Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Live Shows: The Town and The City Festival, Lowell, MA 4/26/24 and 4/27/24

This past weekend saw the return of The Town and The City Festival to downtown Lowell over Friday and Saturday. With such a stacked line up and so many bands to see, it was impossible to see them all, or even every band you wanted to see. I tried to take in as much as possible, had to make some tough decisions (or had some made for me), and had a fantastic two nights of music.

I started off my night at Smokehouse Tavern to see The Only Things, , Muck and the Mires, and Linnea's Garden. I've been listening to The Only Things for years now, but this was my first time finally seeing the Lowell band live. I missed a few songs of their set, but from what I saw they out on a great show. Just some solid punk and garage rock and roll played by a group of guys just having fun with it. They closed with a cover of The Replacements' "Bastard of Young," which fit right in with their own songs.

Next up for me was Muck and the Mires. I'm always shocked that the Boston garage rock band only formed in 2001. They just have that vintage garage rock sound from the 60's and 70's down so perfectly that I just assume they've been around for at least twenty years longer than they have. They played a solid set of dance friendly garage rock with punk influences and definitely had some hardcore fans in the crowd. If you love the Boston garage rock scene, you most likely are already a fan of Muck and the Mires. If you're not, check out a show and you'll become one.

Linnea's Garden played next and were the first band to make the space their own by using some extra pink and purple lights, along with some swirling multi-colored lights. (Smokehouse Tavern was a fine, if underlit venue.) They played with Cutty filling in on drums, and I swear if you're a band in Boston in need of a fill in drummer, he just shows up and plays. They played a set of high energy power pop meets punk tracks, which included their upcoming single "Chaotic Bisexual Summer." Linnea's Garden are always a fun show, and are a party band just waiting to happen.

From there I walked down the street to The Old Court to check out Subpunch, One Fall, and Tysk Tysk Task. I only caught the last few songs of Subpunch's set, unfortunately, but what I saw made me an even bigger fan since the last time I saw them. They play a version of emo that's a little more alt-rock based, but Friday night's performance was simply beautiful. It was the genre redefined as art rock, and the three or so songs I saw were wonderfully compelling.

One Fall was up next, who I hadn't seen since the semifinals of last year's Rock & Roll Rumble. They still play a melodic version of punk with some of the best between song banter in the scene. The theme of the evening was fun rock bands for me, and One Fall are just a fun band to see live. Helen McWilliams is still one of the best frontpeople around, and by the time they busted out their cover of Bruce Springsteen's iconic "Born to Run," I was fully invested. How great was One Fall's performance? I had meant to watch maybe half of their show and then skip a couple of blocks away to Warp & Weft to catch some of Orbit, but I completely lost track of time since I was enjoying One Fall so much.

Closing out my Friday evening was Tysk Tysk Task, playing their last show before Boston Calling on Memorial Day weekend. If you've been reading this blog for the last four or so years, you know I've seen them an embarrassing number of times, so I know what I'm getting with each show. This was, by far, the best show the Lowell band has ever played. By the time they were halfway through new song "City Lights," you could feel the crowd become engaged. (And keep an eye out for when that one gets an official release because the way it has evolved makes it possibly their best song.) This was an epic show, with all members of Tysk Tysk Task playing tightly and obviously having a fun show. They even got a decent mosh pit going towards the end of their set. This is a band set to have a break out performance at the biggest festival in the area, so make sure to jump on board the bandwagon if you haven't already.

Saturday did not start off the best for me. I fully meant to get down to Thirsty First to check out TELL and Minibeast, but because of a dumb mistake on my end I had to miss them. I've seen both bands, and I'm sure they were both great.

Instead my Saturday night started off with Colleen Green at Taffeta. I'm a huge fan of Colleen Green's, and Saturday night was the most involved set I've ever seen of hers. She had a screen behind her with projected images. Some of it was either clips from the 50's or 60's, or videos she had made, but it went perfectly with her music. Lyrics were even included, and Green just plowed through her set with very little interruptions or shit chat. A highlight was a karaoke style cover of "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)," complete with a performance video of Rupert Holmes on the screen. Plus, I learned how hooked on TV and/or screens I am since I spent most of my time watching the screen than I did the live performance. 

Dengue Fever was up next, but I only had time for a few songs of theirs. They play a mix of Cambodian rock and pop from the 60's and 70's psychedelic rock. The few songs I did stay for were incredibly fun and had the crowd enraptured. Unfortunately, choices needed to be made and I had to take off.

Next up was Roger Clark Miller at Thirsty First. I truly had no idea what to expect from a solo performance of Miller's, and assumed it was going to be highly experimental and bizarre. Instead, it was Miller with an electric guitar and four pedals playing relatively straight forward rock songs solo. He even played a handful of Mission of Burma songs (including "Forget" and "Red"), which I thought I'd never get to see live again. Add in a cover of Sun Ra's "Space is the Place," and I knew I had made the correct decision (for me, at least).

Closing out the festival for me was Sapling. The band took the winter off and were playing their first show since November, and Saturday's performance felt truly fun for everyone. They always play a loose style and adopt a "let's see what happens" vibe for their live shows, and this one just clicked. They even brought back Roger Miller to play cornet on a version of "Snake Charmer." He even came back to play impromptu for a wonderfully chaotic closer. They key of the festival seemed to be bands having fun during their performances, and as intense as Sapling can be, Saturday night's show was a blast.

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