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By Angela Liao
The 10th annual Mr. Spring Weekend contest last Thursday, sponsored by the Women’s Independent Living Group, kicked off a series of Spring Weekend events that entertained students while benefiting many local charities to the tune of over $7,000.
“Mr. Spring Weekend went great this year. We doubled last year’s donation to Boston Rape Crisis,” said M. Josie Ammer ’97, coordinator of the contest.Mr. Spring Weekend 1995 himself, Arturo F. Rosales ’96, won the title by impressing the audience in a talent competition, a “non-conformal” evening wear competition, and a short question-and-answer session.
Other Spring Weekend events included a concert by Sonic Youth, a Lecture Series Committee presentation of “Hoop Dreams,” the annual Alpha PhleaMarket, Las Vegas Night/Bachelor Auction, Chi Phi’s Earth Day Carnival, and the East Campus Spring Picnic.
Market, bachelor auction draw crowds Sonic Youth and the cover bands Mistle Thrush and Helium drew a crowd of about 1,500 to the Johnson Athletic Center Saturday night. “A fair amount of people from other schools showed up, along with local commercial and college radio stations,” said Chris S. Schnyer ’96, who coordinated the concert.
“I was really impressed by Mistle Thrush, who played at MIT before. Helium and Sonic Youth were not as energetic as I had hoped, but generally [it was] a pretty good show,” Schnyer said. “Sonic Youth played some new stuff and that was nice.”
Featuring special guests Mistle Thrush and Helium.
MIT Student Center Committee Spring Concert.
Johnson Athletics Center.
April 22, 8 p.m.
By John Jacobs
Sonic Youth’s style recently, it seems, has been not to grab its audiences with stellar performances. That is, if one were to generalize based on Friday night’s performance at SCC’s Spring Weekend concert.
They didn’t play enough familiar songs (a mistake in any industry) for the audience to get into. Instead, they chose to introduce songs from their upcoming album. In fact, although I consider myself a “solid” fan, I only recognized four songs: “Schizophrenia,” “Bull In the Heather,””Self-Obsessed and Sexxee,” and “Candle,” all of which were enthusiastically welcomed by the audience, dying as we were to hear some familiar SY songs. “Bull In the Heather,” SY’s hit (by SY standards, of course) single from their last album, Experimental Jet Set Trash and No Star, went over particularly well. And I was psyched to hear anything off of Sister, which competes with Daydream Nation for the title of SY’s best album ever. And, I wouldn’t have minded if they’d played a few songs off of Dirty (the album on which they backslid into traditional rock conventions – power-chord riffing, etc.), songs which I had always imagined would sound better live.
Of course the unfamiliar songs didn’t exactly fall flat. They were simply harder to relate to. What SY intended to do while unintentionally alienating their fans is unclear, in typical SY style, but the songs had the unmistakable SY “aura” about them, and it wasn’t difficult to pretend I was listening to a better version of songs from Experimental Jet Set Trash and No Star. It is difficult, however, to imagine a version of that album that I would enjoy listening to.
All in all, their performance bordered on lively, perhaps because they had played a more energetic show that afternoon in Bridgewater; but it’s, though, that their best days really are behind them, and fans like me are having trouble finding (or fabricating) evidence to the contrary. Celeste Winnant ’95 noted that the band “looked a little dweeby in their cotton polo button-downs.” I was disappointed to note that she was right. As our invited guests, the band had no right to make us feel underdressed.
As for Helium’s performances, I don’t think is worth commenting on. Mistle Thrush, on the other hand, put on a surprisingly good show for such a new band (they only have one release, an EP). Mistle Thrush’s exuberance onstage during their last song – with four band members playing drums while the fifth used a bottle as a guitar slide and revelled in five minutes’ worth of feedback – redeemed their tendency toward the self-pitying style of the Cranberries.
So, in closing, we must hold SCC in high esteem for bringing such a revolutionary and influential band to our campus. They really had no way of knowing that Sonic Youth had tired of vivid performances.
You go “grrls”: Sleater-Kinney lives up to hype by Brett Milano
Thursday, June 3, 1999
Sleater-Kinney and Mary Timony at the Middle East, Tuesday night.
If you spend a lot of time reading the rock press, you’re probably sick of hearing that Sleater-Kinney, a Northwest trio that grew out of the overhyped riot-grrl movement, is the next big thing.
After all, if they record for a small label, aren’t on the radio and don’t fill stadiums, how good can they be? As the band demonstrated before a packed house at the Middle East this week, the answer is: very good, indeed. Watching Sleater-Kinney on Tuesday, one got the same buzz that came from seeing seminal bands such as Husker Du or X in the ’80s. Like those folks, Sleater-Kinney isn’t reinventing the wheel:It just plays punk-inspired guitar rock with a few extra shots of smarts and passion. In Sleater-Kinney’s case, the mix includes an original guitar sound – there’s no bass, so guitarists Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker wind jumpy, rhythmic lead parts around each other. And there’s a powerful singer in Tucker, who knows how to use her whisper-to-scream range for dramatic effect.
This week’s show had been rescheduled from late March because of Brownstein’s back injury, and the Middle East’s air conditioning apparently stopped working for the occasion. Perhaps for that reason, the band was a little subdued: A couple of barnstormers (such as the fannish rock anthem, “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone”) weren’t played and there was more space for the gentler tunes from its last two albums. Most grabbing was the encore ballad, “Buy Her Candy” (the lyric celebrates a crush between women, but Tucker’s vocal and the gorgeous tune made the feelings universal).
Nor was the set lacking in cheap thrills as the closing rocker, “Dig Me Out,” found Brownstein doing Pete Townshend-style leaps and arm swings.The next big thing? As far as this crowd was concerned, Sleater-Kinney is already there.It was a no-bass kind of night, as Helium’s singer/guitarist Mary Timony (whose regular band is in limbo) played an adventurous opening set, backed only by drummer/keyboardist Christina Files.
Playing mostly new material, Timony covered the same ground Helium has—a bit of snarling pop, a bit of fantasy-driven art-rock—but went further into the abstract, laying down her guitar at mid-set to play synthesizer and violin. As ever, her sound was an enticing light-and-dark mix that never lets you get too comfortable.
from the Boston Herald reprinted without permission.
Flin Flon/Mary Timony/Sleater-Kinney 05.28.99…Trocadero Philadelphia, PA
I felt a little out of place at this show. It seemed that every punk from southeastern PA was at this, and then there was me. It’s a shame that I had to go to this show alone because it was such a good show. When I got inside, it seemed like it took forever for Flin Flon to come on stage. I was standing in front of the stage on the left, and surrounded by smoking, loud kids, and a few nice ones, but once Flin Flon was on stage I was happy. Flin Flon contains Nattles, who was in Cold Cold Hearts, and Mark Robinson, of Air Miami and Unrest fame. They played a little less than an hour’s worth of very good, deranged pop songs, much to the chagrin of most of the crowd. It’s a shame that Mark Robinson isn’t relevant anymore, or else he could have shown the kids how to rock, but he does still write a mean pop song.
Between sets it was drool city for me because my two indie rock crushes, Mary Timony and Carrie Brownstein, were on stage, standing right next to each other. Mary Timony was next (she was supposed to go first, but got caught in traffic, most likely the Schuykill Expressway lie everyone else) and she played a damn fine set of more deranged pop songs. I was hoping for a Helium song for two, but she stuck to new stuff. Hopefully there will be a solo album out of this because these were some incredible songs. It was just her and a drummer, and one song it was her on violin and the drummer, which was the best song of the night.
I think Sleater-Kinney broke a land speed record when they got ready to play. There equipment was set up in less than ten minutes, much to delight of the people who were there just for them. A little talking and much smiling went on before they went into their first song, “Get Up”, off of their new and best album, “The Hot Rock”. The continued the night playing more and more crowd-pleasers (aren’t they all crowd-pleasers?). The songs I remember were: Taste Test, The Day You Went Away, One Song For You, Heart Factory, The End Of You, Start Together, Not What You Want, The Hot Rock, The Drama You’ve Been Craving, Hubcap, a new song, and one or two others. They came back out for two encores in which they played “Dig Me Out” and “Turn it On”, and then ended with an incredible version of “Jenny”. They didn’t talk much between the songs, but Carrie did talk about going to see the Liberty Bell and Ben Franklin, and of course she was all smiles. The finest moment of the night had to be their new song. If this is the direction they are planning to take with their songwriting, then the next album should be even better than this one, if you can imagine that. S-K are such a great band to see live. Their shows are energetic, they smile a lot, and you can definitely tell they are having fun. And it doesn’t hurt to have the best damn drummer in indie rock, too.
from members.tripod.com/~pastworn/052899.html , author unknown.
Mary Timony: Witchy Woman
Just about the only extravagance Mary Timony allowed herself on stage a week ago Thursday downstairs at the Middle East was the faint sparkle of glitter she wore around her eyes. Well, that and the battery of effects pedals she employed for a guitar improv that climaxed in a symphony of feedback and space-rock noise during “The Golden Fruit,” one of nearly a dozen new songs she performed from her new solo album, Mountains (Matador). For some, the glitter may have been a reminder of the fairy-dusted feel of 1998’s The Magic City (Matador), the last disc Timony released with her band-on-hiatus Helium. Overall, though, her stripped-down solo set with Victory at Sea drummer Christina Files sounded like a statement of bold new purpose and direction.
After opening with the Helium number “I Am a Witch,” Timony moved quickly into new material. Aided and abetted by Files’s intuitive drum fills and syncopated bursts, she pushed the stark and cathartic “Poison Moon” toward a heated boil; at one point — cracking a tiny smile to herself — she even mumbled a few lines from the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” before abandoning the idea. It was that kind of fetchingly unkempt night: Timony, on her own but among friends, experimenting; taking a bit too much time tuning her guitar but shrugging off the inconvenience; dashing back and forth to grab her viola or hop behind a Yamaha keyboard like a kid eager to show her classmates what she brought to show-and-tell.
What Timony brought was a flurry of ideas: indie rock’s template of fractured rhythms and rueful, minor-key meditations (“The Bell”); a dose of baroque surrealism (“Tiger Rising”); a batch of chilly, prog-rock nursery rhymes (“The Fox and Hound”) whose subjects — watery graves, worlds of doom — were more Edward Gorey than Dr. Seuss. In a live setting, the ambition and risk at the heart of her tightrope-walking approach — not to mention the notion of her having left behind the established safety net of a well-regarded band — was made explicit, especially at the show’s somewhat tentative outset. But by the time Timony was kneeling over her effects boxes, taming the electric oceans of feedback that rolled in white-noise waves over the crowd, the glitter rimming her eyes was the last thing holding anyone’s attention.
From the Boston Phoenix, reprinted w/o permission
— Jonathan Perry, May 18 – 25, 2000
October 7, 2000
Versus / Mary Timony / Franklin Bruno @ Middle East (Cambridge, MA)
was to be published by Gigmania.com
You can’t call it nostalgia if it ends up looking forward. Sure, Franklin Bruno made a small joke about the night’s bill being a “Who’s Who of Indie Rock” circa 1993, but it wasn’t a comment that held any regret or sadness. In those supposedly halcyon days of the underground, Franklin was best known as the front man & songwriter for Nothing Painted Blue.His trademark in those days was his unique lyrics – intelligent, eclectic,scatological, and most often lovelorn. That hasn’t changed much in the past seven years. What has changed, however, is the backdrop of these marvelous lyrics.
Tonight, Daniel Brodo joined Franklin on stand-up bass. The evening’s set was comprised entirely of Franklin’s solo material – a request for a Nothing Painted Blue song was shot down by Franklin, noting that “that’s a different band”. That claim might seem flippant, but there’s a truth within it that becomes apparent after listening to a few songs. Taking the gentle lament of “Just Because It’s Dying”, or the insisted sway of Franklin’s don’t-let-the-bastards-get-you-down anthem “Idiots”,out of their bass and guitar setting would only weaken the songs. This sparse arrangement allows the strength of Franklin’s words and melodies to become readily apparent. Franklin spent some of the between-song banter apologizing for his performance, a totally unnecessary gesture. Whether he was playing a Jerry Vale cover (the remarkably concise “Two Purple Shadows”) or playing more of his show-tune-influenced originals (like the rollicking forbidden romance ditty “Love’s Got a Ghetto”), Franklin acquitted himself quite nicely. The highlight of the show was a new song entitled “Janet Shaw”, a ballad about a “contract ingénue” with “no box office draw” whose face and work are almost completely forgotten. Franklin’s lyrics tell the story of him finding some publicity stills at a garage sale, and digging up her filmography and other details about herlife. It’s a heartbreaking character study, and as spellbinding a performance as one is likely to ever witness.
Mary Timony has also been known to cast spells, but of a different variety. When she first emerged (as the head of Helium), her songs were both caustic and cerebral, with their impressionistic lyrics and thick, plodding guitarwork. Her work has matured somewhat, its initial anger giving way to a more measured, classical approach, and its guitar-noise aesthetic allowing for more instrumentation and varying emotion. Her latest released, Mountains, is also her first solo album, and arguably herbest work – it’s a concise amalgam of Helium’s youthful aggression and the group’s latter calm. Her live show usually bears this out – she jumps from electric piano to guitar to viola, sure-handed on all three instruments, while Christina Files (from the excellent Boston rock outfit Victory At Sea) plays drums.Tonight, however, her performance lacked both the force and restraint of previous performances – she seemed both tentative and rough, which led to messy,shapeless performances of otherwise excellent songs. The final song she performed was endemic of this – it was a slab of noise of indeterminable length, with Mary mouthing off to the microphone like a medicated Mark E. Smith. It was an unfortunate off night for a usually dependable performer.
Thankfully, Versus didn’t suffer from this malaise. Touring behind their first full-length album in 2 years (the Merge Records release Hurrah), Versus rocked with the power and economy that’s always marked their best work. The new songs they played (guitarist Richard Balyut’s “Eskimoon Ice”, bassist Fontaine Toups’ “You’ll Be Sorry”) showed the growing strength of the group’s songwriting. However, it was when Versus dug into their back catalog (with”Mercy Killing”, from Secret Swingers, or “Underground” and “MorningGlory”, from Two Cents Plus Tax) that the crowd really got into the music. Versus seemed to enjoy the older songs as well, tearing into them with zest and aplomb. The group seemed loose and confident on stage – Richard,Fontaine, and even 2nd guitarist James Balyut switched off on vocals,and the mini rock epic “Frederick’s of Hollywood” featured a Gregorian chant-like interlude, with arms raised in praise and mouths agape. You almost expected some dwarf Druids to dance around a miniature Stonehenge. The groups’ 2 song encore showcased the best of Versus’ range. The first song wasa ballad with country overtones, featuring Richard affecting a near-croon.The second song was”B-9″, a scorching number off their first album, TheStars Are Insane. When the crowd caught wind of what was happening, itcheered, waiting for the song’s inevitable climax to erupt. The pastis nice to visit, but it’s the future that’s more exciting.
Mary Timony: Mythic Peaks
There’s always potential for silliness when rock gets mythic, but there’s also the possibility that a little magic might happen. Spinal Tap’s “Stonehenge”may have nailed an entire genre, but at the end of the day it didn’t makeLed Zeppelin’s “Battle of Evermore” any less haunting.
Mary Timony is currently deep into that mythic world; her set at Lilli’s this past Friday even began with a trio of keyboard songs whose echoing electric-pianosound was guaranteed to make you think of Zeppelin’s “No Quarter.” Then again,one of those songs was “I Fire Myself,” whose violent/sexual imagery was a long way outside Robert Plant’s realm and whose love/betrayal theme sounded heart felt. That’s why Timony’s mythic excursions work (and for that matter why Zeppelin’s did): they’re attached to grabbing tunes and a strong emotional core.
Timony has stuck to the same format since putting Helium on hold last year; it’s still a two-piece band with Christina Files on drums (Timony played guitar for most of the set, with occasional swings to keyboard and viola).She’s gotten better within the limitations of that format, using various guitar pedals to fill in the bass frequencies. Still, the sound got notably fuller when a third musician came on stage (the Pee Wee Fist’s Pete Fitzpatrick, who played euphonium on the poppish “Ride on the Stormy Sea”); and a bass player would give the duo more room to cut loose. There’s also no good reason to ignore the Helium catalogue, which isn’t that far removed from her solo album Mountains (from which came the entire set save for one new song, “Pirate”).
Of course, Timony’s always gone her own way — even in Helium days, she’d throw out the old songs whenever there was a new record — and she usually provides good reason to come along. So it was with Friday’s set, which had its big rock peaks, its joyful pop flashes, and it’s haunting melancholia– but as usual with Timony, it was strongest on the last. Files is a sparer drummer than Helium’s Shawn King Devlin, but she showed a good sense of when to hold back and when to throw in some King Crimson-esque polyrhythms. Timony remains a magnetic, mysterious figure on stage (even when technical problems caused her to break into giggles), and she did her best guitar heroics on the closing “Poison Moon,” which built to a feedback-heavy finale. Somewhere the elves and dragons were dancing.
Blake Hazard was joined for the second half of her set by Jack Drag mainman John Dragonetti, whose atmospheric guitar and keyboard loops blended well with the natural charm in Hazard’s jazz-inflected pop. (The two aremaking an album together for release next year.) Opening the night were Headset, a renamed and reshuffled version of Shyness Clinic; they managed to sound as sensitive as the earlier band while playing much louder. The My Bloody Valentine-style guitar demolition on their closing number didn’t hurt their sincerity a bit.
— Brett Milano
reprinted from the Boston Phoenix 11/16/2000, w/p permission
For Mary Timony, the ways of distorted drums, buzzing guitars and warnings that “you’re gonna pay me with your life” appear to be over. It’s possible that, Like Billy Corgan, she will someday return to the sound and sentiments that she says should be left in the past But for now Timony seems content leaving behind the uncomfortable intensity that made Helium’s Pirate Prude and The Dirt of Luckso powerful and moving in the direction of a smoother, more mystical land.
Like Helium’s latest LP, 1997’s the Magic City, Timony’s solo debut, Mountains covers some pretty fanciful terrain. Bees, birds, horses, peacocks, tigers, pilgrims, demons, and goblins are just some of the characters highlighted in her cryptic, goth-like poetry, which is set upon a dark and sparse backdrop that prominently features piano, viola, and harpischord. “I dreamed of a river of ants inside me/And they were sad and starting to bleed,” Timony relates during the handclap-fueled “I Fire Myself” giving the listener the feeling that he/she’s stumbled into the middle of a warped fairly-tale reading. The sense of being on the outside of the stories is hard to shake, as is the feeling that many of the 15 tracks sound like rough demos for an upcoming Helium album, proving you can take the girk out of Helium but you can’t take Helium out of the girl. But overall Mountains has many more invigorating moments than aggravating ones, and some (including “The Bell” and “Valley of 1000 Perfumes”) sound just as good as her past highlights. But it’s also much easier to appreciate Mountains knowing that Timony plans returning to Helium in the future.
By Marc Hawthorne
Appeared in the May 2000 Issue of Alternative Press Issue Number 142