Tuesday, 2 February 2010

606 NADA SURF, Ozma, DEAR LEADER, Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge MA USA, Friday 26 September 2003

A great day spent with our friend James Horrigan, receiving a comprehensive tour of the Massachusetts State House, is best rounded off with a gig, of course! This one's a sell-out, so we sit quietly at the end of the Middle East restaurant bar, having previously enjoyed some good old Irish cuisine at the Burren at Porter Square (and no, I don't mean putting everything in one big pot and boiling it for 17 hours, as Dennis Leary refers to "Irish Cuisine"!). The queue eventually dies down so we wander in - not as heaving as anticipated, so we get reasonable viewing spots from the balcony stage-left, having been served by Mike from The Damn Personals, who's working the bar tonight.

Aaron Perrino takes the stage at 8.45 prompt with his new band Dear Leader, also featuring the drumming talents of Paul Buckley, last seen (by me at least!) in Kay Hanley's band. Their set is less "hooky" and immediate than Aaron's former band, the very wonderful Sheila Divine, but nevertheless we recognise the numbers Aaron had played acoustically at the TTs show last week. However, there's more depth and complexity replacing the dynamism and bombast, which to me seemed to be the evolution that the Sheila Divine were undergoing, anyway. The voice, more reined in than previously, is still the standout feature of a damn fine set.

Aaron joins us afterwards, and we debate his new sound and direction at length. We also briefly greet Nada Surf mainman Matt Caws, who recognises us, which is nice considering we're out of context in the USA! Ozma, next up, are very popular with the predominantly younger element of the crowd. They're extremely derivative of Weezer, with the same chunky sing-along riffery, and have one number that sounds like "His And Hers"-era Pulp. Not original, but they went down a storm.

We leave our viewing spot to get to the dancefloor for the entrance of Da Surf, and end up getting nowhere near the front! They join us just after midnight, kicking off with "Blizzard Of '77" and the jagged delight of "Treading Water". The sound's not great, but Matt, Dan and Ira do their best to rise above it with a splendid set, similarly ordered to our recent UK viewings. Touching in parts (the reverential "80 Windows", preceded by Matt informing us his favourite ever Boston band was... Big Dipper!), dynamic and kinetic in others ("The Way You Wear Your Head"), they're no less than consummate throughout. The usual "Stalemate"/ "Love Will Tear Us Apart" segue is followed by a touching version of the Smiths' "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out", by which time we're standing at the back with EdV and Melissa, Josh, Jim Gilbert and Pete Caldes, and I'm debating the issue of band chemistry with the aforementioned Pit drummer.

However, the day catches up with us and, rubber-legged, we toddle off right at the end of the Surf set and catch a taxi on the corner. A shame, I'd have liked to have talked Dipper with Matt Caws. Maybe next time...

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