Ezra Furman & The Boy-friends At The Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, MA — Live Review

ezra_furman_and_the_boyfriends
Ezra Furman and the Boy-Friends

The Boston trio Krill is fronted by Ezra Furman’s brother. He wore a red baseball cap with a hoodie over it, effectively hiding before getting into their set. Vocally, he had a higher range than expected, with a bit of a Hank William whine going on. The lyrics were clever if not a bit infantile, as subjects ranged from turds in the bowl to a dumb-ass in a pair of shorts. This song in retrospect must have been for his brother, Ezra, who was sporting a blue and white culotte romper under his leather.

Ezra and his brother both talked about working at the Fresh Pond Theatre, and both thanked Spirit Kid who opened. Ezra said of Krill that they were the best band in Boston in his opinion, but he is biologically biased. Krill have a record of their own coming out in February. Complex guitar runs in quirky pop-punk make for catchy tunes, but the subjects head towards the intentionally obscure or obscene.

Ezra has talent, I’ll give you that, as do his boyfriends. But he also sports a bit of pretentious smart-ass wit and a dollop of smarmy sycophantic fawning. A penchant for the plaintive, vocally, Ezra still comes off as smirking even when the subject is self-loathing. He has been compared to the likes of Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes, but I found myself thinking of the New York Dolls and early Lou Reed. Maybe it was the dress. They also tend towards a bit of quirky casbah craziness like They Might Be Giants, and if you throw in a little Green Day for looks, ie, Billie Joe Armstrong and Ezra have a similar look, you’re getting close. They’re good, no doubt – drums, sax, bass, guitar and keys work together to keep the sound swinging from jumpin’ jive to punk rockabilly, and they’re hard working, barely taking a breath between songs for most of the set. Ezra got into his Dylan-esque persona as the set progressed breaking out the acoustics guitars and the harp. An androgynous hispster hero in the making if he can only live down his own internal legend.

“Day of the Dog,” Ezra Furman and his band the Boy-Friends. Available now on Bar/None Records.

The Lovers At The Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, MA – Live Review

The Lovers
The Lovers

We came in at the tail end of Shepherdess performing a wacky little ditty called “Fries.” They finished out their set with a couple more tunes before leaving us, upstairs at the Middle East. My date and I headed to the back of the room to the “make out couch” and contented ourselves with watching the crowd while we waited for The Lovers to set up. The crowd was definitely more female than male and younger white students for the most part. Not being that familiar with the lez rock scene or it’s music, or Lovers, a queer outfit from Portland, OR, I was afraid I’d be uncomfortable, but I was glad to find that the audience was reasonably diverse given the conditions. There were some oldsters hither and yon, including a couple that looked like parents and a number of middle aged men, but mostly small clusters of mixed gender or women. The androgynous trio all sport short mop tops, and wear plaid – grunge or simply cause their from Oregon, don’t know, but their cute, and good-natured.

The Lovers started right in with “Purple Sage,” off their new record, A Friend In The World. Interesting, there were no guitars in their performance, though there are on the record. Instead, they used a synth and two drum kits, one regular handled expertly by Emily Kingan and one small electronic kit that Kerby Ferris (Keys) played. Carolyn Berk (Vocals) used hand gestures like a DJ emphasizing her message and the emotional journey of each song. She waved goodbye on “Modern Art Museum Of The Modern Kiss,”and thus began the dancing to the heavy bass riff that grounded the groove and shaped the space like a womb. They didn’t announce that the first songs of the set were off the new record until “Oh, Yeah.” Berk’s yips and growls were fun and the chorus was resplendent with harmonies. As the set progressed, they pulled out all the stops on “Boxer.” The song lending itself to Berk’s hand gestures and the double drums from Ferris and Kingan. With Kingan at the kit pounding out the beats, an overdub of synth riff and Ferris on her own small kit, it killed – and the place smashed forward.

When they broke out the old familiars everyone was grooving to the heavy sound. Heading into the stratosphere with electronica that sounds like a space probe the audience head bobbed along. On “Don’t You Want It,” Berk offered a nice growl to accompany the soaring harmonies with all three voices singing different lines at some points. A small break and the ladies were offered shots on stage. Berk and Ferris warned not to try this at home saying they were “Olympians in their thirties.” The young guy next to me with his female date, asked if this was the last act for the evening. I found it amusing that he’d whoop like he meant it, but had no clue he was watching the headliner. I think he may have had other things on his mind, as a watched him curl his fingers through his dainty date’s hand.

Throughout, I kept hearing shades of Nina Hagan, Romeo Void and Au Pairs, wrapped in heartfelt stories of love and loss in a danceable synth sound. Their sound consisted of layers galore that could take even more overdubbing. They took us out with two more danceable numbers from their new record, “Sweet Lavender” and a less breathy, heavier version of their own “Wild Horses,” song, not the Rolling Stones cover.

Check out The Lovers on tour and grab a copy of their newest work. From their website (http://www.loversarelovers.com/) : “With their seventh album, A Friend in the World, Lovers fuse intimacy and empowerment into a modern atmosphere of honesty, new feminist humor, and rhythmic complexity.”

The Lovers New Release: A Friend In The World on Badman Records.
The Lovers New Release: A Friend In The World on Badman Records.