Pop Free Radio scored a big success last night by booking Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Joe Firstman and the ACBs at the Brick. More than 100 people turned out, which is quite impressive for a weeknight. Also impressive: I didn't know a one of them.
It gladdened me to see so many strangers willing to plunk down $10 for some live and mostly local music. I hope they have all now caught the concert bug and will continue to show support at rock bars all over town.
While the vast majority of last night's crowd evoked the very essence of purity -- all the tattoo-less dudes in pastel polo shirts and the long-haired ladies in tasteful, trendy skirts, a couple of rank woolly-bullies just about ruined my night when the smellier of the two engaged in the disgusting activity of transferring a jawbreaker between his mouth and three of his friends in the front row in the final minutes before SSLYBY played. But enough about that.
I got to the show just after 10 p.m., just missing the ACBs, who Pop Free founder Chronic the Hedgehog later declared "the single strongest local band I've EVER seen!"
I went for SSLYBY, Springfield's Polyvinyl Records-signed favorite sons. I've kept tabs on this band for about three years now, and their sugar just keeps getting sweeter and more refined. That's cool. I like catchy pop songs like "Think I Wanna Die," the first single off SSLYBY's most recent album Pershing. But there's a moody vulnerability to the songs on Broom, the band's 2006 bedroom recording, that I have to say I prefer. It's just a tad more fun to listen for the poppy nugget in the loose, imperfect songs than it is to have the polished hooks all laid out plain.
That's probably why I walked away last night stoked to have discovered middle act Joe Firstman. The California dude used to lead the house band on Last Call with Carson Daly. As he performed scratchy country folk songs, accompanied by a hairy man on an upright bass, the Hollywood tie seemed almost hard to believe. But Firstman and his two bandmates, with their harmonies, harmonica and bluesy acoustica evoked true grit. Check out the track "Mr. Winston" on Firstman's MySpace for proof.
Although kinda fresh-faced, SSLYBY has a grit of its own, too. Even in its poppiest tracks, a hint of front-porch sensibility shines through. And, technically speaking, the band is adaptable. Every time I've seen SSLYBY, about three-quarters of the way into the set, three of the four band members trade musical responsibilities. Fortunately for me, SSLYBY served up a good helping of old material last night. And no doubt thanks to the stateside and European touring that the band's been doing a lot of over the past year, familiar favorites like "Pangea" and "House Fire" sounded tighter than ever.