Big Lick – Review

Big Lick

by Jennifer Beatty
photo by Rich Rodichok

The name comes from guitarist Nick Pantazi’s past obsession with the Lemonheads. The album Lick played the key role. Describes Nick, “Lick is a great name for an album. It’s got a musical reference and it’s something great to do with your tongue.”

Big Lick was born somewhere between Boston, MA, and Providence, RI. King Phillip high school, to be exact. As Pantazi explains, “We are from various high school jazz and marching bands… Two of our members are still in high school.” Apparently so. Big Lick range in age from seventeen to twenty-one.

The band has gone through more line-up changes than Madonna has gone through relationships (men and women alike), yet drummer Sean Greene, vocalist Kevin Herlin, alto saxophonist Jeremy Udden, and Pantazi have managed to stick it out all along. Bassist Mike Geher, tenor saxophonist Ezra Provost, and two trombonists later joined the group (this is the line-up featured on the self-titled tape). Though musical differences and “clashing personalities” caused the trombonists to leave, the empty shoes have since been filled by Rick Copeland, a fine horn player in his own right.

Big Lick was economically recorded on a 4-track in Pantazi’s basement and contains six tracks. Some are not only catchy but have whimsical stories attached to them. “Dead Girlfriend,” for instance, is rumored to be about a Big Lickster’s ex-girlfriend. “1,000 Miles to Readville” came about when Geher and Greene were heading home on the Commuter Rail from Roxbury Community College, arms loaded with laundry and books. After discovering that they were on the wrong train, the two trekked across town from Hyde Park to Readville Station (that was rumored to be “just around the corner”). “It seemed like it was one thousand miles away,” barks Geher. And “Confident Guy” was inspired by a guy from the band’s high school who would roam the town at night dressed as Batman. Pantazi believes “he must have been wacked out on his acne medicine.” A nice tribute to modern jazz legend Charlie Parker rounds out the tape.

This ska band have a hypercharged sound best described as snorting Pixie Stix, or, as the band says, “Chucklehead on crack.” They understand they are going to be compared to the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, yet in the ska family, they prefer to be linked to Thumper.

Big Lick’s performance at an all-ages Sunday afternoon show at the Rat was tight and impressive. They played a delectable mix of originals (the most memorable being “This Is Your Life”) and cover tunes (House of Pain’s “Jump Around” and the theme “Muppet Babies”). Having played the previous night at New Haven’s Tune-In and arriving at the Rat without having slept proved to be the formula for success. “It was our best show yet,” comments Nick, “For some reason we came alive.”