Monday, April 22, 2024

Live Shows: The Mary Wallopers and Cryin' Caleb Aaron, The Middle East, Cambridge, MA 4/20/24

I've been meaning to see The Mary Wallopers live ever since discovering them. The Irish folk-punk band has played Boston a few times over the past few years, but it just has not worked out for me so far. It finally did this past weekend, and might have been the least 4/20 thing to do in Boston on Saturday night.

Playing as a seven piece that included a drummer, whistle player, and a pipes player, The Mary Wallopers took the stage of The Middle East in front of a rabid fanbase. They played a mix of originals, covers, and traditional Irish folk songs in their own folk-punk style. The crowd knew virtually every word and scream-sung just about every song. Songs like "The Rich Man and the Poor Man" and "The Blarney Stone" are both traditional songs that The Mary Wallopers have made their own. It was also a great mix of rowdy songs and quiet ones, hitting every possible mood. 

At one point in the set, all three singers (Andrew Hendy, Charles Hendy, and Sean McKenna) all had a time to shine for solo songs. At those times, the crowd needed to be asked (or told mostly) to quiet down for the quiet songs. When a Pecker Dunne was covered, the crowd needed to police itself with a loud "Shut the fuck up!" when shushing didn't work on a particularly chatty participant. That level of enthusiasm was much more appreciated and appropriate for "Cod Liver and the Orange Juice."

I had high expectations for The Mary Wallopers live, and all were met and exceeded. Between song banter was fantastic and hilarious, the playing was top notch, and they had the audience rabidly wanting more. Each time they've played Boston, they play a slightly smaller room than the time before. That's always a sign of a band that's earning their audience through great shows and fans coming back for more and bringing friends each time. It won't be long before they're playing the larger clubs in town at this rate.

Cryin' Caleb Aaron opened the night. The Auburn, ME musician played as a one man band on electric guitar and kick drums. He won over the crowd quite quickly with an engaging set of dark country/folk/blues songs. A highlight was his cover of Pulp's "Common People," but done in a more Johnny Cash country style than Britpop. I wouldn't have thought it could have worked, but Aaron pulled it off.

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