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Joe Pernice (and some Scud Mountain Boys)/Paul Melancon 25 Aug 2011

26 Aug 2011 · 1 Comment

The Lizard Lounge was crammed to the gills for the very welcome work-night friendly early set. Joe Pernice opened with a handful of solo songs, including the title track from Goodbye Killer and “Telescope,” a sneak peek at the in-progress Pernice Brothers album (he said it was mostly too rockin’ to translate well to an acoustic setting). He was, if you’ll forgive the baseball reference, Joe being Joe: surly, beautiful, self-effacing, tender, self-aggrandizing, sly, heartfelt — all at pretty much the same time.

Then he brought up his brother Bob on electric guitar, and his two of his former bandmates in Scud Mountain Boys, Tom Shea on mandolin, and Stephen Desaulniers on electric bass (since Bob played some guitar in Scud Mountain Boys, it was very nearly a full reunion, but Pernice mentioned there’d been some recent discussion with original guitarist Bruce Tull about playing together again, too). Last night’s set was special in a way you don’t get to hear very often: both a little rough, and also spot-on. I don’t think the quick pre-song conversations about key and tempo were staged for the audience’s benefit, and there were a few audible blown cues — but the guys recovered from them really fast, and without a trace of tentativeness. Only band members who are really listening to each other can pull that off. Pernice was visibly laughing in the first chorus of Olivia Newton John’s “Please Mister Please” — which didn’t stop him from singing it like a heart wound was being reopened. And Desaulnier’s harmonies were just there in a way I wouldn’t expect after a 14-year hiatus. Magic.

In addition to being a fantastic writer, Pernice is also — back to baseball again! — a five-tool singer. He’s solid at the technical things rockers are not necessarily known for: intonation, breath control, mic technique — and he’s got compelling phrasing and often gut-wrenching (but critically understated, not oversold) emotional delivery, to boot. To my mind, Pernice and Ted Leo are at the top of the male indie-rock singing heap. So when I saw some singer-songwriter dude I never heard of getting set to open for Pernice, my first instinct was pity: “poor guy, he’s about to get schooled.” Only it turns out Paul Melançon is also a pretty great singer — killer pure tenor, an effortless upper register, gorgeous delivery and solid technique. He knocked Neil Finn’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” — by no means an easy song to sing — outta the flippin’ park. Basically after about 4 or 5 bars of his first number I’d decided to buy his latest disc, and after I stopped being too distracted by his voice to pay attention to the songs (and his wry patter), I was committed to picking up everything I could lay hands on.

Dept. of egregious naval gazing: The Lizard Lounge was one of the venues for my first date with she who is now my wife (my wife! I feel like that always needs an exclamation point) and the Scud Mountain Boys, in a weird but awesome bill with Jenny Toomey and Jale, were in the first handful of live shows I ever wrote about on the Internets. Danger Will Robinson! Creeping nostalgia!

Tags: 2011 · acoustic · indie rock · live · lizard lounge · m · p · roots rock · s

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Paul Melancon // Aug 31, 2011 at 23:30

    Reviews like this are actually my favorite to receive… believe me, I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to open. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and I hope you enjoy the CDs, too!

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