Saturday, March 6, 2010

Dirty Southern Ribs

Unwinding after a hard day's work with a concert of mellow music is something I always appreciate so on Friday, February 26, 2010 I jumped at the opportunity to see a few great Boston bands for free. The Dirty Dishes, Southern Belle, and RIBS played together as part of Berklee College of Music's Unplugged Series. I previously spotlighted The Dirty Dishes and RIBS as two of my favorite up-and-coming bands so I was obviously excited to see both of them on this bill in an acoustic setting. The only problem was that it was at 6:00pm so I had to rush right from work to get there but I'm glad I put the effort in.

Regrettably, I couldn't get there until 6:30 so I arrived right as The Dirty Dishes were wrapping up their set. As I was walking up the stairs to The Loft which is the venue where the show took place, I heard Jenny Tuite's voice gently singing the chorus to "In the Clouds". That was the song I was looking most forward to hearing since I had recently gained a great affinity for it and the idea actually crossed my mind that it would make a great acoustic track. I'm glad I caught the end since the song did make an excellent acoustic track as expected but I was disappointed because I didn't get to hear the full thing. The last song they played was the spacey "Thin Air" which had interesting acoustic translation. The swelling vocals and atmospherics made it a great track to end on and left me wishing I caught the full set. I was told afterwards that they covered "Between the Bars" by Elliott Smith which is one of my favorite songs ever therefore adding further frustration at my late arrival.

I was completely unfamiliar with the second band Southern Belle but you can now color me impressed. I was about to call their bluff about this being an 'acoustic' set since they played with an electric guitar and a synthesizer hooked to a computer but they acknowledged it themselves. Apparently, the band is a four piece that was narrowed down to just the two for the night. The electronic beats generated as the foundation to the songs were quite bumping. However, there were plenty of times where I wish that they were twice as loud. Their singer had a distinct vocal style that lent well to their songwriting and he was also a more than capable guitarist. The lyrics seemed thoughtful as well and when it all came together in songs like "Conditional Love", it was quite a treat. That song can be heard on their myspace. They definitely have me interested in hearing the full band and I was hoping to catch them when they open up for Neon Indian on March 9th at Great Scott but unfortunately the show is sold out.

RIBS were the last band and performed with a bassist and guitarist plugged-in, a drummer with a full kit, and singer/guitarist Keith Freund playing an acoustic in the center. They said that they rearranged the songs around the acoustic guitar and the results sounded good even though the acoustic often got drowned out. The bass also overpowered the vocals along and the drums shattered everything at first. This kind of mixing problem was inevitable for the venue where they were performing. The room was gorgeous and a great setting for such a show with nice clean aesthetics and attractive woodwork. It still wasn't designed for loud instruments though.

The band did a great job alleviating the sound problems as the show went on with the drummer playing softer and the bassist melding into everything a little smoother. Songs like "Even" still sounded good in the little space when everyone started to gel properly. The band played a song called "Queen of Hearts" which really grabbed my attention. Evidently, it had an extended instrumental intro which they did not perform in its entirety. It left me with much anticipation to hear their upcoming release British Brains. The closer was a definite highlight and showcased the more technical side of guitarist Justin Tolan's playing style which thoroughly impressed me. He produced excellent sound from his Telecaster and had just the right mix of reverb and other spacey effects. The last song was my favorite while showcasing how much the band could rock out regardless of whether it was an 'acoustic' show or not. They are definitely a band to keep a look out for in the future and catch a performance.

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