Thursday December 14th 2017

Cheech / The McGunks / Red Mantis / Phil McCaffrey


Cheech / The McGunks / Red Mantis / Phil McCaffrey
Midway Cafe, Jamaica Plain, MA          11/18/17


Today is like going to Providence for me and that’s because all the bands playing are from there, or have some connection, as many of the fans do as well, here today.

I hardly ever make it to that city anymore, too many shows happening closer and I’m older and lazier. But in the beginning days of TNB I remember going, constantly, to Firehouse 13 (recently closed) to see many Sunday hardcore matinees.

And when I walk in today I’m surprised to find Phil McCaffrey on stage, doing a solo acoustic show. Actually, his wife had to inform me, as I didn’t recognize who it was.

But I know Phil, first as a member of the McGunks- who are playing today. Second as the singer and main songwriter of The Doll Eyes, one of my favorite bands a few years back and finally, as one of the best songwriters in this area.

He does several covers today- “Downtown Train” done Tom Waits style, “Do You Think I’m Sexy” done Rod Stewart style. (Editors note: That last song was not played, we apologize and the writer of this review has been sent to bed without supper). “Whiskey In A Bottle,” a McGunks tune and he ends with a country blues take on “Dead Flowers” by the Stones.

It was a pleasant surprise to hear from him today and I can only hope we hear more from him, soon.

Red Mantis is next and I know they’re poised to knock down the walls with their powerful mix of metal and hardcore. Their songs either, seemingly breeze by in a moment or create a thunderous, headbanging groove.

The female drummer, Amy, I’ve seen play drums in less challenging bands- but here I feel she plays more confidently, knowing this is a band whose style fits more her own taste, causing her to play the best I’ve ever seen her play.

But the whole band is solid, moving the barriers of metal and hardcore towards a place that is more innovative and potent.

My favorite song by them today is called “Biffle” and I’m pleased as punch to hear it’s from their next upcoming release. They end with “Tomorrow’s End”, a song from their excellent, first EP. And they end their great set with all aware that- walls were knocked down, obliterated and, in some cases, crashing into the street! (Hazmat arrives shortly after).

The McGunks are up next who play punk’n’roll, think of The Stones and AC/DC mixed with The Ramones and Stiff Little Fingers. They play this style, exceptionally well, and I’ve always considered them one of the best live bands we cover.

Before the set, Bob McGunk, the singer/songwriter of the band and Bobby, the drummer, compliment me on my review of their latest album.

I tell them, truthfully, it’s one of the best albums/EP’s I’ve reviewed this year and certainly their best.

I explain it’s part of my “Paul Westerberg Theory” meaning- at some point songwriters feel the need to mature. The tales of getting drunk and getting laid have been sung, many times, and they find themselves with a forum to actually express themselves. That’s when the great writing arrives and to me, that’s what this last album was and to great results!

The second song they play is “Monday Morning” the dismal but true take of waking up after a weekend of debauchery. They do several songs from their last album “Basement Anthems” while the band slams along with bouncing surf beats, crashing power chords and, in the lyrics, the heart and beat of city living filled with all it’s anguish and joys.

My favorite song “Tire Fire” is also, like Red Mantis, from their next release, a song that was supposed to be upbeat but fell to cruel reality when the writer, Bob, felt he had to stay true to the plot. (When you write it’s not all happy endings).

The McGunks end their set with a cover of The Isley Brothers fifties classic “Shout”. And if you think that’s uncool then take a seat with the placid, flaccid emo boys- ’cause this is a pure punk, true rock’n’roll band. And their songs are filled with poignant, heartfelt songwriting and passionate playing- just like the set I’ve just observed, my favorite of the day.

Cheech is the last band to play and though I think of them as a revered, Rhode Island National Treasure- on the internet it refers to them as “Cheech-Boston.” But as Andy and I know, we’re so close in distance from Providence, aren’t we really a part of the same scene?

I know this band to be a very good, metal band that works somewhat, in the traditional metal style but with some hardcore/death vocals and a lot of thrash energy that always makes me think of Motorhead when I see them.

This may not be a cutting edge band but this is one that always delivers a powerfully, pulverizing, energized set that packs a wallop and leaves the wimpy, indi boys crying in their sleeves.

They’ve brought many believers here tonight and like The Monkees said once, perhaps more eloquently, “I’m a believer, too.”

I just remembered what I was talking with Bob McGunk about earlier, it was about writing. I find there’s no difference between writing a novel, a play, a poem, a song or a music review. They all use words to express just like any musical genre uses notes to express.

I find guts, truth, passion to be just the same- if you’re at the end of a pen or a computer keyboard or a guitar pick or a drum stick or just your ears taking it all in- you’re all part of the picture.

And to me this picture looks perfect, some might even call it art.


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