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BRMC blows away all

Paradise Rock Club
Boston, Massachusetts


Music is an interesting thing for me. I often describe
myself as restless, always looking for the next high
that a concert can provide or the buzz I can start
swirling over a new vinyl disc that I happen to lay my
greedy hands on. I’m always looking for more, from
record stores to flea markets, and I really try to
make it to every show I can that’s of any interest to
me, bank account be damned.

But that’s not the whole truth. In reality, I can be a
lazy bastard.

Take Wilco, for example. One of the most creative
bands of the last 10 years, at least. But just a few
years ago, I resisted listening to them. All it took
was one less-than-enthusiastic recommendation
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for me to try to avoid the
hype. Of course, a thousand hyper bits of advice later, I tried it. They became one of my favorite bands instantly.

Fast forward to September 27, 2005. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has just released its third record,
HOWL, and I
have tickets to see them in Boston at the Paradise Rock Club. However, I only have the tickets because of my
interest in their opening act, Mark Gardner, who was once a vital cog in Ride.

I’ve heard, well, things about BRMC. Some good, some bad, nothing definitive, but of course, despite my better
judgement, there had been absolutely no effort to take in any of their stuff. I think I can date the hesitation back to
the review of their first album in Rolling Stone, which was less than enthusiastic. I’ve since learned that nothing
Rolling Stone prints is worth a dime anymore, but dammit, it was still enough for me to disregard them.

That era has ended.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Mark Gardner
Mark Gardner set the stage for BRMC with a 12-string guitar and
backed by another guitarist and a female vocalist/keyboardist,
who herself took lead on one song in the middle of the set. With
the knowledge of Ride’s giant guitars and feedback-driven epics,
the effectiveness of stripping down the songs was really
surprising. The songs themselves stand out, with “In A Different
Place,” from the band’s full-length debut
Nowhere (circa 1990),
being one of the many highlights.

The club was barely half-filled for the man who led one of the
less-appreciated but quite influential bands of recent memory.
Roughly half an hour later, though, the Paradise was packed for
BRMC. They knew something I didn’t.

The band’s primary guitarist Peter Hayes came out solo for the
first couple of songs with just an acoustic guitar and harmonica,
which was the first surprise of many for me. He did songs from
HOWL that really seemed to call back to the railroad era, like an
updated Woody Guthrie. It didn’t feel like nostalgia or some ill-advised folk revival, though. It was honest and
real. It was also the tip of a very large, broad iceberg.

Their more recent work, as I’ve since learned, has gone in a new direction, a stripped-down take on American
music in general and their careers specifically. It all works, though, in context with their noisier, feedback-driven
songs that dominated the rest of the night. Their influences were all present; within the driving bass and drums
were hints of the Stooges, Leadbelly, Dylan, the Stones, Radiohead and even Ride, who’s former leader had set
the stage for them (literally and historically).

As the set went on, the band became more and more intense. I was particularly drawn to the way Robert Turner
played the bass. He attacks the instrument the way a guitarist handles his axe but manages to keep a low,
rolling flow. All the while, Nick Jago is keeping perfect, thundering time amidst what could be taken as chaos in
the wrong context. This was precise, free, unlimited, insane music. These guys could do anything. They had no
ceiling. And this was before the encore. They ripped through “Stop,” a thundering song, after a short break,
complete with Turner nearly tipping over his bass rig in ringing out every last note. After about two hours, I was
beyond help. I had just seen a band channel everything from Woody to Sonic Youth in one sitting without so
much as blinking. I bought their second record immediately after the show, and as I write this, there it sits on my

There’s a reason I’m a music fan. Once in a while, when I get the better of my lazy demons, I stumble upon
another band that blows me away, another band to worship, another song to include on a mix tape or CD,
another way to let myself go through a great, great album.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have mix tapes to make and friends to annoy.

Check out Nick’s new favorite band at and one of his less-than-new favorites,
Mark Gardner, at