SCOTT KELLY’s name is not exactly synonymous with gently strummed guitar while sitting on a folding chair, under a spot light. But perhaps it should be. As one of the founding members of the genre defining, heavy as hell band NEUROSIS, Kelly has made a career on eardrum punishing music. At the same time he has another side to him some causal fans may not know. He has released two excellent solo acoustic albums in Spirit Bound Flesh and The Wake with a third completed and slated for release later this year. He has another album on the way with band mate STEVE VON TILL and WINO in the tribute album, Songs of Townes Van Zandt dropping in June. So Scott is clearly a man of musical complexities and on an early spring night in Boston he came to release his inner troubadour.To begin the night we were treated to some spoken from DUNCAN WILDER JOHNSON (Thrashachusetts, BRING THE KNIFE). Duncan is as energetic a performer when riffing on life as he is when he fronts his band. He did some cool, one man backing tracks with the help of a few samplers, delays and loop pedals in sort of a poverty as hip-hop style. Since I was upfront taking pictures he zeroed in on me for one bit engaging me and making me part of his act. It was a pretty cool beef on disaffected hipsters and the state of music in our culture. That and he liked my C.O.C. hat. Overall he was very entertaining and definitely sucked the crowd in whether his goal was to shock or amuse. He would return with his one of his bands, FRESH KILL for a late night set of screams and thrashing goodness. Check out his material at www.thrashachusetts.com
Next on the bill was the indomitable EUGENE ROBINSON of OXBOW fame. Before the show I interviewed the venerable artist and he talked at one point about how every performance, no matter what it is, is in some way or form like theater. A combination of expression and connection. Eugene is on a spoken word, world tour, telling anecdotes from his life on the road, re-telling one of his many excellent books and other tales. He is always raw and blunt, full of humor and emotion. Setting the tone with a stately chair a table and a glass of wine, Eugene started off seated and relaxed, not his usual ‘ready to go’ stance from his OXBOW performances. He started off with a long story about his very first orgy he went to as a young adult and delved into the rewards and the unseemly pitfalls that come with such things. He noted that the next night he would be telling the same story in front of his mother and harbored little hesitation to do so, since his mom was cool like that. I thought this was amazing as he told a rather funny and frank tale about human behavior. We are all voyeurs in a sense to hear him tell it, some of us, more so thank others. Part of Eugene’s gift as a story teller is that he unites each person in the room with his experience, drawing you uncomfortably near to his view. He holds nothing back and laughs along at himself, even when the subject might be horrifying to some. Words are his blunt instruments as much as a fist, and that is the point. If you can’t get out to see him in person, I highly recommend his books A Long Slow Screw and Fight, which is now and audiobook and for purchase from Eugene at shows and on his website.
Finally, SCOTT KELLY set himself up on the stage, just a spare chair, small amp and his acoustic. Scott is one of the least pretentious and real people I have ever met in the business. There is no air of rockstar anything about the man, which considering some of the epic music he has made, I wouldn’t hold any pride against him. He started to play with no fanfare, befitting of his style. He launched into the mournful first song, “Catholic Blood” and immediately drew everyone’s attention and silence in the small club. There is something so simple about a single guy, a guitar and a solo voice that just makes sense to my ears. More so when the music is meaningful and true. His played a set made up of songs from his solo releases and a couple of covers. His voice is a perfect vehicle to deliver his lyrics in this format, gravely and serious as hell. It is kind of like a cross between the bass of TOM WAITS, JOHNNY CASH and the emotive bass-y depth of LEONARD COHEN. He didn’t say much, barely stopping to tune up or down a few times and announce some song titles. He banged out song after song in the workman-like fashion, with some of the best songs of the night being “…Of Death”, “In The Waking Hours” and “The Field That Surrounds Me”. Towards the end of set something amazing happened. After a stirring cover of “We Let the Hell Come” by SHRINEBUILDER. Scott thanked the crowd for coming out. Then he started to discuss some his inspirations for this music, his experiences being in bands, life on the road, his blog, his family, and the painful realities of life and death that we all face. After he barely said a word the entire set, he dropped all kinds of wisdom like a Sherpa. Playing his final song of the night, “We Burn Through The Night”, Scott had the entire room was mesmerized by the music and the moment. Just one guy, his voice and guitar. It was about as heavy as anything I’ve ever heard, ever.
. . . Of Death
The Eye Behind the Wheel
St. John, The Gambler (TOWNES VAN ZANDT cover)
The Ladder in My Blood
In the Waking Hours
The Field That Surrounds Me
We Let the Hell Come (SHRINEBUILDER cover)
We Burn Through the Night
by Keith (Keefy) Chachkes