Guitar-driven pop music is alive and well in the city of Boston, and anyone that tells you otherwise wasn’t on Lansdowne Street last night for the Phoenix/FNX Best Music Poll party. Though the 14-band bill boasted national players like Secret Machines, the Academy Is . . . , and Rock Kills Kid, the ones that packed the clubs tightest and filled the street were the locals: Buffalo Tom, Taxpayer, Aberdeen City, Dear Leader, and Damone.
CHARLATANS UK: they played a set of slinky, sexy Brit-pop, but it was the locals who brought the house down.
Introduced by FNX’s Keith Dakin as “a classic Boston band,” Buffalo Tom hit the street stage as the sun began to set behind the crowd, casting a warm glow on the Ipswich Street building behind the band. “Classic means old,” frontman Bill Janovitz sniffed before launching into the open-chord coruscation of “Tree House” from 1993’s Big Red Letter Day.
After Buffalo Tom was done injecting a dose of nostalgia into the bloodstreams of the older Boston alt-rockers in attendance and hipping the youngsters to the fact that this city might have some sort of melodic-rock history, the long-running Mancunian group the Charlatans UK closed the outdoor portion of the show with a set of slinky, sexy Brit-pop that had the increasingly lubed up crowd swingin’ and swayin’, and in some cases, bumpin’ and grindin’ (What’s up, sloppy five-person dance-orgy?).
As the club shows got underway, a conundrum presented itself: which excellent local U2 disciples do we check out? Taxpayer, Aberdeen City, and Dear Leader were all scheduled to go on at 10. The only sensible solution was to hit all three, starting with Aberdeen City, whose The Freezing Atlantic (Dovecote) got the BMP nod for best album. Axis was packed to the gills and folks were freaking out as guitarist Chris McLaughlin inflicted drum-stick punishment on a floor tom during “Pretty Pet,” the calm-to-cacophonous dynamics of the song even more effective live than on record. If you were standing near the back of the room, you could hear the dreamy, delay-drenched guitars of Dear Leader in your left ear in between songs, so I eventually wandered into Avalon and squeezed through the similarly sardined crowd to catch the similarly high-flying melodicism of Aaron Perrino and company. As soon as Perrino announced his band’s last song, I hightailed it down the street and got to Bill’s just in time to catch Taxpayer’s closer, the driving “When They Were Young” (second place for this year’s Best Local Song, it trailed Street Dogs’ “In Defense of Dorchester” by a mere five votes).
Walking back towards Axis to see if Aberdeen City were still on, I stopped in front of the Jake Ivory’s facade for the comedic highlight of the night: two piano players and a drummer doing a dead-on rendition of the Darkness’ “I Believe in a Thing Called Love.” Thence into Axis in time to catch Aberdeen City’s finale, “Mercy,” which ended with waves of feedback, more floor tom beating, tambourine and plastic cowbell abuse, Thom Yorke-like spazz-dancing, guitar smashing, and wild applause.
ABERDEEN CITY: their calm-to-cacophonous dynamics were even more effective live than on their BMP-winning album.
Later in the night, Bill’s Bar was brimming with people anxiously awaiting Damone, the last local band of the night. Led by singer/guitarist Noelle LeBlanc — looking not unlike a female Dee Dee Ramone — the band emerged from the side door at the end of the bar to doom-metal intro music, fought their way through the crowd to the stage, and headbanged their way through a set of sweet-n-heavy candy-metal tunes, with the audience waving devil horns and pumping fists all the while. Over at Axis, Blackalicious got the all-white crowd bobbing along to their excellent 2000 single “Deception,” and at Avalon, Secret Machines expertly combined bowel-rattling bass-drone, interstellar atmospherics, and catchy melodicism. But compared to Bill’s, the room was pitifully empty, and one thing became obvious: Boston rock had ruled the night.