August 24, 2008

That Was The Show That Was: Varsity Drag with Lump | O'Brien's

Varsity Drag at O'Brien's
We are indignant. Where is the profile for Boston indie rock superlatives Varsity Drag? Sure, we are more than pleased that we are able to stand five feet from Lemonheads co-founder Ben Deily's trio as it performs on one of the smallest stages in its hometown. But as a fan, we are conflicted by the access. Varsity Drag's material is on par with Mr. Deily's best tunes written with the band that made him "famous" (we're thinking "Uhhhh," "Anyway," "Two Weeks In Another Town," the ballad "Postcard"), but his current outfit seems to enjoy greater acclaim in Germany or even Australia than at home. Why Varsity Drag doesn't have the following that would allow it to headline shows at, say, The Paradise is beyond us.

On Friday night the act, anchored by Lisa Deily on bass and explosive drummer Mike "Panama" Quinn, treated a few dozen faithful to spirited takes on half the material from the 2006 set For Crying Out Loud, as well as about as many new tracks (or at least new to us, it looks like all the material is on the out-of-print Ben Deily compilation All These Years Gone By: Selected Songs, 1986-2001) and classic Lemonheads cuts. We always feel especially fortunate to hear the latter material, because -- as we wrote here in February -- by the time we got turned on to Lemonheads Deily had just exited the band, making it impossible for us to have seen him perform the songs created while he was with the act that Evan Dando later rode into the spotlight (Dando's current incarnation of The Lemonheads intends to release an album of covers in September).

As it had when we saw the band at The Cantab earlier this year, Varsity Drag reached back for Lemonheads' "Burying Ground" and "Second Chance," and then it threw in :: clicky clicky :: favorite "Anyway" and "Falling" for good measure. The set commenced with two of the biggest Drag anthems, the scratchy pop delight "Skinny Ties" and the powerfully wistful "Summertime." Not long after the band played its ode to legendary scenester Billy Ruane, who we recently saw storm the upstairs room at The Middle East with a tray of fresh baklava. At O'Brien's we tugged on Deily's shirtsleeve prior to showtime and he reports the band has no live dates booked until November, and he is hopeful to make substantial progress writing songs for the next Varsity Drag album in the meantime.

In the top supporting slot for the night was recently resuscitated Massachusetts power-pop quartet Lump, who turned in a surprisingly sludgy and rocking set. We're not sure if all the sludge was intentional, as the sound guy was inattentive enough at first to leave guitarist Rock's (no surname for Mr. Rock) mic out of the mix for the first few numbers. In reviewing our pictures from the night (flickr set here) we were amused to see that between the rocking out, the shorts and the lighting that Lump reminded us a little of Helmet, visually. In reality Lump is sonically more akin to bands like Small 23. We aren't overly familiar with Lump's repertoire, but we showed up hoping to hear the classics "13" and "Tatters" and we weren't disappointed. And closer "Primrose" was an immaculate noisefest that hope to witness again sometime soon. Lump is writing new material and aims to cut a new record as soon as it has enough new material to fill it. For now, head over to the foursome's MySpace dojo to stream the musical goodness.

Varsity Drag -- "Summertime" -- Live On WAAF, 2008
Varsity Drag -- "Skinny Ties" -- For Crying Out Loud
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[buy For Crying Out Loud from the band right here]

Varsity Drag: Internets | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

3 comments:

Ben said...

Bless you for yer kind assessment of our Friday shenanigans. It's sterling folks like you that keep me playing still, here in my frail dotage.

NB: Actually, there was a brand-spankin'-never-been-played-in-front-of-anyone new tune tucked in that set too, called "Animal."

(The fact that it credibly meshed with the other stuff is encouraging to the writer, here...) :-)

Ben said...

Oh, one more minor clarification: the "All These Years Gone By: Selected Songs, 1986-2001" CD isn't out-of-print, rather it's completely "sold out"--it was deliberately made as a limited edition (2 CD with a booklet, etc), and the last of 'em got snapped up in the first week of the European tour...

So if anyone got one, congrats. (I don't think even I ended up with one. But what's the point of a limited edition if ya make more of 'em?) :-)

Jay Breitling said...

Dang good-taste-having Europeans, grumble grumble...