Monday, May 4, 2015

Live Shows: Rough Francis & Varsity Drag, Great Scott, Allston, MA 4/30/15

I didn't originally plan to head out to this show, but once Ben Deily announced it would be the final Varsity Drag performance, I had to head out to it. Ben Deily is one of the most underrated songwriters out there today, so when he decides to stop a musical project, you have to make the time to go see it.

Varsity Drag's set was pretty much perfect. They opened with favorites "Skinny Ties" and "Summertime." "Summertime" is such a perfect summer song, it fit for the show to be on one of the first amazing spring days of the year. They even played five of Ben's Lemonheads songs in a row (the most I've ever seen them perform in one show), including "Two Weeks In Another Town," "7 Powers," "Ever," and "Second Chance." Oddly enough, there was no mention at any point about this being a final show. They kept the stage banter light and playful. They closed with "Billy Ruane," which was originally a playful tribute to the legendary Boston promoter and music fan, but has taken on new meaning after his passing. After that, Varsity Drag unplugged and packed up, most likely calling it a day. Luckily, Deily has promised this is just the end of this chapter and not his musical output. I'm looking forward to his next project.

After Varsity Drag, I almost headed for the door. I decided to hang out to check out a few of Rough Francis' songs. I liked them enough in A Band Called Death, and while their album isn't great, it's good. For those that aren't familiar, Rough Francis is a band from Burlington, VT that is made up of the sons of Detroit proto-punk band Death. Rough Francis started as almost a tribute band to play their dads' songs, but have morphed and now play their own. Their debut album, Maximum Soul Power, isn't the best debut. The vocals seem like they're a little too in front, and it just feels like singer Bobby Hackney is holding back too much, almost as if he's self conscious about letting loose. He doesn't seem to have that problem while singing live, and the sheer force and mayhem of their songs while being played by some of the most talented past their age musicians I may have ever seen blew everyone who stuck around away. Songs like "Ruffians" and "I-90 East" are wildly different live. Sticking around for three songs kept stretching, past a cover of The Stooges "I Feel Alright," past a newer song obviously about the current situation in cities like Ferguson and Baltimore (As Bobby Hackney introduced it, "We're not going to burn this place down, or break windows, but we are going to play this fucking song"), and even into the impromptu encore of the MC5's "Comm to Space." I couldn't have been happier with my choice to stay. For the maybe three dozen fans that stayed until the very end, their lives may have been changed by this show. It was by far the best show I've seen all year.

For more information on Rough Francis, especially their current tour dates, check out their website. As far as the Creepy Old Guy factor, it might have been hard to judge since a fair chunk of the crowd were friends and fans of Varsity Drag, which could have influenced the age of the crowd. As the night went on and Varsity Drag's crowd started petering out, Creepy Old Guy Factor slide up steadily, even with Ben Deily in the crowd front and center during their set.

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