Rumble Night #4 preliminary round winners: Cask Mouse
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.
The Rumble continues tonight and tomorrow, and as a show of respect this evening, organizer Anngelle Wood reports that she’ll play Childhood’s “Trees” in between band sets as the house music, a tribute to Scott Ricciuti, who passed away earlier this week at the age of 48. Childhood won the Rumble back in 1987.
FRIDAY, APRIL 6 — Pray For Polanski, BrownBoot, Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck, the Bynars
SATURDAY, APRIL 7 — The Grinds, Sherman Burns, Motherboar, Streight Angular