Let it never be said that live music is dead in Boston. It is a distinctive moment in Boston music history, and as we know, climate is everything. Summer is the season for local bands, and while many hit the jet streams or highways to take advantage of summer tours, the local clubs are filled to the brim with musical neighbors and visitors from afar. On Friday, July 21st, The Sinclair hosted a jaw-dropping musical Venn Diagram of Boston’s most defining acts of their respective genres: STL GLD, Sidewalk Driver, Dutch Rebelle, and Carissa Johnson. What do you get when you mix hip hop, punk, and glam rock? One unforgettable show in the new tradition of Boston’s cross-genre shows. Dedicated fans gathered for a treat of bands that they may have never been exposed to otherwise. Twos up, threes up, and devil’s horns bounced in the constantly swaying sea of dancing fans as their favorite local bands churned out crowd favorites and dropped new sounds, sure to be hits.
In the very middle of a massive bicoastal tour, Carissa Johnson opened the show. With Guitarist Steph Curran and drummer Nick Hall, they did not disappoint, delivering the signature driving reflective punk rock sound that has named Carissa Johnson 2016 Worcester Music Awards Punk Act of the Year nominee, 2016 Limelight Magazine Album of the Year winner for the album For Now, and 2017 Boston’s WZLX Rock and Rumble winner. “Fuel Heart,” “You Lost You,” and “Only Roses” were among an impressive set list that showcased Carissa Johnson’s growing anthology. Bass was king as Carissa sang steady and deep. Steph and Nick balanced harmonies losing nothing in charging lead guitar or slamming drums. The trio left nothing behind, bringing with them the best energy of basement show roots brought to the stage, lit up by incredible lighting worthy of their undeniable talent and stage presence.
Next up was the Black Rose herself: the Goddess: Dutch Rebelle: the undisputed Queen of Boston Hip Hop, who has been dominating the rap scene since 2009 and is now representing the Bean on an international scale. Recently returned from a concert blast in Goma, Congo, Bostonians got to hear her newest release, the sexy and clever “Stripper,” and classics like “Mix It Up,” “Yen,” “No Less,” and “Watchu Like.” Dutch’s flow was as powerful as could be, as the crowd hollered back to the Dutch Rebelle call, “Kiss Kiss” : “Bang Bang.” Dutch delivered with the power and grace befitting a lyrical athlete, smiling and dancing nonstop, even walking into the crowd to bring her nephew up on stage to spit into the mic and dance.
Carissa Johnson made us head bang and bop, Dutch Rebelle made us swivel and grind. Sidewalk Driver brought the Glam. Frontman Tad McKitterick came to turn it up, and turn it up he did. Donning bedazzled head strips, (at least) six inch disco-glitter platforms and glowing suits, the lead singer wailed it out, invoking lipstick rockers of the past a la Bowie, Freddie Mercury, and the Walkers. The ‘Drivers’ power rock set had all the elements of a musical circus, a feast not just for the ears, very much for the eyes too. Kate Murdoch rocked the rhythm beside bassist Jonn Smith while the two kicked out tandem dance moves, and Jared Egan riffed it out stage right. A.J. Locke rollicked on drums, stoic yet charged. The stairs were again the avenue to the crowd as Tad descended while wearing a canopic headdress that stretched into the middle of the pit. As he belted it out the audience danced beneath it. At the climax of the set a bomb of confetti cascaded into the delighted crowd.
STL GLD, the creative union of rapper Moe Pope and producer The Arcitype – with Chris Sheehan and Jah – brought the night to a close by transporting the audience through their recent work, Torch Song, a collection of incendiary songs about the state of America. Earlier this summer the group rocked an unassuming (and somewhat confounded) crowd at Harpoon Fest, who for lack of a better description, did not quite know what to do with the commanding act before them. Coming to the stage after a piano cover band, they had their work cut out for them. STL GLD delivered nothing short of a dynamic, physical, and evocative performance. Those who stuck around were dumfounded – and for good reason. Songs that call out the mayor for not visiting the ghetto, the mounting killings of black bodies by unpunished murderers, drugs and guns for comfort, P.T.S.D., and white supremacy are not what one may want to hear, but it’s what makes Torch Song a brilliant undertaking, and what holds their audience rapt.
If the performance at Harpoon Fest was a surprise to some, the performance at The Sinclair was refreshing affirmation. It also happened to be Moe Pope’s 40th birthday party – and what a way to celebrate. The audience was ecstatic to hear their favorites live and sing along. The stage dynamic of STL GLD is a constantly moving and flowing organism that is difficult to capture. The Arcitype provides the beats and jams on electric guitar while Chris, Moe, and Jah dance and rap around one another, setting each other up in between the endless conversation with the audience. Images of Martin Luther King Jr. and brutal clashes between Activists and segregationists of the Civil Rights Revolution flicker across the screen behind them, and the crowd screams as we hear Dutch Rebelle’s unmistakable “Yaow, yaow,” ripple velvety through The Sinclair as she blesses the stage for “The Cost.”
July 21st was a family affair; a beautiful appreciation of artists and audience, venue, and planning: the intimate dynamic of what makes a musical family. Dutch’s nephew, Moe’s daughter called up to celebrate with him on stage, the brotherhood of STL GLD, Glen and his wife in the very front of the crowd, ecstatic to see Sidewalk Driver perform while following them for years, Richard Bouchard who got everybody together, normally introverted audience members who hate crowds but can’t miss their favorite bands performing live the tracks that keep them going in the dark moments, unassuming friends dragged to a show on a Friday night (by their normally introverted friends), Carissa Johnson and crew raging for one night in Boston while on cross-country tour. This is what Boston music is all about.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, what age you are,” said Moe Pope to the crowd before the show ended and the crowd sang him Happy Birthday in return. For the man who earlier this year called out New England Music Awards director and co-founder Joe Graham for the exclusion of Hip Hop and Jazz as categories, this show reinforces the true spirit of Boston Music: that music is for everyone. While Boston has long been keeping Hip Hop in a muzzle it is this mixture of creativity and transcendence that is bringing people together, and it’s a beautiful thing. Expect to see much more from Carissa Johnson, Dutch Rebelle, Sidewalk Driver, and STL GLD. For more amazing shows, visit The Sinclair where you are sure to witness musical magick.