Mondays totally suck. Especially when it’s 30 degrees outside, and it’s early October. I shuffled from home to work to school on my bike, feeling the frigid air pierce my knuckles, break through my thickest jeans, and whip itself against my cheeks. Fuck, it’s not even winter yet, and I’m already letting the weather destroy my spirit. The cold was literally, virtually inescapable. Every social media construct surfaced with comments on cold weather and bad attitudes. It shook me to my core, and I was left feeling… well… helpless: Another girl lost in the freezing, bleak turn of autumnal New England.
But, the day came and went — and finally it was night.
Around 11 p.m. the group walked onto the small stage nestled in the back of one of Allston’s hidden gems of a bar and venue. There were no great theatrics; no special stage set-up. The original trio, Shannon Shaw, Cody Blanchard, and Nate Mahan all assumed their places and instruments, plus the addition of “Cyrus”, the curly-haired, boisterous nugget of a keyboard/synth player. Everything felt modest in manner; but, eventually I would find that when the music beckons a sort of reversion and honesty. Sideshows in this case aren’t necessary.
From the first guitar riff, to the very last bang of the drums, time took a standstill, and the audience fell back, back, back into time, into the void, into a rabbit hole of sorts: And into a much simpler state. Colors of pink and purple ushered in the fuzzy wobble of stilted, watery instrumentals that effected a sort of underwater and psychedelic mode and setting.
The sold-out show, and subsequent concert-goers waved one final Bon Voyage! to the landlocked, freezing world outside, and climbed on for the ride. Girls in polka dots and taffeta gleamed under the piercing, microtonal shrills of Blanchard and Shaw’s vocals.
Shaw with her perfectly manicured bleach-blonde hair plucked at her sparkly-gold bass, which rested against a sheer-esque apron over a black dress. Her dirtied black vans, tapping and moving to the beat as a sort of paradox to her 1950’s housewife aesthetic. Her actualization mimicked their sound: The idealized housewife that never was.The squeaky-clean sound traced with a thin layer of grit, of edge.
There were or rather are significant influences on The Clams riddled throughout these sonic manifestations: The Chantels and The Orioles were made clear. Audience members nearly pined for them and their retro allegiance. A welcomed revival.
At times it felt as though we had all become members in a punked-up version of Grease. Like Frenchie was going to come out at anytime, pink hair and all, telling me to go back to high school. Or that Danny and Clams’ member Blanchard were conspiring to tear open the unsettling shaky floorboards of the venue and just let the audience drop into eternity, via psychedelic meets pop meets punk dissonance.
I welcomed the sweat on my forehead, on my upper lip and danced, danced, danced. Something in this sound felt like young love, and I blushed as I found the same groove with the boy that had come with me. He smiled, and I smiled, and then he swung, and then we swung together. I looked around, and similar couples interfused throughout the room. All acting shamelessly and unaduleratedly happy, like the freaks had taken over the dance—and we could be as goofy and as free, and as smitten as we had always dreamt of being.
The dance though, had to end, but in true Shannon and The Clams spirit they did so in style and grace—closing out the evening with their breakout hit “Troublemaker” off their 2010 record I Wanna Go Home. The audience sang in unison with the band, like in the ending credits of Grease (sorry to keep referring back to this same analogy, I just can’t help myself) leaving me and probably everyone else in the crowd wondering, “how long… how long…” until we get to see our favorite California friends play again?
The doors swung open, and we all disappeared back into the freezing, dark New England night in a little bit of a daze, mystified. But, perhaps a little less cold.