That major-label rejection may have been a blessing in disguise. I’ll Be at Your Funeral hews to the lyrical tropes of past Roadsteamer opuses: video games, the ’80s, the cheesy detritus of a suburban existence, all of it dolloped with good-natured scatology. But this one’s also different. The name on the front of the CD is no longer Robby Roadsteamer. It’s simply Roadsteamer, a now democratized line-up with equal input from keyboardist Nick D’Amico, guitarist Pete Tentindo, bassist Jay Cornwell, and drummer Ray Burgett. (All have adopted the Roadsteamer surname.) “I finally found a group of guys that I love. I was stuck with session guys that barely got the idea, laid down the songs, and went away. There was never time to form a relationship and see what each person could do.”
D’Amico agrees: “It finally is a band. We’ve got it to the point where we all do vocals — Pete’s even got his own song. It’s an album. Before it was just songs for an album.”
In fact, it’s a concept album, loosely unified by the idea that dinosaurs never became extinct but instead quietly evolved, eventually returning to lay waste to the North Shore. Nestled among the narrative lie some of Roadsteamer’s better songs. “A Lifetime in a Dream” starts with vocoder and synth washes before erupting into a straight-on power ballad. “Flip the Coin of Love” dabbles with skittering synth and ska horns. The inspirational anthem “The North Shore Is Where You’re Going To Soar” is as tasty as eating meatloaf while listening to Meatloaf at the Hilltop Steakhouse. And in “X-Mas in Allston,” Boston may have discovered its answer to the Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York.”
The disc finds Roadsteamer playing nice with the SnowLeopards’ Heidi Lee Saperstein on “I Hope You Get Ugly in Heaven.” And on his long-running YouTube “shitcom,” he and Saperstein can be seen playing Kaboom! on Atari. You can also watch him get chewed out by Holly Brewer from Humanwine for wanting to “get with” her, and see him plead with Reverend Glasseye — whose old-time music the old Roadsteamer disparaged as “funeral music for old people”— to stay in town instead of moving to Austin.
Roadsteamer himself was ready to move to New York City to pursue a comedy career a few years back, but he decided to stay. He had a scene to unite. “I’m falling in love with all these people. That’s why I stayed in Boston. I love all of ’em. It’s not a joke.” He feels the diverse and thriving Boston music scene is too precious to be riven by jealousy, factionalism, and petty discord. “Why do we fight each other? It’s like pit bulls trained to fight and they don’t even know why. This is the way it should be. No fuckin’ cliques. No fuckin’ elitism.”
On stage, as the music swelled grandly around him, he exhorted the crowd to believe in themselves. “You are a warrior! Rise!”
And Robby Roadsteamer looked out across the disparate scenes he had gathered. And he saw that it was good.