Historic Cape Cod, with nothing but ocean to the east and nothing but rain and mosquitoes everywhere else…the perfect setting for two sweaty nights of rock’n’roll. Dubbed the Boston Garage Rock Festival, this relatively young annual event is held at The Beachcomber in Wellfleet, almost the very tip of the Cape. Here’s my report, along with photographs by Cheryl DalPozzal.
Triple Thick – Led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Mitch, who’s joined by Jim on drums and backing vocals and Greg on bass, the bit that puts these guys over the top is the presence of the one and only JJ Rassler on lead guitar. Don’t get me wrong, Mitch writes some very good songs, and he’s got a good voice and solid, if low key, stage presence; but it is JJ’s snarling, whining, spitting lead work that sets Triple Thick apart from the crowd. A very good start to the weekend.
Spitzz – With a lead singer who looks a bit like Buddy Holly and Elvis Costello (complete with the big glasses), and a guitarist who pretty much always looks like the coolest guy in the room, Spitzz bring a nervy, aggressive punk edge to the garage. The key is great songs, not to mention tons of energy. I love these guys.
Tampoffs – Probably the tallest band in Boston, Tampoffs don’t try to do too much, but they are great at what they do. They play real fast, but still catchy—it might be power pop if they slowed it down, or it might be punk if it wasn’t so full of hooks. They refer to themselves with words like “stupid” and “morons”—of which are too harsh but do get at the point that this is primitive music which does not require a whole lot from the listener: just drink your beer, bop your head, and enjoy. I know I always do.
Downbeat 5 – You should all know by now how much I love this frigging band. They have one of the great guitarists ever to play in Boston in JJ Rassler—a dynamic front woman with a powerful voice and a very wide emotional range in Jen D’Angora—and a rhythm section that is both muscular and flexible. They mix tempos and styles with ease, from surf to girl group, and from R&B to straight rock. I am not aware of any more professional yet thoroughly enjoyable band anywhere.
Konks – And just to draw the contrast as sharply as possible, here come The Konks. The Konks are usually untouchable, but tonight they’re more like unlistenable. Blame it on being the last band on a long, hot, humid, rainy night. Blame it on the beer. Usually they are as tight as Larry Bird’s shorts. Tonight they’re as loose and sloppy as the kids on the street corner trying to look like the latest hip-hop sensations.
Jay Allen – Jay is a long time veteran of the Boston scene, having fronted numerous bands over the years. Lately, he’s been doing the solo acoustic rock troubadour thing, and doing it well. His songs are never serious, dealing with issues like the heartbreak you might feel after your toaster oven burns your bagel. He’s fun and funny, and a natural entertainer. He’s also one of the co-organizers of this annual event, so three cheers for Jay!
Swinedells – Now this band is hot! What a way to kick start the night. High energy, jumpin’, R&B infused rock’n’roll like they would have done it in 1958 if they had a singer who’d grown up in punk and hardcore bands. Authentic without sounding like a tribute band, The Swinedells please everyone, from the young beer guzzling garage rockers to the bachelorette partiers with their frozen Margaritas. You can swing, you can bop, even pogo and slam if you’re so inclined—it’s all good with The Swinedells, and The Swinedells are all good with me.
Black Clouds – I’m going to be totally honest and tell you that when The Black Clouds started their set with a fuzzed out thrash number, I headed to The Beachcomber’s outdoor deck to sit down in the rain. I needed the rest after The Swinedells, and I wasn’t impressed by The Black Clouds opener. I was later told by more than one person present that The Black Clouds may have put on the best set of the night. Go figure.
Coffin Lids – Stripped down, fuzzed out and greased back—The Coffin Lids have recently added an organ to their Sonics/Mummies inspired sound, and it’s a natural fit. With numerous torpedo-like jaunts into the audience, The Coffin Lids do their best to make this an interactive experience. Great songs (especially the one about the 5, 6,7, 8s), played great—it’s as simple as that and twice as fun.
Nikki Corvette and the Stingrays – Nikki Corvette is not from Boston, of course. But her drummer is, so the organizers of the event snuck her in at the last minute. And boy am I glad they did. Not only did I have the chance to meet both Nikki and her sidekick/guitarist Travis Ramin, but their set was tight, bubblegummy perfection from start to finish.
Muck and the Mires – And speaking of tight, pop perfection, here come Muck and the Mires with their matching red shirts—all of which are thoroughly sweat-soaked by the end of the first song. Evan “Muck” Shore writes some of the catchiest three minute gems since the Brill Building ceased to matter, and The Mires are a top-notch band with tons of charisma to go along with their chops.
Dogmatics – One of the classic bands from the golden age of Boston punk, The Dogmatics might be getting older, but the songs are timeless. Sloppy? Sure, but so what!? Watching these guys do their thing makes me feel like a King Sized Cigarette, y’know?