HOB Boston: Thievery Corporation (2/24), George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic (2/25) & The Disco Biscuits (2/28)
The return of the House of Blues (HOB) is a great addition to the music scene in Boston. The first HOB was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which opened its doors in 1992, but closed in 2003. It originally served the homeless, opening its doors on Thanksgiving Day and the club continues its mission of honoring and respecting African American contributions to blues music and art of the folk kind. Originally, Patrick Lyons, owner of 15 Lansdowne, was going to open up a 2,500 capacity main stage area, a 350-seat lounge and a 125-seat restaurant under the name, Music Hall, but he decided to sell it to the HOB chain.
The dr is similar to other HOBs around the country. The banner of the main stage, appropriately titled “The God Walk,” is adorned with symbols of all the religions of the world with a Chamsa, a hand with an evil eye protectant, as the central focal point. The art is influenced by the folk culture and has an ambient, southern vibe. Southern quilts rest on the walls on the third floor, and stone faces of influential jazz artists creepily appear right before entering the music hall. The acoustics are not that great though. The two clubs that were taken over, Axis and Avalon, are still present, as the gymnasium like floors are the same as before, just larger. The Boston HOB does not allow re-entry, so smokers are segregated from enjoying a puff of their addiction for the duration of the concert (unfortunately, because of the capacity, Boston did not permit an outside smoking area, even though the architects built a balcony with a view of Fenway Park).
Opening night on Wednesday February 18 was full of excitement. There were local bands showcasing their talent: Kid:Nap:Kin, Re-Up, and Sex! The music ranged from Emo to reggae, smooth-jazz. It was almost packed as the event was free, but attendees found themselves waiting in line for almost an hour, since the demand to check out Boston’s newest music digs were high. A main investor of the HOB’s chain, Dan Akroyd showed his face to pride the newest, and necessary, club addition to Puritan tempered Boston.
Luckily, over the days to follow, I got to check out some big name groups: Thievery Corporation, George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic and The Disco Biscuits. Each band played sold out performances. Each band exuded an exhilaration to be able to play within the first week of open doors, even if the acoustics remained slightly fuzzy.
With constant conflict between countries, religions and philosophies, Thievery Corporation is a great band to see live because of the eclectic, worldly sound provided by the conglomeration of peoples from different nationalities, ethnicities and styles of music. The group played an impressive 28-song set, the flowing energy from the dancing barefoot guitarist to the ambient sitar’s plucking. Thievery members take turns playing different instruments, while the vocalists rotate like a baseball roster when a team is up to bat. Incorporating sounds from the Middle East, the Islands, Africa and so forth, with different styled vocalists, a live Thievery show is like flying around the world within a few hours. The background lights on stage reminded me of designing something on Lite-Brites, and with its bright yellows, grass green and blood red colors, it felt like an indie, psychedelic movie put to a sundry sound.
“Tonight will be the home of the Boston P-Party!”. George Clinton and his posse of almost 20 is a sight that everyone should see at least once in their lives. Before the show began, Spiritual Rez opened up, a gentle and suitable opener for George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic, combining reggae rock, and funk. After Rez, Parliament played rare oldies like “Soulmate,” and “The Goose,” while Clinton signed autographs with his protective lawyer by his side making sure he stayed out of trouble. Clinton, who was the conductor when he graced the stage with his presence, was bejeweled in his typical ensemble of his rainbow blinding hair, sunglasses and comfortable shoes. The set was completely full of non-stop, get-up-and-go, classic P-funk grooves, with a surprise cover of “Get Low” by Lil John and The Eastside Boyz.
The whole show was a continual mash-up of some of the greatest Clinton and P-Funk hits, like “Get off Your Ass and Jam,” “Ain’t no Party like a P-Funk Party,” “We Got the Funk,” “Bounce 2 This,” and more. For “We Got the Funk,” Clinton, who was downstage center most of the show, got real close to the edge, dropped his glasses and squinted his eyes out towards the audience, as though searching for the funk. The band had its cords pulled a little after 1 a.m., but the crowd kept on singing and dancing a cappella for a quarter of an hour before being pushed out.
Attending a Disco Biscuits show is like meeting up with old friends who you haven’t seen in a while, but you can’t wait to catch up on all the juicy stories from their travels. They also offer an intoxicating light show to further engage the intensity of their music, while each band member glimpses and smiles at the audience. Anticipating the group’s first appearance in Boston, since Halloween 2007, the crowd was pushy, the sweat was everywhere and my eye almost got poked out from a glow stick (one of the best parts of a Biscuits show can be watching the glow-kids swirl and twirl away the stresses of the week, making traditional patterns to the beats).
The first set was classic Bisco, from the opening of “Uber Glue,” through “Basis for a Day,” “Abraxas,” “Astronaut,” “Cyclone” and “Digital Buddha.” The transition from “Astronaut” into “Cyclone” was subtle and perfectly instrumented. A second set highlight was the Pink Floyd cover “Run Like Hell,” which had the crowd pumped, as ever . The “Aceetobee” encore was a rarity, only the second time the group played it on this tour.
A full week at the HOB left my body numb and fatigued, but my mind full of a diverse repertoire from the three thrilling, artistic and influential bands in music today. The HOB feels like a second home now, but the best part is that life on Lansdowne Street is vibrant again. Boston needed you HOB, thanks for helping to bring great music back to Boston.