The Essex Green, Brighton, MA and Tapes ‘n Tapes at Subterranean

My top reason for coming to this show was the opportunity to see the Essex Green for the first time. Their new album, Cannibal Sea, is one of my favorites so far from 2006, and I’m just catching up now on their previous records, which are pretty nice, too. Such delightful ’60s-style pop… Think Mamas and Papas, Petula Clark, Simon and Garfunkel, played with some of the spunk of garage rock but without the sloppiness or noise.

I had a feeling, though, that one of the opening acts, Tapes ‘n Tapes, might be the main reason this show was sold out. I’ve heard the name bandied about, but haven’t gotten around to hearing their music until now.

It all started with a pleasant surprise, the new Chicago band Brighton, MA (that’s pronounced em-ay, not “Ma” or “Mass” or “Massachusetts”), which was started by Matthew Kerstein after he left Scotland Yard Gospel Choir last year. Let’s hope we get two good bands out of that split. Brighton, MA played fairly catchy folk rock songs that built into noisy interludes — with the guitars making carefully constructed waves of feedback, one guitarist running a loose guitar string across his instrument like a bow. Methinks these guys have been listening to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Kerstein sang an old SYGC tune, one of my favorites from that band’s record of 2005, “Bet You Never Thought It Would Be Like This.” I’m looking forward to hearing a record by Brighton, MA.


So what’s my first impression of Tapes ‘n Tapes? Well, as is often the case when I see a band without having heard their recordings beforehand, I found it hard to judge how good the songs were. The performance was pretty strong, though. I heard some of the trendy variety of singing, the indie-rock yelp, some good moments of loud rock but also fairly interesting use of dynamics and odd musical textures. And a tuba solo. That’s cool. I’m not sure yet I entirely understand what Tapes ‘n Tapes is all about, but I’m curious enough to find out more… And sure enough, when Tapes ‘n Tapes finished, some of the crowd cleared out, not bothering to stick around for the main act. Their loss!


The Essex Green did not disappoint… Their songs were just as lovely in concert as they are on record, and a little more lively. It became clear how good those guitar solos are, for one thing. And I loved the combination of male and female vocals. The place was still reasonably crowded for the Essex Green even if some people had left, and it was cool seeing young people dancing and cheering enthusiastically for music that their parents could have enjoyed back in the ’60s.