The opening night of the 2016 Rock And Roll Rumble is in the books — and Weakened Friends closed out the weekend with a Night 1 victory. The turbo-charged guitar-rock trio, composed of members of the Field Effect and Maine’s the Box Tiger, will waltz into the semifinals next week — but we wouldn’t be surprised if another opening-night band could end up with the wild card, as the kickoff of this year’s Rumble featured four spirited and distinct performances that filled Once Ballroom in Somerville with propulsive sound.
The evening started with a bang — and some perhaps unintended humor. Boston garage-punk trio the Digs brought energy and fans (in the crowd, there were more than a few hoodies and tees flashing the logo of drummer Steven Knowles’ DIY label Ocelot Records), and perhaps drew the loudest applause of the night. Towards the end of their set, they played 2015 track “Green Line”, which features the lyrics “Because I’m still underground/And I’m waiting for the god damn Green Line” — and we thought that was pretty funny given Once’s close proximity to Somerville’s Union Square, where they’ve been waiting for the Green Line for a very long time. Anyway, the Digs were awesome and we bet a lot of people left Once thinking they were going to win.
Up next were Gold Blood & the Associates, who added a jolt of fiery soul into the evening and a presence as if they were playing a mobster’s wedding. “We are here to fight,” joked tireless frontman Phil DeSisto, and fight the band did, ripping through a dynamic set highighted by the sinister and seductive “Tumbleweeds”. Gold Blood gave off a similar vibe to 2013 champ Eddie Japan, bringing a horn section and a bit of rockabilly into the mix. We are also obligated to shout out drummer Dave Norton, formerly of Victory At Sea, a late-’90s-to-mid-2000s Boston band that gave the city one of its finest songs ever.
In the three-spot were eventual winners Weakened Friends, who blasted through 30 minutes and 10 seconds of catchy, suped-up indie rock. We still get ticklish every time we hear a song like “Won Yet”, off last year’s excellent Gloomy Tunes EP, but the new songs, off upcoming May EP Crushed, had an undeniable vibrancy. Weakened Friends are the type of post-grungy guitar-rock band who can fly off the rails at any moment and it’s still fine because it’s rock and roll and even their missteps become part of the reason why they are so good. They should rep very well in the semis.
Closing things out were Big Time Kill, an aggressive industrial rock duo who no doubt turned off some of the more stodgy rock folk in the audience because their drums and bass were supplied via backing track. Utilizing two guitars, frontman Adam Schneider’s sarcastic tone (during and between songs), and a whole lot of flashing lights, Big Time Kill delivered an onslaught of sound. “Are you ready for old fashioned Boston punk rock? Are you ready for Letters To Cleo? Well, we aren’t playing any of that!” is how Schneider intro’d the band, and 30 minutes later the room was spinning.