Who wants to go to a show in Boston on a Monday night? A lot of people, apparently, if the bands playing are Skinny Lister, Onward, Etc., Barroom Heroes, and Alen of Dale. The sellout crowd at the Middle East in Cambridge was surprising, especially considering that Andrew Jackson Jihad was playing across town the same night. Nevertheless, the place was packed and these 4 bands were so deserving of it. What a great show! Keep reading below.
The show kicked off as early as they promised it would (hey, it was a Monday night!), with Boston’s Barroom Heroes taking the stage right at 8:30. After starting a bit out of rhythm, these 3 kids tore it up with their crisp streetpunk sound. The Barroom Heroes have some big shows under their belts already, after touring with the Dropkick Murphys when they were just 14 years old, they are really solidifying their sound and improving their stage presence and rapport with the audience. Led by guitarist and vocalist Jake Bell, these guys are honing their ability to move around the stage during songs and interract with the crowd, telling jokes and stories in between songs. His brother and bassist Nick Bell has a voice that reminds me of the Dropkicks’ Al Barr. Drummer Davey Dryer should probably play a full set before the actual set—he has enough natural energy that it’d probably help bring him down to a normal level of high intensity during the actual show. Though he sometimes gets a bit ahead of himself, Dryer writes incredibly complex drum rhythms and is definitely going to be one to watch for a long time.
Following on the heels of the Barroom Heroes set came Onward, Etc., who brought the noise down a bit with their acoustic folk-punk sound but kept the energy way up. I love Onward, Etc. because they remind me of Tim Barry, The Old Edison, and Andrew Jackson Jihad all thrown together and packaged as 4 fun, humble guys who blow your doors off with their music but just want you to listen and clap along. And everyone did. Egged on by singer Rosco Wuestewald, the crowd clapped, stomped, and sang along. Whether you had heard them before or not, you felt like you were a participant in the show, not just an observer. Who doesn’t love that?
London-based folk band Skinny Lister has been to Boston a few times recently, opening for the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly at the House of Blues. I was excited to see them at a smaller venue, and the Middle East suited them perfectly. I love the visual of their 5 (5!) microphones lined up across the stage, and although they switch seamlessly between lead vocals from song to song, vocalist Lorna Thomas always seems to steal the show. Maybe it’s because she is such a multi-tasker: in between belting out lyrics, she’s alternately dancing, revving up the crowd and swigging from a giant jug of booze, which she then passes around through the crowd. She’s like a cross between a cheerleader and the coolest music teacher you’ve ever had.
As a 6-piece (2 guitars, stand-up bass, concertina/mandolin, drums, and vocials) on a small stage, you may not expect a lot of movement, but you’d be wrong. The dynamic band rotates stage positions with a dynamic energy, and even brought the guys from Onward, Etc. up for a few songs. Of course, not all members stayed on stage…bassist Michael Camino kicked off the crowd-surfing during “17 Summers,” taking his stand-up bass with him and continuing to play, on his back, while riding through the crowd. Not to be outdone, Andy “Slim” Black took to the crowd while playing the mandolin, Thomas soon followed suit, as did a naked mannequin (the drummer borrowed her bikini to wear for their encore) and, of course, that jug of booze. The crowd demanded, and ultimately received, an encore that brought Onward, Etc. back to the stage.
The last thing I’ll say about Skinny Lister is how frigging nice they are. They spent a solid 15 minutes after their set signing records, and Thomas chatted and took photos with fans while running the merch table. I got to speak to her briefly, and we talked about the collection of brass belt buckles that travel with them—Lorna and her brother (and bandmate) Max snap up cool brass pieces on antiquing trips, and sell them while they’re on the road.
The one downside to Skinny Lister’s willingness to sign autographs and chat up the crowd was that a lot of people left during the time between sets. That didn’t leave a big crowd for Boston’s Alen of Dale, but those who stayed got a great show. After the buzz created by Onward, Etc. and Skinny Lister, the crowd was ready to dance to Dale’s swingy, catchy style of rock n’ roll.
I wasn’t expecting very much from a Monday night show, but I ended up with 4 new bands that will go onto my regular music rotation. You can still catch Skinny Lister and Onward, Etc. as they continue their tours. Alen of Dale seems to stick around Boston, but they are also worth a listen, and you can check out the Barroon Heroes on the Warped Tour this summer.