burns's set, it occurred on me they'd make a semis bill alongside the likes of the Rationales or Cask Mouse feel lopsided. Motherboar shall present a similar problem...or advantage? It might make it easier for Motherboar to own this tournament and walk away with all the free studio time and photo shoots 'n stuff if all they have to do to stand way out from the pack is go on the same rampage they usually go on.
STREIGHT ANGULAR - Let it be noted that, while everyone went fucking bonkers for Motherboar, they went equally fucking bonkers for Streight Angular - albeit a gentler version of bonkers. I'm inclined to wonder if Al Polk and friends' penchant for theatricality might've been to their determent, as far as the competition goes. It's definitely harder to focus on playing psycheldelic pop when, in addition to a roomful of people yelling your lyrics back at you, a bunch of your friends are covered in neon war paint and dancing next to you and throwing candy around, plus there's a gorilla and a lucha wrestler who doesn't seem to know where to go or what to do running around on your stage. Then, as if you were Rick Santorum, which you're fairly certain you aren't, a werewolf glitterbombs you. If all the antics didn't garner Streight Angular extra favor with the judges, the audience was certainly a different story.
I was kind of hoping Steight Angular would get a wild card nod, partly because I figured Sherman Burns was too crazy (sonically) to have a shot. Oh, me of little faith. Thick Shakes are fun, too, and they're also going to the next round. Now I am tired, so here's another Steight Angular video.
Semifinal Night #1 / Thursday, April 12
9:30 - Thick Shakes (Wildcard)
10:15 - Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck
11:00 - Cask Mouse
11:45 - Motherboar
Semifinal Night #2 / Friday, April 13
Doors at 8:30pm
9:30 - Sherman Burns (Wildcard)
10:15 - Ghosts of Jupiter
11:00 - The Rationales
11:45 - Garvy J.