[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter the first three nights of the 35th annual Rock And Roll Rumble preliminary round, there was a much-needed day of rest. After the final three evenings, nearly two were necessary to fully recover.
It wouldn’t be entirely accurate to claim that things kicked into overdrive for Nights 4, 5 and 6 of the prelims last week at T.T. The Bear’s Place, but several factors led to that feeling; the later start times, the promise of the weekend (and two mornings of sleeping in), and a straight-up motherfucking orgy of riffage turned Central Square into ground zero for high-voltage rock and roll.
They call it the Rock And Roll Rumble for a reason. But even still, beyond the rubble of the riff parades from the likes of Harris Hawk, Summoner, and Yellabird, there were some surprising left field sounds — the unabashed disco of Western Education, the sultry r&b of Petty Morals, the shoegazing haze of Slowdim — that not only spiced shit up, but also helped punch a few deserving tickets to the semis.
To get caught up, it was Western Education crowned victorious on Thursday (Night 4), Petty Morals declared the victor on Friday (Night 5), and Await Rescue who took home Saturday (Night 6). The wild card from the back-end was Feints (Night 5), joining When Particles Collide as the two bonus entries who will move on later in the week. For full semi-finals lineups and music previews, click here. For our Rumble Halftime report on Nights 1, 2, and 3, click here.
Now, let’s get dirty and look at how the crooked-numbered nights were won, as well as some other thoughts and musings on a banger of an opening week. This truly is Boston’s greatest music festival.
Winner: Await Rescue take Night 6
On a night where T.T.’s usually fills the air with the new wave and alternative dance party sets from Heroes’ resident DJ Chris Ewen, it was instead a full-frontal rock and roll explosion on Brookline Street. We’re doing Harris Hawk’s musical complexity a disservice by dubbing it “Tool with female vocals,” but we’re certain there are many around the world who’d be into that sort of thing based on the description alone. The blazing guitar-work of Await Rescue followed, and the band’s songs shed their pop-rock coating heard on recorded versions and took on an arena-rock quality. It was a visceral performance that set the tone for the night.
The Color And Sound combated the power chords of the two previous bands with an intricate, layered post-emo/indie-pop sound carried by drummer Steve Aliperta (see below). The Color And Sound’s bubbly, infectious melodies and road-trip shout-alongs may not have earned them the 2014 Rumble crown like we boldly predicted, but we still think they’ll be a globally-recognized band within two years… as long as the singer/guitarist shaves off that god damn Chester Molester mustache, which fell somewhere between a handlebar and fu manchu (we’re sure there’s a name for it; we’re sure it’s listed in an Urban Outfitters coffee table book). Freight-train rock duo Yellabird closed out the night with a sound usually created by three times as many musicians, but maybe their motivated stoner rock arrived to the station a bit too late on a guitar-worshipping night that was downright exhausting by midnight.
In the end, it was Await Rescue who move on. But organizer and winner-announcer Anngelle Wood could have read off any of the four bands playing this night and no one would have been surprised.
First Ladies: Girls owned this year’s Rumble
We’re probably at the point in culture where we don’t need to do some silly “ladies who rock” trend-piece post. This isn’t that. This is merely credit where credit is due, and it’s safe to say that the girls owned the Rumble this year. Harris Hawk’s Anne Warhawk, Feints’ Amy Douglas, and Tai Heatley of Petty Morals were perhaps the strongest vocalists in the entire competition. Combine that with commanding performances from guitarist/vocalist Sasha Alcott of wild-card winners When Particles Collide, the always-hypnotic singer/keyboardist Noell Dorsey of Guillermo Sexo, and the magnetic multi-instrumentalist Nikki Dessingue of Doom Lover, and at the very least you have a 24-band music festival that provides an equal forum for both genders. That’s the least. The most we can say? We already said it — the girls owned the Rumble in 2014.
Winner: Petty Morals take Night 5
Well isn’t that a nice segue. We knew it’d be a street-fight between Feints and Petty Morals in opening up Friday’s brawling Night 5, and we were not disappointed. Boston is used to hearing Douglas’ powerhouse vocals in electro-trio SPF 5000, but with Feints, instead of getting people on the dance floor, she was throwing people through it. Feints guitarist Dave Baron’s solos were old-school and precise, and the quartet’s whole bar-rocking’ presentation almost demanded a chicken-wire fence separating the bands from the crowd. I felt like I was in the Cathouse circa ’89, if the Cathouse was overrun by ’70s rock overlords drunk in whiskey and not dudes like Riki Rachtman.
Just as folks were re-organizing their collective “oh fucks” after Feints left us panting, Petty Morals came in and took us down from our knees to lying flat on our backs. As close as this writer will ever come to witnessing the Go-Go’s in their prime, the band that met at Joan Jett tribute show practice two years ago unloaded everything on a packed house, from late ’70s punk attitude (scorching opener “Radio Action”) to modern hip-hop and r&b (the bitch-slapping “Keep It Down”). Petty Morals were a dance party machine.
But if Petty Morals were the house party scene in a John Hughes movie, Summoner followed up their set with the off-camera boozer bash out in the far reaches of the high school parking lot. Formerly known as Riff Cannon, and for good reason, Summoner blasted through 30 minutes of relentless “guitarmony” (thanks for that on, Brenden Boogie), finding a balance between sludge and finesse that recruited more than a few new fans.
The starry-eyed progressive and experimental rock of Vary Lumar had three tough acts to follow, and yet, it was their set that left fans wanting more than the structured half-hour, walking off to chants of “One more song!” and “Vary! Vary!” But rules are rules and their time was up after 30 minutes, maybe to their disadvantage; Vary Lumar are the type of band that takes an hour, maybe longer, to fully appreciate, with songs that appear delicate and vulnerable on the surface but containing a startling depth underneath the not-always-apparent trap door.
Another impossible to rightfully predict night, but it was the cotton-candy fury of Petty Morals who sassed their way into the semis.
Winner: Western Education take Night 4
The day of rest did us all well and good, but by Thursday evening Rumble withdrawals started kicking in and it was Butterknife who sliced up a tight, boisterous set of polished pop-rock. Phil Wisdom and crew’s jams were the perfect complement to Slowdim, who showed off Paul Sentz’s uncanny knack for harmony through a good 25 minutes or so. At that point, the trio — the second of three trios on the night — swan-dived into blissful shoegaze territory, channeling the likes of Ride and My Bloody Valentine for a whirling finale. It felt good. It felt like home.
Those uplifting feelings were then immediately wiped away by Gondoliers, who create music that wants to fucking kill you. A giant light box that read “GONDOLIERS” blinded the crowd, and colorfully maniacal frontman John Manson came of as what might have happen to Layne Staley had he chose better drugs. The outline of Manson’s cock was visible through his thermals, and it was a nice metaphor for Gondoliers’ aggressive set — a bit tough to watch, but relatively meaty (especially on this pop-leaning night), though maybe a bit longer than it needed to be.
Gondoliers from waaaay in the back, where it was safe
Thankfully, the fist-fuck bark-rock of Gondoliers soon gave way to the soaring electronic rock of Western Education, a group of four early-20-somethings who must have been around 12-years-old when the Killers’ Hot Fuss came out. The Lowell band’s ability to be operatic in one song then go straight disco in the next is a skill few have, and in the end Western Education’s ultra-melodic radio-ready singles like “All I Am” and “Rivals” helped tower over the rest of the night. Frontman Greg Alexandropoulos may be quiet and shy off-stage, but he channels his inner Freddie Mercury once on it.
Apparently no one took video of Western Education’s set, so you’ll just have to trust us when we say it ruled. There’s hope for millennial youth just yet.
Things We’d Pay Money To Watch Any Night Of The Week: Amy Douglas singing
Needs no additional commentary. Just listen.
Most Impressive Performance By A Single Musician: Steve Aliperta, the drummer for the Color And Sound
When we think of the band name the Color And Sound, we can’t help but think of the Foo Fighters’ 1997 album The Colour And The Shape. The drummer not named Dave Grohl drummer on that record was William Goldsmith, also of Sunny Day Real Estate, and that’s pretty much who Color And Sound drummer Steve Aliperta reminded us of during his energetic Saturday night performance. It was a revelation watching Aliperta play, adding a thunderous component to the band’s otherwise playful sound.
Owning Up: Not half bad? Or just half good?
In our predictions earlier this month, we ended up being correct on three of the nights (*with us strongly suggesting Western Education would win Night 4), and even got one of the wild cards right. That’s .500 right there! So we’re either a very average team barely making the playoffs, or one Hall of Fame-bound hitter that’s better than Ty Cobb. You be the judge.
Coming Up: Looking forward to the semis
The semi-finals pick up on Thursday at T.T. The Bear’s, and we’re removing ourselves from the game of predictions. That said, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Goddamn Draculas, Petty Morals, and Feints rock it out at the April 25 finale. But we don’t care, we’ll be there just to see the Information.