As the last notes of the set faded and the crowd began to file out into another rainy June night, the sense of ecstasy that had been so prevalent at the conclusion of the past three nights was noticeably absent. It wasn’t because fans were disappointed with the Bouncing Souls’ performance in the last installment of their four night residency at the Middle East in Cambridge MA. The band had just turned in another memorable effort, performing their two most recent albums in their entirety, along with a handful of b-sides.
So why the lack of enthusiasm from the exiting crowd? One reason could be the fact that nearly everyone in attendance was exhausted. After four straight nights of late set times, intense heat, and (most importantly) epic performances, this would be expected. The more pertinent reason fans seemed somewhat down was the fact that it was over. After four straight nights of (basically) hanging out with one of punk’s all-time great bands, there would be no fifth night. While the Bouncing Souls were sure to return to Boston, they would probably never do it in such an extravagant way, for so many nights in a row, or at such an intimate venue. The second half of the stand had been even more memorable than the first and showcased how far the band has come over the past 22 years.
Night three: June 24rd 2011: How I Spent My Summer Vacation and Anchors Aweigh
The third night of the series would not only be a treat for fans, it would also be a test. How I Spent My Summer Vacation is regarded by many to be the Bouncing Souls best work, guaranteeing a very enthusiastic crowd. It would then be followed by their longest record, the 16 song, 48 minute Anchors Aweigh.
While the Bouncing Souls had chosen a great lineup of opening acts for the other three nights, it was the lineup at this show that stood out. First up was Dave Hause of the Loved Ones performing a solo set. Hause released an acoustic record earlier this year, and while I had listened to it briefly, I failed to realize just how good it was.
Hause’s performance was the rare opening set that completely absorbed everyone in the audience. Instead of chatter and side conversations, all eyes and ears were fixed on the stage, and Hause received quite the applause at the conclusion of each track. He kept the crowd engaged with between song banter, relaying a story about his nine hour, $4 bus ride from Philadelphia and then at one point calling out a heckler in the front row. While it was a great 30 minutes of music, it wouldn’t be Hause’s only appearance on stage that night.
The next act was Brooklyn cult favorites World/Inferno Friendship Society. The band was making their second appearance in Boston in little over a month after a rousing headlining show at the Paradise in May. Not the type of band to normally share the spotlight, they were forced to cut at least a few staples from their set. This didn’t mean that they cut down on the theatrics, however, as lead singer Jack Terricloth and Co. fed off the energy of the diehard fans in attendance.
Earlier in the night, Terricloth had joined Hause to play harmonica during one his tracks, and Hause repayed the favor, joining the band on stage as guitarist for two songs. Throughout the 45 minute set, it seemed like about half the crowd was completely into it, while the other half was somewhat weirded out by the whole spectacle. The band played a number of songs from the recently released “The Anarchy and the Ecstasy,” which were once again very impressive live, especially “Canonize Philip K. Dick, OK?” After Terricloth had exhausted his between song antics, the band closed with “The Models and the Mannequins.” This came as a relief to at least some members of the crowd.
After another short break and “welcome to the main event” style introduction, the Bouncing Souls took the stage for to the tune of “That Song.” The energy that had built up throughout the night exploded into a sea of fists and crowd surfers as nearly everyone in the room sang along. With each track from “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” being a finely crafted burst of punk energy and aggression, the intensity level never really died down until the final notes of “Gone” had been played.
While the crowd was obviously enjoying the show, this unbridled joy could also be seen on the stage. Hause joined the band for a number of songs, and sported a huge smile when he wasn’t singing along with the crowd. When I ran into him at Dunkin Donuts the next morning (name drop?), he wouldn’t commit to it being the highlight of his life, but he did say it was “pretty cool.”
After finishing the 13 tracks that made up the first half of the set, things began to get sticky. The temperature had risen at least 30 degrees, and now the band was set to play their longest album, Anchors Aweigh. While the album does have its moments, it doesn’t feature the same type of upbeat energy that is standard on most of the band’s other albums. Being the product of a rough spot in the band’s history, it is darker and more introspective, and made for a rollercoaster of a live set.
This portion of the set got off to a very quick start with opener “Apartment 5F” and “Kids and Heroes,” and it seemed like both the crowd and the band were determined to maintain the furious pace they had set earlier. I had never heard the band play “Kids and Heroes” live, which is surprising considering it is one of the highlights of their entire catalog. It seems written to inspire huge sign-alongs at sweaty punk shows, and that is exactly what it did.
Other songs throughout the set inspired the same type of reaction, but most of them came from the first half of the album. After that point, the reality of the heat and the length of the show began set in, and the enthusiasm level fell quickly. All the while, the band refused to wilt, powering through each song unaffected by the conditions. They closed the set on a quiet note with the acoustic hidden track “Fall Song.”
Night Four: June 25th 2011, The Gold Record and Ghosts on the Boardwalk
The fourth and final night of the series would turn out to be different from the first three in a number of ways. First off, it wasn’t raining. This was a big plus for many fans, especially for those who showed up at the same time, because the band had insisted that all four shows be “will call only,” to eliminate scalping.
This meant that instead of distributing physical tickets, fans had their names added to a list that was kept at the door to the venue. As fans arrived, they had to show their ID to gain entrance. While I showed up early each night and never had to wait in a long line to get in, many fans entered the show drenched, which is never a good way to start your night.
Another difference from nights 1-3 was the fact that somehow, this show was not sold out. While I’ll admit that most fans wouldn’t consider either of the night’s albums their absolute favorite Bouncing Souls record, I must say that I would take the combination of these two albums over any other night’s lineup.
Another factor in the non-sell out may have been the openers. Neither Iron Chic or Make Do and Mend brought the same type of recognition or fan bases that at least one band had during the previous three shows. However, that isn’t to say they both weren’t solid acts. Iron Chic’s thirty minute set of throwback punk with gruff vocals was very impressive, and I ended up buying their latest full length. Make Do and Mend also played a strong set, although their songs began to blend together seeing as I wasn’t familiar with any of their material.
The Bouncing Souls entered to the now familiar boxing match theme for the final time, and got started with 2006’s Gold Record opener “The Gold Song.” While this is a fast-paced track to begin with, the band seemed to play it twice as fast, challenging the crowd to keep up with the chorus of “heys!” “The Pizza Song” featured a number of guest musicians, including accordion and trumpet players, and sounded nearly as good as the recorded version. “Better Things” was a highlight of the set, as was the fan favorite and live show staple “Lean on Sheena.”
The politically-charged “Letter from Iraq” is one of my favorite Bouncing Souls songs, and I was thrilled to finally hear it played live. The only unfortunate part about the track was the fact that its “bring the troops home” message is just as relevant and pressing today as it was when the Gold Record was released five years ago.
In addition to being a great collection of songs like “Letter from Iraq,” The Gold Record stands out because of its sequencing. From beginning to end, every track seems perfectly placed, with each one nicely transitioning to the next. This was very apparent at the end of the set, as “Midnight Mile” and “For All the Unheard” acted as a tremendous closing pair. While these aren’t the type of songs that inspire a huge amount of crowd interaction, it was obvious everyone was enjoying every second.
Next up was the band’s latest album, Ghosts on the Boardwalk. Released as a series of single tracks each month throughout 2009, the album isn’t nearly as cohesive as The Gold Record. Of course, this had little to no effect on the live set, which began with “Gasoline” and “Never Say Die.” The crowd had caught their breath towards the end of The Gold Record, and they were now ready to give it their all.
At one point in the show, a brave stage diver realized that the Middle East security crew that had kicked out scores of fans over the first three nights, suddenly seemed uninterested in enforcing the venue’s strict policies. They had most likely been told by the band to “chill out,” and because of it, there were bodies flying through the air for the rest of the night.
The band’s performance of “Badass” was the most memorable song of the set, as cue cards appeared on stage to help the band remember all the “badass” things called out over the song’s two minutes and 38 seconds. The band then brought their eighth and final full-album set to a close with two of the record’s stronger and more melodic tracks, “We All Sing Along” and “Like the Sun.”
Despite the fact they had just played two albums that both clocked in at over forty minutes in length, the band would continue with a series of b-sides and rare tracks. I’ll admit that I’m not very familiar with their material outside of their full lengths, and it seemed like about half the crowd was in the same boat. However, this didn’t stop anyone from continuing the moshing and stage diving, and at least a few diehard fans got quite a treat in hearing these songs.
I do know they closed with “Wayfarer,” a Hot Water Music cover the band put out on a split 7 inch earlier in the year. The set ended on a high note, but you could feel a sense of instant nostalgia among the fans filing out of the venue.
The “Four All the Unheard” four night series had not only showcased how far the band had come over their 22 years, but it was also a testament to how much of their success they owe to their fans. If you’ve ever been a diehard fan of a certain band, you probably know what it’s like for them to not play your favorite forgotten track. The Bouncing Souls gave diehard fans exactly what they had been hoping for, which was the chance to hear that song. There were no real surprises, just a collection of great music and a band further strengthening the bond they have with their supporters.
When it was announced earlier this year, the “For All the Unheard” tour seemed like a dream come true for any long time Bouncing Souls fan. Not only would the band be playing four consecutive nights in select cities, they would be playing each of their eight albums in chronological order over those four nights. They would even be playing at very small venues that would allow fans the chance to mingle with the headliners and the excellent bands tabbed as support acts. Could this marathon four-night stand live up to the high expectations fans would undoubtedly place on it? As you will see through my nightly reviews, the answer was “of course it could.”
Night One: June 22nd, 2011. The Good the Bad and the Argyle and Maniacal Laughter
Night one would begin with the Bouncing Souls first full length, The Good, The Bad, and the Argyle. Seeing that it was released in 1994, there were plenty of fans in the audience who weren’t born when it hit shelves. This was practically true of the night’s other featured album, Maniacal Laughter as well, and it seemed to have some affect on the crowd’s reaction to the set. While there were the diehards at the front who sang along to every word, many in the sold-out crowd seemed less than familiar with the older material.
While I didn’t sense the same type of energy normally found at a Bouncing Souls show, this could have been because of the fact I was sitting on a chair in the very back of the venue with my crutches propped next to me. The band did seem to hit their stride during Maniacal Laughter, ripping through the 24 minute album and providing a good number of fans with the motivation to stage dive, only to be kicked out immediately by the bouncers.
Prior to the Bouncing Souls appearance, the night had started with a set from Lenny Lashy. Unfortunately, I missed this because I was busy being soaked on the walk (crutch?) from my parking spot. If this four-night stand had been held outdoors, we all would have been in trouble. Bane served as the primary support, and the Worcester hardcore legends performed an intense 45 minute set that complemented the Bouncing Souls set nicely.
Night two: June 23rd 2011: The Bouncing Souls and Hopeless Romantic.
At the start of the Bouncing Souls set each night, a Michael Buffer-ish recording was piped through the speakers, introducing the two records as if they were competitors in a heavy weight title fight. A ring girl even elicited cheers from the crowd by parading around the stage with a giant version of the album cover. If night one had been the undercard, night two was the first round of “the moment everyone had been waiting for.”
Boston ska-punk act Have Nots kicked things off with an energetic 3o minute set that inspired plenty of circle pits and fist pumps. Not bad for an opener. Like night one, the main support was provided by another Massachussets punk stalwart, the Unseen. Lead singer Mark Unseen had been pacing around the venue for what seemed like hours, and was rearing to go as the band began its first performance in quite some time. Like Bane the night before, they played a solid 45 minute set that not only pleased those in the pit, but probably won over some new fans at the same time.
Next up (of course) were the Bouncing Souls. They had held a meet and greet with fans earlier in the night, and had seemed somewhat reserved. They might have been saving energy for the fury they knew they were about to unleash on an all too willing crowd.
With the opening notes of “Cracked” from 1997’s The Bouncing Souls, those on the floor immediately showed more energy and enthusiasm than they had the night before, and the band seemed to respond in kind. “Kate is Great” had bodies flying through the air (and of course, out the door at the hands of the bouncers). As the band powered through the album’s 16 songs, the temperature inside the venue began to skyrocket, despite the fact it was a rainy 60 degrees outside. This is a testament to the type of chaos the band was inspiring.
While the band does include a few staples from The Bouncing Souls era on most of their set lists, it was the deeper cuts that both the crowd and band seemed to enjoy the most. In fact, the crowd’s reaction to tracks such as “Toilet Song” and “East Side Mags” inspired huge sing-alongs that were even bigger than those that came with other favorites. One of the most entertaining moments of the entire series was closing number “Shark Attack,” during which normally reserved lead singer Greg Attonito couldn’t keep the smile off his face, especially during lines such as “the Bouncing Souls only go on tour so they can eat other people’s food…. those Jersey mooches.”
After a short break, the band returned to play Hopeless Romantic, and with the opening notes of the title track, it felt as if the gates had just been opened at the Kentucky Derby and both the band and the fans were off to the races. Both groups refused to slow down, even as the temperature continued to rise, and it was obvious that the band was enjoying the moment as much as everyone else in attendance.
Like the first half of the set, the crowd roared their approval whenever the band would begin another rarely played track. “Bullying the Juke Box” was the first of these cuts, and Attonito commented the band would love to keep playing the track forever. “Ole” followed shortly after, and was the song that resulted in the largest number of crowd surfers being kicked out.
For the duet “Wish Me Well (You Can Go to Hell),” the band was joined by a female guest vocalist, who perfectly traded lines with Attonito, who once again couldn’t keep a big smile off his face. “The Whole Thing” then provided a fitting ending to what had been a loud, sweaty, and downright perfect punk show. The band would really need to outdo themselves if they hoped to supply fans with anything as memorable as this show had been.
The Movielife Acoustic Tour
The Tower and the Fool
Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, MA
April 8th 2011
It would be safe to say that Vinnie Caruana and Brandon Reilly are both on the comeback trail. After their previous band the Movielife split at the height of their popularity in 2003, the two strayed down very different musical paths. Caruana formed the Movielife-esque I Am the Avalanche, while Reilly went on to front indie-pop band Nightmare of You. Both projects were met with at least some amount of enthusiasm by fans and critics alike. When they released their debut LPs within weeks of each other in 2005, it seemed both bands had the potential of living up to the high standard set by their previous act.
Fast forward to 2011, and I Am the Avalanche has yet to release a follow-up to their 2005 debut album. Nightmare of You, on the other hand, released their sophomore album in 2009, and it flopped horribly. This is at least part of the reason why the two were back sharing a stage together for an early evening show at the Middle East in Cambridge, Mass. The two agreed to a Movielife reunion at New Jersey’s Bamboozle festival later in the month, but before they could cash in on the thousands of tickets they would help sell, they would shake the rust off in front of 100 or so diehard fans by playing acoustic shows across the country.
The night started at about 6:30, which was before the sun had set on one of the first real days of spring. The first band to take the stage was Providence’s The Tower and the Fool. While few, if any, in the crowd were familiar with the sextet, their performance definitely won me over. I later learned that their lineup included former members of Therefore I am and Hot Rod Circuit, which will help further cement their status as a band to look out for.
Next up was Reilly, whose set could best be described as “quiet.” Those in the crowd seemed surprisingly unfamiliar with his work,
which consisted mainly of cuts from the first Nightmare of You record, along with a few originals he said wanted to put out on a seven inch sometime in the near future.
While Reilly looked like he hadn’t slept in days and didn’t interact much with the crowd, his songs translate very well from a full band to an acoustic format, making for an enjoyable but short set.
Next up was an acoustic set from Vinnie Caruana, which was better received by the crowd. Like Reilly, Caruana mixed I Am the Avalanche tracks with newer material that may or may not make the next Avalanche record, which Vinnie said was “being recorded right now.”
Caruana’s songs don’t work quite as well acoustically as Reilly’s, but slower tracks like “Green Eyes” somehow seemed just as exciting on
this night as they did five years ago. A new song titled “Brooklyn Dodgers” will fit perfectly on the next Avalanche cd and had the crowd helping with the chorus and chanting “What happened to the Brooklyn Dodgers? What happened to me?”
After a very short break, Reilly and Caruana were ready to share the stage as the Movielife, with Reilly strumming the guitar and Caruana handling vocals.
“Kelly Song” served as the opener and began a forty minute set that provided a trip down memory lane for both the band and the crowd. Throughout the set, Canuana interacted with the crowd, telling jokes and thanking everyone for showing up, while Reilly remained mostly silent.
Caruana mentioned the upcoming Movielife appearance at Bamboozle on a number of occasions, and he also made it apparent he would love to return to Boston for a show with the full band (probably to the chagrin of Reilly, who is expecting his first child in a month).
The pair focused on songsfrom their final release “Forty Hour Train Back to Penn,” as well as “The Movielife Has a Gambling Problem” EP. “Walking on Glass,” along with ”
Hey” and “This Time Next Year” were among the highlights of the set.
Racing a strict 8:30 curfew, the band squeezed in “I Hope You Die Soon” to send the fans home happy, although they probably weren’t heading home considering the time. It didn’t take long before many fans began wondering if this was the final time they would hear Movielife songs in Boston, or if there would be a return engagement.
Will the band’s Bamboozle return inspire them to reform and begin touring again? It certainly seemed Caruana would jump at the chance. However, the Movielife was more than just Caruana and Reilly. In the 8 years since the split, the remaining Movielife members have likely found new careers and lifestyles away from the spotlight . Jumping back in the van with little assurance of success doesn’t seem like a great move professionally, but crazier things have happened. Few would have imagined Caruana and Reilly sharing a stage together again, but here they were on a nationwide Movielife acoustic tour. While the future of the band will remain murky for at some time, at least one thing is for sure: if they return to Boston as a full band, they certainly won’t be stuck playing the matinee slot.