Even for a veteran show-goer who has a tendency to spend 1200 words babbling on about what others could accomplish in 120, I still get those moments where a show seemingly defies words. That’s an incredibly joyful experience, however it makes the job of “capturing it all in a show review” incredibly difficult. And so, it’s with that in mind that I’ll try to encapsulate last Saturday night.
Shortly after being announced as one of the opening acts when Foo Fighters take over Boston’s historic Fenway Park for a couple shows this coming weekend, ska-core pioneers the Mighty Mighty Bosstones announced their own quick run of eastern US warm-up dates. A quick look at any of the Bosstones’ Hometown Throwdown lineups over the years shows the care that they take in putting together a solid lineup, and this little run would prove no different, as joining the “plaid boys of Boston” on this run would be fellow Boston punks Street Dogs, as well as SoCal ska upstarts The Interrupters. The only hometown date being at Fenway Park (and that it didn’t include either opening band) meant that a lot of Boston-area natives would be making a trek out of state. Where better than New Haven on a mid-summer Saturday night, right?
All jest aside, Toad’s Place in New Haven has a well-earned reputation as being a legendary club, no mere stopover on a NYC-to-Boston tour run. Toad’s has played host to more than its fair share of epic shows over the years, holding its own amidst the ivy-covered grey brick towers of neighboring Yale University and the ever-increasing gentrification that such an establishment invites.
The Interrupters kicked the evening off promptly at 7:30. Playing the first East Coast show in their relatively brief history, Aimee “Interrupter” Allen and the flying Bivona brothers (Kevin on guitar, Jesse on drums, Justin on bass) bulldozed through a high-energy, half-hour set that featured mainly songs from their self-titled debut (released August 2014 on Hellcat Records). Based on the album alone, The Interrupters have quickly become one of my favorite “up-and-coming” bands in recent memory, although it’s a bit of a misnomer to refer to them as “up-and-coming” given that Aimee and the Bivonas have been scene veterans for a decade anyway. Still, The Interrupters is a project that could (and should) grow legs and spark a little life into the all-but-dormant ska punk community.
Street Dogs followed and…well…if you’ve read Dying Scene at all over the last 4.5 years, you’re no doubt aware of my affinity for the Boston street punks. On a personal note, I think it’s a damn shame that the band’s current lineup that finds stalwarts Mike McColgan (vocals) and Johnny Rioux (bass) joined by Matt Pruitt and Lenny Lashley on guitar and Pete Sosa behind the kit didn’t get together for a lengthy run sooner. On myriad levels, it’s fair to refer to the Street Dogs as veterans, both of the scene and otherwise. Yet through the way the five-some blistered through show-opening tracks “In Defense of Dorchester” and “Savin Hill,” alongside old staples like “Tobe’s Got A Drinking Problem,” you’d never know that the total count of shows this crew has played together is still well below a hundred. Maybe it’s experience, maybe it’s wisdom, maybe it’s something else entirely, but at least on this night, the band fired tightly and finely (and correctly) tuned.
After a relatively brief (given the amount of moving parts) change-over in sets, the Bosstones took the stage, immediately ripping into “I Want My City Back,” from their underrated 2002 album A Jackknife To A Swan. Much like the Street Dogs, the Bosstones don’t get out nearly as much as they used to, making it all the more special when they do ramble out on the road. The core of the band (frontman Dicky Barrett, bass fiddleman Joe Gittleman, Tim Burton on tenor sax and Ben Carr as…Bosstone) has been together over 30 years, Joe Sirois (drums) and Kevin Lenear (alto sax) first joined up more than two decades ago, and even relative “new guys” Chris Rhodes (trombone) and Lawrence Katz (guitar) have logged more than a decade in the band at this point, so one can imagine that it doesn’t take much for the cobwebs to shake themselves off and the muscle memory to take over. (John Goetchius has been with them on keys since 2008 as well, putting even the newest of the new guys at seven years of service time.)
Still, saying that they rely on muscle memory might imply a certain amount of “phoning it in,” and it stands to reason that nobody that’s ever seen a Bosstones show at any point could accuse the band of phoning anything in. The 23-song set (by my count) on this particular night drew from all points of the band’s catalog, and they were joined by Kevin Bivona of The Interrupters for a cover of The Clash’s classic, “Rudie Can’t Fail.” Nineteen years after this writer’s first Bosstones show, it is quite humbling to see a band that continues to work as hard as they do on stage, approaching their craft with seemingly the same earnestness and appreciation for their fans and their own music as they did decades ago.
Head below for our admittedly rather lengthy photo gallery!