Monday, May 24, 2010

Lights Out for Ben at Church

It was a sad occasion when Roman Traffic announced that singer Benjamin Greenville was leaving the band. He was a strong vocalist and a significant part of the music the group created. From the moment they announced his last show would be at Church, one of my favorite bar/venues in Boston, I knew I was going to be in attendance. The show was also an Animal Shirt Party with some great people/bands in attendance so it was not to be missed. On April 2, 2010, Ben took the stage one last time with his bandmates and put on a performance that was sure to leave a lasting impact. Below is the trailer for the show making sure that everyone remember to wear their animal shirts.

The openers Social Hero were a nice alternative bar-band style group that had some songs that managed to catch my attention despite the fact that I was trying to focus on playing pool. Church combines pool, beer, music, and a borderline blasphemous aesthetic into a mixture that I find irresistible. Pool is one of my (many?) vices and I'm usually very fixated on the game but I glanced over and took some time to set my attention to the stage where Social Hero was putting on a fairly good performance. My pool game suffered but my ears benefited; a fair trade I suppose. There were some songs that leaned towards generic but others had some power behind them. The band had a good balance of classic rock dynamics and grungy, punky energy. After the performance, I had the pleasure of engaging in a brief chat with singer David Lloyd about the masochistic habit of smoking cigarettes. If you're interesting in learning more about the band, there is an interesting article here about how they bridge the generation gap.

The next band was Lunic who, at the very least, commanded attention due to their attractive female vocalist and their use of electric double bass/violin. The songs were disappointingly in the vein of radio rock but there were spurts of ingenuity from the varied instrumentation. The singer even took to an electric violin and shredded some excellent melodies over a layered bed of music. There is definitely an audience for their tunes but I couldn't get that into it. Anyone who doesn't cringe at the idea of a cross between Yellowcard and Paramore will probably find the group quite enjoyable.

I was not the biggest fan of The Luxury. However, the group has been making a name for themselves around Boston yet they just don't seem to click for me. After checking out a few of their songs, which seemed solid enough, I took a brief break and actually engaged in some social behavior (bloggers do this from time to time). I found Roman Traffic frontman Ben outside and had a somewhat heart-to-heart conversation about his decision to move on which I won't elaborate on here. I've known him and the rest of the group from a recording project I did while attending Northeastern University and they are all fantasic guys. You can download the track I produced, while they were still called Gravehaven, at the link in my previous writeup for the band. Needless to say, Ben seemed like he needed to do his own thing and I wish him the best in his future endeavors. He still got me pumped for the show and ensured me that they would rock my face off.

Finally, it was Roman Traffic's turn and the crowd was more than enthusiastic. The band played some tunes from their excellent Calico EP but the highlights were definitely the new material. Tracks like "Old New" show the band expanding their sound while tightening their songwriting. The aforementioned song features a soaring chorus where Ben stretches his vocals chords asking "Will you be sober now?!" It's quite a powerful song and had a lot of punch when performed live. The guys did not possess such a serious atmosphere the entire time; even playing the tongue-in-cheek "Cat Prisoner" complete with meows. Below is a video showcasing the origins of "Cat Prisoner" along with a player of their three exceptional new songs.

They were definitely having fun drinking on stage and thrashing around their instruments while colorful light were blazing around them. The sound was surprisingly good and, more importantly, loud. You could get the full effect of Steve Hart's rumbling basslines and drummer Matt Arsenault's acrobatic fills during their more technical songs like "Aquired Attire". Guitarists Alex Brahms and Evan Crisman were playing off each other in impressive fashion. The audience was surely impressed and sent that energy back to the stage. If Ben's time with Roman Traffic had to come to an end, it was a fitting departure. The group is currently looking for a new vocalist so if you think you've got the chops, let them know!

I only stayed for a song or two by The Lights Out but it wasn't anything that sucked me in. I decided to finish enjoying my Friday night elsewhere. It was very clear to me at this point that Roman Traffic should have undoubtedly been headlining the night. Everyone appeared worn out after their energetic performance and it seemed like no one was really paying attention to the stage afterwards. For those wondering, of course I participated in the animal shirt party and the proof from their website is here with a picture of my awesome Dredg shirt covered in birds at the bottom!

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