Oh the cumulative hours -- possibly days -- we spent in our adolescence singing along to the songs of Ben Deily. Mr. Deily co-founded and co-fronted The Lemonheads with that better-known alternahunk in the mid-'80s, and Deily's heartfelt pop-punk compositions were highlights of the band's earlier, edgier catalog. Prompted by a viewing of the video for The Lemonheads' take on Suzanne Vega's "Luka" that made its way onto "120 Minutes" or "IRS's The Cutting Edge" (or whatever the only good show on MTV was called besides the old "Saturday Night Concert"), we engaged with The Lemonheads catalog and were attracted immediately to Deily's "Ever" and "Anyway." By the time we were hip to Deily's jive, however, he had already left the band and Evan Dando was about to release his exceptional major-label debut Lovey, which in our opinion is vastly superior to the breakthrough set It's A Shame About Ray (incidentally, the best Dando track, "Paint," is exiled to the relatively hard to acquire Favorite Spanish Dishes EP -- but we digress from that admitted digression).
Longtime readers will recall we were thrilled to discover Deily's most recent musical return in 2006. But for some reason we mistakenly presumed after perusing his web site that when he mentioned living in Portland, that meant Portland, Oregon, you know, where all your favorite stars of indie rock live (Malkmus, Daniel, etc.). So we didn't harbor any hopes of seeing Varsity Drag any time soon. Turns out, of course, that Deily lived in Portland, Maine, and now his advertising career has brought him back to Boston. And so it was that Varsity Drag topped a bill last night in our 'hood, so we strolled down in time to catch a volatile set from rawpowernewwavegrungerevivalists Perennials and then one from the Drag itself.
The trio opened its set with should-be-hits from its potent 2006 debut For Crying Out Loud and closed out the night with a handful of Lemonheads tunes. It was nice to hear that Deily's papery tenor can still hit all the notes, and the only downside to the rollicking set was a dodgy patch cord that dropped the sound coming from Deily's Gibson SG now and then. The surprise of the night had to be newish drummer Mike Quinn, whose effortless and fluid playing style and obvious enthusiasm was particularly infectious. When Deily led the band -- which also includes wife Lisa flanking on bass guitar -- through the Creator classic "Two Weeks In Another Town," the person with the widest smile in the room was Mr. Quinn.
We snatched the set list on our way out the door, and it is scanned and posted below. Varsity Drag has no further live dates announced, but watch the band's MySpace dojo for inevitable updates. A larger question remains: is there another Varsity Drag record in the offing? We snapped some photos during the set that you can look at here. Below we are posting an MP3 of the melodic VD anthem "Summertime," as well as Deily's early Lemonheads gem "Uhhh."
Varsity Drag --
The Lemonheads --
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[buy For Crying Out Loud from the band right here]
[buy Lemonheads records from Newbury Comics here]
Varsity Drag: Internets | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr