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When I first discovered Those Darlins they were opening for Black Joe Lewis And The Honeybears downstairs at the Middle East on a Tuesday night. As raucous as a Black Joe Lewis show can be, Those Darlins came damn close to stealing the show out from under them. Less than a year later the girls and their drummer, Linwood, were back again - this time scoring top billing at the same club for a coveted Saturday night gig.

First opening act, Providence, Rhode Island-based Atlantic Thrills, tried hard to find that classic Nuggets garage sound. Instead, most of their songs sounded like "Stepping Stone" sung by the guy from The Dead Milkmen.

Fortunately, things took a turn for the better when Boston's Movers & Shakers took the stage. Picture Jack Black on guitar, with his younger, better looking brother on bass, playing a southern rock mash-up of The Black Crowes, The Drive-by Truckers, and Tom Petty while tossing in a little Bruce Springsteen and Billy Bragg for good measure. It was a winning combination of American rock and roll. These guys played their butts off as the crowd began filtering in for Those Darlins and it was a fan-winning performance.

By the time Those Darlins took the stage the crowd was primed for a party. Fortunately, there's no band more qualified to bring it than these girls - Jessi, Nikki, and Kelley. I loved the fact that they tossed off their hit single, "Be Your Bro", right up in the front side of the set. It served two worthwhile purposes. They started the night off on a high note, getting everyone in the right mood, while heading off an hour of the annoying catcalls of "play 'Be Your Bro'" from drunken fans.

While each girl takes on a specific persona - Kelley, the haughty beauty queen, Nikki, the pouty goth girl, and Jessi, the sexy tomboy - it's Jessi that is the clear showman of the group. She pranced the stage, meeting the eyes of every fan in the crowd and drawing everyone in with her crazy, Charlie Manson, bug-eye routine. Each takes turns on vocals and guitar, churning out spot-on sixties girl-group garage rock. Their set pulled the best from their latest release, Screws Get Loose, and their self-titled debut. Each song was peppered with snarky humor, sexy innuendo, and balls-out rock and roll. The crowd responded in a crush of singing and dancing and general mayhem.

Two thirds of the way through the set things took a turn for the annoying. It's been a long time since I wanted to punch someone at a show. Mind you, I go to nearly two dozen shows a year. The last time was when I was in my twenties at a hardcore show at which some meat-headed skinhead was smacking around punks in the mosh pit. Nearly two decades later two boneheads from Atlantic Thrills pushed me to the brink. In a haze of drink and general stupidity they decided that it was absolutely hilarious to gulp down half of their PBR tallboys and spray the crowd with spit and beer, over and over again. Thinking back, I'm still befuddled about how they managed to get so much beer into the crowd. It was literally dripping off my head and into my eyes. I actually had to take my shirt off to wipe myself down. The prospect of driving and hour home at 1:00 a.m. drenched in beer was not an attractive one.

The good news is that even the antics of those morons couldn't dowse the party that Those Darlins brought to the Middle East. They continued to slay the crowd until closing time, at which time they treated the club to a raucous rendition of "Funstix Party". As the house lights came up the girls hung around to chat with fans and sign autographs well into Sunday morning.

-George Dow

Those Darlins, Movers & Shakers, Atlantic Thrills
October 15, 2011
Middle East (downstairs), Cambridge, MA

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