January 20, 2011

Rock Over Boston: Hallelujah The Hills, Capstan Shafts | TT's

[Hallelujah the Hills and Capstan Shafts at TT the Bear's Place, Cambridge, MA 1/18/2011. Photos by Michael Piantigini.]

As if I needed another reminder of the big, wide world of the rock music and how easily the music-obsessed among us can feel ashamed of not knowing of a band - even obscure ones - along came Blog Master Jay (Breitling) to turn me on to the Capstan Shafts' fantastic Revelation Skirts album from last fall. A great rock and roll album touching on a few familiar influences - I kept hearing people say Guided By Voices, and sure, I hear that tunefulness and economy, I also hear the hooky and muscular guitars like some Replacements, I hear some English pop like the Smiths, and I also hear a little bit of late 80's/early 90's Carolina pop like Guadalcanal Diary or the Connells.

Turns out that Revelation Skirts represents the Capstan Shafts' pretty marked evolution from lo-fi bedroom pop to big 'ol rock band. Up until last year there wasn't really even a band, just a serious stack of home-recorded gems from mastermind Dean Wells. Even now that there is a band, they don't have a ton of experience as a live band and further, the version touring now is a 3-piece, down from the 5-piece (or 4-piece? Hm. Wiki says 5, Facebook says 4) that was apparently playing together last year.

So, yeah, I was expecting a mightier rock band when they hit town last night at TT's in their first ever visit to the Boston area - maybe, like GbV, a band that re-cast the earlier home recording stuff as big rock anthems. This wasn't quite that. Stripped down and almost timid, the trio stripped the already simple songs down to their basics. This wasn't at all a bad thing once I re-adjusted what I thought they sounded like. Starting early and finishing early, with little in the way of shenanigans, the band flew through all the songs they knew, according to Wells. Most of the rocking was driven by their great drummer, Patrick Long. It was a great, charming 35 minute set of 2 minute pop gems (and one of them, Wells promised, was "nearly three minutes," even!).

I'd still like to see a 5 piece version, but that's probably not an economical way to tour the country at this stage, unfortunately.

Hallelujah the Hills
remain a Boston juggernaut - one that I have taken for granted far too much in the last year or so. But I've learned my lesson. Another band that gets the Guided By Voices comparison due to some of their tracks' lo-fi leanings, they blow them all away in their mighty and sometimes bombastic live sets.

Holding nothing back and peppering us with new tracks from their upcoming single (apparently being funded by a mysterious benefactor, according to stage comments from frontman Ryan Walsh), as well as from their next, Kickstarted, album, Hallelujah The Hills turned in a hell of set for a random rainy, slushy, nasty January Tuesday. Their schedule looks a bit light at the moment, but they are squarely back on my radar.

-Michael Piantigini

Hallelujah The Hills: Intertubes | MySpace | Facebook | Twitter
The Capstan Shafts: Facebook | MySpace | Twitter

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