Lemonheads live at the Paradise Club, Boston MA - 17th June 1988
Review by Peter Dunn from The Tech
WBCN Rock and Roll Rumble Review
June 21st 1988
Hard-edged bands are favorites at WBCN Rumble
WBCN Rock and Roll Rumble
Preliminaries, at the Paradise.
Monday, June 13 to Saturday June 18
Punkettes in stark black garb and shock white frocks; yuppies in pleated pants and ironed dress shirts; metal groupies in fishnet stockings, tight minidresses, and even tighter tanktops; college students in jeans and T-shirts; skinheads in torn clothing; music industry hobnobs in suits and ties. This is the Rumble, where fashion and musical styles run the full spectrum.
In Boston, the beginning of the summer is not heralded by either the NBA finals or the Stanley Cup. At least, not on the music scene. In Boston, the early weeks of June find fans of local music flocking to a competition of a totally different nature: the WBCN Rock and Roll Rumble. With the radio station celebrating its 20th anniversary as one of the most progressive disk spinners in the country, this 10th version of the Rumble continues to reaffirm 'BCN's commitment to new, cutting edge music.
This year's preliminaries of the Rumble once again changed location: originally at the Rat in Kenmore Square, and later moved to Spit, all the noise finally settled this year into the Paradise. The Paradise does offer a clear sound, a better view (barring the famous pole obstructing stage center), and a wide viewing space. But the nightclub's atmosphere - with its neon palm-poles, mirrored wall, and tropical bars - does little to convey the dark, basement ambience of the Rat and Spit that is almost synonymous with Boston rock.
Moreover, the Paradise sports a relatively cold and uncaring management. Its location at the far western end of Boston University on Commonwealth Avenue makes it particularly inconvenient for MIT and other local college students (as well as other fans of local music) who are more accustomed to the plethora of clubs easily accessible in nearby Kenmore Square. The decision to move the preliminaries out of the Kenmore Square area was not a wise one.
The inconvenience of traveling to and from the Paradise was more than made up by the quality of bands at this year's Rumble: Steve Strick, Albert O., and the rest of the rock fanatics at 'BCN have done a great job of culling the best of the local scene. The contest's format remains unchanged from past years: 24 bands (four bands per night for six nights) vie for eight positions in the semifinals (one winner from each night and two wild-cards). Four bands perform on each of the two nights of the semifinals with the two winners moving on to the finals.
Last week's blistering heat spilled onto the stage with searing sets every night of the week. While this year's lineup saw less of the bluesy/rootsy sound of last year's Rumble (best exemplified by 1987 semifinalists Treat Her Right), the reggae/ska scene - almost non-existant last year - had a strong showing with Plate O'Shrimp and Bim Skala Bim. Punk and thrash also had a strong late-week showing with Neutral Nation, Lemonheads and Bullet LaVolta. As expected, the Boston favoritism toward grungy garage rock, dark/brooding music, and hard-edged/frenetic slashing, and dislike of posturing, repetitive loudness and sugar-coated pop, played heavily on the judging. Speed, fun, and musical innovation won out on most night, even over the more polished acts.
Friday - Rumble Day 5
Dixie Cinema's hard pop sound and sassy lead guitar led off the fifth day of the Rumble, but the good lead vocals couldn't carry the uninteresting pop tunes. The music never got off the ground despite some interesting song structure.
The slow, steady, deep sound of One Life followed, backing the metered, drawn-out vocals of bassist/lead singer Anthony Barile Jr. Unfortunately, the music depended heavily on Barile's vocals; his throaty, hoarse, off-key voice couldn't deliver most of the time. One Life is interesting in concept but needs better vocals to round out their sound.
Finally, the Lemonheads took the stage to induce some slam-dancing in earnest. Rough-edged, fast, hard, faster, harder, loud, inexperienced, raw, thrashing, and smashing, these kids are built for speed and make up for any deficiencies with pure audacity. How did these cherub-faced adolescents get in? If they weren't performing on stage, they'd be booted out at the door for lack of a liquor ID. What do their mothers think? But who cares; they put the older rockers to shame. The brash and cocky band (one member mockingly wore a prep-school uniform, and the band arrogantly played "Plaster Caster," a thrashing version of Suzanne Vega's "Luka") has an innate musical sense; despite their lack of technical prowess, strong clear vocals carried the songs. With the stage lights set on permanent high-beam, their set showed no fancy footwork - only full throttle rock here. Report card: A+
Class Action's funky, melodic tunes closed Friday evening's show, but the vocals were buried too far below the loud guitar. The jazzy horn made for some nice harmonies, but any good music got muddled beneath a poor mix. Class Action's best quality proved to be their strong energy on stage, but it was not enough to take away the night from the pumped-up Lemonheads.
The two-day semifinals begin tonight, in the brighter, more open venue of the Metro (15 Lansdowne Street, across the street from Fenway Park ballpark, near Kenmore Square). Fortunately for most undergraduate students, the semis and the finals (also held at the Metro) are 18+ shows. The doors open at 8pm (first band not until about 9:30); the four bands play until about 1:30 in the morning, at one hour intervals.
Tonight the lineup begins with Bim Skala Bim, followed by The Incredible Casuals, then Tribe, and finally Dogzilla. Bim and Dogzilla will put on the most energetic sets of the evening, with more laidback sounds from The Incredible Casuals and Tribe. Dogzilla and Tribe will likely duke it out in a competition of pure, unadulterated fun versus thoughtful, metered music, while Bim will have a strong say if the judges aren't too averse to their revved up, jazzy ska. The Incredible Casuals will likely be out of the running.
The second night of the semis follows immediately on Wednesday, and will prove to be a thrash purist's dream, surely breaking the speed limits of the Rumble. Again, the evening begins with the funky, speedy ska sound of Plate O'Shrimp, accelerates with Bullet LaVolta, takes a breather with Heretix, then once again goes into overdrive with the Lemonheads. Depending on the judges' tastes, Bullet LaVolta and the Lemonheads will do well in a confrontation of showmanship and young, brash audacity; or Plate O'Shrimp and Heretix will put in a strong showing at slower speeds. On the other hand, there might be a replay of the incident two years ago, when a judge was so put off by The Volcano Suns' cheekishness that he just up and left.
(Note: the 1988 contestants in full were - Bim Skala Bim, Bullet LaVolta, Citizenz, Class Action, Dharma Bums, Dixie Cinema, Dogzilla, Forever 19, Great Divide, Heretix, Incredible Casuals, Lemonheads, Matweeds, Neutral Nation, 1-4-5, One Life, Pat on the Back, Plate o' Shrimp, Raindogs, Runaway Dan, Slaves, Think Tree, Titanics, Tribe
Heretix and Tribe won their semi-finals, with Heretix winning out in the final.)