For the uninitiated, simply looking at the lineup for Saturday night's
show at The Middle East in Cambridge might have suggested a night
full of gang vocals, circle pits and chugging guitars. What Buried
Beds, Fake Problems and Murder By Death brought
was anything but. Instead of the aforementioned night of classic Boston
hardcore, all three acts took the stage at the packed Middle East
and unleashed a theatrical arrangement of alt-country inspired indie
When I arrived at around 8:30, the line for entry had already snaked
its way around the block, which was a bit strange since Boston crowds
have a tendency to arrive a bit late to shows. As the line to the
door slowly filtered in, an increasing amount of empty Jack and Beam
nips were heard being kicked around. The "ping" of miniature
bottles seemed fitting for a headlining act whose song list include,
"As Long as There's Whiskey In The World" and "Kentucky
The surprisingly punctual, but not so surprisingly buzzed, Boston
crowd was rewarded by a fantastic set from Philadelphia's Buried Beds.
Immediately swept up in the band's upbeat tempo and fantastic vocals,
the crowd danced and swayed for each song. What really drove Buried
Beds' set was the violin and vocal harmonization by co-founders Eliza
Jones and Brandon Beaver. It was impossible not to be mesmerized
as soft coos built to energetic crescendos of alt-country Americana
goodness. The crowd was very impressed as a few Buried Beds virgins
were overheard saying, "Wow, these guys sound fantastic."
Bringing more of a punk rock vibe to the night was Fake Problems.
Formed in 2001 by lead singer and guitarist Chris Harren, Fake
Problems took the stage with a little more name recognition than Buried
Beds. That name recognition did little to energize the crowd though,
as nobody seemed willing to match the band's energy. This was especially
apparent when the quartet played "5, 6, 7, 8" and "Rumble
in The Jungle", a couple of poppy, almost disco-esque, songs
which beg for crowd participation. Mellow crowd aside, Fake Problems
motored on through their set of pop-punk and '50s style doo-wop riffs
with great energy and lots of swagger.
Last on the stage were the headliners, Murder By Death. The band
immediately set the mood by taking some whiskey shots, cutting the
lights and setting up homemade lanterns. The Middle East quickly turned
into a scene from an early American turn-of-the-century throw down.
Without notice, Adam Trula begins to bellow the first few lines
of the cello driven "Kentucky Bourbon". The song is absolutely
perfect as the crowd almost drowns out Adam's Johnny Cash-like
vocals by singing, "You can choose your drinking partner. And
mine ain't from Tennessee. Yes, it's straight Kentucky bourbon for
me." Just as the crowd starts to take hold of the performance,
MBD switches up the intensity and tempo to get the floor moving. The
tempo change was quite frequent throughout the set with MBD often
following up slower songs like, "Fuego" with burners like,
The band seamlessly moved through their whole discography much to
the delight of the crowd. Older songs never seemed out of place even
when mixed with newer material. It's as if each song was selected
simply for that show to tell our specific story of drinking, self-discovery
and cautious optimism. MBD has a special ability to play the same
type of post-punk/alt-country but in different styles, which has to
be done considering their catalog. From the cabaret inspired, "You
Don't Miss Twice When Shaving With A Knife" to the modern rock
driven "Ash", MBD keeps their live shows interesting with
pace changes that seem to fallow an almost theatrical like structure.
The highlight of the evening was the performance of "Brother".
At that moment, it seemed that all MBD stood for became personified
in the basement of The Middle East. Glasses were raised in unison,
choruses were sung slightly off key and many had placed an arm around
the person next to them. With a chorus of, "I know there's better
brothers, but you're the only one that's mine", the scene couldn't
have played out better if it was directed and rehearsed.
Murder By Death is a band not to be missed when they come around.
Not only is their complex music recreated perfectly live, but they
are students of literature and film, which allows them to create an
atmosphere that entraps the listener in a time and place which Murder
By Death calls home.
Murder By Death with Buried Beds, Fake Problems
March 5, 2011
The Middle East, Cambridge, MA
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