Last night, I headed over to the Middle East for Scene Stand, a festival-style show featuring 2 stages, a hipster crowd, and a great variety of local indie bands. The show was run with military precision—the night flowed seamlessly from one stage to the other, as bands set up, played, and broke down on alternating stages.
I got there as Osaka Street Cutter was playing. My one issue with alt-rock music in general is the tendency towards gimmicky-ness, and yeah…I felt like the girl in the chicken suit onstage was a little unnecessary. Nevertheless, they have a great sound. Another gem of the side stage was Red Tail Hawk—I wish the side stage had slightly better acoustics, but I liked what I was able to hear. Leaders Led took to the main stage at 9:30-ish, and although I found Guy’s tie-and-sunglasses look a little, umm, can I say “gimmicky” again?, they have a really solid fan base with good reason. Their set dragged a bit in the middle, but they started off hot and finished strong.
My main reason for showing up was to see the Self-Proclaimed Rockstars. I got hooked on their demo cd and have been burning a hole through that for months now, but I’ll admit I had a hard time seeing how these guys would handle themselves on a big stage. After all, they describe their style as “surprisingly serious music from ridiculously unserious guys.”
As it turns out, they have a serious stage presence. They kicked off the set with the up-tempo “Suburban Kingpin,” also the first track on their 2011 LP, “Postcards from Purgatory,” and from there launched into American something-or-other…I WISH I had gotten the name because it was a great song. After that came a fantastic cover of the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime,” during which we really got to see the band come alive—they clearly love playing this song.
After just saying how much I hate gimmicks, I have to say that seeing Mick Greenwood play guitar with a drumstick was awesome. As was seeing drummer Steve DeBenedictis play the drums with a maraca. Or something. I’m not entirely sure what was going on, but despite the tendency towards clichéd rock band antics, they manage to pull this shit off in a really genuine, fun way. I also loved seeing singer Johnny Malone taking a backseat, playing the tambourine while Steve shined on the drums in “Fallout.”
The two new songs we got to preview are definitely making me look forward to the release of their new album this spring/summer. “Chaos and Confusion” has a sophisticated, sexy sound that you might not expect from these guys, but somehow it works. ”Pretty Baby, Dirty Momma” is fresh and irreverent, and every time I listen to it I chuckle at lyrics like, “tell me why do your baby’s Barbies smell like marijuana?” As always, SPR ended the set with “Whisky,” with Mick on harmonica, Johnny Malone’s brother Matt on stage (hey, it was his birthday), and yup, the entire band taking a shot of whisky mid-song.
So ok, I’ve completely fallen for the gimmicks, although they don’t need them, because their music is fantastic. The Self Proclaimed Rockstars make me wish I had paid more attention in music theory classes, because I just don’t have the words to describe their sound adequately. They are all incredibly talented musicians, and their songs showcase their individual strengths superbly, with lyrics that are witty and nuanced.
You can catch these guys next at Hugh O’Neil’s in Malden next Thursday (4/19), and you can find my interview with Mick and listen to “Whisky” on www.mutinyonthemicrophone.com.