Alt-Nation: Breaking Through All Over

altWe start this week off with some sad news: that Dave Lamb of Brown Bird is still battling leukemia. The band has been unable to earn a living for almost a year now due his illness. Thankfully friends and fans have rallied to the cause with generous donations to help them get by in what has been a terrible ordeal. If you’d like to donate to the cause, please visit for more info. No donation is too small.
This month, with voting for our annual music poll in full swing, I thought we’d take a look at the bands up for Best Breakthrough Act. As in the case every year, there are some newer bands on the rise, veteran figures of the scene, and some bands where I don’t know how they made the ballot. The great thing about these polls is anyone can win. It’s not always the most deserving band or even the most popular band. It’s all about who can get out the most votes like anything else in America. Anyways here are our nominees for Breakthrough Band and don’t forget to vote at

Gavage’s songs are reminiscence of 1970’s punk in the vein of The Adverts, early Damned, and Rocket From The Tombs. Loud guitars, vocals with a snarl, and they even recently augmented sound by adding a saxophone. Gavage play out regularly around town, including an appearance at last year’s Rocktucket Festival. Gavage are currently working on their debut release, which they’re recording at the home studio of another nominee, Jay Berndt’s. I’m looking forward to hearing it as Gavage is definitely my pick for a band to check out in 2014.

Gymshorts are another band cut from the punk cloth, with some garage and surf rock thrown in for seasoning. Gymshorts released their debut album in February, titled No Backsies. Like the Atlantic Thrills, Gymshorts borrow heavily from garage rock but when their going good it feels like an out of control train teetering back and forth but somehow managing to stay on the tracks. You can catch Gymshorts this month at AS220 on April 5th and at Fete on April 24th.

Huge Face
Huge Face play power pop that is somewhere between a (less catchy version) of Rick Springfield and 90’s alternative pop of That Dog. They have an online single out called “Body War” that was recorded at Machines with Magnets. Huge Face will be opening for Math The Band at AS220 on April 11th. Dirty Fences and Nightmom are also on the bill. As good of a show as this promises to be, if you really need another reason to go, there will be free floats from the Providence Soda Club!

Jay Berndt & The Orphans
I suppose it is kind of funny to see any band with Jay Berndt fronting in the Breakthrough category, considering the man fronted a band that played Ozzfest in the 90’s. That said, a lot has happened since the days Berndt fronted Kilgore (Smudge). After a run of bands that could be summed up as imitating Hank Williams style country, Berndt formed The Orphans with some friends a while ago, and this may be his best band yet. The Orphans are really a great swinging bar band in the vein of The E Street Band meets a cross between Van Morrison and Joe Strummer. The Orphans still work in some old country styling’s, but it comes out as just another part of their rock ‘n’ roll revue, instead of forced. The addition of a horn section has really taken things to another level. It is tough for me to really endorse Jay Berndt & The Orphans as the “Breakthrough Band,” only because I’m not sure they aren’t the “Best Rock Band” in the state already.

Littlefoot are the indie rock war horse in this race. They released their debut EP at the end of last year and it featured a mix of jangled guitars and 60’s girl group harmonies. Littlefoot’s hypnotic grooves have been gathering a following around town. Littlefoot, Party Pigs, and The Devils Twin’s will be playing Owls to Athens present: Angels & Outlaws art and music show at the Columbus Theatre on April 5th. The art show features many talented local artists including Littlefoot vocalist/guitarist Erica Sutherland in the presentation, featuring works inspired by Dante’s Paradiso. The event kicks off at 6PM and runs till midnight.

Wild Sun
Wild Sun have a definite 90’s alternate feel that is somewhere between Gin Blossoms and Supergrass without being either. It is actually refreshing to hear a band revisit that genre and make it their own. Wild Sun hail from Westerly, and it good to see that part of that state represented here and to know they still listen to Brit-Pop there. Wild Sun has played 3 hour sets which not many local bands are capable of. While I’m not sure I really want to see any band play for 3 hours, I’ll give them props for pulling it off. Wild Sun are scheduled to release their debut album, Little Truths, this month!

In other news…
The Hold Steady – Teeth Dreams
The Hold Steady return with another double-barreled blast of barroom rock ‘n’ roll glory titled Teeth Dreams. The four-year hiatus after the somewhat disappointing Heaven is Wherever seems well served, as overall Teeth Dreams is a more focused body of work. The Hold Steady, at their best, belong in the conversation about who the best pure rock ‘n’ roll bands in the country are. Bionic riffs power the songs, while singer Craig Finn’s narrative prose spins tales about an assortment of characters, usually with a positive bent. Teeth Dreams kicks off on dark note, by The Hold Steady standards, with the molten riffs of “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You.” The first single, “Spinners” isn’t musically entrancing, but Finn’s lyrics, like, “Heartbreak hurts, but you can dance it off” and “It’s a big city and there’s a lot of love,“ rescue the tune. In fact, it grows on you after a while. Tunes like “The Only Thing” and “Wait a While” wouldn’t sound out of place among the band’s earlier work like the Stay Positive record. The themes of alienation seem to run through Teeth Dreams as particularly seen in the ballad “Oaks” with the line “if you want to be saved, all it takes is a wave.” In addition to Teeth Dreams, The Hold Steady are doing a split 7-inch with Deer Tick, with each band covering a tune by the other band. I hope it’s available at their show at the Met because right after it the band will be going on tour with Deer Tick, which won’t come any closer than the

House of Blues in Boston.
The Hold Steady and Cheap Girls bring the rock ‘n’ roll to the Met Café on April 12th.

Ask The Dead
Ask The Dead headline a great night of local rock ‘n’ roll. Ask The Dead last year released their debut The Leans which is pretty much punk rock shaken up with some modern rock in a Foo Fighters kind of vein. TEAZER continues their quest to bring hair metal riffs and brash attitude back. This is a great night for fans of local LOUD rock ‘n’ roll!
Ask The Dead, Pink Eye, TEAZER, and Jezebel will rock AS220 on April 12th.

The Independents
The Independents are a horror themed ska punk band that has been touring for the last 20 years. It seems weird to think about it now but the first time I saw them was opening for the Ramones. In fact, there was a time in the 90’s that Joey Ramone was their official manager. Needless to say, it didn’t exactly propel The Independents to legendary status of the Ramones. The Independents are a lot of fun with tongue and cheek tunes like “Bloody Night Bloody Knife” about killing the prom queen. They also do a mean cover of the Sesame Street standard, “C is for Cookie,” which is kind of funny for a horror themed band to have in their repertoire. The Independents explore more traditional horror themes in other tunes like “Vampires from Outer Space,” “Succubus,” and “Left For Dead.” As for the formula, The Independents usually take ska verses and mix them with big punk choruses. This will be their first time in Rhode Island since at least the 90’s, if ever. Don’t miss them at Firehouse 13!
The Independents. The McGunks, The Pity Whores, and Fast Times hit Firehouse 13 on April 21st.

The Spot’s Cinco De Mayo Party featuring Santa Mamba
I’ve never really needed an excuse to celebrate any particular day (New Year’s, St. Patrick’s etc). At the same time, I’m not complaining when those days roll up, and Cinco De Mayo is certainly one of them – arguably one of the stupider ones. I mean, the 5th of May? That somehow ranks below the guy driving the snakes out of Ireland, but whatever; I’ll take another drink. Throw in some ass-shaking grooves from a killer Latin rock band like Santa Mamba and, welp, let’s party! Santa Mamba will be playing multiple sets throughout the night. I’m not saying this is the best Cinco De Mayo party in town but, yeah, it likely is!
Santa Mamba headline The Spot’s Cinco De Mayo Party on May 3rd.

Odds & Sods:
Major Stars, Minibeast, Alec K. Redfearn and The Eyesores rock AS220 on April 25th.

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