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recommended boston area events

tuesday, december 4th

kelly hogan

@ johnny d's

thursday, december 6th

conor oberst

@ converse hall, tremont st.

thursday, december 6th

jason isbell &

the 400 unit

@ the sinclair

friday, december 7th

the weisstronauts 14th

annual holiday jubilee

with guests tsunami of sound

preacher jack, & the derangers

@ the midway cafe, jp

friday, december 7th


moving mountains


@ the sinclair

saturday, december 8th

patrick watson

@ the sinclair

saturday, december 8th

the faint perform

"danse macabre"


icky blossoms

@ the paradise

sunday, december 9th

band of horses

@ house of blues

sunday, december 9th



@ the paradise

wednesday, december 12th

concrete blonde

jim bianco

@ the sinclair

thursday, december 13th

annual boston christmas cavalcade

benefit for the homeless

featuring tons of artists

(see fb event for details)

@ johnny d's

thursday, december 13th

nada surf

eternal summers

@ the paradise

thursday, december 13th

mates of state

in the valley below

@ brighton music hall

friday, december 14th

forgetters (blake from

jawbreaker's band)

& more tba

@ democracy center, harvard square

sunday, december 30th

sufjan stevens

sheila saputo

@ the royale

monday, december 31st

my morning jacket

@ agganis arena

monday, december 31st

deer tick

two gallants

@ the sinclair

monday, january 7th


@ the paradise

tuesday, january 8th


@ great scott

saturday, january 19th

mission of burma

@ the sinclair

sunday, january 20th

camper van beethoven


@ the middle east down

sunday, january 20th


@ the orpheum

sunday, january 20th

ra ra riot

@ the paradise

sunday, january 27th


@ great scott

tuesday, january 29th

kathleen edwards

sera cahoone

@ brighton music hall

wednesday, february 13th

yo la tengo

@ the paradise

saturday, march 2nd

unknown mortal orchestra

@ brighton music hall

tuesday, march 12th

tame impala

@ house of blues

thursday, march 14th

jukebox the ghost

matt pond pa

lighthouse and the whaler

@ brighton music hall

tuesday, march 26th

yo la tengo

@ the paradise

wednesday & thursday

april 3rd & 4th

they might be giants

@ the paradise

visit tourfilter for more shows

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Review: Swirlies live in Cambridge, MA

News of the Swirlies' reemergence from a lengthy hibernation for three strictly East Coast (sneaky flute) shows a few weeks back was a more than welcome surprise, and was instantly one of my most anticipated musical happenings of the new year. I'd seen the Boston-based band many times back in the day ("the day" being the early-90s), but somehow not once after the release of what would become my favorite Swirlies album - 1996's brilliant "They Spent their Wild Youthful Days in the Glittering World of the Salons". Considering how much I worshipped their earlier work, the fact that they could unexpectedly peak so many years after my first exposure in '92 impressed the hell outta me. Subsequent releases were sporadic and spotty... a remix album, some hard-to-find compilation appearances, a bit of slightly less-focused material under the Yes Girls banner, and eventually 2003's "Cats of the Wild: Volume Two" album on Bubblecore. Live shows followed that release, but since then, nary a word, until... a trio of late-February dates dubbed the "Scituate or Bust" tour.

I had no expectations when I first heard about their return - I figured the lineup would include at least founders Damon Tutunjian and Andy Bernick, but beyond that who knew? They'd been through many personnel changes over the years, losing and gaining some great drummers, replacing the sadly-departed Seana Carmody (who went on to form the excellent Syrup USA, Shenzou 5, and do solo stuff) with the wonderful Christina Files (it was she who helped make "TSTWYDITGWOTS" so stellar), and shuffling through some ace second guitarists. So when I heard exactly who else the reconstituted Swirlies would include, I was pretty psyched: Longtime member (and former Wicked Farleys' guitarist) Rob Laasko, drummer Adam Pierce (from Mice Parade, who joined up post-"TSTWYDITGWOTS"), and the newest Swirlie, Deb Warfield (also ex-Shenzou 5 and current Broken River Prophet) on guitar/keys/and gorgeous vocals. All the pieces would be in place, great players all... but still, any Swirlies show is a gamble: You can witness either unerring precision, or a ramshackle, almost-off-the-rails affair (often both, at once). I'll say this, though - watching them perform, I've never had anything other than fun.

So, despite that lack of expectations, I did hold out hope that finally, 13 years after the fact, I'd get a chance to maybe, just maaaaybe, hear some of the songs from "Wild Youthful Days..." played live on a stage in front of me. When I first mentioned the scheduled Middle East upstairs show on the 'Nac, I even threw my humble request for the song "Sunn" out into the void, certainly not expecting it to be heard, or to my total delight, actually honored. But yes, they re-learned it, and played it, along with an abundance of other tracks off that album. Oh, the joy.

Their 16-song set including many perfect moments, a few shaky bits, some serious rocking, some goofy meanderings, some ultra-tight action, and some wild, youthful transgressions. In other words, it a full-on Swirlies show. And most importantly, it was fun. Powerful classics like "Jeremy Parker" and "Bell" ("Tall Ships" was setlisted but skipped) alongside late-era songs like "Le Bag" and "Rare Moment". Just when you were worried the set was almost too cohesive, then came the encore - a request for a meandering "Jack Buckey's Theme" was granted, into the brief, stripped down oldie "His Life Of Academic Freedom", and finally an enthusiastic cover of Flipper's "Sex Bomb", with Bullpen Catchers/Kudgel singer/guitarist Mark Erdody (and random fans in the front row) on guest vocals.

The full setlist...

Live at the Middle East Upstairs
in Cambridge, MA
on Saturday, February 28th, 2009

01. In Harmony Newfound Freedom
02. Vigilant Always
03. Le Bag
04. One Light Flashing I Love You
05. Jeremy Parker
06. Sounds of Sebring
07. Two Girls Kissing
08. You Can't Be Told It, You Must Behold It
09. Rare Moment
10. Sunn
11. Bell
12. The Vehicle Is Invisible
13. San Cristobal De Las Casas

14. Jack Buckey's Theme
15. His Life Of Academic Freedom
16. Sex Bomb (Flipper cover)

For those keeping score, songs 1, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, & 13 were from "Salons"; 2, 5, 11, & 15 were on 1993's "Blonder Tongue Audio Baton"; 3 & 9 can be found on "Cats of the Wild: Volume Two"; and tracks 4 and 14 are Yes Girls numbers.

A few Swirlies links...
  • Their official site, MySpace page, Wikipedia entry, and old Taang! label page.

  • Audio: One of the reasons that Damon rules - he shares a butt-load of Swirlies audio for free on his site. You can grab most of the albums I've mentioned in this post over there. Also of note - the band was giving out free (and mysteriously labeled) cds at the show, and it ends up that they were copies of the 2003 "Thirty Minutes On The World Map" compilation, a 38-track hodge-podge of limited-edition randomness on the RCA Archives imprint. Score. I grabbed a couple extras, so keep an eye out for the next Almanac-presented show, where I'll be handing them out with other free stuff.

  • Additional Audio: Along with Bullpen Catchers (and a surprise mini-set by the reunited Kudgel! Chimp Rock 4EVA!), the other opener was Gregory & the Hawk. I knew nothing of 'them', and 'them' ended up being 'her', namely Meredith Godreau from New York. I mentioned on Friday how much I enjoyed her short, sweet set, and managed to record her last three songs (on which she was joined by Swirlies drummer Adam Pierce on second guitar). With her kind say-so, here they are, including the brand new, and stunningly beautiful, "Red Cross With Silver Shine"...

  • Photos: My Flickr-hosted shots are here. Check out a Swirlies Flickr tag search, which includes Landon's shots from the show (fyi, that's him guesting on keys in one of my pics).

  • Video: Check out a full Swirlies YouTube search.

  • A total aside, and only a couple of my former bandmates might find this at all interesting (and maybe a Swirlie or two): Many, many years ago, the very first band I was in was lucky enough to open for the Swirlies and Spore at Middlebury College in Vermont. The whole show is a bit hazy -- I recall that my humble, wide-eyed little VT pop band was horribly out-gunned by the aural assault of the Swirlies, and especially Spore (holy loudness!) -- but I remember one thing very specifically: when we broke into a late-set cover of the Go-Go's "Head Over Heels", most of the Swirlies came to their feet and gave us their smiling attention. Cut to last month, 15 years later, I'm reading about the Swirlies' early days in some pre-show press, and I learn this: They started out as a Go-Go's cover band. Ah ha!.
  • I can only hope these shows are signs of more activity to come, 'cuz I've got a couple more requests to make. Hey, I'm allowed to be a little greedy, aren't I?

    featured mp3 download
    neil halstead
    live in cambridge, ma
    on november 14th, 2008
    previously: joy formidable - boston 2011

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