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[rumble recap: semis night 1] A boozy night finds Bow Thayer & Perfect Trainwreck headed to next week's finals

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Rumble Semis Night #1 winners: Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck

The Rock N' Roll Rumble Semifinals got off to a slow-ish start, with some folks seemingly more interested in the Bruins playoff game televised away from the T. T. The Bear's stage than the first few songs from THICK SHAKES. It was like an old Chevy that had been left sitting in the driveway for a few days, taking a few cranks to get it going, but when the engine finally turned over it was all burning rubber through the streets, pissing off the neighbors and smashing into trash cans.

It was a night of sweet and thick Americana and punctuated by aggressive metal. There were some strange moments too, mainly; did BOW THAYER AND PERFECT TRAINWRECK deserve the win? There were more than a few people who thought no, this writer included. But hey, as has been stated numerous times before, the Rumble has become less and less like a competition, and more of a celebration of Boston music, but maybe, depending on tonight's Semifinal Night 2, one of the bands last night will secure the lone second-round wil card pass (Finals night: April 20).

Or... as MOTHERBOAR frontman Kenny Irwin so eloquently put it at the end of a beer-soaked set: "Everybody fucking wins!"

Here's how it all wobbled out:

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THICK SHAKES – Like they did on Night 2 of the preliminaries, wildcard Thick Shakes opened the evening, and there wasn't a huge crowd at first, with many people on the other side of the bar. But it's not like the band really gave a shit, they were going to spin, shiver and, yes, shake whether there were two or two hundred watching. And for the record, it was closer to the latter by the end of the set, as the Farfisa organ let out long, spooky notes, hyperactive guitarist Tim Scholl kept his instrument cinched tight a-la the Strokes' Albert Hammond Jr. and singer Lindsay Crudele whirled about in a black dress and fishnetty sleeves whilst pounding outntoes on her shiny bass. Musically it was something along the lines of the Ghastly Ones meeting the Bomboras on Brookline Street and deciding to throw a party with a treasure trove of black-rimmed hipster glasses keeping everything in focus. No, Thick Shakes didn't take the night, but coming in as an underdog and delivering like they did set the bar high for future wildcards both this year and at future Rumbles.

BOW THAYER AND PERFECT TRAINWRECK -– The room starting to get packed coincided not so coincidentally with Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck taking the stage, even though someone in the audience took the occasion to douse themselves in patchouli for the evening. Yuck. But something was lacking at the outset; the stompin' wasn't as spirited and no way were the guys as dominant as the performance from Night #5 that landed them in the semis. Here's my theory: Thayer wasn't wearing his hat. Sure, bassist Jeremy Curtis donned a fedora for the proceedings, but it didn't carry the same mojo. By the mid-point of the set though, BT & PT found its groove, the Bruins had just won in overtime and the band had the crowd's undivided and suddenly jubilant attention, responding most enthusiastically during the 12-step closer with Chris McGandy (not McCandy as reported before, thank you) holding it down on the pedal steel. And maybe that's what mattered most, the final impression the group left. Also, it wasn't said if any of the guys are in training for Monday's marathon, but Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck break down their equipment like they are in a race. I've never seen instruments ushered away that quickly.

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CASK MOUSE -– This was like the sequel to Urban Cowboy needed a bar band and TTs got to be the host venue. I had heard from a wide-range of sources just how excellent these cats are, but wasn't prepared to be so blown away. There were barnburners and languid guitar solos with equally impressive harmonies. Mitch Belch on pedal steel brought the night alive during "Time to Breathe," which was easily the song of the night -– by any band. It was jumpy down-home, folksy fun all around. Fiddle player Heavyset Joe was absolutely ridiculous -– in the best way possible, looking straight out of Hazzard County; full beard, red flannel, super-blue blue jeans, skull belt buckle, and wait, are those Blue Blockers? Indeed. The crowd ate it up. If anything, it made Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck look like the night's warm up act. And I know the Phoenix Best Reader's Poll issue is on stands already, but can we just go ahead and create a new category for "Most Radiant Keyboard Player in Boston" and give it to keyboardist/singer/kazoo dabbler Bonnie Parks? Apologies to guy from the Bynars.

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MOTHERBOAR -– Some of those anxious for Motherboar to get going were complaining that Cask Mouse went over the allotted time. That may or may not have been the case, but what epitomized the whole essence of the Rumble was Casker Matt Belch helping MBoar set their gear up after he broke his down. The massive old school amps were loaded in during the rush set up, and it was the vibe was already beginning to change. Gone was the rootsy feel of the previous few hours, replaced by attitude, aggression and power. It was like an assassination of everything that came before. "What's up motherfuckers -– you ready to have a good time?" bellowed Kenny Irwin. At that moment, half the audience took three steps forward while the other half took six steps back. The former, including a trio from Cocked N' Loaded, became part of the show, spitting beer at the band as a show of affection, while the latter were content to observe from afar, hoping their faces wouldn't melt off. The explosive set came to an end, and I don't think anyone expected Motherboar to take it, but they definitely left a mark. And there's little doubt the TT stage is headed to rehab after absorbing that much alcohol in a single sitting.

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Miss last night? What's wrong with you? Catch up tonight as the semifinals continue with wildcard Sherman Burns and preliminary week winners Ghosts of Jupiter, the Rationales, and Garvy J. Doors are at 8:30. Be there or go get squared.

All photos by Michael Christopher. 

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