Friday, October 8, 2010

Malarians Live Review by Dave Hayes

The Malarians
Sierra Grille, Northampton, MA
June 10, 2010
by Dave Hayes

The alarm went off for a half an hour before the soundtrack of my current dream slowly but surely became the soundtrack of my confused bedroom surroundings. CRAP. I was a half hour late for The Malarians gig at Sierra Grille, so I threw ons some clothes, a hat, grabbed my water bottle, and stumbled out the door mumbling some loud repeated phrase designed to wake me up out of my sleepy stupor.

When I arrived at Sierra, The Malarians were on. I peeked into the window to watch for a minute, in the same way I watched some of The Unband's infamous gig 16 years prior back in the early Bay State days that Mal Thursday started when he became booking agent in 1993. Only this time, Mal (his real name is J.M. Dobies) was fronting his band from WAY back in the day (they were active from 1984-1990, and began at Hampshire College, I believe).

When I walked in, I first saw my friend Greg, said hello, and then immediately noticed Dancing Larry. I knew then that this was an old-school Northampton freakfest shakedown of the highest order, and a cheshire cat grin replaced my semi-drooling tired pie-hole.

The Malarians were ROCKING. I kept telling people all night it was as if they were a working band, as if they'd never stopped. It was COHESIVE. This was not the sound of old friends getting together for a couple practices and a couple gigs. THIS BAND HAD A VIBE, an energy of urgency that the best bands produce.

Mal throughout the night timed his classic 'YEA-YUHs' at just the right moments, which was like a band mantra.

These guys were purveyors of classic surf and garage rock replete with farfisa keyboard sounds, backing vocal harmonies, and Mal's classic stutter dance, with his hands thrown in the air like a rock and roll boozy cockatoo, fingers and arms flailing every which way.

Eric Payne (aka 'Lime Rickey') rode the drums with total rock abandon, yet complete control. It was a push-pull balance that he conjured all night long and it drove the tunes, along with Les Lebarge (aka 'Les Fillin') on bass, who was THUNDEROUS with his big ass Gibson Thunderbird cranking away.

The combination of guitarists John Lebhar (aka 'Johnny Tomorrow') and Robert Sherwood (aka 'Bob Medley') was potent. These guys are both total pros, one would lead while the other comped, they'd both riff together, it was just spot on axe-slinging, and the left-handed and right-handed symmetry was cool visually, I thought. Great singers too, can you tell I had fun?!

You could see why these guys were so popular back in the day. It had a retro vibe, but was played with an energy that just felt important and FRESH. Near the end of the night they did a slow-tempo version of Stepping Stone, that was grinding and had many a booty shaking.\

I only wish they would play more. A killer night of original valley rock and roll that began 25 years ago, and may have finished up (in terms of live performances) on this night (although as of this writing there is rumor of more potential live dates). I am grateful I was there to witness it, and gave my bones a good shaking.

The Immolators closed out the night, and while I had to split due to my insane work schedule, I did catch a couple of turns, and the band is aptly named. Mike Dumont was on bass and lead vocals, and Chris LaPlante was on keys and background vocals, and a couple of younger musicians who were ripping it to bits. It was straight ahead rock and roll, and there is no question these guys have their own vibe, and should be paid attention to. It also didn't hurt that Dumont's bass cabinet is the size of a single wide trailer.

Long live rock and roll in the CT River Valley.

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