Monday, March 04, 2002

Rock Shows of Note VI
If you haven't check out the Washington Street Center's First Sunday music series yet, now might be a good time to head to Somerville's own co-op artist's space. Last night, the series, which focuses on solo and scaled-back performances by people in some of Boston's most interesting indie-rock bands, highlighted three acts.

I missed half of Matt Henry's set, but what I saw impressed me. He talked a little bit about how indie-rock lacks the concept of standards -- which other musics such as country and jazz draw on for good effect. He even performed a couple that he proposed as possible standards: Daniel Johnston's "Speeding Motorcycle" and a song by the Magnetic Fields.

Next up, Verona Downs, the reason I went to the show. I could be wrong, but I think folks in the Downs -- or VD, as sitting-in Emily, kept calling them -- used to be in Weeping in Fits in Starts. Anyway, they actually played with Daniel Johnston last November. Nice continuity! Their laid-back set featured dreamy and pretty pop that included an excellent violin presence. I was also impressed by the excellent guitar interplay, especially in the really detailed note-by-note sections, and -- despite her vocals being mixed too low -- Emily's backing vocals added a much-needed touch. Word is that VD is looking for a new female bassist and singer. Interested? Email them.

Last up, Jonathan Donaldson, taking a break from his band project, the Colorforms, to perform a solo set of belabored '60s-style pop. I say belabored because I detected a level of pretension to his songwriting, and his singing style never really gelled with me. He also played several too-long songs with too many parts, which at times led me to think he'd moved onto another song when he was in fact still playing the same one. Granted, he positioned the pieces he was going to play as unfinished songs he wasn't totally comfortable with, but sheesh. Near the end of his set, he threw in a couple of numbers that hit me harder than the earlier songs, which leads me to believe that, giving another listen, I could grow to like his stuff. Just didn't thrill me last night.

Leaving the center, I thought I'd missed the 91 bus and started to walk home -- only to have the 91 glide past ghost-like as I neared the top of the hill. Still, the night was young and warm, and the walk home did me good. It's not that bad a hike from Central to Union Square.

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