Last Friday the New Alibis put together one of the best local punk-rock bills Boston has seen in recent memory to celebrate the release of their latest CD Hard Promises. Joined on stage by Have Nots, Razors in the Night, and Burning Streets, the Alibis sold out the Middle East Upstairs and lived up to the high expectations of the tattooed and unruly crowd.
Burning Streets got the night started with their energetic style of garage punk. Their songs were fast, frantic ballads of angst – four chords and a cloud of dust throughout the majority of the set. On lead vox, Drew featured a raspy and pissed off sound, which was offset nicely by guitarist Zarba’s cleaner voice on several of their songs. The breakdowns featured in most of their songs are what really set Burning Streets apart from so many other bands in this crowded genre – Chris on drums manhandled the toms while Drew, Zarba, and bassist Jewlz churned out crunchy synchronized riffs that got the crowd rocking. Throw in a few whoa-oh’s (at least one per song throughout the entire set, gotta love it) and seamless transitions back into the regular verse and chorus structure, and we’re talking everything necessary for a good punk rock break.
I have to admit, I got a little worried when these guys busted out a cover of “Hotel California” to close out their set – even though it seemed like it was most likely a staple for a Burning Streets show. Lets be honest, we’re all sick of the original by now, and pretty much every cover I’ve ever heard of the song has been just plain awful (except for the Spanish version in the Big Lebowski during the Jesus scene, of course). So while I was a little skeptical, as it turned out I’ve never been so glad to be wrong. They did a great job on the song, keeping it upbeat and energetic thanks to fast-paced chords and heavy drum action. They even found a way to avoid making the chorus cheesy as hell, something other bands who’ve covered this song have failed miserably at, time and time again. Nice job, guys – my faith in humanity (or at least cover songs) has been restored.
Burning Streets actually took off for a 5 week tour all the way out to California and back right after the show, so you won’t be able to catch them live until September 20th at Harpers Ferry, when they’ll be opening up for the Ducky Boys. They will however be releasing their debut CD later this summer though, courtesy of one of PGB’s favorite indie labels, Sailor’s Grave Records. We’ll keep you posted when they’ve set an official release date.
Razors in the Night was next up, and started their set off with a vengeance. Apparently lead singer Troy Schoeller thought that until that point the crowd had been way too tame, so on the vocal kick-in of their first song he leapt off the stage and got the pit started all by himself, launching people left and right as he screamed into the microphone. This did the trick – everyone got fired up and started to rip up the pit – though I’m thinking they were all holding back a little, as in all honesty Schoeller’s so jacked it looks like he could probably take out the entire sellout crowd all by himself. Its all about solidarity in the scene though – one minute he’d be throwing someone across the room, but the next minute he’d helping someone up who had fallen down, and he’d even mix it up occasionally by throwing his arm around a few guys in the pit to belt out a chorus in unison.
The pure, unadulterated rage in Schoeller’s voice was complemented well by the gang vocals of the other members of the band… not to mention by the gang in the pit, who seemed to know every last word of RITN’s short-lived, fast-paced hardcore anthems. Every member of this band is a veteran in the Boston punk rock scene, finally (as Schoeller puts it) getting together to play exactly the music they want to play, without having to answer to anyone but themselves. Todd Wilson and Ian Clark ripped through the guitar lines with reckless abandon, mixing impressive riffage in with the crushing chords that personify this band’s style. The rhythm section definitely held it down too, Swid’s driving basslines carrying the band while Randy on drums mashed the toms and cymbals to set the tone for every break, bridge and chorus.
The high point of RITN’s set was the performance of their EP title track, “Carry On,”during which Schoeller once again jumped into the crowd, this time intent on starting a full scale riot. Punks and skins were flying all over the venue as Schoeller stalked the pit, gathering everyone together to roar out every last lyric of this ode to the scene. RITN had absolutely zero downtime in between each song – forget talking, forget tuning, forget all that bullshit – just assault the ears of the crowd with fists-in-the-air triumphant hardcore punk until they kick you off the stage! This is what its all about – as they roar out in the chorus of “Carry On” – “And now we know why we come to the shows, why we still wear these clothes, carry on!” Punk rock in its most true form – for the people, by the people, and ready to rip your fucking face off.
In all honesty, I almost felt bad for the New Alibis. Its THEIR CD release party, but how the hell are they supposed to follow that? Fortunately, they had a few tricks up their sleeve, giving the crowd just enough time to settle down before taking the stage to the Darth Vader theme song from Star Wars (yeah, I don’t know the exact name of the song. Whatever. You know what I’m talking about, don’t pretend you don’t.) The band then kicked right into their set with “Faith in Nothing,” a flippant rock track off of their new album. Unfortunately lead singer and guitarist Drew Suxx broke a string on this first song, but the band never missed a beat and the song still sounded polished and tight. The band came out dressed for success – the fellas in shirts, ties, and snazzy hats, while bassist Julie Two Times wore a fancy dress. This really helped them stand out from the other bands – hell its their party, they can get classy for it if they want to!
I was once again really impressed with the Alibis’ guitar work. Drew and lead guitarist Paul Christian work exceptionally well together, trading of straight riffs with palm muting without a hitch – Drew holding down the rhythm and allowing Christian to tear through some nasty solo action. Julie Two Times and drummer Jesse von Kenmore did a great job keeping the pace as well – an impressive feat, considering the range of tempos over the course of an Alibis set! Drew’s voice sounded like it had a little more of an edge than last time I saw them – which I’m definitely a big fan of. Maybe he ripped through a pack of Marb Reds out on Mass Ave right before the set? I don’t know, but it whatever it was it definitely worked, and added a little more passion and grittiness to his already powerful voice. I thought Julie Two Times’ voice sounded a lot better this time around too, she seemed to be more pronounced and confident… but maybe that was just the sound guy turning her up so I could actually hear her properly. Either way, her vocals had a purer sound to them, and as a result she provided a nice counterpoint to Drew and Christian’s roughness.
The Alibis did a great job balancing their set list between songs off Hard Promises and older crowd favorites. The entire venue went absolutely nuts for the mellow, understated intro to their classic “Angel Over Me,” the crowd’s racuous singalong almost drowning out Drew’s wistful singing to start out the song. This energy and enthusiasm carried over to their newer songs – the fans might not have known the songs as well, but because of the mix they were still revved up and got into the new stuff just as much as the old. Sometimes a band will play their entire new album front-to-back at their CD release party, but in this case I think the Alibis were much better served to shake it up, like they did on this night. You can pick up Hard Promises on their website or at any of their shows – they’ll be at the Provincetown Rocks Festival next week, click here to check out the schedule of where and when they’re playing. I know I’ll be hunting these guys down when I’m out there next week, no question! I definitely recommend picking up a copy of Hard Promises – I’ve been listening to mine so much I think I’m already starting to wear it out!
Have Nots closed out the night with a fast paced free-for-all of ska-punk insanity. If you were to throw Rancid, the Suicide Machines, Op Ivy, and Leftover Crack in a blender and set that shit on puree, you’d start to get an idea of what Have Nots’ sound is like (or you can just click here and listen to the song by them we picked as PGB Track of the Week – that would be a little easier and much less messy than actually pureeing human beings). These guys hit the stage running and never looked back as they powered their way through an intense and reckless set that made me want to start a riot in the streets of Cambridge.
The energy exhibited on stage by Have Nots was incredible, and really projected itself to the crowd as well. The band was running around on stage, jumping like madmen, screaming into each others’ mics, having veritable seizures on stage, and doing everything else in their power to entertain visually as well as sonically. As a result, the crowd got more and more fired up. A few people ran onto the stage to dive off, one even took out the lead mic stand on his way down. Have Nots sparked what was without a doubt the most aggressive and widespread pit of the night – everyone got involved since they didn’t have to be scared of Troy from RITN taking them out anymore! They even got a damn good circle pit started at one point, which was absolutely perfect for the band’s musical style. This debauchery set a great stage for the music video that the band was filming on this night for “One in Four,” a track off their recent album Serf City USA. I can’t wait to see it – judging from the scene at the Middle East while they were shooting, its gonna be a good one.
The Rancid parallels are readily apparent with Have Nots – singer/guitarist Jon Cauztik even wore the same style hat as Tim Armstrong, and laid down reminiscent ska riffs over bassist Jameson Hollis’ prominent and intricate bass lines. Sure, Hollis isn’t as good or flashy as Matt Freeman on bass, but honestly, you could probably count on one or two hands the number of bassists in the world who actually are. Still, he managed to steal the show on more than one occasion by jumping back and forth seamlessly between heavy-handed ska riffs, driving rock lines for choruses, and frantic licks throughout every song – very impressive. Guitarist Matt Pruitt was channelling Lars Frederiksen with both his vocals and his nasty chops on lead guitar – he definitely threw some sick solos and riffage into the mix. The transition back and forth from lighter ska beats to the punk fucking rock hard shit was orchestrated masterfully by drummer Steve Patton. These guys all came together for a tight and original style in a genre that can often lead to sloppiness and a contrived, ripoff sound. Sure there are comparisons, parallels to be drawn – but there’s a way to wear your influences on your sleeve without going overboard emulating the exact same style – and Have Nots seem to have this down to a science.
Have Nots are getting set to embark on yet another big US tour (what is this, the third one this year already guys??), but before they start that up you can catch them this weekend at the Provincetown Rocks Music Festival (check listings and venues here), where they’ll be sharing a stage once again with the New Alibis, not to mention about 150 other incredible Boston bands. There are a lot of great bands playing the same time slots these guys are at this festival, but I sure as hell know I’ll be tracking them down no matter what at every stage they take.
Thanks to Nicole Tammaro for the great photos from the night! Here’s the rest, and for more of her work check out www.nicoletammaro.com