Photos: Matt LeBel and yours truly. Assume any good ones are his.
Big fat show last week at Brighton Music Hall. A bunch of local bands took to the big stage in support of local-boys-made-good, The Shills, and the release of their new album, Keep Your Hands Busy Vol. 2. That would be enough reason to go in the first place, but as a bonus, pals OTP opened the show and finally got the big stage and big cheers they’ve been deserving for years. Let’s talk about it!
First of all, when you are accustomed to seeing a band in the smaller, not to say smellier, confines of venues like the Cantab (I still love you, Cantab!), seeing them – hearing them – playing a room the size of Brighton Music Hall makes them sound just enormous. Not bad for a 3-piece.
OTP has been around under many incarnations, with the one constant being frontman Colin Garrity, but I think they’ve arrived at a good spot with Old Hat’s Andy Mac on bass and Andy Billard on drums (that’s right. They are now a two-Andy band. This is experts-only territory). With each lineup change, the sound has shifted a little, and most recently they’ve been playing louder, harder songs – having left the “folk” part of their earlier “folk-punk” in the dust. I was curious to see what this big-league show would deliver in terms of old and new music; they kept it balanced and gave the newcomers to their music a well-rounded education. And, as a little preview of the rest of the evening, they briefly borrowed The Shills’ Bryan Murphy (who had also done a stint drumming for OTP) to provide trumpets and harmonies for a “My Girl” cover.
It’s established, now, that you can’t really take me anywhere; I am an inveterate singer-alonger, and this show was no exception. I had plenty of opportunity, ultimately culminating in one of my favorite sing-along (shout-along?) choruses ever in “Sleep With Your Friends.” And yes, I realize that in the context of having just talked about another song on the same topic, I am setting myself up here as the blog expert on hooking up with your friends. Well, at least on songs about it. My younger, extremely single self would be gobsmacked.
Next up, Nemes, fresh off their run at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble, bringing their brand of radio-ready country rock. They’re cracking jokes and playing surprise covers of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” but what I noticed the most was when Dave Anthony played his guitar behind his back. It’s that time of year, after all, and you know I want to see sweet guitar-subtractable moves from everybody all the time.
Beware the Dangers of a Ghost Scorpion took the stage next, probably winning the band name prize for the night – and also the costuming prize for the night. They were all decked out in matching t-shirts featuring what I can only surmise was, indeed, a ghost scorpion. Also, matching bandannas pulled up over their faces, like bandits, which was the first clue that this was going to be an instrumental band. That and the lack of microphones. Spooky instrumental surf. A good time. Look into them.
And, finally, The Shills hit the stage. These guys have been at it for 11 years, perfecting their funk-rock sound, and they’re supporting the release of their 5th album, Keep Your Hands Busy Vol. 2. Their loyal fans were singing and dancing along; it wasn’t just onstage that people were getting sweaty and ecstatic.
One thing The Shills like to emphasize is the variety of their influences; their sound is hard to pin down and draws on apparently everything anyone in the band has ever listened to. Every now and again, you get a ray of plainspoken rock shining through the falsetto-infused funk and soul, which is a nice change of pace. Keeps you on your toes! So you keep doing you, Shills. Keep every last one of your influences and prove what you can do every time you take a stage. They are justifiably proud of their musicianship – talent, and more to the point, skill, is in abundant supply here.
Other highlights included some really strong slug faces and a cover of “Fat Bottom Girls,” which appears to be an absolute guarantee of a crowd losing their mind. Get an idea of The Shills’ own sound, though, with “Oh, This Devilish Place,” and pick up Keep Your Hands Busy Vol. 2 here.