Last April 19th, the Feelies were scheduled to play at The Sinclair in Cambridge. But the city was on lockdown that day due to the search for the Boston Marathon bombers. Halfway to Boston from their New Jersey point of departure, the band members had to turn around and go home. Fortunately, the show was rescheduled for September, and anyone who attended that two hour-fifty minute performance and got to witness and listen to one of America’s most endearing rock bands was lucky. The Feelies don’t play many shows—but the ones they do play they take seriously. Four encores not enough for the wildly applauding audience? No problem, they’ll play five. The Feelies clearly love playing to live audiences, and the love that their audiences beam back at them is just as genuine.
On Friday May 30, the Feelies will be returning to The Sinclair. And if you have any sense at all, you’ll be there—even if you have to drive up from New Jersey yourself.
The Feelies’ music has been described as post-punk, garage-bandish, with overtones of groups like The Velvet Underground and R.E.M. But the band isn’t so easily pigeonholed. Since it emerged in the 1980s, blitzing northern New Jersey and New York City clubs like CBGB’s and Maxwell’s, the Feelies have deftly defied precise labeling. And therein lies part of their charm. These guys don’t have a commercial bone in their bodies, though their music has certainly always been deserving of commercial success. They approach their craft as artists, but don’t let that lead you to believe that the music they play is distantly heady or ethereal. No, they lay down energetic rock laced with stinging guitar solos and sharp vocals from Glenn Mercer (hear a 2013 interview with him here); rhythm guitar from one of the best rhythm guitar players who ever lived, Bill Million; bass lines that make people bounce uncontrollably from Brenda Sauter; and beats galore from the indefatigable, two-man percussion section featuring Stan Demeski on drums and obsessive-compulsive Dave Weckerman on assorted other rhythmic tools and devices. In short, these guys crank. And despite the fact that they’ve been doing thrilling audiences off and on for more than 30 years, your feet will probably be tired long before theirs are.
The band’s first album was entitled Crazy Rhythms, and it’s accurate to say that the music of the Feelies is probably amongst the most intricately rhythmic rock music you’ll ever hear. Songs like “Moscow Nights” and “Slipping (Into Something)” start off slow and deliberate, but by the time they’re done you’ll have beer all over you from the frenzied gyrations you can’t stop yourself from making. Others, like “So Far” from the band’s most recent album Here Before, are a bit more contemplative but no less intriguing. You’ll undoubtedly get to hear a wide range of Feelies tunes at The Sinclair on the 30th—along with what is usually a nice assortment of cover songs, as well. Their version of “Paint it Black” is a classic, and the band has been known to cover songs from Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Brian Eno and even Pere Ubu in past shows.
Get your tickets now right here. The sound system at The Sinclair is superb, and it will never sound better than when it’s got Feelies tunes streaming from it. And while you’re there, make sure to say hello to Bob Torsello. At first glance, he may appear to be selling the band’s merch. But in reality, Torsello will be gathering material for his own music. Bob’s an accomplished musician himself and one of three members of Shrubs, another New Jersey-based band that you should definitely know about. There’s a review of what Shrubs are all about here.