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Cave’s in
Mad Man Films, Badman, and Night Rally

If you’re a new hip-hop artist just coming on the scene, you might introduce yourself to an audience by rhyming over familiar beats. If you’re an unknown indie-punk band in a city full of them, with your first album coming out in a couple of weeks, you might ease your audience into your quirks by learning a bunch of other people’s songs, borrowing a few wigs, and throwing a bazonkers house party. In lieu of a mix tape, then, Mad Man Films showed up in drag for the traditional centipede-infested Allston-basement gig last Friday, blowing up 40 or 50 neighborhood kids with a set that included Prince’s "Let’s Go Crazy," Britney’s "Toxic," Nick Cave’s "Red Right Hand," and shout-outs to the local ice-cream joint. It was an instructive and destructive mix: MMF’s own songs are as bracing and frenzied as any of their peers’, but they often come laced with subterranean art funk, as if they were a throwback to early Primus and Chili Peppers. "This is a song about black people," said the group’s magnetic singer/guitarist, George Lewis, introducing a number called "Brotherfucker." "It figures I’m the only black guy here." With his blond bob wig concealing a ’frohawk and a "Black Power" button affixed to his ax strap, Lewis shook the crowd like a combination of Johnny Vulture, Fishbone’s Angelo Moore, and a waitress at Jacque’s, alternating between gritty R&B shouts and a convulsive croon-to-a-scream that recalled Cave in his Birthday Party days while venturing into the audience to make out with whoever would reciprocate. (Boys, mostly.) Halfway through the set, he was down to his shorts, and a helpful hand relieved him of those for a spell. After drummer Joe Ciampini belted out a Tom Waits song in a braying alcoholic baritone, building to a feverish, church-like call-and-response with the suddenly sanctified basement brats, Lewis had the audience join hands in a prayer that the cops wouldn’t show. A few minutes later, they did.

Waits and Cave were also touchstones the next night at Great Scott for Providence’s Badman, a quartet with two drummers, one of whom played an elaborate junk-metal contraption hoisted on scaffolding rails — a very mid-’90s touch. Fronted by a misanthropic chanteur, and flanked by a guitarist peeling off noirish stabs drenched in reverb, they sounded like the Bad Seeds immersed in the guttural clank of Bone Machine. They didn’t quite bring down the house, but they did bring down the junk kit, and when the scaffolding collapsed in mid song, they barely missed a beat: "Deconstruction!" the singer declared. But the main attraction that night was Night Rally: their headlining set wasn’t billed as a record release party, but it was the Inman Square trio’s first gig since their long-delayed split LP with just-split-up pals Clickers finally found its way onto the merch table. After Ho-Ag bassist Patrick Kim wholly confused NR neophytes by introducing himself as guitarist Devin King and then climbing off stage, the actual Ralliers segued into 17 seamless minutes of "Triptych," the three B-side songs from that brand-new Honeypump Records seven-inch. Night Rally are chronic eye closers — if you murdered someone on stage, they’d never make the witness stand — and they sang about poison green air and bulletproofed birthday suits seemingly ignorant of anyone else in the room. Which meant they missed the red-shirted guy freaking out in the front row as if he’d just won the lottery.

Carly Carioli can be reached at ccarioli[a]phx.com; Camille Dodero can be reached at cdodero[a]phx.com

Issue Date: June 24 - 30, 2005
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