Band In Boston
Lucky enough to have heard many a great Boston band live and blessed enough to miss the likes of Peter Wolf, Aerosmith, the Cars, and -- of course -- Boston (sorry kids, I just ain't a fan) here's some space devoted to my favorites:
Mark Sandman was a very nice man -- one of the nicest men ever on the Boston (which means Cambridge as well) music scene. When he died suddenly, poetically, of a heart attack on stage (1999) people walked around town in a blur for months, illustration to the sense we had had for years that Mark and Morphine were a powerful presence, irreplaceable. Mark was nice but his music was naughty and original and soulful. Promise me, who ever you are, that if you have not heard this astounding blend of three string bass, two saxophones played at once by one man (Dana Calley, WTF!), and some of the sexiest drumming around from Billy Conway -- that you will go out of your way to right that wrong.
Evan Dando had a rep for being a whining jerk, but damn if those songs aren't as catchy as hell. And in their prime, the Lemonheads were a very good time in a small club. If you were lucky, you got to be at a show during the period when people threw boxes of the Lemonhead candy on stage. You get extra points if you were at a show when Evan got hit. And I will personally send you cash if you were the one that hit him. All that said, their special brand of pop and Evan's lyrics (which could be about a ship without a rudder, or his abandoned stove, or his pal Ray) were part of a fun time for the Boston sound.
I moved to Boston during that epic period known as "Before Grunge Hit". During that time there was no term for the Pixies. They simply fit no mold. They were a "garage band" or "new era punk". But, they included haunting lyrics, off-beat harmonies, and humor in a way that defied those half-assed tags. In the end, they were their own animal, although hindsight 20/20, they were one of the godparents to the sound that ended up defining the early 90s. And LIVE, they were a reason to believe in God.
I am a sucker for power trios, but female power trios are to die for. Quivvver (yes, no typo, three v's) made it their business to rock the house in thrift store get-ups (including an incredibly charismatic drummer who usually wore a wig and prom dress), and sing about off-beat things like mermaids unapologetically. I saw them play at the Middle East (not the war-torn region, but a great bar/restaurant/venue in Cambridge, MA) the night OJ Simpson was being chased by the LAPD on TV. When the room showed signs of filling slowly, the band acknowledged that OJ might be keeping people in front of the tube. Kristina (the already mentioned drummer) announced that she wasn't gonna let a wife-beater screw up her night and they proceeded to kick the crap out of their set. I miss you girls!
The Del Fuegos
During their touring days this band was notoriously hit or miss. Get them on a night all were in synch with their tempers and substance use and you were in for an incredible treat. Other times, not so much. In fact, at that time that I loved to hear them play, a friend started calling them the "Del Fuckheads" because of how verbally abusive they had been to their fans during a recent show. Now that's rock-n-roll.
Another power trio that won my heart with their original line-up during years of playing locally. They were followed by an incredibly loyal fan base whom they never seemed to let down. Lead-singer/guitarist, chief song writer Mark Nelson could both croon and yell, unspooling emotional, intelligent lyrics against driving rock that could edge on speed-metal. One thing I found very endearing at live shows was that Mark would warn the moshers to "Watch out for the girls" in the crowd. I would smile to myself and then scream, "We can take care of ourselves! Why don't you shut up and play!" Aaah memories. And play they did.
And "Guilty by Association": Scarce
Scarce was actually out of Rhode Island, but they played so much locally in the early 90s that they seemed to be adopted as home-grown. As wonderful as this band is recorded (and I strongly urge you to get a hold of a recording if you have not heard them) they were outrageously good live. The artistic tension created on stage between presence and sound gave birth to an energy I have felt very few times. One band member had a brain aneurysm, the band stayed together to welcome him back months later after a full recovery, only to set the stage for their break up. The stuff for Mexican soap operas and for a club-going-buzz-kill I have never completely forgiven them for.