Friend Rock

January 14, 2009 § Leave a comment

By Stephen Pilgrim
images by Kristin Pilgrim
Jan 14, 2009 @ TT the Bears

A hush fell over the congregation, as the keening preacher’s wail of Stalemate singer/pianist Matthew Demello thundered through the dark confines of TT the Bears Place. “You’re all a part of Friend Rock now. This is where it all begins.”

With his arms raised up in a gesture of blessing, Demello maintains the rapt attention that he and his group from Lincoln, RI have kept so well since they took the stage. He beckons his flock to put all their hands in the center: “Go forth, makes friends with our friends, and continue what we have begun here.”

But what exactly was it that was begun at TT the Bears on January 14th, a place where bands play seven nights a week and where rock music is anything but uncommon?

The show in question, also featuring up-and-comer local groups Hello Ninja and The Young Leaves was something of a rock n’ roll anomaly, where a dividing line between navel-gazing third generation Joy Division ripoff “indie rock” and bombast vapid “Corporate rock” has made the concept of, “a good time, guaranteed for one and all” something of a scarce species in millenial rock music. Unlike the Dodo or the Passenger Pidgeon however, rock n’ roll has a habit of cropping back up when we least expect it, as was the case on the night of the 14th.

UMass Dartmouth’s the Young Leaves were first on the bill, bringing their anthemic revival of early 90s underground guitar pop. A brief glimmer of hope in rock music when they originally debuted in 2007, the Leaves initially had released one album before dissolving at the end of that year. Recently regrouping with a decidedly thrashier intent, the Leaves played a pogo-worthy set featuring a selection of older favorites such as “Look Sharp, Die Young” and newer exercises in sonic brutality such as “Life Underneath” and “Call me Cal”. “Listen to ‘Adrenaline’ or ‘White Pony’ by Deftones,” 6’7″ frontman Christopher Chaisson joked with the crowd on Tuesday, “if you want to hear where I stole all my riffs from.” The Leaves are finished off by bassist Andy Hume and drummer Simon Jay.

Riffs and solos were also on the agenda for Boston-based Hello Ninja, delivering a pleasing blend of rousing roadhouse rock and frantic dancebeats, powered forward by the frantic Keith Moon-influenced pounding of former Reaganauts skinsman Anthony Geehan and the soaring lead vocals of twin towers Cat Basile (bass) and Willard Deeks (guitar). Of the three groups playing that night Hello Ninja proved to be the most infectious, inspiring the small core of those present to shake their tail-feathers in sheer bliss, culminating with their infectious “Mercy”, which saw rhythm guitarist Ian Sears (his last show with the Ninjas) leaping off the stage and bouncing amongst the attendees gleefully.

Finishing off the night was Providence, RI’s secret weapon: Stalemate. Bringing their unique blend of millenial anthem rock to the Boston stage for the first time, Stalemate wowed onlookers with an ecstatic performance that combined the edge-of-your-seat theatrics of Demello with the inspired guitar heroics of singer/guitarist Cory Waldron, and the supple rhythm section of Geoff Rush (bass) and Kevin Peirra (drums). Although the room had cleared out some after Hello Ninja’s set, Stalemate played it like U2 on the Joshua Tree tour. “They’re really something to see,” said Friend Rock regular Molly Heintzelman, “No matter who they play to, they tend to win the room over.” The sentiment seemed to be echoed in the remaining concertgoers, who showed their enthusastic support and called for encores up until the very end.

“Boston definitely let us get our foot in the door a little,” remarked Demello after the set, “but this is only the beginning.”


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