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Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Bachelor of Arts, Big Bear, Thief Thief, Whitetail | You Need New Glasses House, Watertown | March 6, 2009

"We don't usually do encores — it seems a bit wanky," says a sweaty Bill Forshaw in a rubbery, shrugging Aussie accent. "But we might not ever be here again in our lives, so why not?" A few feet away, Kevin McDowell slowly hangs his bass back over his shoulders, muttering to himself, "Plus, we already played all our good songs . . . "

We’re crammed like sardines with backpacks into the basement of a house in Watertown that (it turns out) isn’t so difficult to get to for DIY pilgrims who can deal with the #71 bus schedule. Forshaw and McDowell, along with Angus Tarnawsky, are Bachelor of Arts, a hyper noise-rock band flown in from Melbourne for a two-week tour of the East Coast. It’s all grimy Gang of Four punk dance and skronk — kind of like Nick Cave doing rugby chants, and it rules in a way that gets my ears numb enough not to howl in pain during Big Bear’s nightcap, which is delivered at their usual impossible volume.

I run into a house organizer on the stairs near the water heater, and it turns out we’re not really on uncharted house-show territory out here. "We just found out this is the house that Anal Cunt used to live in. They practiced in this basement!" Chances are, it wasn’t this whimsical in those days — a huge plastic sailfish adorns one wall, along with a cartoonish painting of what one attendee notes may be the haunted-ballroom scene from The Shining. A dummy Spider-Man with a Regis Philbin mask seems sort of crucified on some wood behind the stage and covered in Christmas lights.

Earlier on, the musically somersaulting duo Thief Thief ramp things up while hardly even looking as if they were trying. Tied to an intensive finger-tapping guitar deal (like a slightly more even-keeled Marnie Stern or Hella if they . . . oh look! a recording of the Thief Thief covering Hella!), guitarist Jeff Thief has little choice but to stand there, immobile, with a sheepish Mike Nesmith grin as the mob trips over itself trying to make up sloppy vocal parts. When he dives into the crowd mid song, it’s more along the lines of an awkward magician stumbling out to find a volunteer than the usual frontman cheerleading act, but this crowd is down with nerdy overthrow.

Later, the epic shoegazer outfit Whitetail crank the echo on the microphones so high that everything anyone says in the room bounces back through the PA as if we were all trapped in a dub remix of ourselves. Before the band get a chance to start, the crowd has already started its own a cappella version of "Cool Running." I keep waiting to see someone drink out of the Shrek goblet resting on a shelf in the corner, but there are no takers. No matter, it’s been an evening built on bold gestures. As one Bachelor of Arts says during their set, "We’re really glad we came here tonight from the other side of the world."

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