Thursday, September 22, 2011

Boston Horns blow into town for concert

Garret Savluk
It's hard to imagine the Boston Horns playing a sit-down concert. The seven-piece band has been burning up stages with high-energy, hard-grooving funk and soul for more than a decade and has developed a reputation for, well, burning down the house, for getting folks off their seats and onto the dance floor or into the aisles. And that's exactly what they're planning on doing next week, when the band pulls into the Port for their first local gig in years.  "You'd better tie the roof down," says Horns frontman Garret Savluk. "We're going to mix it up, we're going to do our thing, we're going to blow this place up." But, as hard as it is to imagine people sitting in their seats, politely clapping like it's the US Open, while the Horns tear it up onstage, it's even more difficult to imagine Savluk up there doing it without saxophonist Henley Douglas at his side. They've been playing together for better than two decades, from the early days with The Blues Meanies, which had them backing the Del Fuegos, among others, to the years as the conceptually outrageous Heavy Metal Horns, which put them on the road with then-chart-toppers Extreme, to their work over the past ten years as the Boston Horns, opening for monster funk acts like the Tower of Power and bringing the band, and its powerhouse sound, to a headlining tour in Japan. But that's where the Horns are these days. They're still together, but the Douglas-Savluk partnership is done. 

Powell play adopts new look

Things aren't the way they should be and they're not what they seem in "The Way Life Should Be," the "new" Leslie Powell play that has been kicking around stages, on the east coast, in the southwest, in one form or another for about seven years and, recently opened the fourth season of North Shore Readers Theater Collaborative, a Port play development series, in a dramatically stripped down form that came after a major rewrite just days before the latest opening. Something the actors must have been really happy about. Hey, everyone loves last-minute rewrites, right? It’s a story with a very long history — like the play itself. It's about a much-delayed, much- anticipated reunion, a get-together Elaine has played out in her head thousands of times over the years. She has not seen Grady since he was a little boy  — 19 inches to be exact — when she gave him up for adoption. He’s 27 years old now. She knows it was the "right" thing to do, but that decision has cast a shadow over the rest of her life, which has been shrouded in doubt and guilt for as long as she can remember, although the emotional ramifications have mostly simmered below the surface. He is the "ghost baby," who has been haunting her all his life. Wherever that played out. She has waited for the call for years, not expecting to get it, because in her heart she feels guilty, she feels like she is being — and maybe should be — punished because, after all, what kind of monster would willingly give away her child? No, no. Nobody ever said it. To her face. But she has felt the scorn of icy imagined stares through most of her adult life. No amount of comfort, reassurance from Jess, her lovie-dovie, long-time live-in will change that. Okey-dokey? 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Once upon a time, Greg Moss wrote a play

Aisha Chodat plays Jenny in the new Greg Moss play. Photo by Lydia See.
It's not like anyone hoodwinked him, he was not dragged, kicking and screaming, into the project. He went along willingly, however cautiously, saying he would kick the idea around a little, to keep an open mind, just see what happens, but with a boatload of doubt, because Gregory S. Moss, a homegrown, but lately a globetrotting playwright, just back from a French premiere of his play "House of Gold," is a little distrustful of the form — "skeptical" is how he puts it — even though some of his work is built along similar structures. So when Edward Speck, artistic director of Theater in the Open, a company Moss had been involved with for more than 15 years, approached him, asked him to do an original adaptation of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale — any one, his choice — Moss thought ... I'm probably not the right guy to do a straight adaptation, but maybe I could take a different approach. So he dug into the literature, the folklore of fairy tales. He read the usual Freudian takes about what is going on below the surface of these creepy, disturbing, if you think about it, stories — or, at least, the ones that the evil genius Walt Disney hasn't gotten his dreck-stained fingers all over, and came up with something original, spellbinding — a modern Grimm-like fairytale set in the here and now, specifically Newburyport, or "this Puritan black hole of the universe" as our 15-year-old heroine Jenny Stone (Aisha Chodat) puts it — a little city by the laughing waters that geeky Froggy (Max Vye) — a characters whose name might ring a bell with all you clever kids out there — was told to avoid at all costs.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Exit show a real kick(er) for Taylor

The Rhythm Chicks, aka Lynne Taylor and Kristine Malpica, are sitting at a window table at Cafe di Siena, kicking back before putting on happy faces for a photo shoot for the debut album from Liz Frame and the Kickers, scheduled for a late-October release. They're also trying to remember, without much luck, it turns out, the last time RC2 (Taylor, since she came into the Liz Frame fold later, though the designation is by no means official) did a solo show. Malpica is pretty sure it was two years ago, a solo show in Portsmouth. At the Unitarian church, maybe? But, no, Taylor isn't buying it, even though she has nothing to contribute to resolve the question. "It's been a while,"  says the Port bassist, a fixture on the local music scene for a quarter-century, who fronted a list of bands longer than your arm. And that's ... OK? Yeah, it is, as far as she's concerned. It's actually better than OK, because now she only has to do the fun stuff: get to the show or rehearsal on time and play the bass and sing harmony, not the ugly-but-necessary stuff  — booking, budgets and promotion. "I'm happy as a Kicker,” she says. "This is way more fun, less pressure." It's also the reason people stop in their tracks when they see that Taylor will be performing solo in a benefit for Exit Dance Theatre, the modern dance troupe that will be celebrating its 25th anniversary next year. It's not true, not exactly anyhow. The Sept. 23 performance not so much a solo show so much as it is a collaboration. She'll be backed by a band, a kind of impromptu band, one that includes RC1 on percussion — as well as a performance by Exit, which will debut a new piece set to one Taylor tune, and a poetry reading.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

New day, new band, new name

Funny name, Tabasco Fiasco. Maybe not the best he's come up with, and, believe me, there have been many over the years. Personal favorites? Well, Felonious Monks for the jazz reference, and Magnificent Bastards,  just for the sheer gall. But we're also fond of the Maldens, especially knowing that the musicians were from Everett. And Alan Laddd and the Abashed, for the inside joke: Alan Ladd was the actor who played Shane, the world-weary gunslinger who just wanted to settle down, but gets dragged into into that complicated ethical world once again — and the name North Shore rocker Gary Lavenson adopted so many years ago because ... well, because it was way more rock and roll than Lavenson. Go ahead, try it out: Gary Lavenson and the Detour. Just doesn't work, does it? But, yeah, funny name, Tabasco Fiasco. Shane didn't come up it. His banjitarist, a guy with a familiar name, having ... What? Banjitarist?