WUMB December Program Guide

The Local Music Corner – Goodbyes (for now), Hello Again, and Where We’ve Been

I have to begin by looking back…before we look forward to something in Spring.

October 13th saw a pretty tremendous send-off to Christian McNeill, who is planning on moving back to his native Ireland. It wasn’t simply one of his last shows in the area. It was a gathering of so many of the musicians he’s played and recorded with over the years. It was a gathering of some of the first people he’d met and worked with after he arrived in Boston over 20 years ago. So what was billed as “The Long Goodbye” (the show at The Burren in Somerville) was at times an emotional affair for the players as well as the fans.

Things started with an acoustic set that began solo, and gradually grew. While he was still performing solo, Christian explained that he’s been having bureaucratic problems with the move. So he may be in town for a while longer. Although it wasn’t clear if he’ll be performing live in the area in the near future. What was clear was that this shouldn’t be the final goodbye. He’s working on a new album for a possible spring release. And whenever that happens, he intends on coming back to Boston to support it with some shows.

But back to “The Long Goodbye.” So Christian began the concert solo. Then Tim Gearan joined him. Then Jimmy RyanDana ColleyDuke Levine. Dennis Brennan came on for a cover of his “Government Johnny McKee” (I would guess that maybe it’s one of Christian McNeill’s favorite Dennis Brennan songs and that’s why they performed it). It occurred to me before the show even started at 7:30 that with the lineup alone, it could run until Midnight. Well before this acoustic part finished, Christian said that they were already running long. But it was quality. Nobody minded.

The next part of the show brought drummer Jeff Berlin and bassist Jeremy Dryden to the stage. They were the rhythm section of McNeill’s band Hybrasil. It was good to see Berlin looking and drumming so well. He’d had several strokes around 2015, and there have been a number of benefit shows for Jeff over the years. It was during the Hybrasil set that the crowd first lit up, especially during the song “Lock And Load.”

The following set brought me back to the first time I ever encountered Christian McNeill, which was with Orchestra Morphine in Central Square, Cambridge, three weeks after Mark Sandman had died on tour with Morphine in 1999. Members of Orchestra Morphine took the stage with Morphine saxophonist Dana Colley (and Ally McGuirk on vocals). Many memories came back with those Morphine bass lines, from many of the same songs Orchestra Morphine performed that day in Central Square. There were a few songs that sounded like the end of the show, with the crowd going crazy over “Top Floor, Bottom Buzzer,” and feeling the communal buzz of “You Look Like Rain.” As the Orchestra Morphine set came to a close, it occurred to me that the Sea Monsters were on the bill but not on the show. Just then, Christian said, “don’t go away, coming up next, the Sea Monsters.”

It was 11pm at that point. And but for three hours’ nap I had been up since 6am – after taking an overnight flight from the west coast. My body started to send me signals that it was beginning to fade. So ashamed as I am to admit it, I headed home at that point. Word came to me that the show finally ended at 12:30am. Thanks to all the bands and musicians for such a tremendous send-off to Christian McNeill. I wish him the best with this plans. And I look forward to new music from him in the future…and hopefully a return to a stage in Boston shortly after that.

This month’s WUMB 3rd Thursdays At the Burren show may require sturdy shoes. It will be the return of The Tarbox Ramblers to the venue. I seem to recall that they used to play The Burren quite often “back in the day.” If you’ve never heard them, it’s like a stew of musical rhythms from the early 20th century on up. Be prepared to stomp your feet – right along with Michael Tarbox. Hence the need for sturdy shoes at the show. You’ll have a great time that will squelch any anxiety from the week into submission. And a few days later, you’ll probably realize that you got a sense of social history from the songs without cracking a text book. The show will be Nov 21st at 7pm. Thanks to all our new and renewing WUMB members. You folks will get in for half price should you like to attend. But I would not wait until showtime to get your tickets.

October’s 3rd Thurdays at the Burren show reminds us that you never know what will happen when you decide to see the show in person. For example, when the Chandler Travis 3-O walked through the audience and sang unamplified to close their set. At last month’s show, the Wolff Sisters Band played for TWO HOURS. This was a CD release party. Their new album Queendom of Nothing is their 4th release. You might think, OK then, they must have padded the show with a bunch of covers. I believe they played all of two covers. It was a tremendous show. They are now officially on my “I recommend you see them live” list. Keep up with them at TheWolffSisters.com.

Good news from Quincy’s Jesse Ahern. He’ll be in Europe this coming February. That may be nice enough. But he’ll be on tour with the Dropkick Murphys and Frank Turner. Jesse being with those two is a musical no-brainer. His latest recording is an EP is called My Truth Only. He is recording with some familiar names on this one: Jim Haggerty on bass and Chris Anzalone on drums (they work with multiple bands in the Boston area music scene), and guitar slinger Cody Nilson from Ward Hayden & The Outliers and Cody’s other band Honey Talk. Haley Thompson King sings with Jesse on two songs. Jesse is heading back into the studio – watch for three new songs to come out in the winter.

Finally (until I get some other news just after sending this in…), Club Passim is celebrating it’s 60th birthday this year. And what a show they have coming up on November 14th to note the occasion. All prop’s to Passim for what they have done over the decades for so many artists and to make the singer-songwriter scene in Boston so significant. This lineup in particular also makes me think of WUMB’s path. You might associate the headliners with WUMB – as well as Passim, obviously – from their early days before their well earned success. Are you sitting down? Patty Griffin, Josh Ritter, and Dar Williams, plus special guests. Wow. Nov 14th at the Shubert Theatre in Boston’s Theatre District. Congratulations “and many more,” to all at Club Passim past and present.

And many more thanks to you for being Members of WUMB. If you just joined or renewed during our most ambitious and at the same time our most successful fundraiser, we have you and all the other Members and contributors to WUMB for having interesting music radio to listen to. Thank you thank you thank you…now multiply those thank you’s by 5.

~ Perry

Leave a Reply