Scud Mountain Boys – T.T. The Bear’s Place (Boston, MA)
T.T. The Bear’s, for all intents and purposes, is a rock club, so a Scud Mountain Boys gig here promised to be slightly strange. Factor into this equation that Boston was holding some kind of Gavin rock convention they were calling “The Alternative Boot Camp”, which pretty much filled any club in town for the weekend, and what you had was a weird mix of Scud Mountain Boys fans, out-of-town alt-rockers and radio programmers waiting for the headliners (Madder Rose), and the usual T.T.’s crowd: loud rock fans unaccustomed to what they were about to hear.
Right away it was bizarro. Their second or third song, the beautiful “Television”, sent one female into a near-manic attack of spastic dancing out of the blue. Lead singer Joe Pernice and the band up there gently strumming their guitars, singing beautifully as always — and some college-aged woman twirling up a storm, out of sync, out of rhythm, out of place. She didn’t stop until the end of their set. That’s the kind of night this was.
I remember thinking about halfway through the show how loose and happy they seemed. The many times I’d seen them before, it was usually…tense. I always chalked it up to the nature of their music: tense, yet serene and beautiful. So to see the band laughing on a few occasions in the middle of songs such as “In A Ditch” or “Massachusetts”, or to have Pernice bantering with people in the front row (and with his band members) between songs was encouraging.
Drawing from all three of their albums, the Scuds sounded as good as they possibly could in a club where the sound system is aging and equipped for rocking. “Freight of Fire” in particular was played about as perfect as I’d ever heard it: The steel guitar was crying, Pernice’s voice was just so sad and gorgeous, and the harmonies were moving. “Lift Me Up” was slightly more raucous than the album version, and you can just imagine how that lady danced with an electric guitar added to the fray. And I’ll be damned if they didn’t start winning over the alt-rockers! I think I even saw a couple of them turn their baseball hats around and wear them backwards, the international signal of alt-rock appreciation. The set closed with “(She Took His) Picture”, which moved and grooved the way most Scuds songs don’t, wisely sped up a little bit after a stretch of slower songs.
About a week later came the news that the Scud Mountain Boys had broken up; this had been their last show. Another band calling it quits. Another band whose music at one time or another provided a few songs that were on the soundtrack to my life. Perhaps in the future we’ll see one of them on stage at T.T.’s or in Northampton, playing punk rock like they used to before the quiet years. But the Scud Mountain Boys were a unique incarnation — immediately discernible and just plain beautiful. I’ll miss them.