Fairhaven won a tight race at the 2009 WBRU Rock Hunt Finals at Lupo's on April 4. I was one of six judges (which also included record label reps and Johnny Lingo of former Rock Hunt victors Fungus Amungus), and the voting criteria consisted of six categories, including musicianship, songwriting, and radio-readiness. And we can't stress enough the benefit of 'BRU having Wendell Clough back at the helm as program director, as the four-hour throwdown ran smoothly and drew a great turnout.
GETTING THEIR BURLESQUE ON The Viennagram.
After watching the Viennagram destroy Jerky's as the opening act of the semifinals, I was curious to see if they could repeat on a much larger scale, as Lupo's filled up quickly soon after the Viennagram's prompt 6 pm start. Ringleader A.V. Vienna was yucking it up on his podium, looking like Beetlejuice (or the ghost of Nick Cave) and keeping the crowd enthralled. And while their music isn't exactly radio-friendly, the live show is worth seeking out and pretty much redefines "concert experience." I counted at least 21 people on stage at one point, including a vaudevillian combo of Stevie Nicks and Mae West waving a plastic raygun (there were about five costume changes during the 40-minute set). Musically, the drums and trumpet and guitars locked in when they needed to amidst the shtick. And the delayed reaction between each song from some of the puzzled all-ages crowd was equally entertaining; I overheard a duo of Abercrombie kids concur that they were "one of those fucking weird Olney-ville bands."
Baylock (myspace.com/baylockmusic) bassist John Mclaughlin was hamming it up a bit too much but certainly having the time of his life, and didn't detract from the serious jam sessions on their centerpiece "Gone for Good," soaring beyond the six-minute studio version. The song starts like any other Sublime-style bonfire song before the quartet launches into full-blown, crowd-pleasing riffs, and there was no denying Baylock's rhythm section of Mclaughlin and drummer Matt Kirby. The stop-and-go improv seemed a little disjointed at times, but these guys had their fans chanting "Baylock! Baylock!" throughout the evening.
For the Love of Sloane (myspace.com/fortheloveof sloane) is just a few tweaks away from something really big. Songs such as "So What If" and "Bitter" and their set opener, "Drying Blue," show promise for Elese Morrone and crew. In terms of merch sales, FTLOS dominated, with fans sporting their shirts all over Lupo's, including Morrone's grandpa, wearing a purple Glo-necklace and black FTLOS tee. Nice. The female vocals and big power-pop hooks remind me of last year's victor, It Was the Best of Times (whose guitarist Bob Jack reports the band just returned from recording their debut full-length in Detroit), and though For the Love of Sloane understandably showed some nerves, there's no denying the band's songwriting ability.
Fairhaven (myspace.com/fairhavenri) closed out the show and walked away with the prizes (I had all four acts within three points of each other) — and lead singer Alan Connell probably could have walked out with your girlfriend, as the ladies were swooning for the Cumberland quartet.
"Right before we went on, we were all nervous and excited, but we knew that all the progress we've made as a band had to come to that moment," drummer Jared Gould told me. "I don't think it was necessarily the best show we've ever played, but we were feeding off of the energy from the crowd more than anything.
"It was definitely a little intimidating watching the other three bands play, but we really just kept the mindset of playing the best show we possibly can and just leaving it all out on the stage."
Get your lighters out when you catch Fairhaven's live show — Connell's falsetto sweeps atop Trevor Gould's piano as they sink their big hooks in. They're in the realm of the Fray, Keane, Guster, and Zox, and if early cuts such as "Reunion" and "Catch" (which they continue to offer on a free EP at live shows) showed their potential, then the new track "The World Is Ours" may provide a course-altering moment for Fairhaven, and no doubt sealed the deal in front of the 750 or so fans at Lupo's.
'LEAVING IT ALL OUT ON THE STAGE' Fairhaven.
Gould said of his competitors: "They are all incredibly talented musicians and performers, and we really had a great time speaking with them throughout the night. Southern New England's local music, even beyond the four bands at Lupo's, has so much to offer, and I am definitely proud to be a part of this scene." He said to expect a Fairhaven full-length around autumn and the band will continue to play the region through the summer.