by Robert Kerstens
[three_fourth]The best part about Allston’s Great Scott is not the intimacy you get with the artists performing in this tiny bar, although that’s nice too. The best part is the freedom you have to sit down, grab a drink, and enjoy the show from a distance. It’s always a welcome relief from the tyranny of standing. Without the barstools, I would have had a hard time enduring the relentless drone of shoegaze acts Carlisle Sound, Suburban Living and Frankie Rose. That’s not to say the show was unbearable; in fact most of the songs had a cheerful dream pop charm that was hard to hate. But all three acts packed layers upon layers of reverb and delay into a sound so dense it could knock you off your feet.
From where I was sitting in the back, Carlisle Sound looked like a bunch of dads who started jamming over a few beers in the man cave. They could have been any age, but the vocals of frontman Casey Keenan carried the grizzled weariness of a man deep in his 40’s. His self-reflective lyrics touched on bittersweet themes like nostalgia and getting wasted in the park. The songs were often breezy and sometimes bluesy, with an undercurrent of math rock textures taking them in unexpected directions. I’m not exactly sure which Carlisle they’re supposed to sound like, but if I’m ever there I’ll recognize it by the band’s fuzzed-out surf rock jangle.
True to their name, the self-proclaimed “shoe glaze” outfit Suburban Living played a set so sentimental it could only have been put together by kids raised on the boredom of the suburbs. Sappy lyrics like “I miss you all the time” and “I’m not enough” might as well have been cried from the driver seat of the family minivan. With all the haze at this show Great Scott should have had a smog advisory in place, and Suburban Living was the biggest offender. The subtle movements of the guitars and keys were barely audible through thick clouds of sound. On the other hand, the whiny, Billy Corgan-esque vocals of Wesley Bunch had no problem cutting through and could have used an extra dose of reverb to balance out the mix. ‘Lovely Times’ was the best song of their set, with bright synth arpeggios that glazed a sugary veneer over what was actually a real downer of a song.
When Suburban Living left the stage, the girl who had been sitting on the barstool in front of me got up and took the stage with her friends. Turns out it was Frankie Rose the whole time! At this point, the Great Scott’s intimacy had won me over. I got up from my seat and walked through the sparse crowd to the very front of the stage, where there was still plenty of space. The show felt so casual, it could have been an open mic night. Frankie was cheerful and giggly throughout, as if she was already friends with everybody in the audience.
A thunderstorm of ambiance rolled into the room to start the set, breaking into a flash flood of drums and layered guitars for ‘Trouble,’ off Frankie’s latest album Cage Tropical. Most songs played were either from that album or Interstellar. The title track of Cage Tropical was one of the most fun songs of the whole show, with a funky 80’s cruise ship vibe that could certainly bust a few hips on the Lido deck. She did a great job replicating the foggy 80’s new wave sound of her records, paying homage to her influences with a cover of the Cure’s ‘A Forest.’ Frankie ended the set on a spooky note with ‘Street of Dreams,’ reminding me that I still need to figure out my Halloween costume. With no backstage, Frankie and her crew were quickly reabsorbed by the crowd, stepping off the stage as casually as they had stepped onto it.