Category: Reviews

Catch & Release: The Pioneers of Seduction

The Pioneers of Seduction EP

by David Boffa
Brooklyn bands, in general, tend to be pretentious when they get political. Brooklyn post-punk outfit The Pioneers of Seduction are no different. Their band bio reads like anarchist doctrine, with references to “nuclear proliferation” and “death panels” strewn in among shameless name drops—apparently, renowned post-punk producer Steve Albini recorded The Universe Is Setting Us Up, their debut album (due out in April). Fortunately, the extraordinary music on their new EP makes one forget their ostentatious bio.

The opening verse to “I Want to Wake Up Beautiful” is a thing of beauty. Fuzz-ripened guitar chords and jaunty drums set a peppy tone as front man/guitarist Max Low wishes to sleep with beautiful women so he can “wake up and not be gay.” And during “Kurash,” as Low beholds “the anatomical approximation of a porn star,” bassist Avispa’s distorted notes rumble sweetly underneath drummer Ian Kramer’s turbo-charged rhythms. Thank God the Pioneers’ songs are more about porno watching than socio-political ranting,
because Universe is so much better without the latter.

Catch The Pioneers of Seduction Thursday, February 19 and Ralph’s.


Freelance Dining Reviewers Wanted

Do you have an appetite for good food, a sense of fine wine, and are a stickler for good service –oh, and can write to boot? Worcester Magazine is looking for freelance food writers to write occasional Dining reviews for Worcester Mag. If you can create critical, fair and balanced Dining reviews for our readers, our A&E editor wants to hear from you. Send two clips and a cover letter as to why you are the right fit for our Dining review freelance position to

Catch & Release CD review

The Secret

imageFool and His Amazing Wasted Life

Review by David Boffa

At first, I wanted to hate the Secret’s “Fool and His amazing Wasted

Life.” There’s a lot not to like, especially the canned drums, cheesy synths, and obnoxious garbled tape vocal effects on the opener “Let the Sun.” It’s a lot of sonic fat to choke down. But “Girls in the Project” changed my mindset. Vocalist Frank Paquette tells us that, in the projects, “the streets are dirty, but the girls are oh so pretty.” These lyrics plus the outdated hip hop loop (think M.C Hammer’s “2 Legit 2 Quit”) and singer Frank Paquette’s ridiculous nasal-falsetto delivery makes certain that “Girls” is an elaborate joke — it’s all very un-cool, but in a self-aware sort of way. Once I sensed the irony, tracks like “Change of Heart,” with it’s scruffy Spandau Ballet revival sound, became much easier to swallow. The Fool could be a great album, but only if you are in on the joke.

Veg Worcester’s Buddha Hut buffet big success!

Veg Worcester, a Central Mass not-for-profit community group that advocates vegetarian living, held a fundraiser at Worcester’s veg friendly Buddha Hut this past weekend (July 11, 2009). Although I couldn’t get my ass there in person, I did hear from many sources that it was a big success! Buddha Hut had a yummy buffet, of which they donated 10% of all profits to Veg Worcester. I love to see local businesses helping out local organizations – and in such a healthy way!

Were you able to make it? Veg Worcester is thinking about hosting another buffet fundraiser in the future and they would love your feedback. Take a minute to fill out their survey at

Atomical Hearts & The Electrical Brain
Gallery opening of Andy Fish & Veronica Hebard’s newest work

Doreen Manning
Worcester artists Andy Fish & Veronica Hebard are on fire. Proof? The opening on Friday June 26 of Atomical Hearts & The Electrical Brain at Boston’s Space 242.

The Gallery doesn’t call themselves “Boston’s Low Brow Destination” for nothing, as this evening proved. With a brilliant marketing strategy of having to RSVP in advance via their website in order to even make it through the door on opening night (they managed to snag my contact info for future marketing while simultaneously making me feel all exclusive and snooty) the Gallery was slammed from wall to wall.

With almost 140 works of art lining the whitewashed brick walls, the space is big, open and the walls were peppered with art. I had to literally push aside crowds just to get a good look at it all.

Showing along with Fish and Hebard were Allison Bamford and my new favorite Lindsay Small. With the same low brow feel that ignites my socks on fire, their work fit into the show like they were made to order.

Besides seeing the massive crowds that came to support these artists on the cusp of greater artistic success – quite a few made the drive from Worcester –  the sheer breadth of the collection allowed the viewer to see two things right off the low brow bat. One: the viewer could really get a good appreciation of the range of Fish’s work. From the “comic” inspired work to his personal explorations of styles, tools and mediums, you could really see the evolution of an artist who has mastered his genre. It was as if I finally saw the Fish in the pieces – his own voice showing through a more “traditional” style. I didn’t see just a Frankenstein monster or a comic hero, I saw Fish’s interpretation of it. His style, his stamp was felt on every piece. Two: the growth and development of Hebard’s art nearly screamed off the walls. Finally comfortable in her own style, she seems to have blossomed with this show in a level of maturity that says ‘This is me. Revel in it.’  Her fantasy inspired pieces in their muted tones, flowing lines and sometimes eerie and swirling color choices exude wonder and playfulness – but to my eyes, really showed a confidence only recently emerged.

Make a trip into Boston’s South End – whose artistic renaissance alone is worth the trip. Trust me, these hot artists will be sizzling upon a greater scene soon, so catch them up close while you can!

Space 242, 242 East Berkeley Street 2nd Floor, Boston. Gallery open Fridays 6:30-8p.m. and by appointment.

Tonight Worcester Technical High School invited me to help judge their annual Talent Show, this year entitled “Everybody is a Star”, and let me tell you, they mean it when they say everyone. This was my first trip to WTHS and hopefully not my last…

Riding high from a fantastic evening, I’m sitting here trying to express just what made tonight so exciting.

Was it the caliber of performers that WTHS offered up? Most certainly that played a part. From dancing, singing, instrumentals, beat box, solos, collaborations and more, the level of professionalism these young kids put forth was impressive.  My favorite? The winner, a Yousseff Chebani, a culinary arts student who looked like a football player straight out of a John Hughes film. With his Polo sweater, cords and tan sneakers, I thought for sure when he took the mic, he was about to sing an overly sweet pop song. No, Yousseff blew me away with some of the best Beat Boxing I have ever seen. The kid could make two separate beats come from his overactive mouth – including one with girly moans someone his age has no right even knowing. Second place dancer Sonia Sandy thrilled me for her originality (I’m a sucker for anything original). Her out of the box style literally began in a box, and her hip-hop dancing had tinges of modern dance, 80s robot and a slight frantic groove that was just strange enough to be utterly cool. Oh, and of course I loved her outfit, which reminded me of a Boston Derby Dames uniform.  Third place Ernie Jubin choreographed a fantastic dance scene featuring a trio of bank robbers. The original skit set to hip hop moves was dizzyingly impressive.

Or was it the spirit of the staff that had me so excited? They infused this night with inspiring speeches and hilarious skits, showing a connection with their students beyond just being a member of the staff. Their energy gave the Talent Show a familial tone – we were all friends here – even the aged punk white girl sitting in the front row with a judging clip board in her hands (yeah, that would be me).

Wait, you know what had me so jazzed? It was the audience. The packed auditorium was filled with excitable teenagers. They cheered, they wooped, they stomped and clapped…for everyone. The mad love these students had for each other blew me away. Through skipped beats, botched intros, technical difficulties, missed lyrics and nervous pauses – these kids supported those on stage 100%. When the wrong song was cued for a performer, they yelled encouragement for her to just go with the new song – and heaped praise upon her when she finished. When a nervous girl stood on stage with fear in her eyes, the entire place hollered her name and shouted out love.  When one singer seemed to loose her voice to the overpowering music that was simply much too loud (hello sound guy??), the place erupted with song as they sang right along with her. The folk singer belting out his own original tune had lit cell phones waving over the audience throughout his entire song. Didn’t matter if you were good or weak, these kids supported you from the moment you hit the stage. I hate to sound cliché, but it was truly as if everyone was a star. And I felt honored to witness it all from the front row. Thank you Worcester Technical High School!

Open Studio Visit 75 Webster St, Worcester

I had the pleasure of visiting an open studio on Friday, April 17th over at 75 Webster St. and wanted to share how much fun it was.

Took my entire family to this vast, seemingly vacant building to check out some local art and was not disappointed. Once inside, we were completely enthralled with the many closed doors, wondering what could be inside, but decided not to break ‘n enter and simply move forward, following the signs to our first stop -Brian Burris’ studio. I felt a bit like Alice, wandering the halls thinking that any moment they might start shrinking…

Once we found our way (with the kids excitedly leading the way), we discovered Burris’ recent “unrepentant” series of abstracts were hung and displayed throughout his relatively small studio space. Having learned a bit about his work through Worcester Magazine’s recent profile by Erik Ravdon, it was very cool to see his stuff in person. His work is thought provoking…it seemed we could stare at it for hours and still see something new. I shyly introduced myself but Burris was in a deep conversation with another couple so I just stood around and gawked. When my kids ate half his studio’s supply of hors d’oeuvres, we decided it was time to head upstairs.

One floor up brought us to Jonathan Lucas and Rose Russell. The shared space was flowing with people coming in and out, admiring the artwork, chatting it up and soaking up the art. I’m a big fan of Lucas’ work, and seeing his multi dimensional artwork up close and personal was a treat. Combining sculpture and photography to create larger than life works that leap off the walls, the kids had fun moving from side to side as each piece offered a hidden view or deeper meaning with just the flick of an eye. For instance, in one piece at first you see a human figure, but adjust your eyes or tilt your head and suddenly you see electrical outlets in the background or random bones beneath a face. I must say, my kids had a giggle over the giant piece scattered with random boobs and penises…my three year old thought that was the funniest (!).

Rose Russell’s photographs were sweet portraits of random car & motorcycle shots, and a custom motorcycle parked in the room gave her work an added appeal.

Bottom line and reason for this long winded post. It was heartwarming to see these open studios filled with art loving folks. As we left down the beautifully worn stairway (see middle image), more curious art lovers were heading on up, and it felt good to see so many Worcesterites supporting their local art scene. I left feeling warm & fuzzy and artfully sedated.


Inside Tent City

By Owen Skoler

I left the city behind when I stepped over the chain-linked fence and entered “Tent City” last Saturday night before the Dead show. Patchwork replaced Pats gear; grungy smiles replaced grungy stare downs; and, if you ask me, the air smelled exactly like it should post-Prop 2: homegrown heaven. In the sea of gemstones, Jerry sweatshirts and grilled cheese, it was difficult to strike up a conversation with a Worcesterite. Fans I spoke with came from Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine and Vermont. Vendors came from Wisconsin, South Carolina and I’m sure a host of other locations even farther from Wormtown. A young black-haired couple carried a pan of gooey balls that looked equally appetizing to the mind as the stomach. With wide eyes and wide grins, the two conversed with a vendor from Wisconsin named Trent. Trent struck me as a jolly, excessive partier much like a friend I had in high school. The only difference was Trent was about 10 years older, probably around 35. Whatever judgments one chooses to make about a quickly aging Head who wears a necklace of dancing bears around his neck while he sells scribbled “I Miss Jerry” bumper stickers, it’s vendors like Trent that illustrate how unbelievably profitable the concert was for Worcester and the state as a whole. More than any other music or sporting event, I believe a Dead show is the ultimate boost to a local economy via coveted out-of-state funds. First, fans are famous for traveling across state lines to see the legendary rock act. Second, there’s a massive amount of large bills circulating through places like Tent City for obvious reasons. And, maybe most importantly, the accumulation of small bills by people like Trent slinging trippy trinkets will be injected back into the local economy almost immediately. That’s because Trent and other vendors are nomadic peddlers and their spending habits reflect a life on the road. It’s likely money made off Tent City is not deposited into a bank account or put toward mortgages. Rather this money goes toward daily expenses like gas, groceries or a night out on the town. That’s the whole point of riding with the Dead: make just enough to support yourself on a day-today basis and enjoy the experience in peace-loving company. As one grilled cheese slinger from South Carolina put it, “We might not be surviving in luxury, but we’re surviving well.” And it looks like the City truly gets the economic benefits of a scene that can at-first appear strange and intimidating to a non-Head. City Manager Michael O’Brien was quoted in the T&G as saying, “In this challenging economy, these events and guests are a boost to support our local economy worth hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars, and all of us benefit.” It’s a point harped on by Dead merchants, and they appreciate the respect the city is finally showing them. A young vendor who called himself Geek commended the city for scaling back police presence compared to past jam band events. However on a side note, Geek wasn’t too pleased about the scheduling of Metal Fest during a weekend of the Dead. “You have those people over there who are all into thrash metal and being all aggressive and then you have us,” Geek says. But take Geek’s criticism with a grain of salt. Deadheads, like any rock concertgoers, can always have moments of confrontation. But that wasn’t the case Saturday night. The scene inside Tent City was peaceful and classic festival in its best sense. For me, an out-of-towner that came to Wormtown from Missouri where blue grass jam bands are a way of life, I felt at home. It’s a scene I hope to see more of in Wormtown, not only for the sake of my musical inclinations, but also for the sake of our economic prosperity.