Artist Spotlight: GYMSHORTS

On the first week of August, L.A. indie rockers Cherry Glazerr played the 3S Artspace in Portsmouth, NH. And while I was excited to see both Cherry Glazerr and supporting act Mannequin Pussy, it was the local opener that pushed me to make the long drive north: GYMSHORTS.

Sarah Greenwell of GYMSHORTS

Sarah Greenwell of GYMSHORTS

Formed in 2013, the Providence, RI band has quickly climbed the ranks of New England’s punk rock scene. Over the past five years, they've played nearly all of Boston’s iconic small venues, alongside some of the best up-and-coming punk acts. When I first saw them in 2015, they were opening for Twin Peaks and White Reaper at Great Scott, and they blasted my head off with an impressively raw and powerful sound that left my ears ringing for days. When I saw them again last year, they opened for SWMRS and The Frights at The Middle East with an equally loud and rowdy set, but a noticeably improved sound. Since then, I've been keeping an eye on GYMSHORTS, waiting for an opportunity to see them again, and I was finally rewarded for my patience when they opened for Cherry Glazerr.

GYMSHORTS came on stage around 9:15pm, taking a moment to check their instruments. A few minutes later, vocalist/guitarist Sarah Greenwell stepped up to the microphone wearing one of her signature oversized tee shirts (this one reading, Fit Camps: Get “Jacked Up”), and started the show. The instant the band began to play, venue’s atmosphere transformed from hip and modern to dark and grungy, evoking images of New York’s infamous hardcore club, CBGB. Once the set was underway, the crowd became even further immersed in this atmosphere, as Greenwell fiercely belted out lyrics and drummer Chris Crass relentlessly crashed on his cymbals. Glowing under the warm red light, Greenwell looked and sounded like a modern Joan Jett as she flicked back her hair and sneered into the crowd. After a few songs, she grinned and cheerfully shouted, “Let’s get this mosh going!,” pushing the already pumped up crowd into a further frenzy.

Sarah Greenwell of GYMSHORTS

Sarah Greenwell of GYMSHORTS

Sarah Greenwell of GYMSHORTS

Sarah Greenwell of GYMSHORTS

Around halfway through their set, GYMSHORTS played “Oh Brother,” one of the catchiest tracks from their first album, No Backsies, due to its frequent vocal interludes. During these pauses, the music completely stopped as Greenwell feigned a sigh and goofily muttered, “Oh Brother.” Once this magic phase was spoken, the room was released from its spell of silence, bringing the band to roar back to life and causing all hell to break loose in the mosh pit. Equally enthralling was their performance of “Viberator,” which opened with a sludgy guitar riff reminiscent of FIDLAR’s “Cheap Beer,” and continued to build in speed and aggression throughout the song. By the two minute mark, “Viberator” reached its climax, ending with a nearly minute-long outro jam that sounded like a cross between Van Halen's “Eruption” and The Ramones with its blazing fast guitar solo backed by a punchy rhythm and bass.

TJ of GYMSHORTS

TJ of GYMSHORTS

Chris Crass of GYMSHORTS

Chris Crass of GYMSHORTS

Andrew Gibson of GYMSHORTS

Andrew Gibson of GYMSHORTS

Over the remainder of their all-too-short 30 minute show, GYMSHORTS continued to enthrall the crowd with more material from No Backsies including high school dropout anthem “Hey Parents!,” and several songs from their most recent album, Wet Willy, released on Burger Records in 2016. As their set came to an end, the venue was filled with noise and color; guitars blared, boots stomped, and lights flashed a murky mixture of green, yellow, and purple. At 9:45pm, GYMSHORTS put down their instruments and walked off stage, leaving everyone in the audience wanting more, and leaving me impressed (and slightly deaf) once again.

Having now seen them three times, I'm more excited than ever to find out what GYMSHORTS has in store for the future. But the bar is set high. From 2016 to now, the band has shown explosive growth, opened for some big names, and having spread their name west with the help of Wiener Records. So who knows? Maybe next time I see GYMSHORTS they'll be headlining, passing the baton on to the next generation of promising punk openers.

Artist Spotlight: The Green Bullets

Earlier this summer I made the long trek up to Portsmouth, NH to catch Twin Peaks at the 3S Artspace, a cool Swiss Army knife of a building consisting of a restaurant, art gallery, and event space. And while Twin Peaks were amazing, opening act The Green Bullets caught my attention as well.

Harry Griffin of The Green Bullets

Harry Griffin of The Green Bullets

J.W. Ayer of The Green Bullets

J.W. Ayer of The Green Bullets

 Tom Ayer of The Green Bullets

 Tom Ayer of The Green Bullets

The Green Bullets are a three piece garage rock band from Dover, NH, with influences ranging from the Black Lips to Billy Joel. Since releasing their Écouter EP in late 2011, the band has come out with follow up Submarine, Don't Implode EP, and recently released their first full self-titled album in April. And though their line-up is still a work in progress (having rotated instruments throughout their opening set for Twin Peaks because their drummer had recently quit), core members Harry Griffin and J.W. Ayer seem to have found a steady third man in J.W.’s brother, Tom Ayer–––not to mention the invaluable contributions of mascot and unofficial fourth member, Spooky Boy.

 Spooky Boy of The Green Bullets

 Spooky Boy of The Green Bullets

Since their discography is relatively short (not to mention free on bandcamp), it's worth just listening through everything, but here are some highlights:

On their first EP, The Green Bullets immediately prove that they're worth listening to with simple yet catchy lo-fi track “Fauxbians,” and “Savage Act” is a punchy 1:30 jam that could pass as a Sex Bob-Omb (the band from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) song. From their second EP, “Berklee” stands out as a gem in the rough, with a catchy bass line, jangly guitars, and nasally vocals comparable to voice of King Tuff singer Kyle Thomas.

Their most recent album shows that the band has gone through a major growth since the last recording five years prior. Single from the album, “Spooky One” is a good testament to this growth, but if the first track is the cover letter, then the second is the resume. The Green Bullets deliver with “Naive,” a thumper guaranteed to have your foot tapping within the first five seconds, paired perfectly on a playlist with The Frights. From there the album continues to climb, hitting another high with “So It Goes,” sounding like a cross between Harlem’s “Friendly Ghost” and The Beach Boys. Not surprisingly, the band brings back “Berklee,” and “Savage Act” which shine even brighter than before with the improved audio quality. The album ends with “Talking with You,” a slow burner that shows the band's softer side and acts as a cool down lap, hugging you goodbye and thanking you for listening.

Overall, The Green Bullets have managed to carve out their own unique sound within the black hole that is garage rock. And with the release of their excellent new album, they're definitely worth keeping your eye on.

Concert Review: Anamanaguchi at afterHOURS

Last night, Anamanaguchi played a free show at afterHOURS, along with fellow chiptune acts Crying and (T-T)b (pronounced "tee-tee-bee"). If you haven't heard of afterHOURS I wouldn't be surprised. afterHOURS is a small Northeastern University venue tucked away inside of the student center between the cafeteria UBurger and the campus Starbucks, making it an unlikely but somehow perfectly fitting location for a chiptune concert.

Arriving at the parking garage early, I stuffed my face with a few leftover slices of pizza before finding my way over to the venue. After a few wrong turns and a little help from campus security, I found myself outside of the venue waiting in a small line of 10 to 15 students, who I immediately identified people as Anamanaguchi fans by their colorfully dyed hair and graphic tees. Once inside the venue, I settled down on the right side of the stage and watched as opening act (T-T)b set up, tangling their gear around Anamanaguchi's distinct custom cylindrical lights.

afterHOURS Stage and Anamanaguchi's Lights

(T-T)b began their set just before 7:00pm, launching into a fast paced set of catchy pop tunes. Formed only a few years ago and having only recently released their first full length album Good Talk, (T-T)b was clearly a little nervous to be opening for Anamanaguchi, but they handed the pressure well. Bassist Jake Cardinal energized the crowd with his fun and quirky personality, beginning the set with a real zinger (What do you call a fake noodle? An impasta! HAHA), while drummer Nick Dussault quietly kept the group grounded with solid technical playing, and guitarist Joey Dussault quickly won the crowd over with his humble and transparent persona. After a surprise vocal feature from a friend in the crowd and an Alex G cover, (T-T)b finished their set strong with a new song just after 7:30pm. 

Guitarist Joey Dussault of (T-T)b

Drummer Nick Dussault of (T-T)b

Bassist Jake Cardinal of (T-T)b

Next up was Crying, who just released their first full album Beyond the Fleeting Gales earlier this month, following two EPs in 2014 and 2015. Crying played a slightly longer and more refined set, led by singer Elaiza Santos' mellow and articulate vocals. 

Crying vocalist Elaiza Santos

By 8:15pm Crying had finished their set, and the crowd was well warmed up for Anamanaguchi, who casually took to the stage around 8:30pm. Drummer Luke Silas appeared first and began unpacking a polka dot backpack full of gear, while guitarist Ary Warnaar walked through the crowd to the front of the stage, slurping a UBurger soda as he searched for an outlet for his phone (which I happily helped him locate). Bassist James DeVito soon joined them, as well as guitarist Peter Berkman who was sipping at a Starbucks tea to soothe his sore throat. After some light political banter about the "demos" and "repubs," Anamanaguchi started their set with a bang, diving into the title track from their 2013 album Endless Fantasy.

Guitarist Peter Berkman of Anamanaguchi

Anamanaguchi

I had last seen Anamanaguchi during the first leg of their 2013 tour following the release of Endless Fantasy, and it was immediately apparent that the band had gained a significant amount of confidence in their live performance since then. They played an action packed set for a little under an hour, with a variety of old and new songs, including crowd pleasers like "Meow," "Airbrushed" and "Helix Nebula." As usual, it was a visually stunning performance, as DeVito's custom tube lights flashed in mesmerizing neon bursts, and screens throughout the venue looped pixel art .GIFs of dolphins, cats, and anime characters.

Anamanaguchi

Towards the end of the show, the band suddenly came to a halt, as they experienced minor technical difficulties. Apparently, the chiptune track had somehow become desynchronized from the visual content, which had began playing a video calling for the band to play "Miku," one of their latest songs about Miku Hatsune. Eventually, the band managed to get back on track, blaming the strange episode on their digital friend and soon succumbing to her song request. Not long after the Miku incident, Anamanaguchi played their final song of the night, playing their latest single "Pop It," of of their forthcoming album USA. And with that, Anamanaguchi thanked the crowd for having them (as well as the Starbucks baristas), and began breaking down gear and mingling with the crowd before hopping into the "Vanamanaguchi" and driving back home.

Guitarist Ary Warnaar of Anamanaguchi

Feature Article: 3 Great Music Documentaries About Recently Deceased Artists

1. History of the Eagles

At just over 3 hours long, I imagine that most people other than die-hard Eagles fans would keep on scrolling, but trust me, it's well worth watching. Released in 2013, the film features rare footage and insightful commentary by all of the band members, including vocalist Glenn Frey just a few years before his tragic death earlier this year.

2. Ain't in It for My Health: A Film About Levon Helm

This film features Levon Helm, best known for his role as drummer and vocalist for the folk rock group, The Band. Whether or not you have heard of Helm, you've likely heard The Band's hit song "The Weight," ranked 41 on Rolling Stone's 2004 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Although the film features Helm's time with The Band, it focuses more on his later years as he struggles with fame, illness, and money problems until his eventual death in 2012. "Ain't In It for My Health" is a dark and depressing no-bullshit look at an artist staying true to himself and his music until the very end.

3. Lemmy

When Lemmy Kilmister, vocalist and bass player from Motorhead, died at the end of last year, it was a surprise. That is, a surprise that he had managed to live for so long after drinking, smoking, gambling, and generally going against everything doctors recommend for nearly 70 years. So don't cry over Lemmy after watching, but instead down a few jack and cokes, light a smoke, hit the slots, and keep on rocking.