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Concert Review: A Wilhelm Scream, Less Than Jake -- Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012 @ The Middle East Downstairs
by Daniel McMahon

A Wilhelm Scream played in front of a packed house of nearly six hundred people at The Middle East Downstairs in Cambridge, MA this past Sunday night, February 19. The show marked the start of a three-month long tour spanning the globe from Cambridge to Moscow to Montreal. During that time, the band will also be sharing some dates with Sunday’s headliner (and ska/punk veterans) Less Than Jake.

Based on previous performances, I would say Wilhelm are certainly a worthy candidate to share the stage with a band as accomplished as Less Than Jake, and Sunday’s performance was no exception. Wilhelm played with great intensity and excitement, trying to cram as much material into a thirty-minute time slot as they possibly could. When a fan shouted out a request for “Hike” (the opening track on one of the band’s earlier recordings, Benefits of Thinking Out Loud), lead singer Nuno Pereira paused, proclaimed that the band had only been playing for eighteen minutes, and launched into the song.

I am always impressed when I see A Wilhelm Scream; their stage presence and genuine appreciation for playing music is certainly visible to their fans, who in turn get more amped up, causing the band to play faster and with more vigor. Although Wilhelm were only one of three openers for headliner Less Than Jake, the crowd remained hooked on every song the band played as though Wilhelm were the only band playing that night. Crowd-surfers bobbed up and down in the sea of people and the mosh pit seemed to be non-stop for their entire set. If this gig is any indication, Wilhem is sure to have one heck of an action-packed tour ahead of them.

I was particularly surprised by the two bands on the bill that I had never heard of before: Flatfoot 56 and Samiam. Both Flatfoot and Samiam are part of the Less Than Jake spring tour that also began Sunday. Flatfoot, a self-proclaimed “Celtic punk” band out of Chicago, Il, were quite impressive to watch. Between their use of a mandolin, gang vocals and members switching instruments during their set, it was quite obvious that the band knew how to execute a gig and enjoyed being in front of a crowd. After playing just a couple of songs, lead singer Tobin Bawinkel felt there was not enough audience participation and informed the crowd that “The person next to you is definitely not cooler than you, and we certainly aren’t cooler than you.” in an effort to encourage the audience to let loose and have a good time. The crowd immediately responded, moving closer to the stage and starting a mosh pit on the very next song.

I must admit that my punk education is spotty, because I was unaware that Samiam had been around since 1988. Their set, a mix of straight-forward punk with a splash of emo, had the audience fully engaged throughout their time on stage. I felt that their stage presence was a little weak, especially compared to Less Than Jake, who followed them in the line-up.

Less Than Jake put on a stellar performance, especially for a group of guys in their late thirties. They had the crowd dancing, crowd-surfing and jumping up and down for every second of their hour-and-fifteen-minute set. Their performance was so tight that it was clear they haven’t lost a step during their twenty-year career. They played a good mix of both old and new material, appealing to both seasoned and rookie fans.

Less Than Jake were very appreciative of the audience throughout the entire set, even taking the time to invite two members of the crowd on-stage to compete in a “contest.” One at a time, in a manner resembling an episode of The Price Is Right (pre-Drew Carey, of course) the audience members were put into a clear plastic rectangle while hundreds of fake dollars were blown about inside the chamber. Each person had under a minute to grab as much “money” as they could during the time it took the band to play the Animaniacs and Spongebob Squarepants theme songs, respectively. Whichever person was able to grab the most “money” received prizes from the band’s merch table.

Overall, all four bands played an excellent show. The combined energy levels from all four groups, coupled with the crowd’s intensity, made for a truly enjoyable experience. I would most certainly recommend checking out all four groups next time they come near your home state. More info about each band and their upcoming tour dates can be found on http://www.facebook.com/awilhelmscream, http://www.flatfoot56.com/home/, http://www.samiamfancy.com/ and http://www.lessthanjake.com/.



A Wilhelm Scream

Photo Credit: Nicholas Santos







Justin Levinson and The Valcours @ The Lizard Lounge Saturday, March 10

Justin Levinson and The Valcours will be performing Saturday, March 10 at The Lizard Lounge. The show is celebrating the release of Levinson's latest album, This Side Of Me, This Side Of You, a ten-song ode to love and its repercussions. Dressing his distress in an eclectic mix of piano, loud guitars, horns, strings, and dreamy harmonies, the album also features contributions from acclaimed singer/songwriters Will Dailey (MA), Gregory Douglass (VT), and Liz Longley (PA).

Other supporting acts for The Lizard Lounge appearance include Yellowbirddd (NY) and The Days Weight (MA). Show is 21+ and $10 dollars at the door.

Cheerleader -- Do What You Want EP

It was Elizabeth Wurtzel who coined the term “Prozac Nation” to describe the state of the country living in the post behavioral medication boom of the 90’s, a time that spawned a new breed of diagnosed 9 to 5's living in a limbo of euphoric depression. So it is that this populace needs what every other has before it: music to dance to. So it is the New Wave movement -- which formed in the post punk boom of Joy Division and The Smiths, peaked in the 80’s with The Eurythmics and R.E.M., and was born again in the new millennium within bands such as MGMT and the New York City two pieces -- makes it’s church in this era of ambivalence. This religion of moody dance music now finds itself two more promising disciples in Hartford, Connecticut’s Donovan Rex and Max Friday, the equal parts of the electronic duo Cheerleader.

In preparation of their premier full-length album, Do What You Want, the partners in crime have put out a three-song sampler in order to give the public at large something to get excited about. The EP works as a good introduction to the band’s sound. The title track is reminiscent of such out of town acts as The Church or Echo and The Bunnymen, with the lyrics grounding the band as good ol’ New England boys with the lyrics “I feel like driving/up Massachusetts/barely surviving/and feeling useless”. The three songs flow together well with a mix of clap-your-hands beats and lost-in-the-ether vocals that make for a solid mix of dance and daze and shows great promise for the upcoming full length. Anyone who believes in the Old Testament of New Wave based in The Cure and Depeche Mode or any new converts from the new indie found movement within Cults or Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes would be well advised to check them out.--Anthony Geehan

The Sinbusters -- Second Coming

From the moment I heard the amp buzz on the opening track of Second Coming, I knew The Sinbusters were going to be full of raucous, rowdy energy. While the album is short (no track is over 2:30 in length), the band manages to leave a lasting impression on the listener with their classic, hard-nosed punk rock style. The Lowell-based quintet is heavily versed classic punk rock, while borrowing occasionally from other genres. One example of this mixing of styles would the fourth track on Second Coming, “Gimme the Word.” The track, a surf rock-ish groove mixed with a bit of a The Kinks, had me dancing in my seat and longing for the days when I would frequent basement punk rock shows.

I especially loved the distorted organ the band incorporates in many of the tracks on this album. I think it adds depth to the tracks and really thickens the sound of the album.  The second song on the album, which also happens to be the title track, is my favorite on this record.  “Second Coming” showcases the organ well and really highlights the lead vocals in a Stooges/Iggy Pop-like style. I could practically feel myself being pushed around in the mosh pit as I listened to this song.

Overall, I thought Second Coming was an excellent album. The band has managed to produce a punk rock album that stays true to its roots--while adding their own original touch--keeping the songs from sounding too mundane. Be sure to check out Second Coming (as well as some of the band’s older material) on their bandcamp page and keep an ear out for their next live appearance in the New England area.--Daniel McMahon

A Wilhelm Scream opens for Less Than Jake Sunday, Feb. 19 @ MIddle East Downstairs (SOLD OUT)

Less Than Jake will be playing a sold-out show this coming Sunday, February 19, at The Middle East Downstairs in Cambridge, MA with local hardcore punk rockers A Wilhelm Scream (pictured above).

Initially, I found myself a bit perplexed at the notion of Less Than Jake sharing a stage with a hardcore punk band such as Wilhelm, but then I realized how truly awesome that combination will be. Wilhelm has been playing hardcore music and steadily making a world-wide name for themselves for the better part of a decade (the band has toured internationally many times and will be embarking on another European tour in March). The band mixes punk and hardcore rhythms with a speed and intensity that is truly remarkable. Each of their records is full of complex riffs and technical perfection.

Less Than Jake is a band that needs little introduction. A popular ska/punk band for over two decades, they will certainly command attention when they take the stage Sunday night. Their use of trombone and sax really carries their songs, adding an extra blast of intensity to their distorted, punk influenced guitar riffs.

The show starts early, with doors at 6:30pm.--Daniel McMahon


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