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Defrost with the Marvels, the
Curses and a steaming pile of punk

The Middle East Upstairs
Cambridge, Massachusetts


Whenever you go to see a show, there are certain clues that will
fill you in on the dynamic of the band before they ever start
playing. With the Marvels at The Middle East on Saturday night, it
was watching the bassist swagger back and forth from the bar to
the merch table in a white suit jacket and ripped fishnet-style
tights. It was watching singer Staffy mingle and gossip with the
crowd. It was watching all the members of the band goof off
together. So even before they took the stage, there was a cloying
“one-for-all” attitude pervading the club, and it was only
strengthened by the impressive team work that followed during
the set. These guys are almost Swiss in their clockwork
perfection, but they also seem to genuinely like each other. Their good
natured teasing during between-song chatter makes it easy to believe the
group isn’t just together for the sound.

Technically, everyone in The Marvels really seems to hold their own, and
with such fast-paced tunes, that’s an essential trait. Of the five members
of the band, at least four of them contribute to vocals. The only missing
voice was that of Jesse Mayer, metronomic drummer extraordinaire, who
virtually attacks his kit behind the rest of the group. With his 1950’s
greaser hair occasionally escaping its product to stick out like broken
guitar strings, it’s clear that he’s not slacking off back there. Combined
with bassist Michelle Paulhus, the duo creates a rhythm section which is
not to be beaten. Still, the band would be nothing if it weren’t for the two
guitarists: Zim, who also does a large share of the composing for the
group, and Nice Guy Jimmy B who can also be seen with the Pug Uglies.

Meanwhile, Staffy grips his mic with the authority of an older generation of
punk singers, and avoids any sense of bubble gum. This is not MTV punk
– this is something people should be proud to listen to. Despite his
perfect sneer and his shrieking voice, however, Staffy looks like an angel.
The entire show gave the sensation of watching a decent person try to
make the right decision – and failing gorgeously. Staffy takes the role of
the obligatory conscience and Paulhus almost has invisible devil horns
as she counters him stage left.

Epitomizing the punk-rock pin-up, the patter Paulhus spouts is liquid
smooth. Paulhus also plays in local punk group The Dents, and it’s clear
that this is a girl who has a lot of attributes and who knows how to use
them. Aside from being drop-dead gorgeous, she’s talented and just a
little dangerous – the typical punker’s dream girl. So as she called for
shots of Cuervo to go around, Staffy played the innocent and cancelled the
order for himself. Sure, this is a group of partiers, but someone has to be
responsible. Nevertheless, everyone in the band seems like they’d be a
All Alone
I Will Follow
All I Want
So Long
I Wanna Be Dead
Born To Run

Son of Sam
Rock n’ Roll is For The Poor
Blood & Whiskey
Grown Up
I Tried
blast to just sit down and grab a beer with, and that means something in the local music scene. In February’s
Noise Poll, The Marvels were awarded best CD of the year with their release
Cheat to Win on Abbey Lounge
Records. And with those votes coming directly from the Boston fan base, it’s obvious that people aren’t over-
looking hard work and good attitudes.

Opening the show were The Curses – a group that blends together vocals like those of Dead Kennedys legend
Jello Biafra and the overall tone of The Small Faces. These guys sound awesome when they’re playing, but
pitting them against The Marvels points out their greatest shortcoming – they need to spend more time working
together. While the vocals are shaky and lovable and the instrumentals sound good independently, there were
obvious moments where the entire band couldn’t quite come together. While the rhythm section stayed on beat,
the guitars occasionally started drifting. At one point singer/guitarist Brian Hammond actually stopped at the
beginning of a song and had the group restart, explaining that “we didn’t practice it.” Still, as drummer Joe
Ferraro exclaimed “are you crazy??” it was made all the more clear that this is a group that needed more time in
the practice space. Between songs there were long moments of down time, which segmented what could have
been a phenomenal set of fast-paced, frantic songs. The group tried to put forward some between song banter,
but it still wasn’t enough to fill the empty space.

Despite their shortcomings, I thoroughly enjoyed The Curses and would definitely go see them again. With bells
on. Guitarist Chris DeBarge has an interesting and unique tone and the whole group has decent stage
presence. Hammond gets into theatrics during the set too and will, hopefully, grow into a brilliant front man. The
group is currently in the studio working on their second full length studio album, (their first,
#&$% was released
on Empty Records in Oct., 2003) and hopefully when they emerge they will be more confident in their on-stage
performance. This is a group with infinite potential, if only they can get a little chummier.

Both The Marvels and The Curses are major assets to the Boston scene, and any local fan should make sure to
check them out. The Marvels are currently touring, and they hope to get into the studio in early summer. Check
out The Dents CD release party for their first full length album
Time For Biting, Feb. 4-5 at The Abbey Lounge.

Check out The Marvels at and The Curses at
The Marvels' Staffy