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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 rock.

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 Bourbon".

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, "Ash".

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.

-Mike DeLeo

Murder By Death with Buried Beds, Fake Problems
March 5, 2011
The Middle East, Cambridge, MA

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