The Rock and Roll Rumble returns tonight for its 34th annual dance, bringing together 24 bands from around New England and allowing them to be part of a friendly competition that beneath the surface is just one big music festival. In joining some other recent Rumble previews that are definitely worth your attention (nice work Allston Pudding and the Boston Herald), here is the Vanyaland A to Z guide of what’s in store for the week ahead at T.T. The Bear’s Place in Cambridge, beginning tonight and wrapping up the preliminary week on Saturday, April 13.
A – A is for Anngelle Wood. The tireless host and organizer of the Rumble has brought it back from the brink of extinction. Her local music show, Boston Emissions, airing every Sunday night on WZLX 100.7 FM, is required listening for what's going on around town. There's a Rumble pre-party tonight around 8pm, so let's raise a glass to all who help put this thing together.
B – B is for Blackbutton (Night 3, April 9). The rock trio's single “Still Kids” is the type of song you’d hear at 3am on MTV sometime in the early ‘90s, right after an Afghan Whigs video. And then you’d wake up the next day and go to Strawberries or Sam Goody to buy the entire CD for $16.99.
C – C is for Cancer Killing Gemini (Night 1, April 7), Camden (Night 2, April 8), and Coyote Kolb (Night 5, April 12). A trio of C bands this year, and they run the sonic spectrum from the galactic post-industrial of CKG, Camden’s speedball indie brat-pop, and the MTV-show-approved burnt-in Americana of Coyote Kolb, which is a nice dark horse pick to play three Rumble shows this spring. Also: C U at TTs, rite?.
D – D is for The Deep North (Night 2, April 8) and the Daily Pravda (Night 6, April 13). Both bands are known for an ambitious, big-room sound, and are both led by dynamic vocalists, from the towering prom-wave belt of the Deep North’s Rebecca Frank to the Bowiean glam-glide of David Jackel of the Daily Pravda.
E – E is for Endation (Night 2, April 8) and Eddie Japan (Night 2, April 9). Despite being the lone duo in this year’s Rumble, Endation stand to make perhaps the most noise, their sludgy creature-rock might be enough to let the people downstairs at the Middle East hear what’s going on up at TTs for a change. Meanwhile, the crooning Japans have enough smooth modern rock seduction to not only win their night, but convince us to wake up in their bed come morning.
F – F is for The Field Effect (Night 5, April 12). The most fuckable band in Boston is the likely odds-on favorite to win the whole thing, but their rock value plummeted 43% with the recent shuttering of WFNX. Both panties and boxers worn inside TTs and along Brookline Street will disintegrate by the minute-mark of standout guitar-pop gem “Ogunquit, ME.”
G - G is for Group of Death. Every year there’s one preliminary night that could masquerade as the Finals, a stacked four-band bill that puts aside musical diversity for one night and fills the role as simply a killer rock show. And this year, it’s Night 2 on Monday, April 8: The aforementioned Endation, Camden, and the Deep North, as well as...
H – H is for Herra Terra (Night 2, April 8). The techni-color electronicore rocket-ride that is a Herra Terra performance should woo the judges and leave them dizzy. But with only a 15 minute set up between bands, there’s also a chance the Central Mass band performs only two songs before the time their slot time ends at 11pm. So many plugs, so much gear, but with nothing going to waste.
I – I is for the Indefinite Article. Remember that time in 2007 when a white-boy rap-rock group brought a few hundred of their “Indef”-t-shirt-wearing friends to Harper’s Ferry and horrified a whole music scene all the way to the finals, only to be stopped by a classic rock beard-train called Township? Yeah, that happened.
J – J is for Jack Burton vs David Lo Pan (Night 6, April 13). Yeah yeah, the Rumble is a festival, we know, but it's, by birthright, also competition and these dudes already have a Vs in their name. Diversity rears it’s beautiful head when the metal onslaught of JB vs DLP is sandwiched by the very-different-sounding Parks and Ruby Rose Fox on Saturday night. Tune in for the latest episode of When Allston Metal Dudes Invade Cambridge and Stand At The TTs Bar Waiting For Brian E King To Stop Melodi-Fucking Their Denim Jackets, this weekend only in the Rumble!
K – K is for Kenmore Square. The now Disney-fied Comm Ave artery 'hood housed the first two Rumbles at the Rat (that long-gone Boston club that anyone who was there will never let you forget about) in ’79 and ‘80 before moving nearby to the Metro and Spot for the next few years. It then grew so big it hit the Orpheum in 1985, when the legendary O Positive took part and somehow didn’t win it all. Dafuq is that about?
L – L is for Lifestyle. All the kids traded in their guitars for keyboards a few years ago, but oddly Lifestyle is the lone synth-pop representation this year (CKG and Herra Terra do have electronic strains, but fall more on the rock side of the rainbow). Even more odd is Sean Drinkwater’s break between Rumbles: his “other band,” Freezepop, was a semi-finalist in 2001 (won by Bleu). A dozen years between Rumbles, that’s gotta be some sort of record, right? I’m sure some message board knows the answer to this.
M – M is for Mount Peru (Night 4, April 11). There will be a full day-and-a-half of rest before the easy-breezy Americana pop of Mount Peru open Thursday’s slate, and Thom Valicenti’s slide-away songwriting acumen found on last year’s Your Kingdom’s Come Undone EP might be enough to sway the judges early on. It’s also worth noting that Mount Peru’s Mary Flatley also plays in Cat Sounds. #meow.
N – N is for The New Highway Hymnal (Night 1, April 7). Yes, they are on my record label, Vanya Records. Yes, their noisy psych-punk is awesome. Otherwise they wouldn’t be on my label. Duh.
O – O is for The Okay Win (Night 1, April 7). Last year, the Grownup Noise had the opening slot on Night 1 of the Rumble, but had to bail due to a last minute “injury” to one of their members. This year’s the Okay Win have the honor of leading everything off, so we’ll toss them in a padded room and escort them to Cambridge tonight so theuy don’t get hurt. Could there be a Grownup Noise curse? What if all the opening bands sustain injuries and can’t play from here on out? Will there be a spot waiting for them at Capt. Carlo’s? If the Okay Win do get on stage unscathed, the chances of success are good for this indie-folk group; there’s even a sweet Larry Bird reference in their ode to the 1992 Olympic basketball Dream Team, “Good Hustle, Vol. 1.” So if any of the judges tonight are older than 35, that might be tough for the other bands to overcome.
P – P is for Parks (Night 6, April 13). With the first slot on the last night, we’re wading in deep Rumble waters before we get to the pop brilliance of Brian E. King. But that’s no matter. I hate predictions, but the perfect sunshine pop of Parks could (should, would?) win the whole fucking thing. At least they’ll make people smile and hold hands before Jack Burton Vs David Lo Pan punch us all in the balls right afterwards. Yay Rumble.
Q – Q is for Quit. As in, end your set when your time slot is up. There’s a fucking schedule here, everyone gets their 30 minutes to show off their songs, and the musical diversity of the lineups means there’s very little gear sharing and all different kinds of shit to be loaded on and off the stage. Don’t be a dickhead. That’s like, the only rule, outside of “Don’t cover the Dropkicks.” No one likes dickheads.
R – R is for Ruby Rose Fox (Night 6, April 13). A darkhorse candidate to advance, the neo-soul stylings of the Double-R-F will at least cleanse the room of JB vs DLP’s trail of sweat and metal mucus on Saturday. A lounge act with greater urgency, Ruby Rose Fox’s gripping vocals possess the same type of allure as those of Johnette Napolitano.
S – S is for Supermachine (Night 3, April 9), the Suicide Dolls (Night 5, April 12). Only a pair of S bands in this year’s dance, and neither are from Massachusetts. Small Stone Recordings’ Supermachine hail from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and add some balls to this years class, tossing in some added stoner rock vibes that the judges tend to love. Meanwhile the Suicide Dolls trek up from the Great Highway Buffer State of Connecticut to drop a fireball of glitter-punk perfect for a Friday night spent looking for a fight.
T – T is for Twin Berlin (Night 4, April 11). Yes they sound a lot like the Strokes, and yes they won some weird competition that let them record something and play dress-up in Los Angeles with Travis Barker of Blink 182. But at their best, Twin Berlin are a full-frontal guitar-rock band with enough hooks to last a season of Wicked Tuna. Shame the drummer is a Flyers fan, though.
U – U is Upset. Why are predictions silly? Because every year the winner is a band no one saw coming. You called Vermont’s Bow Thayer & Perfect Trainwreck in advance last year? Prove it and I’ll let you write for Vanyaland. This year’s field, maybe more than ever before, is anyone’s game. There’s a compelling case for all 24 bands, which, now that I type this out, means there won’t be such a thing as an “upset” this year. But I’m not thinking of another “U” blurb so whatever.
V – V is for Velah (Night 1, April 7). And it rhymes with Stella. Or stellar if you’re from New England, and that’s just what Jen Johnson’s new band is. The singer with an enchanting voice that could soothe the mind of an amphetamine addict returns to the Rumble, which she played along with Velah drummer Mike Latulippe while in Static of the Gods back in 2011. A grand band with an opulent rock and roll sound fir for both dreams and nightmares.
W – W is for Whitcomb (Night 4, April 11) and White Dynomite (Night 5, April 12). The two W bands are face-kicking battle-beasts of boozy rock and roll: Maine’s Whitcomb douse Thursday’s fun slate with some major-league riffage, while Allston garage rock overlords White Dynomite take an intoxicated cheetah, dress it up in a fancy white suit, and train it to shit racket-roll bile all over Friday’s friendly slate.
X – X is for the Sex Execs. They lost to Til’ Tuesday in the 1983 Rumble, which also featured the Del Fuegos, Prime Movers, Mickey Bliss, Salem 66, Digney Fignus, Jerry’s Kids, and the Mike Viola Alliance.
Y – Y is for Glenn Yoder & the Western States (Night 3, April 9). The perfect-voiced Yoder has the chops to make a run, and as mentioned before, the judges tend to like the whole Americana thing these days (see Cask Mouse and Bow Thayer last year). But Yoder and his Western States have enough zing and zip to woo the rock-leaning decision-makers as well. Also, Glenn Yoder is dreamy as fuck.
Z – Z is for the Zzzzzzzz. Because we’ll all need some sleep after six great shows in seven short days.
Just kidding predictions are lame. That said, here it goes: Parks wins it all, with Glenn Yoder & the Western States and the Field Effect playing in one hell of a final party on Friday, April 26.
Let's have fun. Boston rules.