Saturday’s Chums concert brought an impressive variety of musical genres to the coffeehouse, which was made even greater because two of the bands shared members. Though attendance was weak due to late publicity, the performers had a strong and free-spirited presence. First on the bill was Big Mess, filling in for Turbosleaze, due to internal conflicts.
Based in Lowell, Mass., Big Mess has only released a self-titled debut album and an EP, “Split w/ S’eance,” but what Nicholas Wiedeman and Egersheim lack in discography they make up with noise. Big Mess’ style is heavily rooted in the sludge metal of the South, but with a strange bluesy feel to it. The songs are loud, angry and instrumental, plodding along to the tune of “everything sucks and I’m going to punch something now.”
The band members kept audience interaction to a minimum, speaking up exactly once to point out the merchandise table near the door. Their unwillingness to speak might have been due to bassist Josh Tracy’s recent departure from the band. The replacement bassist performed competently, but lacked Tracy’s showmanship: The musician was known to perform bare-chested and in a surgeon’s mask, which would have given Big Mess’ set a little more punch. Regardless, Big Mess performed well, despite their apparent inner turmoil.
Cave Cricket took the stage right after Big Mess. Brothers Steve and Kevin Yankou joined Kira Sassano in invoking the audience’s inner power. The trio of Brooklynites released their first album, “Use Your Hands,” this past July, and it manages to be both a political impetus as well as a journey of self-discovery. Cave Cricket’s folk styles complement the environmentally conscious lyrics well, with the Yankou brothers manning percussion and a cello, while Sassano plays the accordion or ukulele and belts lyrics of empowerment.
Between Sassano’s soulful alto and the Yankous’ sustainment of quaint and evocative melodies, Cave Cricket comes across as the quintessential coffeehouse band, equally enjoyable both live and through recording. Despite the sparse crowd in Chums, the band interacted wonderfully with its small number of listeners. The trio was witty and charming, with a preponderance toward Will Smith jokes that may or may not have been the fault of the audience.
For the final three songs, Sassano brought out a trumpet case full of percussion instruments and bid the audience use them. Soon the entire coffeehouse was shaking whatever they had picked up from the pile—broken tambourines, small wooden boxes full of pebbles, New Year’s noisemakers—and the concert became an interactive jam session. Needless to say, Cave Cricket left to riotous applause.
And then the stage was set for No One And The Somebodies (NOATS). All four of the Yankou siblings comprise the band’s members, and they have wonderful synergy. There is no time for sibling rivalry in such an outfit—the music must get made. It helps that all four find playing and composing cathartic, and the brothers get along extremely well; the energy they produce on stage is tremendous, and they bring it everywhere from diners to basements.
NOATS’ music is goofy and irreverent, but somehow loud and angry at the same time. If you can think of a word and append “punk” to it, chances are it is a good approximation of what the Yankous sound like. While at times NOATS gives the impression of a bunch of yahoos on stage letting their guitars feedback, there is great musical talent in their instrumentation. Each member seems to be on the verge of destroying his instrument at any given moment, while Steve and Kevin hoarsely yell into the microphones.
The Yankous do not shy away from unorthodox performances, either. Kevin played his bass with an electric toothbrush for two songs, and NOATS played one of the most unusual percussive instruments Chums has ever seen—a sheet of metal siding that Steve stood upon and bludgeoned with a pair of screwdrivers. With all the power that NOATS brings, it is no surprise that the crowd in Chums filled up nicely in time for their set.
The larger audience was blown away by the band’s irreverent, spastic sound, and danced and cheered more for their set than for any of the other bands. It helps that the Yankous can banter with some degree of competence, making up crowd interactions on the fly, and though a dangerous move, it also gives the brothers a down-to-earth feel. It’s a pity that so few people attended in total, as the bands held their acts together and made for a wonderful evening. In that spirit, WBRS will be bringing Make It Up, Snowmine and DIIV to Chums this Saturday at 9 p.m. If nothing else, DIIV’s unique brand of surf rock makes this upcoming concert worth attending.