The air was torn by shards of melody and clang as guitarist Chris Brokaw dug into his clear plastic solid-body guitar’s strings. Using a thumb pick to slash out chords he made flare-bright by wrapping a capo around his instrument’s neck five frets down and alternating between his thumb and fingers to unfurl his single-note lines, Brokaw led his Rock Band through “Road Closing Theme.”
The tune came a little more than halfway through his February 4 set at P.A.’s Lounge in Somerville, just a few numbers after the trio hit their stride in the basement-like room. It’s from Brokaw’s soundtrack for the movie Road, and the group’s delivery was pure high-test. Brokaw, drummer Kevin Coultas, and bassist Jeff Goddard alternated between a speedy, samba-like groove and rock-and-roll slam, with a gently roiling bridge that displayed the proficient finger-picking technique Brokaw has developed under the influence of one of this heroes, Leo Kot tk e.
Brokaw himself is a hero to a coterie of fans and musicians. He’s led Come with Thalia Zedek, is part of the acoustic hush-rock outfit Pullman, has drummed in Codeine, has toured with Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn, is a member of the New Year, Consonant, and Empty House Collective, and has appeared on a slew of discs by other artists. In recent years he’s made several instrumental albums and done plenty of solo shows, but he hasn’t played in a rock band since Come’s 2001 break-up. But last October he released an album of protest music, Incredible Love (12XU), and put together the Chris Brokaw Rock Band to back it up. His lyrics were hard to discern at P.A.’s, where the music of loud rock bands is undermined by the small sound system and the cement-wall acoustics, but his energy and determination won the night, especially when he blasted through instrumentals like “Road Closing Theme” and the gentler “Gringa,” or veered between country-inspired licks and Pete Townshend power chords. When his words did break through — reminiscences of a pre–September 11 America, of lost hope and deflated dreams — it was obvious he doesn’t want just his music to do the talking.
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