Keith Brooks Tribute Show
Dot Rats / Straphangers / Cheech / Word Of Truth / Reason Enough / The Struggle
Midway Cafe, Jamaica Plain, MA 5/21/16
This will be the first show of three that I will see of the five shows that are part of the benefit for the Emma Fund (Keith Brooks tribute.) I’ve got a bit to say as I always do. But what I thought was said best was in our tribute to him, where I said nothing (just a coincidence, I’m sure) but folks wrote about their remembrances of him. Either way, please check this out before reading my review of the show.
The Struggle leads off the show today and though I don’t believe Keith ever had the chance to book them, as they are fairly new, I have no doubt that he would’ve liked to. This band has several veterans of Boston hardcore/punk bands filled with, of course, disreputable citizens.
They start their old-school hardcore set, that totally rocks out, with “Get Off My Lawn,” an original and they end with a cover of Ganggreen’s “Alcohol.” And as I begin my journey of 21 bands in the next 28 hours, I feel I’m seeing the best new hardcore band of the year.
Reason Enough is the next band to play and they’re from a small town called New York. The first thing I notice, besides my fly’s unzipped, is they’re similar to Dot Rats, who are playing later, as they too have two rapper/vocalist backed by a band and play a style of rap/punk/hardcore.
The highlight of their set is when they play a cover by Blood For Blood, a favorite I’m told of Keith’s, and the mosh-pit explodes with Ray Finkle and others partaking. The energy of the show is starting to pick up with another great set.
Word Of Truth is the next band to take the stage. Led by Sean on bass and vocals, he also was the one who organized this show. Sometimes when this band plays they have their lead singer, who is quite capable, but often they have to play as a trio which is the case today.
Truth be told, I do like them better without him only because they have to revert to early songs in their long history. And their early style was simple, straight ahead, no frills hardcore.
The songs they play today are short, brutal with abrupt endings and no extra trimmings. I say to Mike, who is a huge fan of theirs, that this is as if, The Ramones started as a hardcore band instead of as a punk one, and he totally agrees.
They play a couple of my favorite songs, “Kill The Dealer” and “White Irish Bastard” and will end up playing my favorite set of this early show.
Before Cheech play, we have Nicky, the young bassist from BarRoom Heroes play a rendition of “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes! And it’s truly, a solemn and meaningful experience. And thanks to mom/manager Carrie for contributing so much towards this show.
Cheech are set to play with Chris from Words Of Truth, playing double-time sitting in on drums. This is a Providence band and the kind of band that Keith loved. I think of them more as metal or thrash/hardcore but with the energy and hardcore vocals- am I just splitting hairs?
They play a powerful, potent set and end with a Sheer Terror cover that ignites the mosh-pit as that band was another favorite of Keith’s.
The next band is a New York band, Straphangers, a band that I feel veers more toward metal than punk but still has that underlying thrash/hardcore vibe within them. What’s unique about them is they have a female singer and one of the guitarists is also of the fairer sex (ladies, why can I not type the end of that last line without chuckling?)
They’ve long been a favorite of Andy’s and mine, a very original and good band, but one we haven’t seen for a few years now.
So they turn in an intense, lurching, exciting set and don’t disappoint as I was looking forward so much in hearing them again.
After the set I approach Sean to thank him for bringing this band back to Boston.
“Well, this is the band I knew I had to get for this show,” he says to me. Let me excerpt that I know Sean as a religious man and I’m sure that he has no doubt that Keith is here with us today. “Keith’s first show he ever booked, was at the Midway, and Straphangers was on that show,” he continues. “But he could never hook up with them again. Due to cancellations or dates, they were his Holy Grail. So I knew that I had to get them for him.”
I go up to Emily the lead singer of the band that just played and relay this story. I’m kind of choking up and I can tell by her reaction that they were unaware of this as Sean didn’t tell them. But I do know now, that this will be my best story of the weekend.
Dot Rats is up to take it out. To us they’re the “Daught Rats” but for the New York gang I guess they’re “Dort Rats.” This is another favorite band I haven’t seen for awhile and I’m psyched! And since Keith was a South Boston townie he loved and could relate to this Dorchester crew.
And though they play a style of rap/hardcore, one that is not my favorite style, they play with such a punk attitude that I’m won over each time I see them. With an awesome metal like rhythm section and guitarist and two rappers/singers full of honesty, grit and integrity- they are more punk than most hardcore bands I review.
They play a great set that also includes a cover of “Alcohol.” Except Mark, the lead singer, is sober now. So when he sings “Can’t live without it” he’s doing mighty fine now without it. And I wish him continued success and I believe he will- because what makes him and his band and their connection with Keith so great- is not drugs or alcohol but the passion, guts, and realness of the music and ideas they represent and express to us, the punk/hardcore community.
So that was six bands down, six more to go tonight. Then nine tomorrow starting at 2pm while this show is over at 2am.
Time to go next door to replenish with some pizza, because as Alice Cooper once sang, “We Still Got A Long Way To Go.”