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The Push Stars

Jethro Tull w/ The Push Stars

August 19, 2001 @ Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom

The chimney echoes of “Silvertown” filled the wide, slightly steamy room as the milling crowd began to take their seats. Adding to the steam was frontman Chris Trapper, who was sweating through his polyester suit with every note. By the time song number two — a roaring “Meet Me On Main Street” — came about, Trapper was already showing signs of vocal strain. Off came the jacket and up went the tempo into the pumping and playful film song “Everything Shines.” When brother Tom came up to offer slick-fingered guitar support, the four-man trio really got it going. As Ryan MacMillan and Dan McLoughlin kept the low end easy and tight, the Trapper boys did their thing up front, dragging a bit through “Cinderella” before climaxing in a slightly extended “Any Little Town.”
Though the boys did a good job at winning over the older, biker-laden crowd (quite a different demo than they may have been accustomed to), when Sir Ian and the boys took the stage, the Ballroom erupted. Though Mr., Anderson required the use of a cane to take the stage (the result of a freak Folk festival accident), once he took it, he did not give it back. Starting at the very beginning of the Tull repertiore with a bass-driven “My Sunday Feeling,” the 30-year-plus quintet slowed into “Cross-Eyed Mary” before veering off into a new song from the wood called “Roots to Branches.” In between tripling solos, Ian impersonated his bandmates, especially steadfast sideman Martin Barre, who could still lick it up as well as his one-and-a-half-legged stage partner. After acoustically telling the eco-concious tale of “Jack In The Green,” the band took a moment to rest before venturing through all 391 epic seconds of “Thick As a Brick,” each one of which which made even Anderson long for the days of concept albums. The imposing march introducing an echoey “Sweet Dream” and the feline dedication “Hunt By Numbers” gave soje justificationfor Tull’s querelous Heavy Metal Grammy. But awards or no, the band showed how and why they have lasted one-tenth as long as the original “Bouree,” which was played tonight with a time-bending mixture of Bach-ian classicalism and contemporary soul. Though the lovely visual aide for the centre stage performance of “The Water Carrier” was quite lovely, the samples used to express “The Secret Language of Birds” (aka “SLOB”) were a bit annoying. Fortunately, Barre’s Gilmour-meets-Satriani solo intro to “New Day Yesterday” brought back the Blues soul and prepared the crowd for a room-rocking “Aqualung” and an extended encore of “Locomotive Breath.”
Though Anderson’s licks may not have been as sharp as they have been in days past, and though his vocal gymnastics may have led to muffled mumbling, it was still Tull. It may be 30 years on but, despite the cane, it was clear that, as the tour says, Tull still has a leg to stand on.

- Matthew S. Robinson
c. 2001, M. S. Robinson, ARR


The Push Stars CMJ Showcase

September 17, 1999 @ The Bottom Line (New York)

Opening with a spare, home-heavy drowd, The Push Stars realized trheir dream of a Bottom Line gig with a high-toned tour of “Slvertown.” Whisking the building crowd through their discography with a smackey sing- and clap-along “Minnesota” (featuring Phil Broikos, the world’s hippest accordionist). Setting-up “Too Much Pride” with a tastefully humble intro, Chris Trapper had a touch of vocal strain, but used it emotively and, for the most part, pulled it off. The band’s latest single, “A Little Drunk Is Better Than Dead,” was put across all sly and slinky with Phil on a hard trombone and heavy percussion courtesy of Ryan MacMillan. After some rock band stage play, the band kicked into their screen gem “Everything Shines” which was rhythmically replete with MacMillan’s busy sticks and Dan McLoughlin’s bubbly bass. McLoughlin then took to the keys for a paternally-devoted “Cinderella” which featured an expansive two-guitar finish featuring Trapper and Broikos. Returning to the opening high tone for “Back To The Party,” the four-man trio fielded requests for their closer, finally opting for a muddledly familiar “Any Little Town.” In a little more than an hour, the band had taken us through their catalog and back with style and presence. It was a well-planned and well-executed showcase.

- Matthew S. Robinson
© 1999 M. S. Robinson, ARR


The Push Stars CD Release w/ My Favorite Relative

May 22, 1999 @ The Paradise

Having played in nearby bars and clubs for many years, The Push Stars have finally been given the recognition they deserve, On the flying heels of their new Capitol CD, After The Party, The Push Stars have enjoyed stories in all (and I mean ALL) local papers, as well as larger national venues, including a short feature on MTV. Never ones to be big-headed, the talented threesome (with “fourth” Star Phil Broikos offering added guitar, keys, accordion and vocals), returned to their roots for what was more an appreciation show than a CD release. However, now that they are signed to a major, there was protocol to be followed and CDs to be sold. As a result, the set was very album-heavy with only a few older songs. However, as Party includes many recognizable sounds, including a reworking of “Any Little Town” and “Everything Shines” from “There’s Something About Mary,” the fans ate it up! With their familiar hummy bass drone, steady strummings and crisp crashes, The Push Stars raced through most of the new album and other hits such as a yelled “One Summer Day” (complete with arena-style chant along, a prescient sign of things to come) and closing mosh through the sensitive favorite “Shy.”
In spite of the fact that (or perhaps because) this may have been one of their most high-profile gigs ever, label darlings My Favorite Relative did away with the matching outfits and flocatti instrument wraps in favor of a focus on music and performance (along with some neat projections and cool lighting choreography). Though Adrian Hierholzer started the set a bit flat, as the music pumped-up, so too did the range of hius Dennis DeYoung/Mike Love vocals. Fellow frontman Kurt Uenala was wacky and raunchy throughout with his grumbling bass and strap-on keyboard. Though Ramin Djawadi’s guitar was most often lost in the rush, Jean-Paul Belmondo-Powell’s syntehsized pizzicato harpsichord solo made for a nice break amid the sudden stops and eruptive launches which, along with David Spreng’s heavy drum thumping, paced the night. Among the old faves performed were a stripped “Seashell” with anew synth break, an ultra-danceable “Motorbike” with a heavy kick bass rhythm and breathy, over-amped croon of “What You Gonna Do.” Sprinkled amongst these were a new band “theme” song and some refreshing balladry.

- Matthew S. Robinson
© 1999 M. S. Robinson, ARR


The Push Stars Press Party

April 6,1999 @ Bill’s

For whatever the reason – whether it be the early hour or Matzah-induced delirium or what-have-you – the planned press conference was canceled in favor of a more casual and informative meet, greet and eat session. After a few hours of booze’n’schmooze, The Push Stars strapped on the suits and took the stage to offer samples of their long-awaited Capitol Records debut, After The Party (release Date, May 18). By show time, the place was packed with fans, friends and enough Boston press to fill the gossip column in [insert local rag of choice]. Displaying their familiar wide bass grooves, strummy guitar work and slap-on-the-four percussion, the chummy threesome also added the occasional muffled keyboard and the first staged appearance of a guest trombone. Though the chat level was still high as the Stars strummed into their recent “Something About Mary” star-turn “Everything Shines,” the spare-to-lush “Moving Target” closed the gap, bringing the audience closer to the stage and closer to the silent attention that met the band’s first single, a slickly-produced new edition of “Any Little Town.” Though many of the songs might have been familiar to the local fans who had assembled to wish their favorite Stars well, for most listeners on the national scene, these songs will be an introduction to one of Boston’s most powerful trios.

- Matthew S. Robinson
© 1999 M. S. Robinson, ARR


The Push Stars with Big Dig

October 11, 1998 @ Karma

Combining two of Boston’s favorite power-pop trio’s, Karma offered an early evening double-shot of well-structured rhythm and rock. Far more successful and easier to navigate than their namesake, Big Dig got the crowd moving with their solid sound. Though some of their original offerings were a bit hard to follow, Big Dig’s covers of Split Enz and Barry Manilow(!) kept the crowd with them. After a short set by another of Chris Trapper’s famous middle acts (this time an Irish step-dancing team whose impressive routine was probably only such to those in the front who could actually see their flying feet), Trapper and his rhythmic teammates Ryan MacMillan and Dan McLaughlin hit the stage hard and kept hitting it throughout their dance-club-abbreviated set. Though the Stars were mired in low-end rumble at times and took a few songs to rise to their full brilliance, by the time they wound-up into the chunky pulse of “Counting the Minutes,” they had settled into their familiar orbit and had their fans jumping nearly as high. The wide and warm additions of EverSinceDayOne sax-woman Emily Weber gave the trio a boundlessly richer sound, but on their own, the three-man party machine did okay. Filling-in each other’s deep musical pockets, the Stars kept the sound balanced and clean, allowing each other to shine fully. Showcasing a few new tunes from their forthcoming Capitol release, in addition to their most recent star-turn in the soundtrack to instant comic classic “There’s Something About Mary,” the Stars kept mostly to their old standards, whetting their fans’ collective whistle for what was to come.

- Matthew S. Robinson
© 1998 M. S. Robinson, ARR


The Push Stars with Brownie Mary

and The Commonwealth Jazz Quartet

July 8, 1998 @ The Paradise, Boston

With the camera crews waiting outside to capture on film what many thought to be inevitable, recently-majored local heroes The Push Stars rallied their devoted troops in support of the doomed Paradise Rock Club. Despite a virginal paint job and promises to keep things under control, the fate of this Commonwealth Avenue landmark questionable. The talent and major label worthiness of its inhabitants, however, was not.
Flanked by a flicky bass, a spangly, space-pedaled six-string and equally flashy drums, Brownie Mary’s camo-clad lead singer mixed a Jewel look with a very DiVinyls-esque steamy, creaky sound which moved from whispery coos to energetic bounces. Though the low end often came undone and overpowered the squealer guitar licks the rhythm section often set off the huskier vocal sequences and the deep funk teases and heavy thunkers, mixed with a dash of thrash, demonstrated a diverse grasp of rock styles.
Next up came another of Chris Trapper’s famously hand-picked openers. Often seen performing in are MBTA stations, The Commonwealth Jazz Quartet combined clarinet, banjo, tuba and horn in an authentic New Orleans sound which made impressive tries at artists ranging from Bix Beiderbecke to The Ink Spots. Though the mostly younger crowd did not appear to know what to make of the unplugged gentlemen’s old-time style, they appreciated the brassy break just the same.
As the room changed from comfortably full to impressively packed, the headline trio took the stage. After a muddy, draggy start, The Push Stars rumbled into a peppy version of their crowd-jumping favorite “Counting the Minutes,” which included a snappy rhythm break and concluded with a humbly appreciative tribute to the crowd and the ill-fated room. Other highlights of the set included an appropriately deep “Sinking In It” (impressively enhanced by an undersea-themed light show), a sing and bounce-along “Lack of Motion” during which Chris Trapper’s mic could have been turned off and nobody would have been the wiser and a steady, percussive and well-balanced “Shy.” As the energy of the performance rpse, so did lead man Trapper’s confidence and the cohesion of the rhythm section of drummer Ryan MacMillan and bass/keyboardist Dan McLaughlin. Though occasionally mis-paced and heavy (especially the band’s new material), the performance left little doubt that Boston’s latest big story will be able to carry the Hub’s proud musical banner to musical capitols around the country and beyond.

- Matthew S. Robinson
© 1998 M. S. Robinson, ARR


The Push Stars

May 16, 1997 @ Club Passim

Having heard a great buzz about local trio “The Push Stars”, I was excited to have the opportunity to see them at one of their two sold-out EP-release shows at Passim . Simply put, the buzz is well-deserved!
Tuscon’s Eric Rever had been hand-picked by the Stars to open for them. Though his toothy grin, torn straw hat and sueded shirt made Revers a sight to behold, it was his music and style of playing which made him truly unique. While his fingers flew around a banjo, his mouth wrapped around down-home twangs and mushy blues harp while his feet worked-out simultaneously on a wood block, 1-string bass and acoustic guitar. Without a doubt, Revers and his “Guitar Machine Band” made for the toe-tappin’-est performance in town (and probably a number of neighboring towns as well!).
“Welcome to our party!” yelled six-string slinger and vocalist Chris Trapper as the audience raved over the Star’s second song “Never See You Fall” (a tune sampled by Jim Infantino in “She Said/He Said”). And a diverse party it was! From the lyrical minstrel picking of “Sinking In It” to the E-Street Band drive of “Cross Town Cafe” (which substituted guest Star Emily Weber for Clarence Clemmons) and a cookin’ version of “Counting the Minutes,” the threesome mixed it up and laid it down, putting the “power” into “power trio.”
The band had the room rocking all night. They even had folks outside swaying along! Though Trapper may have sometimes lost his own lyrics in his amped-up string-work, his mix of folky strum, old-time rock reverbed poppiness and new-wave scratch made for a strong and pleasantly varied lead. Suave skin-man Ryan MacMillan was able to get a lot of sound out of a basic trap set and his steady counts and fancy fills added to the simple yet full sound of the popular threesome. MacMillan even took a shot a lead vocals with a whispery croon of Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me,” in which his sometimes strained falsetto contrasted well with the deep and driving bass work of Dan McLoughlin, who also proved capable on keyboards.
Being a second show, the band was free to run a bit long. However, few expected the seven-song “encore” which seemed more like an additional set (though nobody seemed to mind).
When it was all over, Chris reassured the crowd “It’s all right. You can clap. It’s no big deal!”
As if they needed to be reminded!

Look for the Push Stars in the greater New England/New York/Martha’s Vineyard area all summer. And be sure to grab their new EP “Tonight.”

- Matthew S. Robinson
© 1997 M. S. Robinson, ARR


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