We saw Rubblebucket in the Paradise Rock Club back in 2011 and that was pretty intense to put it mildly. In the meantime they've been through a lot of life and success, and we've been lucky enough to see them a bunch. But they announced they were coming back to the Paradise on Friday, 1/20 and ... though we knew it would be a late night again ... we just had to go see them in a small club.
It was s surprisingly quick drive into Brighton, but as soon as I got off Soldiers Field Road I was in the midst of a madhouse of traffic and pedestrians. BU was in full swing, including hosting a hockey game (vs. Maine), but I was able to crawl up Comm Ave slowly and miraculously got a parking space right in front of the Paradise.
Met Sarah and Dave (who had Green Lined it up from work) at the Sunset Cantina and had a nice dinner and a few beers. Lucky to get a table in the way back, probably as quiet a table as you could get in that packed and noisy restaurant. Took our time eating and eventually wandered over to the Paradise at 7:30 or so, where we were about 20th in line.
They opened the doors right at 8 and let us in slowly after thorough searches. We went right upstairs and got great standing places immediately to the right of the soundboard. The place was sold out of course, and it was amazing to see the number of (very excited) people they shoehorned in there. By the time the show started the entire first floor was packed so tightly that we wondered if anyone down there could breath, let alone be able to jump and dance. Kalmia had been manning the merch table early on, and Alex took a tour upstairs (Sarah smiled at him), probably scoping it out to see if it would be appropriate for their end-of-show parade.
They finally had most of the people in the club and Joe Evian came out for the first set. Joe was set up behind a massive control panel of mixers, switches, and who knows what else with a tiny keyboard, and had his blonde Strat. His other guitar player had an identical Strat (also identical black leather shoes) and the bassist had a violin-bodied instrument that sounded great but was at first too loud in the mix. They also had a drummer with a relatively small kit.
It was a very entertaining set. Basically blues rock but with a concentration on sounding indie/unique and never too far from psychedelic meltdown. Joe ripped off a few really good leads and the band was nice and tight. But it was a short set and soon they had the stage set up for the main attraction.
The guys came out and lined up and we suddenly had cause to wonder about the definition of a band. Because the only two remaining players from the first time we saw them were Kalmia and Alex! They're the key ones I guess, to any definition of what Rubblebucket is, but we were shocked and disappointed that Adam Dotson and Ian Hersey were apparently no longer with them. But the trombone player who replaced Dotson was (I hate to say it) probably an upgrade. His tone and power were fantastic and his dance moves were every bit as good. The woman guitarist (Maddie Rice) who replaced Hersey was not as good as him (who could be?) but held her own.
And another definition of Rubblebucket is diversity. The new trombonist is black, the current drummer is Japanese (I think), and to see a young "girl" with long hair playing the lead blues guitar was great (though a pillar blocked her from my view 90% of the time ... that's what happens when you're upstairs in the Paradise). And diversity was so important on that day. January 20th 2017 was Inauguration Day and we should have been celebrating the first woman president of the United States. Instead we were besieged by the institutionalization of hate. It was very good to go out to see such a progressive band that night, it was good to hear Kalmia tell us how important it was to listen to each other and know that she was struggling along with us, and it was fantastic the next day to have millions of people march all over the world to protest what was happening in American government.
That day, Rubblebucket had released a new EP ("If U C My Enemies"), and they featured all four songs from it, which are excellent. And wrapped around them was a setlist of your dreams, including some of the best tracks from their first records, including Shake Me Around, Silly Fathers, Pain From Love, Carousel Ride, etc. As mentioned, the people on the floor were squished together like you wouldn't believe, but they still managed to jump and groove, though the only way they could do it was if everyone jumped on the same frequency.
Kalmia, in a sparkling leotard and psychedelic blouse, was rolling on the stage, bouncing around, tooting her sax with abandon (some of the new songs have excellent baritone sax textures), and singing like an angel. One of the last songs of the set was Came Out Of a Lady ("for all the Moms"), which quickly degenerated into a Rubblebucket love fest. They showered the crowd with confetti, both Alex and Kalmia crowd-surfed (Kalmia singing the chorus while she did so), and they tried a bit of a parade up the steps to the balcony, though this was soon aborted when the crowd was just too thick.
Incredible talent, incredible songs, and a great show! I have to say again that Kalmia was singing better than I've ever heard her. There was a short break before everyone came back out for a long encore, including a brilliant Triangular Daisies and finally a successful parade through the crowd, ending with a tribal circle-groove with the entire band in front of the merch table. That was a lot of fun!
Waited a bit and then were able to push out onto the sidewalk and it was earlier than we expected, just 12:15 or so. The car was right in front and after dancing through a bevy of Ubers we got out of there and had a quick drive home.