Live Review: Amanda White at ONCE Somerville

Amanda White at ONCE Somerville

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Amanda White

ONCE Somerville, Somerville, MA

April 15, 2019

I had intended to get out to an Amanda White show for a while now, and this was a Monday night when my schedule fell into place, and the start time was early enough that it didn’t impede getting home at a reasonable hour; I love early shows on work nights. So I ventured out to this gig, even though it meant traveling to the severely-parking-impaired town of Somerville. (I promise I’ll try to avoid a Somerville parking rant in this review. Mostly.)

Amanda White at ONCE Somerville

photo by Geoff Wilbur

I arrived in time for Amanda’s set. Backed by a talented band, she took the stage by storm. Amanda’s style is very old-school punk. Raw but tuneful music with a penchant for random profanity. But it extends well beyond that, as you can hear prog influences, while some songs feature Amanda’s venture into soaring, operatic vocal run that few can equal. If you know anything about my musical recommendations, you’ll know they’re either for well-performed pure musical styles or, more often, those with obvious external influences from a number of often-surprising other sources. You know, that plus great vocals and songwriting. Indeed, my punk rock recommendations are rare, but they are all must-listens.

Amanda White at ONCE Somerville

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The evening mostly featured songs from Amanda White’s latest CD, Kittens Give Zero Fucks. Prior to this show, I had only listened to the album online a couple of times. Though I’m more familiar with the music now, I’ll stick to my notes from the evening for this review. There’s a more detailed album review coming sometime in the future.

Amanda and her band opened the set with, according to my notes, “that soaring, moaning song.” Gotta be disc-opener “Last to Bite.” Next up was “Fuckall Rockstar,” delivered live in its full punk rock glory, much more distorted than on the recording. Exceptionally crunchy axework and an engaging driving rhythm provided the support, while the soaring vocals were opera meets Broadway meets punk. That vocal blend – one Amanda’s uniquely capable of achieving – is a recurring theme.

Energetic rocker “Whackadoodle World” (the “oh oh oh oh oh oh oh” song, per my notes) brought a bit more straightforward rocking energy to the set. Then catchy “Ur Wife,” with its hypnotic rhythm, followed.

Amanda White at ONCE Somerville

photo by Geoff Wilbur

After a soaring fifth song (“Dark Art”), Amanda reached back to her first disc, Toyshop, for “Monica’s Getting Her Tits Done,” a tune musically catchy largely due to the recurring rhythm guitar hook.

The evening’s seventh track (noted simply as “rawks!!!”) was followed by the evening’s power ballad, “Someone’s Watching Over Me,” a song that showcases vocal versatility while still being haunting and dark.

Speaking of haunting and dark – and throw in a healthy dose of foreboding – and you’re talking about the first few minutes of “Fade” before guitar and drums help the song build to a scream. With its power shifts and movements, there was a bit of a Broadway flavor to the evening’s performance of “Fade.”

And, to close our the set Amanda closed with soaring, symphonic prog-metal “Adora.” And what better set-ender. Though punk-rock attitude permeates the performance – a pure New York-style punk rock double-bill with Bad Mary would be an unforgettable event – Amanda’s singing and songwriting versatility are what sets her apart. And she and her band rocked this particular Somerville evening. Hard. Raw. And powerfully.

Allison & Moon

Allison & Moon; photo by Geoff Wilbur

The Evening’s Other Bands

The opening and closing acts of the evening were also worth catching, even though I kind-of didn’t. Evening openers The James Rocket caught my ear in my pre-show listening, but my attendance at its set fell victim to the “circling Somerville looking for parking” portion of the evening; I arrived in time to catch the last few seconds of the group’s final song. The closing set by Allison & Moon was a treat, or at least it was for as long as I stayed, but I only caught a few songs and took no notes, so I’ll have to catch them again one of these days.

Amanda White at ONCE Somerville

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Looking Ahead

Be sure to check Amanda White’s Facebook page for future gigs. At the moment, the only one listed is a February 8, 2020 show at Connolly’s in New York. The evening’s closing band, Allison & Moon, next plays on December 11th at O’Brien’s Pub in Allston, MA.

EP Review: Hobo Chang – Clockwork Monster

Hobo Chang

photo by Rob Watts; photo courtesy of Hobo Chang

by James Morris, Contributing Blogger

EP Review of Hobo Chang: Clockwork Monster

Hobo Chang, a band from North East Essex in the UK, are releasing a new EP on the 29th November. When I reviewed their previous album, Beast in 2017, I summed it up as a “hypnotic and swirling sonic landscape with a vaguely disturbing mood.”

This new EP continues in the same vein. Apocalyptic, bedsit rock with a heavy dark melancholy hanging over it, like a psychedelic, indie shroud.

Hobo Chang - Clockwork Monster

image courtesy of Hobo Chang

The songs, “Clockwork Monster,” “Nightcrawler,” “Borrowed Time,” and “Where is Your God Now,” are four tracks of intense, moody prog rock in the trademark style you would expect from the band.

No one song stands taller than another, instead they all co-exist, increasing in their dark mass, like the gravitational pull of a black hole.

If you are a fan of Hobo Chang and the music they produce then you will be extremely happy to once again be immersed in the darkness of this new music which carries all their signature, experimental, musical hallmarks.

Keep up to date with the band on social media or on their website: Facebook @hobochang; www.hobochang.co.uk; hobochang.bandcamp.com

Album Review: Norwood – Lizzy White Doesn’t Give a Fuck

Norwood band photo

photo courtesy of Norwood

by James Morris, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Norwood: Lizzy White Doesn’t Give a Fuck

Norwood album cover

image courtesy of Norwood

Norwood’s new album, Lizzy White Doesn’t Give A Fuck, is the follow up to their 2016 album Notes to My Blood. It finds the band once again presenting fast, wordy, personally observational and quirky songs. If you haven’t heard them before and need a reference, then think indie REM meets They Might Be Giants.

Enjoyably put together with an underlying acoustic vibe enhanced by appropriately layered instrumentation. Whether it’s the violin that bows its way throughout the album or the brass on songs like “Against the Grain,” it all adds to the uplifting, unique, joyous feel of the album.

Norwood band photo

photo courtesy of Norwood

Don’t be fooled, though. On the surface it all sounds upbeat and fun, and this bright and breezy feel could easily be more than enough reason to enjoy the album. But listen harder and you can dig down to discover more of what is going on in the twisting and turning of the lyrics. The songs’ themes are refreshingly original and dripping with enough enigmatic quandary to make you really think, which is very appealing and rewarding in an often trite and cliched musical world.

Norwood band photo

photo courtesy of Norwood

If this album is your starting point for this band, then it is a great one for starters, but I would also recommend you go and discover their previous album, Notes to my Blood, as the two complement each other like cheeky, wry, indie, musical bookends.

The band have a gig coming up in Bellmore, NY on November 5th at KJ Farrell’s Bar and Grill, 242 Pettit Ave., from 7:30pm. You can find this information on the “Upcoming Shows” page of the band’s website.

Engage with the band on social media: https://www.facebook.com/norwoodtunes/ and https://www.instagram.com/norwoodband/.