Cozy, but Lacking MaturityBy Andrew Selbst
The Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub
May 8, 2002
The Middle East is a small venue, fitting 200 to 300 people in the basement under their restaurant. The acoustics of the setup create a large difference in sound quality in the different parts of the room, the front row being quite bad. However, the relatively small room manages to serve as a nice setting for rock concerts. One of the first things Jeremiah Freed frontman Joe Smith said to the crowd was, in fact, a comment about just this, bringing it to the audience’s attention. He said “We’re back in Boston for a nice, intimate show, just like we like ‘em.”
The opening band, Marwood, comes from New York City and also has one album out. Their music has very nice contrasts. All the melodies, both sung and played, seem laid-back and graceful, while the actual sounds of the guitars are very heavily distorted, almost as if they were hippies with an attitude. That impression also comes from the way they carry themselves and dress when they play. Their onstage presence could be described as Nirvana without the flannel. Their music has a style similar to Jeremiah Freed’s, a bright, hard rock with its own unique flavor. It wouldn’t be surprising to hear these guys following Jeremiah Freed on radio stations sometime soon.
The main act opened with “Stranded,” the first song on Jeremiah Freed’s self-titled album. This was a great choice for an opener, and it did exactly what an opening song should. The song started off at a normal pace, and suddenly, in the middle, the energy levels in the song and the room began to soar, readying the crowd for the rest of the show.
The next song they played was the second on the album, making it seem like their album was their setlist, that they were out to play their album and go home. The band itself did not dispel this feeling. They came onstage without ceremony or feeling, and did very little to interact with the crowd. Aside from the choice of opening song, it didn’t seem that they cared enough to have a high energy show, something very important for a rock concert. It seemed as if lead guitarist Nick Goodale was playing songs he memorized by rote, as a progression of notes, rather than a song.
Goodale, a skilled guitarist, played well that night, but he just didn’t seem to be getting into the music. In fact, for the entire first half of the show, it seemed only bassist Matt Cosby had any feeling in him. Later, more of the band became animated, especially Smith, who seemed suddenly to care about the words he was singing, about halfway though the show during “Wait For Me,” a song he introduced as being about dating a stripper.
Though Smith is the lead singer, and supposed frontman, it seemed throughout the show that Goodale was truly the leader of this band. Most of the songs are written by the two of them together, but all are very guitar-heavy, complete with long solos and intricate riffs. But that can be heard from the album alone; the interesting part was the on-stage dynamic. Goodale spent a good deal of the time in the spotlight, on center stage. In fact, almost every time Smith wasn’t actually singing, he faded into the background to let Goodale take over. It was an interesting dynamic, that really began to work out well as soon as Goodale started playing with visible feeling.
Technically, the band is decent. They write well, and their album has plenty of great music. However, they are a group of five guys who graduated from high school in June 2000. They are still quite young as a band, maybe even as musicians, and it shows. They made many noticeable mistakes in the show, from a missed chord on one guitar to Smith forgetting a line on several occasions. Though they cover their mistakes well, the band’s performance skills need improvement, which they will probably see as they continue to tour.
Overall, the band put on a show that improved toward the end. They eventually moved away from the sound of their album, with a new intro and long improv session in their last song for the night, “Eyes, Life, Change.” The abundant energy from their music alone was enough to make the show a decent one without many additions.