Rustic Overtones return to the Paradise

A review of the Rustic Overtones at the Paradise Rock Club on April 19, 2008

, Staff

The Rustic Overtones are not into images. They’re not into posturing, or projecting what they think a rock band should look and sound like onto its audience. They’re not into irony, condescension, or belittlement. The Rustic Overtones are into panther flags.

Yes, city of Boston, panther flags. A stylized, straight-from-Napoleon-Dynamite artistic rendering of a growling panther was flung over bassist Jon Roods’ amp stack at the Paradise Rock Club on Saturday night, reminding anyone that was still sober enough to see straight that the Overtones are not one of those bands that takes itself painfully seriously, and neither should you. The Portland, Maine based seven-piece, touring in support of their 2007 release Light at the End, rolled into Boston with guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, horns, xylophone, ukelele and panther flag in tow and reminded the city that music is about kicking back, having a beer and good time with a group of good friends.

The group established a bright, carefree vibe early on with “Happy”, the last cut off of Light at the End, as frontman Dave Gutter sang "today’s a blast/cause the sky’s not overcast." The cheery simplicity of lyrics like these would carry through the band’s set as a broad current of relaxed optimism permeated through words, music, and attitude. For "Love Underground," Gutter belted out "you’ve got to party with me," prompting his sunglassed-at-night horn section of Ryan Zoidis, Jason Ward and Dave Noyes to rip into a jazzy patchwork of improvisation. The Overtones exhibited their musically astute mashup of genres and styles with the salsa rhythms and clap-along beats of Crash Landing, the bluesy guitar, funky basslines and soulful singing of History Crush, and the blistering kick-pedal pace provided by drummer Tony McNaboe on "Gas On Skin".

Gutter took some time midset to thank the crowd for coming out, remarking that "it was nice to be back at the ‘dise." He asked for a social, raising his PBR pounder into the air – one of many, as the band was absolutely crushing beer during their set. Gutter and the rest of the Overtones take a very unpretentious, effortless approach to music, with every song reading like they were playing at a friend’s backyard cookout. Gutter proved to be a captivating frontman, toeing the line between frontman and guitarist with mystique as he concentrated on his instrument during the emotive Drive Slow and later ditched his ax to work the mike on the explosive Combustible. A crowd favorite, “Combustible” incited the closest thing you could get to moshing at a jam-oriented show and the most awkward almost-hippie dance moves the city of Boston has seen, well, since the last time anyone in the city of Boston tried to dance. After another Overtones fan was seen moonwalking to the bar during the 70s soul throwback “Hardest Way Possible”, it was evident that the band’s loaded grooves were enough to prompt the whitest white boy to bust a move.

Gutter also remarked "we almost broke up but we worked it out, and now we want to spend as much time as possible with you," referencing the band’s hiatus in 2002 after the release of Viva Neuva. After a few major record deals fell through, the band decided to call it quits but later reunited in 2007 with a northeast tour and the release of Light at the End. It’s obvious that the Overtones’ dedicated fan base was a large part of coming out of the hiatus and the packed club was every indication that their popularity hasn’t dwindled over the years with its core fans.

After another fan-favorite “Iron Boots” and the killer horn section of “Rock Like War”, the Overtones reprised part of the initial song, “Happy”, and left the stage to Gutter’s Half Baked reference "Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, you’re cool, fuck you, I’m out." Returning to the stage after a brief intermission, the frontman said "Thanks for enlisting in the Rustic Overtones, I’m going to need everybody to be really quiet," and settled into the most politically charged effort by the band "Letter to the President." Over soft tones of an acoustic guitar, xylophone, and ukulele provided by keyboardist Spencer Albee, Gutter sang quietly and clearly, appealing rhetorically from the point of view of a soldier. Refreshingly, the song was pretty, melodic, and graceful, allowing the audience to take appreciate it as a political treatise or just a sweet acoustic song.

The band crushed the end of the set with the mellow, piano-oriented “Feast or Famine” and finale “Smoke”, an ominous, heavy cut that melted into a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”, reworked with the solid horn section that hadn’t yet made a break for the Funyons.

Overall, the Rustic Overtones live show was a refreshing experience after having seen countless acts that have been touted as the next best thing but couldn’t play deftly enough in their women’s jeans or see the audience through their expensive haircuts. The Overtones are on a laid-back, musical road trip and looking for the next fan to bring on the road.

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