Saturday August 19th 2017

The Manglers / The Grommets / New Frustrations / Kermit’s Finger / The Instamatics


JP Porchfest
The Manglers / The Grommets / New Frustrations / Kermit’s Finger / The Instamatics
Backyard, Jamaica Plain, MA          7/8/17


This is punk how it’s meant to be. DIY in a backyard, tiny PA, All-ages, ’cause it’s more like a party or picnic with punk music. No cover and hot dogs and pasta salad included.

I arrive around 1 pm. and The Instamatics are playing the theme from “Batman” in honor of Adam West, the sixties tv show- Batman, and in my eyes, the only real Batman.

The Instamatics are a (mostly) surf instrumental trio that features Eric The Fruitbat on bass (Monty Python reference.) He also plays bass in The Grommets who are playing later along with his lovely and talented wife, Kris, who plays guitar in that band. And today they have offered their backyard and numerous hot dogs (some with spicy mustard at my request) and assorted alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. As a life-long alcoholic myself, it should be quite evident what I’d choose.

But The Instamatics do surf versions of a lot of eighties new wave era songs. My favorite song by them is their version of “The Model,” by the great, German synthesizer band Kraftwerk. (Andy Bang once said, “Oh, that’s the band that does the boring music” and I think he hit the nail, right on the head but I love them and this band’s surf version.”)

I think they play some originals as well, Eric sings one non-instrumental song “Surfin’ Bird” and they end their terrific set with “Rumble” by the great, Link Wray.

Kermit’s Finger is a wonderful band that’s been around for awhile. Today their guitarist, Pete Pasted, is playing acoustic and they have a style that combines early punk and hardcore influences into a unique style that always kicks ass even when playing this low-key, low volume set.

A song that sticks out for me is a new one called “Ape Shit,” that ends  with Pete playing some jazzy, snazzy guitar with some low notes over the neck and some high, up the top and above. Another song is a country ditty that has the words that keep threatening, “We just don’t know when to quit. So it’s one more beer and then we’ll get on outta here.”

Sounds likes the way I’m devouring hot dogs today but I have just been nourished with some great music, too.

I’ve only seen The New Frustrations once before but I liked their early Boston punk/garage inspired style. Today they’re playing lots of covers maybe for the party crowd.

They start off with “Do The Boob,” by the early, classic Boston punk band- The Real Kids and do another poignant song by them, that has some nice “Sha-la-la’s” sung in the background. They do covers by The Clash, The Ramones and some originals, as well.

This is a real, tight outfit with lots of folks and many musicians telling me today how much they’re impressed with them, and I can only, honestly agree. (And their cd is reviewed on TNB this week.)

But what guarantees them the set of the day, and possibly the century with me, is them playing a cover of a Paul Revere & The Raiders song. Now, the secret is out- that’s all it takes. They do a fine version of “Kicks” by the most underrated sixties band (in my opinion) and play good enough to win the day on their own.

They’re are a hard act to follow but The Grommets will do their best. Besides Eric & Kris they have Ida playing some awesome drums and together they do early punk inspired songs that makes someone, who was there at the beginning, feel like they’ve tapped into the sound and feeling of the original punk bands.

But first- it’s Boston mayoral candidate Tito Jackson who gives a short speech! He’s a jovial man who appreciates, outdoor all-ages events like this. “Boston should have this more than once a year, it should be every week. Boston’s too uptight towards permits, Cambridge it much better,” he says and  I couldn’t agree more. TNB is not political but I’ll just say, he appears to be someone who would listen to concerns about our scene.

The Grommets play an awesome set with a song about not wanting to grow old and another one about “marital bliss,” which repeats three words like- “car keys, phone, debit card,” over and over in exasperation until dissolving into a musical nervous breakdown.

And Pete Pasted who’s seen this band much more than me and, unlike myself, not- totally wasted, says this is the best set he’s ever seen by them.

I think what’s different with punk shows is, we try to make things go smoothly but when they don’t, we don’t fret, we rejoice in the ensuing chaos and madness and, if not making it better, it certainly makes it more fun.

Just before The Manglers play the skies open in a torrential down pore and though the band is protected in the shed/barn, some others use a huge vinyl “Tito For Mayor” sign over their heads while I scurry like a cockroach under the small canopy; while still others dance, obliviously, like Kimi Hendrix, in the rain.

The Manglers are a great cover band that specializes in early punk material like The Dictators, Dead Boys and Johnny Thunders.

Today though, their drummer fails to show up leading to several able drummers from the crowd to play a few tunes. Then the guitarist, Owen, breaks a string that causes him to borrow Kris’s guitar that seems to have a problem with the bridge, causing it to go out of tune while the guitar strap, also, keeps slipping off. He is also sporting a Viking helmet (that keeps slipping off.)

I mention to someone, “Sometimes I make things up in reviews and sometimes what is happening is so strange, that just reporting it makes me feel people are thinking- this is all made up!”

The rain dies down a bit and Owen and Kris do a couple of acoustic numbers by The Cure and Morrissey.

Then Owen says, “So back in ’83, I was with Kris in London and I said, “You know that Alice Cooper guy? I really love him. And Kris said she did, too. And I said- I would really like to write a song like him but make it more sparkly. And she agreed, so we proceeded to write this song called, “Suffragette City.”

Hey man, this show was a lotta fun. Hey man, I had a great time but now I gotta run. Hey man, this was even better than last year. Before it rains again I’m gonna get my ass in gear.

Thanks Kris & Eric and everyone involved.


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