This past Saturday was an interesting one. While all four bands that played are some of my favorites, Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys, Julie Rhodes, The Devil's Twins, and Salem Wolves are four bands I would never have picked to all play together. Sure, any two of them would make perfect sense, maybe even three of them would. But all four just seemed like a strange bill. A fantastic bill, but a strange one. Plus, it was a chance to check out ONCE Somerville's latest chapter. Obviously I was going, no matter what.
ONCE Somerville was/is a beloved local independent venue. Somehow they transformed a restaurant's function room into one of the best places to see a live show in Boston. When it closed last year during the pandemic, it was a huge blow to the arts community, but they vowed to continue in a new location. The temporary new location is at Boynton Yards. Maybe it was the inclusion of the word "yards" in the name, but I pictured a green space with a small field and some trees. Turns out it's in a parking lot in an industrial area of Somerville with the MBTA commuter rail running directly behind the stage. But, this is ONCE we're talking about, and they've somehow transferred the charm and joy of their previous location to this one. No idea how they do it, but JJ Gonson and her crew and magicians.
Salem Wolves took the stage for their first show since the start of the pandemic. They have a completely retooled line up with Grey Bouchard being the only previous member. The band joyously took the stage, and while Salem Wolves shows are always a blast, this one was particularly joyous. They played some new songs that hadn't been recorded yet, but also had the live premier of many songs from their 2020 EP Never Die!!! Along with a new line up came a slightly changed sound. Salem Wolves are still your favorite stadium ready garage rockers, but they've added some 90's style indie rock guitars to that sound. In other words, they took a sound that I already loved and tweaked it towards me even more. Definitely looking forward to seeing where they go from here!
Next up were The Devil's Twins, who I've seen play with both Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys and Salem Wolves before. While Nicole Coogan and Jeremiah Louf have played as a duo in the past few months, this was their first full band set since... well, obviously. The band tour through their set of metal infused garage rock, with Nicole Coogan's powerful and primal soulful vocals grabbing everyone. The Devil's Twins are always a band ready for a party, and the joy the band had along with the crowd made this one a performance for the ages. Looking around the crowd, you started noticing just how many audience members had tattoos of The Devil's Twins "2" logo. If they can inspire that level of loyalty among their fans, you can just imagine the love in the air for their first show back.
Oddly enough, Julie Rhodes might have been the oddball of the night. She and her band, The Electric Co., play a straightforward style of blues rock. They were definitely the most mainstream band of the night, and while black would be the chosen color for most in attendance, Julie Rhodes was selling tie dye shirts. But Julie Rhodes & The Electric Company are great. Like... ridiculously great. Her vocals are always compared to Janis Joplin, and while that's obviously the singer all female blues rockers are compared to, Rhodes lives up to the comparison. Her guitarist (I apologize, but I haven't been able to find his name online) may have been one of the best guitar players I've ever seen. Derek Trucks is the obvious comparison here, not for musical style but for the way he effortlessly pulled off some of the best solos you'll ever see. Somehow Julie Rhodes is just our little secret here in Boston, but if there's any justice in the universe she'll be rocking stages worldwide very soon.
Finally, Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys closed out the night with their highly anticipated return to the stage (although they did play a family friendly matinee show hours earlier). The band pulled out all the stops for their return, opening with the brilliant "Dino Domina" with Walter Sickert and Mary Widow starting the song of singing in the middle of the crowd. That set the tone for the entire night, as performing in the crowd or the crowd performing themselves was the theme of the night. Each song had a friend of the band performing burlesque or other arts on offshoots of the stage, coming straight up from the crowd instead of the backstage area. Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys have always included their fans and friends in their family, and this night truly showed that. The adoration the band has for each other, their art, and their fans was on full display, and it doesn't sound like they've missed a single step during their year and a half off. Even their The Shining inspired song, "Dull Boy," was a pure celebration when played live. They even crammed their fan favorite (and always requested) cover of the Ghostbusters theme into the end of the night.
The night was a perfect welcome back for all four bands and even ONCE. Let's make sure it's not another year and a half next time.
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