Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Live Shows: Sapling and Gretchen Shae & The Middle Eight, Exhibit 'A' Brewing Company, Framingham, MA 12/31/22


I'm not the type of person that needs to go out on New Year's Eve. Everything is usually overpriced, goes well after midnight, everyone is overdrinking, you're more likely to get pulled over, etc. I have to really, really want to go to an event to go out on NYE. But when Sapling and Gretchen Shae & The Middle Eight announced a New Year's Eve show, I knew I had to go, especially when it's at the wonderfully early time of 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm, and it was free!

Gretchen Shae & The Middle Eight opened the very early evening show. Their blend of glammed up hard rock isn't exactly what I'd expect to be playing at a brewery, but apparently Exhibit 'A' has great and unexpected taste in music. This is the type of music that might be more at home in a dimly lit club at a much later hour, but the brightly lit brewery and early time gave the show a much more laid back feel. A song like "Skeleton Closet" is meant to be heard live. The recorded version is great and all, but Gretchen Shae & The Middle Eight rip live. The backroom of a craft brewery might seem like an odd setting for hard rock, but somehow it all worked perfectly.

The show also had a bit of a DIY feel, as Sapling had to set up and adjust their sound on the fly. There were some sound issues early on, but they are hardly the type of band that needs perfection to sound great. Their blend of loud, noisy art rock even sounds a little better with some extra fuzz on it. Opening with the brand new single "A Fox Upon the Tomb," they played a mixture of songs off their 2020 album No Sequoia and the upcoming amor fati. "Bitchshifter" will always give me mixed feelings since the Elon Musk mask incident of 2022, but luckily the mask was not included in the clown box this time around, so I got to just enjoy the music. This time around, the clown box included an inflatable champagne bottle that shot out confetti, a feather boa, and a drill that guitarist Amber Tortorelli played guitar with towards the end of the performance. The new music contains many moments that can be best described as a wall of noise, so that will be enjoyed once we get to hear the full album. Tortorelli's playing was on full display Saturday night as she attacked her guitar with a pickless, thumb-based style. She is a master of noise, wrenching some of the most intriguing sounds out of her guitar and theremin I've seen in years. 

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