with The Pushstars at The Other Side Cafe
by Amanda Nash
Every time a new bar or coffeehouse becomes a popular place for people who like to have conversations, the place inevitably starts having live music and everyone has to find somewhere else to talk. This includes, in the past couple of years, the Middle East Bakery, Upstairs at the Rat, the Liberty Cafe, The Model Cafe (now squelched for lack of license) and now, on Wednesday nights (Essex Hotel permitting), The Other Side Cafe. Oh, okay, we’ll forgive The Other Side, but just this once.
Thirteen, a local three-piece playing their first gig, started with a song for which the guitar line was so plodding I really had my doubts… But Rich Goyette’s vocals and Shawn Marquis’ drumming were interesting enough that it seemed worth sticking out – I figured, well, first gig, Goyette just needs to work on his chops. But it turns out it was just the song; he really can play. It’s straight-ahead indie rock, but with some unpredictable melodies, vocals with just enough counterpoint to stretch the imagination, and snappy rhythms. I snagged a copy of their tape but it was too clean, subdued and sincere for my taste – although I didn’t feel that way about their live show. The ambitiousness and complexity of the songwriting comes across pretty well.
The minute The Pushstars hit the stage (I use the term loosely), even the most resolute conversationalists and Other Side Seattle-styled grunge rockers busted out in a big grin. Chris Trapper’s songwriting is so totally accessible, catchy, and emotionally appealing, you jus’ wanna run up and hug ‘im. Yes, indeed, it is sensitive-boy rock, but not the whiny, emotionally manipulative kind. His voice and his lyrics are sweet, in a strained, raw way that protect them from being saccharin. (“This next song,” says Trapper, “is called ME.” In a previous show, I heard it described as “the masturbation song,” to wit: “Feels like the warm summer rain falling down on me.” Works in context.) Two great guitarists, some ace pickin’ by Joe Bregandi on lead (but what’s with the Starbucks shirt at The Other Side?), nice harmonies and extremely catchy folk rock rhythms, everybody bouncin’ along happily. My Editor would hate this shit, I smile to myself.
Yeh, if y’all get tired of being angry, check ’em out. And for you aspiring groupies, check out these two bands’ drummers too. Sorry. How unprofessional.