February 4th at The Middle East Upstairs
By: Spencer LaChance
By the time the first act took the stage at Middle East Upstairs, a decent crowd had amassed. Both openers for the night were local Boston bands–first was Midriffs, a punk/psych rock band. Their music stuck to those genres, as there was not much else to it. The songs were simple but they rocked hard, and maybe a bit too hard; one song was even was plagued with some brutal feedback. On the other hand, the frontman was a talented guitar player, and he surprised me with a few amazing solos. Overall, Midriffs’ set was short, loud, and a good way to start off the night. The band’s 2014 album, Subtle Luxuries is free on their Bandcamp site, and is definitely worth checking out if the straight ahead approach is for you.
The second act was Bat House–another psychedelic band whose music was a bit more unique and pointed at further experimentation. Bat House’s songs, like Midriffs’, featured loud and in-your-face vocals, backed by powerful instrumentals. The vocals were less washed out with effects, and the instrumentals less punk-influenced, providing a bit of variety to the line up. What stood out to me was the drumming, as their rhythms were a bit odd as they switched around meters. Despite this, the band followed the drums wherever they went, and the band had quite the symbiosis. They seemed like a seasoned band, and operated like clockwork…right up until the guitarist’s string broke. The lead singer and the other guitarist addressed the audience, casually saying that “this happens every show”. Fortunately, he had an extra guitar, but ended up breaking a string on that too–leading to him ignoring the problem and trudge on with the show. Towards the end, the band (excluding the drummer) sat down on the stage and toyed with their pedals, creating a magnificent symphony of noise and effects to close out the set. Bat House’s newest LP, although currently untitled, will be out April 14th.
Next up was Delicate Steve, led by Steve Marion, a guitar player from New Jersey. His guitar playing is quite unique, as he plays slide guitar like a lead guitar, giving his instrumental music a difference in traditional timbre–his special talents have even landed him a spot on Paul Simon’s latest album, Best Songs. His band had an interesting look; they were all dressed in black except for Steve and his drummer’s bright red shirts. The lights that had remained static during the two opening sets came alive during Steve’s set, complementing the band’s own colorful and seemingly trapezoidal stage presence–amazing both visually and aurally. The band did not have enough instruments to cover every single sound in their songs, so they often played certain parts over the speakers to supplement this. Steve, however, played all of the lead guitar melodies live, being careful to successfully imitate the his recorded sound.
The set started with the first five songs from his newest release, This is Steve, played chronologically. During the set, Midriffs lead guitarist (also frontwoman of Gymshorts) participated in many antics, not limited to spit balls, moshing, and crowd surfing–a bit disruptive, but it helped the atmosphere of the night. In addition to playing newer songs, Steve went back to his first album, Wondervisions, and had the crowd jumping during “The Ballad of Speck and Pebble”. He took the energy down a few notches to play “Don’t Get Stuck (Proud Elephants)”, and from there, the energy steadily built up during the next couple songs until the climactic “Butterfly”. A successful mosh pit emerged during this song while Steve shredded on his slide guitar, echoing the sentiments of Midriffs before him. He closed his set with the song, “Africa Talks to You”, from his second album, Positive Force. It did not take long for the band to return with an encore, playing some very high-energy covers that had the whole crowd moving and shouting. It was a very fun show, and I was glad to leave with my very own copy of Positive Force.
Listen to Delicate Steve, here: