Weatherbox :: Enemies :: Leaner — Cambridge, MA

Written by Gene Buonaccorsi

I’ve seen the cramped upstairs of Charlie’s Kitchen in Harvard Square convert to a music space, but never with an attentive crowd out in full force. The bands backed into the open area where dining tables usually sat and the audience’s image was reflected back from a wall of mirrors and neon beer signs. Nonetheless, people were packed elbow to elbow against the bar, the booth on the wall and the stacked tables and chairs. Monitors emerged from the sea of heads like beacons. Weatherbox is one of the bigger bands to grace the restaurant’s Monday band series, and it was certainly a more intimate setup than the nearby Middle East and Sinclair concert halls.

Leaner from Boston kicked things off with chunky riffs over surging drums beats. They made the most of the limited space and sound system, and their energy could be felt even in the back of the room. I can’t claim to have been familiar with them beforehand, but that one’s on me given that they play out in the Boston area a ton. Even if you only check out their EP junior upchuck to commend their use of puke synonyms be sure not to miss it.

Next up was Enemies, who are touring the East Coast from Ireland and gaining momentum along the way. Their primarily instrumental set was built on masterful drumming, occasionally with two kits going at once. The shirtless Micheál Quinn was an absolute whirlwind as he kept time with angular riffs and expanded on shoegaze-y passages. On 2013’s Embark, Embrace Enemies honed a number of grooving, dynamic songs. Their capabilities are in-line with post-rock titans Mogwai and Russian Circles, evoking emotion through melody rather than verse. Highlighting the set were a few tracks from the band’s forthcoming album, slated to drop this summer on Topshelf Records. Despite being arms-deep in the crowd, the four played tight and rhythmically precise, implying that they’d be comfortable on bigger stages as well. To end their set they spun into a chaotic wave of chords and fills, and in the midst of the noise Quinn sliced his arm on his own cymbal (I overheard someone say he left in an ambulance, hopefully he’s on the mend). Enemies are putting it all out there on this tour, and it’s a joy to see.

Brian Warren’s Weatherbox crew closed the night with their literary and intricate style. 2014’s Flies in All Directions is the band’s best work to date, but they drew on their deep catalog with great results to fill their hour on stage. Warren is multi-faceted vocalist, singing in low tones one minute before breaking out a just-under-control upper range the next.

Songs like “Drag Out” and “Secret Muslim” centered around his ability, while “The Last White Lighter” and “The Clearing” were driven by pinpoint drumming and the band’s wild array of guitar riffs. Warren offered few words apart from his lyrics, but he was mesmerizing as he pushed through lyric stories of fantastical visions, allegorical conversations and religious questioning. It’s hard to give his lyrics the attention that they deserve in the band’s dynamic live setting, but the power of his words was written on Warren’s face as he sang into the waiting crowd. To close their set the band chose “Trippin’ the Life Fantastic,” the final track off 2007’s American Art. It’s a sprawling opus of a song, moving from punchy verse to airy chorus before an explosive crescendo over the lines “To understand you must spend time alone / to comprehend you must spend time alone / to be together you must spend time alone.” Warren passed off his guitar and literally tangled himself in his microphone chord, his hair and eventually the crowd, for this final song. After a relatively reserved set, “Trippin’” felt like a huge release from both crowd and band, and the technical virtuosity Weatherbox had been showing gave way to pure energy. Part of me was surprised that the small restaurant’s floor didn’t give way and rain punks down into the bar below.

[All photos by Gene Buonaccorsi]