Friday, September 8, 2023

Live Shows: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, Tami Hart, and Everyone Asked About You, Crystal Ballroom at Somerville Theater, Somerville, MA 9/7/23

I came to Ted Leo fandom embarrassingly late. I somehow missed him early on, and even when I knew him by name, it took a while for me to give his music a shot. Despite being a fan, I had never seen him perform with the Pharmacists, so when a show at one of my favorite Boston venues, Crystal Ballroom at Somerville Theater, was announced, I knew I wanted to go. When Everyone Asked About You was added as an opener just days before the show, that was just an added bonus.

Despite missing Everyone Asked About You's initial brief 90's run and only discovering them a few months back, their music connected with me as if I had first heard it back then and instantly gave me a sense of nostalgia for a band I had never heard of. I was annoyed that they scheduled two New York dates but nothing in New England, because of course a band from Little Rock, Arkansas should prioritize a Boston show. When they first started their set, they were playing a little sloppy and loose. In an endearing way, but still fairly sloppy. They also had to contend with a very chatty crowd. Slowly, as the show went on they started playing tighter and tighter, until eventually they sounded like they hadn't taken over two decades off from playing together. Vocalist Hannah Vogen joked that they were still relearning to play their songs, but if so, they figured it out fairly quickly as the chatting was all but silenced three songs into their set. Neither Vogen or guitarist/vocalist Chris Sheppard have what you'd call traditional singing voices (both are firmly rooted in the world of punk vocals), but when the two sing together it's just a magical combination. As emotionally attached as I was to hearing their music recorded, seeing them live has increased that exponentially.

Tami Hart was the artist I was least familiar with, mainly because the Facebook event page listed the band as "Tami Heart." The trio, led by Tami Hart, played a unique mixture of indie rock that at times had a country sound to it and at others more of a rockabilly sound. And at others just straight up indie rock. Hart definitely had a fanbase that showed up, and even managed to work an extended break to replace a broken guitar string into a charming break with the audience sharing bad jokes. The rock came back eventually, and it hardly affected the fans in the crowd. Halfway through the set, Ted Leo joined them for a Lucinda Williams cover. Hart returned the favor during Leo's set on a cover of X's "Drunk in My Past." This is an artist I can't wait to explore the catalog of in the next few weeks.

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists took the stage to play their first show as a band in five years and showed no signs of rust at all. Leo played the first song and a half solo until he was joined by the rest of the Pharmacists. This was one of those shows that made me feel like a total poseur as the majority of the crowd sang along to every single lyric to songs I didn't know that well. Their blend of punk and indie rock hits such a sweet spot for me with songs that are just as catchy as they are biting. Even the angriest Ted Leo song is an absolute joy to hear, blurring the lines of melodic punk into near pop rock. Live they even had an almost jam band like air, playing extended instrumental parts that somehow still fit into the world of punk. Let's just hope it doesn't take me another twenty years to get out to one of their shows next time.

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