Friday, October 31, 2008

Barcode: Drink

The first thing you'll notice about Drink, the new cocktail bar in Fort Point, is that you won't notice it at all. It's hidden in plain sight, in keeping with a Prohibition-era theme and history-minded approach.

But once you find your way into the basement-level, industrial-chic room, you may think you've wandered into the wrong place. With its flat, uncluttered workstation surfaces, mixing vials, and all manner of neatly arranged bartending instruments - not to mention the row of entomology dioramas against one wall - Drink looks more like a high school science lab than a traditional bar.

There's no bar mirror and no bottles in sight, just a large island counter top with pots of fresh herbs and a solitary bowl of fruit. If the tableau calls to mind a still life in the center of a chemistry experiment, that makes sense. Here, the approach to mixology walks the line between art and science.

There's an element of performance at work as well. "It's more of a stage," said bar manager John Gertsen, referring to the workstation where he presides, part showman, part history professor. You'll get equal measures of both when you take your seat at one of the six corner spots at the long, angular bar.

There's no menu, and the novel premise of Drink is to provide Gertsen and his top-shelf staff an opportunity to be creative and imaginative. Customers suggest spirits like audience members calling out scenarios in an improv club. The bartenders take it from there, crafting something to suit, or surprise, your palate. Don't be surprised by the 3-ounce pours or if you end up waiting a bit longer than you're used to. Both are easily forgivable perhaps, considering how the bar staff worries over each creation.

"I think the old drinks are the best ones," Gertsen told us on a busy Tuesday evening, chipping ice away from a clear, heavy block. "But I'm more than happy to do new stuff. I don't want to force my opinions on anyone. You know what they say about opinions. . ."

"Can you make us something that will make us like gin?" we asked.

It was a challenge easily handled. Perhaps appealing to our journalistic sentiment, The Hearst (bitters, sweet vermouth, gin, all drinks $10) was procured. "This was a favorite of William Randolph Hearst's newspapermen at the Hoffman House in Lower Manhattan," Gertsen explained. With surprisingly sweet vermouth, an even blend of Angostura and dark orange bitters, and a history lesson to boot, it was a work of art.

Or was it science?

Drink, 348 Congress St.,
Boston. 617-695-1806. www.drinkfortpoint.com.

Boston Globe


Previously on Lost (the band)

The millions of fans of ABC's hit television program "Lost" know how painful it can be to wait week to week in between episodes. Even worse are the seemingly interminable seasonal layoffs. The more hopelessly addicted among us may turn to reading recaps of past episodes online or listening to one of the many pod casts dedicated to the show, but even the most entertaining of those lack a certain creativity, and they certainly aren't much fun to dance and sing along too. But now we've got the Brooklyn based Previously on Lost, a band who play what they call "recap rock," to tide us over till season 5 begins.

So what is recap rock exactly, besides being "the future of entertainment as we know it," as vocalist as Adam Schatz puts it.

"Recap rock is jam packed with rhyme laden lyrics that allow us to tell the full story of every episode in each song," says the band's other vocalist Jeff Curtin. Writing and recording songs on the day after each episode last season, they incorporated plot elements and snippets of dialogue into songs like "Won't You Be My Constant" from the time traveling Desmond centric story. Elsewhere they echo familiar refrains from Lost lore: "The Island Won't Let You Die" begins with a screeching "Waaaalt!" lyric which will be instantly recognizable to the "Lost" fans. One of their favorite lines, Schatz says is "Locke seems to know when the storm's gonna halt. But he gets all of his secrets from taller ghost Walt."

Obviously there's a tongue cheek approach to these lyrics, the band's whimsical show tune musical style and some of the running critical commentary they inject into songs, but all in all it's a love letter to one of the best shows on tv.

"The songs are a jumble of gut reactions to the episode told in the style of Disney musicals and Frank Zappa," says Curtin. "Mostly we look to Cole Porter and Tin Pan Alley composers for lyrical style."

The live show is even wackier than that combo sounds. "When we perform live, the show is like a tropical island party with coconut sippy cups, hula girl cut-outs, leis for everyone and leisure suits."

Sounds like a lot more fun than that miserable island. "We never want to be rescued!" he says.

"We definitely enjoy taking one of the darkest shows on television and writing consistently poppy, positive, energetic songs about each episode," says Schatz. "Something great must be said for singing "Sayid, why you gotta make these people, die?" in a doo-wop style. It brings the show to life in new ways, and makes the audience feel a little better about some of the more terrible events that have occurred on the island. It's a tropical group therapy of sorts.

If the show doesn't return soon enough, some of the rabid fans may end up needing therapy. But don't worry, says Schatz. "Fans of 'Lost' across the globe need to know that we're here for them, ready and willing to recreate Season 4 before their very eyes and ears."

Boston Metro

Thursday, October 30, 2008

BASSNECTAR Dubstep, psychedelic bass, glitch, big beat, hip hop and everything in between collide on the floor tonight when California's Lorin Ashton, aka Bassnectar, bangs one out for the electronic heads and sound chasers. Scratch off everything on your genre to-dance list in one fell swoop. Nov 5. $15. 7 p.m. Paradise Rock Club, 967 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. 617-931-2000. www.ticketmaster.com

HALLOWEEN COSTUME BALL If the spirit of Halloween isn't enough to get you to go out and dress up, perhaps cold hard cash will do the trick? $500 goes to the best costume, while resident DJ influence spins top 40, mashups and old school. Oct 31. $10. 9 p.m. Gypsy Bar, 116 Boylston St., Boston. 617-482-7799. www.gypsybarboston.com

ICA MASKED You thought some of the art on display at the Institute of Contemporary Art was creative? Wait till you see the costumes. This fundraiser for the museum has live music, an open bar (with VIP tickets), and a candy bar. Now you don't even have to trick or treat to get your sugar. Oct 31. $50, $125. 9 p.m. ICA Boston, 100 Northern Ave., Boston. 617-478-3103. www.icaboston.org

FOUR STORIES Readings at book stores are great and all, but they usually don't have a DJ, cocktails, and a dimly lit, urban lounge atmosphere vibe. Just so happens you'll find all of that at this installment of Four Stories tonight when author Rebecca Goldstein and others read. See if you can pull off the rare reading while dancing double play. Nov 3. 7 p.m. The Enormous Room, 569 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. 617-491-5550. www.enormous.tv

HARD ROCK THE VOTE There may be no free handouts in politics (unless you're a giant bank), but tonight "real Americans" like us can at least get some free appetizers while we watch the election results. Comedian Jim McCue will try to keep the mood light. Half of us are definitely going to be miserable. Nov 4. Free. Rsvp required. 7 p.m. Hard Rock Café, 22-24 Clinton St, Boston. 617-424-7625. www.hardrock.com

Boston Globe

Look Daggers

LOOK DAGGERS
Suffer In Style
Keeping it real, literally

From a hip hop outfit featuring the musical direction of the always challenging Mars Volta's keyboardist Ikey Owens, you might expect an album of bloated experimentation. And while there are plenty of jazzy excursions here, like the herky jerky keyboard brass bounce of "That Look", the surprise is Suffer's engaging, pop-forward approach to a broad spectrum of genres. Exciting too is the mild-mannered but verbally dexterous and tuneful flow of emcee 2Mex of LA rap group Visionaries. Even more refreshing is the band's decision to record the album entirely with live instrumentation. It's the type of organic approach that bleeds through on "Call U Later" with its summer in the city vibe and chanted, and enchanting, soul chorus.
(Up Above Records; www.upabove.com)

Alternative Press

Friday, October 24, 2008

Barcode: Circle Plates and Lounge

What is it about exposed brick walls at bars? You could prop up a few taps and a pyramid of spirits against the collapsed husk of a wall in a desolate field and it would still end up being the coolest spot in the neighborhood.

Things are quite a bit more refined than that at Circle: Plates and Lounge, the new restaurant and bar in the South End's annex on the other side of Mass. Ave. The room is finished with striking red cloth bar stools and banquettes, exposed blue and red light bulbs, and a Spanish tile and smooth teakwood bar. It's the type of pleasing surface you'll want to run your hands over all night, and how often can you say that about a city bar?

The elaborate, far-reaching, and expertly designed cocktail menu, featuring a wide variety of fresh muddled fruits and labor-intensive mixes is the real draw, though.

The Blackberry Rum Runner (above, fresh blackberries muddled with Bacardi rum, banana liqueur, pineapple and orange juice, Sprite, $10) is emblematic of Circle's embrace of natural fruit ingredients. With its buoyant, pulpy consistency, the banana mellowed the tartness of the blackberries, and made this a seamless blend of unusual fruit partners. Meanwhile, The Dowry (mashed cherries, blueberries, and lime, Patrón tequila, maraschino liqueur, $10), an Impressionist painting in a glass, has so much flavor cascading through it that it will probably ruin the experience of drinking tequila with boring old lime forever.

Speaking of bold colors, the Tiger Rouge (cachaça, limoncello, Chambord, pineapple and lemon juice, raspberries, basil, dash of balsamic, $10) zings with a color rarely seen in cocktails. It's a romantic, deep pink of the sort we imagine unicorns dancing on at their magic weddings (OK, maybe we drank it too fast). But its taste was even more interesting, falling somewhere between a dinner salad - with the influence of the basil and balsamic - and a brunch fruit salad. Sounds unusual, but it works.

And that's just the beginning. Most of the time we struggle to find three or four drinks on a given list to spotlight. But at Circle the problem was narrowing it down from two dozen or so. We're going to have to go back 10 more times to try them all.

Circle: Plates and Lounge,
604 Columbus Ave., Boston.
617-247-2537.
www.circleplatesandlounge.com



Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Smoke the Vote

If eight years of George Bush's government-by-guts and the resilience of Sarah "Joe Six-Pack" Palin as a viable candidate for national office have taught us anything about ourselves, it's that Americans are deeply, unabashedly and unapologetically stupid. Oh, and that we're a group of infantile narcissists who need to vote for someone who reminds us of ourselves—our overly self-assured, intellectually incurious, magic-man-in-the-clouds-fearing selves.

You'll remember after his re-election how much fuss was made in the press about Bush's apparent affability and his seeming likeness to regular Americans, whatever that means. (Bud-guzzling clock-punchers from the heartland are apparently more "real" than us East Coast elites.) Wasn't Bush the candidate most people said they'd want to have a beer with? And since Palin's "golly jeez" approximation of some mythical Americana seems to be connecting with a significant segment of the voting population, perhaps it's time Barack Obama considered aligning himself with another group of real-deal Americans to push him over the hump in these last days before the election, because apparently there are still lingering questions about whether or not he thinks about America the same way "we" do. Perhaps it's time he shrugged off that pointy-headed elitist mantle and proved himself to be just like millions of average Joes out there. Joe Camels, to be exact.

Obama needs to start smoking again. Smoking hard, smoking often and smoking on camera. Ripping dukes, gunning butts, whatever you want to call it, he should be doing it. Forget the blue-collar vote, he needs to go after the black-lung vote. After all, nearly 50 million Americans smoke, according to the American Heart Association. That's a demographic that overshadows all of the others politicians routinely court. And since we all want to vote for someone just like us, it's a political no-brainer.

Think of it this way: Who would you rather step outside to burn one with, McCain or Obama? Bum a smoke off McCain? I don't think so.

Once a heavy smoker, Obama has been struggling over the course of the campaign to quit, reportedly relying on nicotine gum to break the habit. But if he's going to cut and run from cigarettes, how can we expect him to save us from the terrorists and the bogeyman and those who hate us for our freedom? Smoke on, I say.

Along with the millions of Americans who smoke regularly, presidents Jackson, Grant, McKinley, Harding, Hoover, Coolidge and Kennedy all regularly used tobacco. And we all know about Clinton's fondness for cigars. Tobacco is the quintessential American product, the crop on which our country's economy was founded, and if it's good enough for regular Americans and presidents alike, well then it should be good enough for Obama.

So if the voters insist on behaving stupidly—and what's more stupid than smoking?—Obama needs to come down to their level. The air isn't so rarefied down here. In fact, it's downright nasty. But if Obama knows what's good for him, he'll join in.

Unless, of course, he thinks he's better than us.

Weekly Dig

The Suburban Crawl

The outskirts are the new city!

Urban sprawl has hit Boston. The office parks studding Route 128 divert the flow of work traffic from the city, drawing businesses big and small, and with them, some pretty cool attractions. It's getting harder to tell where the city ends and the suburbs begin. So, contrary to popular misconception, heading out of the city for the day won't doom you to strip mall dystopias cluttered with Applebees. They've actually got some really nice Pizzeria Uno's out there, too.

Consider this an urbanite's guide, for those brave enough to tread beyond the boundaries of the metro area. Because there are a few places you'll want to check out, only half of which are overrun by bros in pleated khakis and Sox caps.

Maybe your view of the world is like that Saul Steinberg New Yorker cover—it begins around Allston/Brighton, then skips over to New Jersey and Long Island or whatever awful place you've left behind for college—so it's probably best to begin your exploration of the suburbs slowly, with nearby Newton. First off, the place is a bookworm's dream, with New England Mobile Book Fair [82-84 Needham St., Newton Highlands. 617.964.7440. nebookfair.com], an enormous warehouse of literature you can easily get lost in, and Newtonville Books [296 Walnut St., Newtonville. 617.244.6619. newtonvillebooks.com] boasts its ever popular Books and Brews series and readings from authors you've actually heard of, like Alice Hoffman, Tom Perrotta and Richard Russo.

If all that book learnin' works up an appetite, then score a table at 51 Lincoln [51 Lincoln St., Newton Highlands. 617.965.3100. 51lincolnnewton.com]. One of the best restaurants in the area, it's as good as anything Boston has to offer with its creative food and alcohol pairings, like crispy cornbread-battered shrimp and rosemary aioli with juniper rosemary gin.

The only thing better than gin is school pride, am I right? While college football may not be king in Massachusetts like it is in most other shitty states in the country, the old boys out at Boston College still pack 'em in on autumn Saturdays at the 44,000-plus capacity of Alumni Stadium [140 Comm. Ave., Chestnut Hill. 617.552.GOBC. bceagles.com].

A little further west, Wellesley offers up a similar sense of entitled affluence, but it's also crawling with wicked-smart, liberal do-gooders at the prestigious all-women's Wellesley College, so it's worth a visit for the cultural schizophrenia alone. Blue Ginger [583 Washington St., Wellesley. 781.283.5790. ming.com], the flagship restaurant of celebrity chef Ming Tsai's cooking empire, makes this a culinary destination for foodies all over. Meanwhile, Wellesley Booksmith [82 Central St., Wellesley. 781.431.1160. wellesleybooksmith.com] is another popular independent bookstore (yes, they still have those) in the area that hosts a worthwhile reading series.

Since you're practically already out there, artsy types could do worse than checking out The Center for the Arts in Natick [14 Summer St., Natick. 508.647.0097. natickarts.org] (you know it's classy because its website says ".org"). Concerts, family events, theater, art exhibitions and folk and poetry open mic nights bring together all the hippies in the Metro West area who've given up and moved to the 'burbs.

Driving a little further along the Mass. Pike will bring you to Framingham, which, uh, we're sure has ... uh ... some nice things to do.

Just northwest of the city, out along Route 2, the Lexington/Concord area has all manners of old-timey bullshit for the historically minded. The Minute Man National Historical Park [174 Liberty St., Concord. 978.369.6993. nps.gov/mima] is a beautiful, 937-acre reservation that was the sight of the infamous "shot heard round the world" (look it up). Like a lot of other sites of historical bloody conflict, it's a great place for a picnic! Besides being the site of Thoreau's seminal treatise, Walden Pond [915 Walden St., Concord. 978.369.3254. mass.gov/dcr/parks/walden] is a popular swimming area. A little too popular, actually. A number of other mostly undiscovered ponds dot the surrounding woods. We suggest seeking one of those out, unless you're inclined to drinking kids' urine by the gallon. Nearby, the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park [51 Sandy Pond Rd., Lincoln. 781.259.8355. decordova.org] displays its gorgeous collection of contemporary and modern art, focusing on regional work like the humorous, politically provocative sketches of Laylah Ali on display now.

Museums and parks are great, but it can be a little bit difficult to rock out there sometimes. For that you'll want to head south to Mansfield to the Comcast Center [885 South Main St., Mansfield. 617.931.2000. ticketmaster.com], one of Massachusetts' biggest rock and drunken parkinglot fight venues. With shows from Radiohead and R.E.M., to dad-rockers like Jimmy Buffett and rock radio festivals, there's a little something here for everyone. Everyone who likes to get blasted and sunburnt in the cheap seats, that is.

Only about five miles and 10 hours of traffic up the road, Gillette Stadium [One Patriot Place, Foxborough. gillettestadium.com] has been challenging Fenway Park for the title of New England sports mecca of late. But the newly built Patriots Place right around the way [One Patriots Place, Foxborough. patriot-place.com] offers all sorts of shopping, dining, comedy, theater and musical options for people who like to do their relaxing in the shadow of a hulking sports behemoth. It's also probably one of the only places you'll ever get to see awesome events listings juxtapositioned like this: 9/6/2008 Badfish a tribute to Sublime; 9/7/2008 Patriots vs. Chiefs.

Down on the South Shore, there are plenty more historical joints to visit. Quincy, the city famed as the birthplace of two American presidents, has the Adams National Historic Park [1250 Hancock St., Quincy. 617.770.1175. nps.gov/adam], where you'll get to see how that dude from the HBO series actually lived. Not to mention the USS Salem and US Naval Shipbuilding Museum [739 Washington St., Quincy. 617.479.7900. uss-salem.org], a quaint homage to our country's history of blowing things up in the water.

History of a different stripe (i.e., back when you didn't need to take out a second mortgage to go see a movie) can be experienced in Weymouth at the Cameo Theatre [14 Columbian St., South Weymouth. 781.335.2777. patriotcinemas.com]. A charming, small-town, two-screen cinema showing second-run and new-release films, they've got specials like "Economic Recovery Tuesdays" (no joke) where all screenings are $4.

Sitting inside a cramped theater is cool, but if you're more of an outdoors person, you may want to skip that and just hop a ferry from downtown Boston and shoot out to the Boston Harbor Islands National Park [617.223.8666. bostonislands.com]. The 34-island park has plenty of space for hiking, camping and picnicking. Plus, when you start getting nervous about being away from the city for so long, the view of the Boston skyline will reassure you that you aren't so far away.

Further down along the shore, the quaint town of Cohasset brings national tours and comedy acts to its charming South Shore Music Circus [130 Sohier St., Cohasset. 781.383.9850. themusiccircus.org]. The seasonal, intimate venue is a cute little spot to see nostalgic acts like the Beach Boys or Michael McDonald, or comedians like Jim Gaffigan, Brad Garrett and Artie Lang. Take your parents when they're in town visiting and go for dinner or stay at the Red Lion Inn [71 South Main St., Cohasset. 781.383.1704. redlioninn1704.com]. The building might be 300 years old, but thankfully, the menu isn't.

A little closer toward the Cape, towns like Marshfield and Duxbury are littered with beaches. Sure, most of them are rocky and the water will freeze your tits off, but there are gorgeous spots to be found. We're partial to Duxbury Beach [duxburybeach.com], with its rolling sand dunes and relative seclusion, and not just because we may or may not have done a lot of teenage making out there.

There's about 10 billion other destination spots for dining, music and more out there in the wild hinterlands. From Plymouth and the Cape to the North Shore towns of Salem and Gloucester, they're all worthy of day trips, and in these autumnal months, the drives on Routes 2 and 128 boast glorious views of both vivid leaves and towering office parks.

Weekly Dig

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tara Donovan

For the past year we've been amassing a collection of plastic cups and used toothpicks in the back seat of our car that has been threatening to take on a life of its own, and yet still no word from the MacArthur "Genius" Grant people. We'll check the mail again in a minute. Artist Tara Donovan, on the other hand, a recent recipient of that honor, seems to have done something right. In fairness though, her dazzling sculpture work utilizing every day household objects bares only the most superficial of resemblances to our trashy curation, and is vastly more imaginative. "Nebulous," a creeping, ghostly mist is made entirely of scotch tape. "Untitled (Styrofoam Cups)" is an amorphous, meteorological wonder. Elsewhere paper plates, buttons and toothpicks come together in awe-inspiring shapes. The exhibit runs through January 4. Gallery hours: Tue-Wed, Sat-Sun 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Thu-Fri, 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. $10-$12. ICA, 100 Northern Ave., Boston. 617-478-3103.

Boston Globe


Minus the Bear

Seattle's Minus the Bear have been soothing our souls and tickling our funny bones for years now with their complex, late nineties style of complex math-rock and wry, tongue in cheek lyrics. With guitars that clamber over one another in articulate vectors, melodies that hiss and soar like an army of helium balloons racing from the scene of a birthday party nightmare, and stuttering, danceable drums, tracks like "Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse" from their 2002 debut "Highly Refined Pirates" have been lulling, and lulzing, us for years. The band perform tonight. All ages. 7:30 p.m. $20. The Wilbur Theatre, 246 Tremont St., Boston. 617-931-2000. www.ticketmaster.com

Boston Globe

The Dears

Not content with taking over our comedy and acting industries, our friendly neighbors to the north have slowly been insinuating themselves into all other aspects of American pop culture over the past few years. Indie rock has been no exception. The Dears, out of Montreal, haven't made as big a splash yet, but it's probably inevitable. Their chiming, dark indie rock, all vast arrangements and moody atmosphere is well suited to our miserablist tastes. Damon Albarn fronting Radiohead anyone? It's not just a UK hipster daydream anymore. The Dears' new record "Missiles" is out today, and they perform tonight. 18+. 9 p.m. $15. Great Scott, 1222 Commonwealth Ave., Allston. 617-566-9014.www.greatscottboston.com

Boston Globe

Saosin

"You're Not Alone"

A lot of bands mine the eighties for guitar tones and synth sounds these days, but few manage to capture the self-empowering, completely un-ironic innocence of the stadium power ballads many of us grew up on. This may be the cheesiest song we've heard all year, but we can't stop playing it.

Hear it at www.myspace.com/saosin

Boston Globe

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Barcode: Pumpkin

A trip to the pumpkin patch

It's autumn, and that means it's time for one thing: pumpkins. Well, OK, maybe football first. Apples next, really. Back-to-school time, too. But then, then the thing about the pumpkins. So don't be surprised to find them in your drink.

The pumpkin-themed martinis we tried this week were as varied as the plump orange gourds dotting the fall fields. Some were of the unwanted, squishy-brown-spot variety, but others were so lovely we can imagine the Great Pumpkin flying throughout town delivering them to all the good boys and girls.

The most notable thing about Bella Luna's Pumpkin Pie (Goldschläger, Baileys, Kahlúa, pumpkin puree, light cream, nutmeg; $8), aside from its Thanksgiving-in-a-glass wholesomeness, is that it may well be the first classy use for Goldschläger we've ever seen. No mean feat there. "It's more like a dessert drink," said bar manager Thiago Souza, whose background in the kitchen inspired him to combine these disparate ingredients. Similar to a frothy eggnog, it's got a creamy seasonal mellow, but it packs a cinnamon schnapps kick. You can almost feel the golden flakes effervescing on your tongue.

Similar in style and effect, the Pumpkin Martini (chai liqueur, Stoli Vanilla, pumpkin puree, cinnamon; $12.50) at Prezza was as pleasant as pie. The graham cracker rim in particular had us licking the glass, while the vanilla flavor stood in for the melting scoop of ice cream we couldn't help imagining all throughout.

The Pumpkin Pie Martini (Ketel One vodka, pumpkin liquor, butterscotch schnapps; $13) at Avila, on the other hand, was more like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree of cocktails. Generally uninspiring and droopy, with an unappealing orange hue and a mostly buttery flavor, the drink wouldn't be recognizable as a pumpkin cocktail if not for the name and the little pumpkin candy corn at the bottom.

Bella Luna/Milky Way Lounge, 403-405 Centre St., Jamaica Plain. 617-524-6060. www.milkywayjp.com; Prezza, 24 Fleet St., Boston. 617-227-1577. www.prezza.com; Avila, 1 Charles St South., Boston. 617-267-4810. www.avilarestaurant.com

Boston Globe

Friday, October 17, 2008

Dennis Lehane

Say what you will about Boston, but we have a way of embracing our homegrown sons and daughters like nowhere else. It doesn't hurt when they're ridiculously successful and talented like our boy Dennis Lehane, who should probably just go ahead and have "author of best sellers 'Mystic River' and 'Gone, Baby, Gone'" affixed to his name. We're most excited about his work writing for the best television show ever made, "The Wire", for which he contributed some of our favorite episodes. He reads from his new work "The Given Day" tonight, a historical novel that finds him expanding his focus beyond the crime genre. 7 p.m. $5. Harvard Book Store at the First Parish Church Meetinghouse, 3 Church St., Cambridge. 617-661-1515. www.harvard.com

Hallelujah the Hills

"For people who haven't heard us," says Ryan Walsh of the eclectic Boston indie rockers Hallelujah the Hills, "I'd say our music tries to tell some interesting stories using the folk song format, the rock band genre, and wields just enough varying instruments to keep it rolling like a variety show though the same six people are always on stage." The band, who are close to finishing their second full length record, return tonight with their first headlining slot in months. What to expect? "We sing the songs, we spin the plates, we pull the rabbit from the hat." Now that's praise worthy. 18+. 9 p.m. $10. TT the Bear's, 10 Brookline St., Cambridge. 617-492-2327. www.ttthebears.com

Black Crowes

It's kind of a shame that for a generation of people the Black Crowes' Chris Robinson was known more for being the on again off again husband of that actress from all the mediocre romantic comedies. Robinson and company were actually one of the best live bands in the world throughout the nineties. Last spring the band returned from a hiatus with "Warpaint," their first album in seven years. From the sounds of songs like "Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution" the band hasn't lost a step in writing their trademark bluesy trad-rock jams. Not bad for a bunch of hippies. They lay down the groove tonight. 7:30 p.m. $32.50 - $52.50. Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston. 617-931-2000. www.ticketmaster.com

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Against Me!

Punk gets back to politics

With the prospect of an Obama victory becoming an increasingly likely possibility, one worries about the state of the politically charged, protest-punk band's muse. None more so, perhaps, than those punching the air Sunday night at the newly rock rejuvenated Wilbur Theatre. Although judging from the spitting fury Against Me! unleashed in front of a packed, all-ages crowd, they likely have ample stores of indignation, not to mention pop hooks, to carry them over through the hard times to come.

The black-clad, four-piece band, all ink and attitude, wasted little time before blasting into one of its unmistakable agitprop-pop singalongs, setting the crowd aflame with a roiling energy that didn't abate over the course of an hour-plus set. Speeding through concise, populist-power anthems, many drawn from the band's most recent release, "New Wave," the band seemed to feed off the energy of the people. And the proles were more than game, giving as good as they got, reaching toward the stage and squealing in delight from the far reaches of the mezzanine.

Frontman Tom Gabel's gravel-throated barking and chunky power-chord chops evinced a muscular fury; although it was tempered somewhat by the playful gang vocals his band, and the audience, supplied in many of the call-and-response numbers like "White People for Peace." The collective sincerity of the masses giving voice to Gabel's lyrics "Protest songs in a response to military aggression!/ Protest songs to try and stop the soldier's gun!" was almost enough to melt a cynic's heart. Joe Strummer would have been proud at any rate.

That song may well have served as the band's thesis for the night. Other highlights, including the contemplative "Stop," had the room pogoing and clapping along in time to its one-two-one-two marching bounce like they didn't have a care in the world.

In a set that alternated between blistering energy and white-hot explosiveness, some of the sound was muted by the towering ceiling of the stately theater; certainly this is the stuff of dingy basements and claustrophobic clubs. But the only sound that really mattered was the one beating in the heart of every audience members. Call it hope. Or something like it.

The ubiquitous Ted Leo stabbed his way through a set of sharp pop with his crack band, the Pharmacists. One part economical, hook-driven set, and one part shredding-guitar clinic, Leo and company riled the kids with his highly hummable discontent.

Boston Globe

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dr. Dog

A nice blend of magic and music

Dr. Dog

With Delta Spirit

At: Middle East Downstairs, Friday


CAMBRIDGE - Wheeling a rock band around from place to place requires no small expenditure of energy and imagination on its own. But conjuring a backwoods psychedelic landscape from thin air and plopping it square in the center of a new city night after night is an entirely different matter altogether.

Consider it, then, a testament to the transformative power of the music of Philadelphia's Dr. Dog, whose urban pastoral sketches manage just that. And this is before we even get to the sense of temporal displacement their songs engender.

Both styles of thaumaturgy were in the able band's employ on Friday night when they rolled a rickety wagon load of backward-looking, forward-thinking '60s soul pop and sunburned country into the Middle East Downstairs.

With their sharply disheveled, sunglasses-and-fedora-cowboy chic and charming, bow-legged, toe-tapping dance moves, band members rode a heady charge of pulsing organ and blasé synth brass on songs like "Worst Trip." Through the practiced art of pitch perfect imperfection, they spun feedback and harmony outward in kaleidoscopic wheels of sound.

The adoring (and extraordinarily pungent) sold-out crowd was captivated, a receptive congregation eager to be saved, and co-leads Toby Leaman on bass and Scott McMicken on guitar played the role of spirited preacher man with aplomb. Meanwhile the rest of the band sprinkled the room with a virtual bibliography of retrofitted musical motifs like handfuls of magic beans that twisted and gnarled as they thickened into dense vines of psychedelia.

Liberally embellishing songs with multipart harmonies, time-capsule guitar tones, and roiling keyboard punch as on the rousing "Ain't It Strange," Dr. Dog smuggled the burning spark of the Beatles' "White Album" eclecticism across the expanse of time and space. At other points the group pounded out a hurricane of '70s-era stadium funk; devolved into snazzy, screamy freak-outs; or flirted with blatant "Hey Jude"-isms on numbers like the crowd-pleasing "From."

San Diego's Delta Spirit impressed with a set of bluesy, soulful Americana, all chiming, pretty anthems that hinged on big dangling chord changes and forceful instrumentation. Most songs worked up to a feverish gallop while singer Matthew Vasquez ripped his way to the fore with a tortured but tuneful wail that suggested a young Dylan screaming himself hoarse. It was easy to see why these two history-mining bands worked so well together.

Boston Globe

"Pathways" by Brigitte Meier

With titles like "Nightmoths" and "Women and Children," the ceramic works of Massachusetts artist Brigitte Meier suggest the process of birth and are charged with life. But there's something disturbing about their cocoon-like presence and resemblance to headless fertility statues. All the same, there's a real sense of nature in these unnatural-seeming forms. Meier's companion drawings only enhance the sense of natural imbalance with their swirling, dense color abstractions. Both will be shown as part of "Pathways," which has an opening reception tonight. 6-10 p.m. (show up through Nov. 2) Free. Gallery at the Piano Factory, 791 Tremont St., Boston. 617-536-4783. www.galleryatthepianofactory.org

Boston Globe


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Barcode: Rendezvous

At Rendezvous, there's a respect for the history of the cocktail that supersedes stylish flash. There's also a touch of the poetic in bar manager Scott Holliday's naming process. The Boutonnière (apple brandy, French vermouth, elderflower liqueur, orange peel garnish; $9), a concoction of gentlemanly aromatics, was derived with its namesake in mind. "It's got a very complex floral and vegetal bouquet," explained Holliday, pouring the cocktail into one of Rendezvous's user-friendly stemless martini glasses on the low-to-the-ground bar. "It's like smelling a boutonnière." If only we could pin this to our lapel.

You can tell a lot about a bar from the quality of its garnishes. Here the orange was thick and fragrant, an actual addition to the cocktail as opposed to a dried-up afterthought. More bars should keep this in mind.

Rhum agricole, the basis of Le President (rhum agricole, dry vermouth, triple sec, grenadine; $11) is a type of rum made from sugar cane rather than molasses that comes from the island of Martinique. Despite the other sweetening ingredients, this is a hard-charging, alcohol-forward cocktail. The grenadine is made in-house from fresh pomegranate juice, and it makes a big difference. That's how grenadine was originally made, Holliday explained. "Now it's just red-tinted corn syrup."

Continuing his history lesson, Holliday presented the Mamie Taylor (scotch, ginger beer, lime; $9). "It was a cocktail fad in the 1890s, something like the mojito is today." The key here is the housemade ginger beer, a blend of ginger and citrus juices, light and dark sugars, and clove, cinnamon, and cardamom. Something like drinking a Christmas ginger cookie, it completely changed our opinion of scotch. That's the point, Holliday said. "I'm a little more interested in the underdog," he added. "Trying to get people who say they can't drink gin or scotch to enjoy it. I'm not trying to torture them, just challenge them." Mission accomplished.

Rendezvous, 502 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. 617-576-1900 www.rendezvouscentralsquare.com

Boston Globe

Alkaline Trio

Alkaline Trio on the ‘Agony and Irony’


It may have taken 10 years and six albums to get here, but with “Agony and Irony,” punk mainstays Alkaline Trio have finally got a major label record under their belts. About as accurate a titular shorthand for their style as it gets, the record is packed with the requisite hooks and dark subject matter fans have come to expect as the band smuggles sinister little packages of angst dressed up as buoyant pop punk through the sing-along gates. Guitarist and vocalist Matt Skiba says because the band has worked so well independently, they’re afforded freedom on the majors. “With everything we do as a band we get to call the shots,” he says, “and we’ve always done everything by our own standards.”

When the new album came out this summer you achieved your highest rank on the charts.
Yeah, it was great. If you’re not going to be No. 1, No. 13 is almost as good. I think 13 is good luck. It’s the first time we broke the top 20, so there has to be something lucky about that.

After a decade, you guys are a veteran punk band now, right? Does that title mean anything to you?
I think it’s cool that some people think that. To me it’s people from a different age bracket that say that. To me, I would consider the Ramones and the Damned, and later on down the road bands like TSOL and Bad Religion and the Circle Jerks to carry that title more accurately. But I’m flattered that people think we’re veterans. We’ve been doing it for 10 years and it’s gone by very quickly, and I still feel very young, so I don’t feel like much of a veteran.

You set some pretty dark song themes to poppy choruses. Do you find something cathartic in that contradiction?
I think having a dark theme that you can sing along to is good for people. It’s good for me. I still love the Misfits and the Damned. That music is hooky as hell. Same thing with TSOL, and they’re talking about digging up bodies and having sex with them, and you can sing along to that! Our stuff is a little bit more personal. It’s definitely cathartic, I think. People who have fallen in love with the band, just from what they’ve told me, they love to be able to sing along to something that they feel the same way about, or at least can relate to.

When you were young were you less open to influences?
I was pretty unidirectional as far as my tastes were concerned. I was really into punk rock. I’m like a product of the MTV generation, so a lot of the early bands like Def Leppard, Van Halen and Twisted Sister, the pop metal that was on the radio and TV, I grew up on that. But when I discovered punk rock that’s where all my love went to. ... But that’s changed drastically since 20 years ago.

Boston Metro

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Two buffs, one guy

Rabid enthusiasm for both homegrown sports and music

It's the middle of the week, late August, and I spot a couple of friends by the door when I rush into the bar. "So," one of them asks immediately, "who are your keepers going to be this year?"

He's talking about fantasy football, of course. I've got Tom Brady, and I'm feeling pretty good, oblivious to the calamity that will change everything next week. We all turn to the game on TV. Sox are losing. Shit. A minute later, the local indie band we'd all come to see kicks into some Bowie-style glam rock, and we move closer to the stage. I keep one eye trained on the TV in the back of the room though, and for the next 45 minutes I stand there, swaying back and forth to the music, conscious of the Sox's dwindling prospects. I'm straddling the fence—eyeliner-wearing rockers on one side, beefed-up pro athletes on the other—and it couldn't feel more natural to be caught in the middle.

Like a surprising number of this city's indie rock fans, I'm also a huge sports nerd.

But wait a minute, isn't that a little weird? It's something that occurred to me at the season-opening barbeque for my fantasy football league. You're thinking maybe a group of back-slapping, brawny meatheads trading Anchorman quotes between bites of buffalo wings, right? Actually, we spent more time talking about the new Oasis and Verve records and planning which shows we were going to check out that week, because the league is stacked, somewhat incongruously, with local band types, DJs, club promoters and music journalists.

Fantasy football, for those of you not among the millions of football fans out there who are participating in increasing numbers every year, is basically like a sports-focused version of a multiplayer online role-playing game. But instead of, say, collecting magic powers and swords or whatever with your level 3 wizard, you're collecting touchdowns and field goals earned by real life NFL players you've drafted into a team. If my starting quarterback, Brett Favre (grabbed him after Brady went down), throws six touchdowns in a game, for example, I get a point value assigned to each score. And every week, I pit my collection of players against one of the other teams in my league, accumulating points that result in either victory or defeat against the other team. So, in other words, it's dork central.


But it still revolves around football, the antithesis of all things cerebral, interesting and tasteful. How can the culture of sports, one completely devoid of irony, one that engenders garish displays of overconsumption and aggressive "manhood," fit hand in hand in a big gay marriage with indie rock, as it does in my league?

Well, in Boston, how can it not? Sports and music obsession are two of our biggest exports.

Zack Wells, guitarist for The Information and The Fatal Flaw (fantasy football team name: Somerville Asspirates; record: 2-3), points out that the Celtics, Red Sox and Patriots made it to the finals all throughout the 1980s when most of the Boston rock scene was growing up, and that that sense of victory might be what's given sports what he calls "more prominence in our nostalgic mental slideshow."

"Most people who grew up in Boston, athletic or not, were sports fans," Wells says. "Or at least they were heavily exposed to it growing up and it was very important to at least one person in their family. Those sorts of things stay with you, even if you hate it, it's a part of your life."

Leo Crowley (team name: Sneaky Chinaman Piedouche Wot Limps; record: 2-1), who works for folk artist Josh Ritter, thinks fandom easily translates across genres, especially during childhood. "I think most of us spent countless afternoons in the backyard pretending to be Walter Payton or Jim Rice or Larry Bird," he says. "Later, when we started playing guitar and dreaming about being Kurt Cobain or Tom Petty or whoever, we simply added that activity and those dreams to our pre-existing interests. Maybe we pretended not to care that much about sports for a while in high school ... or maybe our newfound love of music pushed our love of sports into the background. But for me, eventually, an equilibrium was reached."

It's an equilibrium that many members of my fantasy league, and a few other music and sports-conscious types around town, refer to a lot. While there may be a general consensus that being in a band or working at a club or writing about music doesn't mix with sports fandom in a lot of other cities, in Boston, these pastimes meld easily.

Wells thinks that these music aficionados of our fantasy league—which also includes Carl Lavin, talent booker at Great Scott; Paul Driscoll of WFNX; Michael Marotta, promoter of the Pill dance night and Boston Herald music critic; and Jake Zavracky of the band The Cyanide Valentine—are similar to your average sports fan.

"Even if you love Morrissey and get all emo to the The Smiths with your lady, you still love watching some guy get his head taken off or a 60-yard bomb to Randy Moss," he says. "Football and music are very similar in their emotion, precision, and ability to offer many things to many people. At a show or a Pats game, you can cheer and yell with strangers and can all be connected to something bigger than yourself, but still feel like it is yours."

But is it only in Boston that we think this way?

Paul Driscoll (team name: Brighton Yellowjackets; record: 2-3), grew up a fan of his native Philly teams. "I think Boston, LA and Philadelphia are cities where music and sports are very connected," says Driscoll. "But Boston leads the way by far."

Carl Lavin (team name: Anno 1844; record: 2-3] agrees. "I would imagine that it's really difficult to be a person of any profession to live in Boston and be less than conversationally literate about at least the Red Sox," he says. "Having come of age as a sports fan in San Antonio and remaining a diehard fan of the Spurs, the difference in the passion and involvement of the region is striking. Sports have completely dominated Boston's cultural psyche."

Eli Anderson—talent buyer at the Seattle rock club The Crocodile—stepped through the looking glass when he recently lived in Boston for a short time. "In Seattle, sports buffs and music enthusiasts are very different breeds. I don't see a ton of reasons why the two should be so mutually exclusive," says Anderson. "They both inspire the same kind of rabid, hyper-detailed fandom. They both cultivate the overbearing 'expert' that resides deep within the minds of all über-fans."

Perhaps it's the success of our teams that breeds the crossover, he suggests. "I can't help but wonder if sports and music would overlap more in Seattle if we had more successful franchises," he says. "It's hard to get casual sports fans excited about the kind of rampant mediocrity that rules the roost out here ... When I used to work at the Great Scott, we'd always have the Sox game on in the bar area while the bands were playing. Occasionally, the crowd cheering on the Sox would be louder than the crowd cheering on the band. I can't think of an equivalent situation in Seattle. If you want to watch the football game on Sunday, you have to go to one kind of bar, and then if you want to go to a place with bands or a cool jukebox, you have to go to another kind of place."

But Boston is different. Tom Kielty, a Boston music journalist and sports junkie, cites the example of Hot Stove, Cool Music, a local charity concert series run by baseball's Peter Gammons that brings the worlds of sports and rock together like nowhere else. At their biannual concerts, Boston rock luminaries share the stage with local sports heroes. It's a surprisingly harmonious match. "Hot Stove is unique in that you have active participants in the Red Sox success who also play and love music," Kielty says. "I don't know that there are very many baseball GMs who play guitar well enough to sit in with Pearl Jam the way Theo Epstein did, or 15 game-winning pitchers who enjoy singing as much as Bronson Arroyo does."

The Hot Stove phenomenon, pulling Boston music stalwarts like Bill Janovitz and Kay Hanley right into the center of the sports world, is a pretty fertile metaphor for the overlap here in town. And that's before we even consider the success the Dropkick Murphys have had with their Red Sox- and Bruins-themed songs.

It's something Mark Kates—the local independent record label Fenway Recordings' honcho, and as big a sports fan as you'll meet—points to as evidence of our peculiar love affair. "Peter Gammons always says that Hot Stove could only happen in Boston," he says. "It has less to do with the musicians being into sports than the athletes being into music ... But there is a definite mutual interest in the other side, and I have gotten to know a number of athletes over the years through their love of music."

That sports and music overlap can create problems, though. "I find myself trying not to make too many plans this time of year until more is known about the playoff schedule," says Kates. "I can honestly say that we have had second thoughts about some Fenway Recordings Sessions shows on nights of Sox-Yankees games, for example. I doubt that is ever a factor in New York City."

It's a tricky line to walk, one even further complicated by the wealth of big games we've had to deal with in every sports season these past few years. "We had to delay the Love Is All show [at Great Scott] until Game 5 of the Lakers-Celtics series was over, because it was close and almost everyone in the club wanted to watch the Celtics clinch," says Lavin. "They ended up losing, and this Swedish band that was patient enough to delay their set for about 20 minutes until the game was final, now got to be the soundtrack for fan frustration."

Driscoll had a similar experience at the Middle East four years ago. "The band had the venue set up two TVs because the Sox were playing game 2 of the ALCS," he says. "In between songs, the band kept asking for game updates."

Sports simply aren't seen as the bastion of the square, uncool jocks they once were, says Wells' bandmate Max Fresen (team name: Mt. Vernon Villains; record: 1-4). "The last 20 years of ESPN and white-people-co-opting-black-culture have so radically changed the way that we consume sports that the stigma of being a sports fan has melted away," he says. "The presentation of the material has become so much more hip, immediate and ubiquitous, thereby allowing even the freaks and geeks or punks or whatever to get into it as kids, without getting strange looks from peers."

In the meantime, reasonable sports and music fans seem to be at peace with their coexistence within the same city, and usually within the same person. It's an alliance that seems likely to stick, as long as there is, of course, a different group of assholes to shift our scorn onto.

"Being a 'big sports fan' in the sense of a guy who gets dressed up and goes to games or parties in full regalia is definitely still a stigma because that behavior is reflective of the 'old' style of fandom," says Fresen. "It's the douchey, meathead, guys-who-like-strippers way of doing things."

There are still rules, after all.


Weekly Dig

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

BEN FOLDS

Way To Normal
Breakups and crackups
The piano-pounding poet laureate of broken hearted ironists everywhere,
Folds runs the gamut of his multi-faceted musical career on his third solo album. He screams himself horse on the punky "Dr. Yang" a slamming wall of drums and crashing piano that makes up in incongruous power what it lacks in his usual happy-go-sadly piano pop tunefulness. "You Don't Know Me" is an bell-jingling bounce with string riffs darting through the cracks of one of his reliably biting and poignant break up deconstructions. The playful instrumentation and flirtation between Folds and guest vocalist Regina Spektor (And by the way, why didn't anyone think of this dream match up before?) stand in stark contrast to the bitter lyric. How many breakups can one man manage in a lifetime anyway? Another one shows up on "Before Cologne," a lilting, downtrodden piano and cello ballad that builds to a resounding climax of strings and catharsis. Even here Folds can't help but crack wise, working in a line about the infamously scorned astronaut mistress in adult diapers. It's a handy metaphor for the record, and Folds in general: obsessed with love but with a careful eye for the absurd, humanizing details. (Epic Records; www.epicrecords.com)

Rocks Like: Rufus Wainwright, Poses; Ben Folds Five, Whatever And Ever Amen; Regina Spektor, Soviet Kitsch

*****

Ben Folds Interview

You've done a lot of collaborations over the years, like "You Don't Know Me" with Regina Spektor on this album. Who have you learned the most from that you were surprised by?

I didn't really know Regina before, so collaborating could have been tough, but once she got there obviously not. We're like-minded musicians, really. Working with just about anybody will teach you something. The William Shatner album that I did, that taught me a lot really. Some of it musical as well. He's not literally musical, but there's something inherently musical about him, and it teaches you not to mess with things really. I could have messed with his timing, for instance, and when I would try to do that he just wasn't as good, so there was something musically intelligent in his method that he probably wasn't aware of either.

Ben Lee said you when I asked him that question.

Working with the Bens was the same way. The thing with them that was kind of cool was none of us are virtuosos in any category. It wasn't like bringing Beyonce in or something to be the secret weapon [laughs]. But everyone was really good.
Ben Lee, you don't say, 'Ah! He's the supreme singer of male vocalists!' but he nails it.

You write a lot about breakups, but you still keep a sense of humor about it. Do the humorous details only occur to you in retrospect?

Sometimes it takes a little while to see the funny side to things, but that's kind of the way I deal with things in general. Stuff is not as sad to me unless there's some effort to try to divert it, and if you're putting in the effort to divert from the seriousness, that means you're trying to deal with it. To me that's sadder sometimes.

Are you more of a wise ass or lovelorn type of guy in every day life?

Maybe both. I'm not on, performing all day, doing stunts and pranks or anything like that [laughs].

You really fell off the stage in Japan like in the song "Hiroshima," right?

It was such a surprise! It was quasi-serious, people's brains bleed from shit like that and they die. I could tell I was hurt pretty badly, and I didn't get well quickly either…I just walked out, and it was darker than usual and the stage was really small…As soon as I got to the front of the piano I went straight off the stage and fell about five feet on my head…But I played the whole show. I was bleeding all over the piano.

Alternative Press

THE PINK SPIDERS

Sweat It Out
Romantic Costello Blues
Like any other genre, power pop has a set of rules. Most were laid down by bands like The Cars in the eighties (whose Rick Ocasek produced a previous effort) and carried into the present by Weezer (who must have produced much of the band's musical outlook). To their credit, the
Spiders have mastered all of them, from harmonizing in drawn-out "oohs" and "ahhs" in the background vocals, to stomping piano riffs, crunching buzz saw guitars, saccharine vocal hooks, pleading three part harmonies, new wave keyboards pushing half-time choruses and light weight lyrics about girls. Congratulations, team, you've earned your black belts in power pop! But depending on what mood you're in that day the familiar tropes of the genre can either come off as tried and true or clichéd here. Opinions are probably going to be split evenly on this one. For every moment of sheer exuberant energy like "Gimme Chemicals" and sticky sweet teen power pop like "Seventeen Candles" there are songs where the band, hyped up on the rush of their own admittedly rousing, infectious energy, seem to lose control of the wheel. Then again, when you're driving a high-octane ride like this, that's bound to happen from time to time. (Mean Buzz Records / Adrenaline Music; www.adrenalinemusicgroup.com)

Rocks Like: Sloan, Navy Blues; The Fratellis, Costello Music; Exploding Hearts, Guitar Romantics

Alternative Press

THE SEA AND CAKE

Car Alarm
Salon soundtrack
Over the course of seven albums fans have come to expect a few things from Chicago's The
Sea and Cake (all of which must also be alluded to in reviews of their albums): post-rock inflections, electronic embellishments, artfully designed arrangements and time changes, and the sighing vocals and breathy phrasing of guitarist/vocalist Sam Prekop. And true to form, the band deliver yet again. Tracks like the vibrant, upbeat lounge pop of "Weekend" strike painterly poses with galloping drum rolls and twittering sonic glitches, while "Aerial" flirts with actual heavy riffage before evening out into the maximum mellow of their patented boutique bounce. There's little here we haven't heard before on albums like 2000' mesmerizing come down effort Oui, but there's a comfort and warmth in the embrace of familiarity, and Prekop and company tease it out in threads of jazzy silk. (Thrill Jockey Records; www.thrilljockey.com)

Alternative Press

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mary Kate O'Neil

"Green Street"

The New York City folk pop artist channels Aimee Mann in voice and her big band instrumentation choices in this elegy for a friend who, horror of horrors, moved to the suburbs. Plus, We're suckers for any song that name drops Storrow Drive.

Listen here

Boston Globe

Barcode: Huckleberries

Huckleberry Finn we've heard of. Huckleberry Hound too. And we saw "Tombstone" so many times in college that Val Kilmer's iconic "I'm your huckleberry" line still resonates in our hero fantasies, even though we've never really known what it means. But as for the actual thing, we've somehow managed to go 30 years without ever trying a huckleberry. Which is why we were so excited to see them turn up on the drink list at Beacon Hill Bistro last week.

Like most food-related things worthy of getting excited about, this one can be chalked up to dear old mom's influence."My mother used to make huckleberry pie, ice cream, and all sorts of other stuff from berries that we picked," said bartender Stewart Bishop, who grew up in northwestern Montana. "I guess I was sort of missing the flavor."

The nostalgia takes shape in two cocktails that utilize huckleberry-infused vodka. A few sips into the Bramble (muddled blueberries, sour, huckleberry vodka, blueberry garnish; $11) and we were almost wishing we'd grown up in Montana ourselves. The mildly tart and all-natural fruit goodness had us lost in a pastoral daydream in which we swam, bathed, and washed our clothes in rivers of this dark nectar of the gods.

The Finn (pear cognac, orange juice, simple syrup, huckleberry vodka; $11) put the infusion to good use as well. Pear has such a strong flavor that it can often overpower other ingredients, and it certainly stood out here, but the huckleberries' tightening effect reigned in this Sidecar-style cocktail from wandering too far into the sweet wilderness.

Either one were more than good enough for mischievous Southern adventurers, laidback cartoon dogs, old west gunfighters, or just thirsty bargoers like us.

Beacon Hill Bistro, 25 Charles St., Boston. 617-723-1133. www.beaconhillhotel.com

Boston Globe

Monday Events

MUSIC
It may seem like the type of post-rock that Stereolab have perfected since their inception almost twenty years ago in London has always been with us, but it's easy to forget just how revolutionary their sound seemed at the time. Combining disparate elements of krautrock and sixties big band pop with experimental trappings, their aesthetic coalesced into a sort of radical lounge style that provokes as well as it soothes. Their moog heavy sound and lyrics sung in both French and English, not to mention their heady philosophical lyrical themes, have made them favorites of the hipster cognoscenti over the course of some nine albums, including the most recent "Chemical Chords." They perform tonight. 18 +. 7 p.m. $22. The Paradise, 967 Commonwealth Ave. 617-931-2000. www.ticketmaster.com

SPORTS
Sometimes it seems like you could go a whole ten minutes in Boston without someone pontificating about the good old days and the game of baseball's lengthy and proud history. In case you find yourself in one of those ruts you might want to check out this new exhibit at the Bank of America Gallery called "The Art of the Game: Aesthetics of Baseball, America's Pastime." Running through October 13, the show, featuring work from notable artists like Claes Oldenburg and Robert Rauschenberg, takes a multi-media approach to the game with painting, sculpture, photography and prints of old timey dudes like Babe Ruth, who we're assuming was some sort of sportsman. Mon - Fri, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Bank of America Gallery, 100 Federal St., Boston.

DINING
Since we're right here in the middle of the Northeastern Elite territory, it makes sense that a lot of us pointy-headed professor types would speak French. But there aren't always enough opportunities to flex our francophone skills in every day conversation with the regular folks who only speak American, aka Freedom Talk . Tonight at "Table Française" at Petit Robert Bistro we'll get to take part in a complete French immersion with the French Library Alliance Française. French cuisine and discussion in French. The very concept will probably make John McCain's head explode. All the more reason to check it out. 6:30 p.m. $50 prix fixe menu. Rsvp required. Petit Robert Bistro, 468 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. 617-375-0699. www.petitrobertbistro.com

Wednesday
MUSIC
We hate it when some of our favorite bands break up, but when they combine into one super-powered robot of awesomeness with members of other bands we like… well that's about as cool as it gets. So it goes with members of the late screamy punks Read Yellow who've joined forces with rocker Jake Brennan and hip hop party starters Big Digits to form Bogeda Girls. A sexy and sweaty mashup of styles, their electro clash bangers like "She's Into Black Guys" should have the dance crowd at Middle Sex writhing on the floor. The band performs then hits the DJ decks for a decadent dance party on Wednesday. 21+. 9 p.m. Free. Middlesex Lounge, 315 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. 617-868-6739. www.middlesexlounge.com

Boston Globe

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Thursday Events

NIGHTLIFE
Oct. 2 Now that two of Boston's hottest DJs Die Young and Baltimoroder are releasing a split ep on Dopamine Records, you can bring their club bangers home and throw your own dance party. Then again you'd be missing out on all the heaving crowd thump and no one would be there to take photos of your runny mascara. Better check out the release party with a set from Die Young tonight jik. 21+. 9 p.m. Free. Middlesex Lounge, 315 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. 617-868-6739. www.middlesexlounge.com

DINING/DRINKING
Oct. 2-3 October, they say, is the drinking-est month. This weekend we'll put that notion to the test with Harpoon Brewery's 19th Annual Octoberfest. There are more and more Octoberfest events to choose from every year -- it's like Halloween, but we don't have to pretend the drinking isn't the primary motivation -- but this is one of the best. German food, music (Oompa bands anyone?) and local beer. 21 +. Friday, 5:30 p.m. - 11 p.m., Saturday 2 p.m. - 9 p.m. $15. Harpoon Brewery, 306 Northern Ave., Boston. 617-574-9551. www.harpoonbrewery.com

MUSIC
Oct. 2 We hope no one's planning on going online after this show tonight. Expect slow service when every single audience member will be blogging their brains out about how awesome it was. Two of the inter-tubes' golden calves, the new wave, Cure-light The Black Kids, and aloof fashion plates and Strokes-victims The Virgins perform. 18+. 8 p.m. $17. The Paradise, 967 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. 617-931-2000. www.ticketmaster.com

Boston Globe