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The 20th Anniversary of the Middle East Upstairs

Middle East Upstairs 11/10/2007

Story by Blowfish
    This 20th anniversary of the Upstairs at the Middle East came as a surprise to me. I can remember people talking about the club that Billy Ruane had convinced to have rock shows. At the time it was a welcome addition to the scene and so close to where The Club was years before. The Saters have had a long run with little controversy, not easy in this line of business. Good for them and good for the groups. It looks like the club will be ongoing for quite a while.
   The first gig 20 yeas ago was a birthday bash for Billy as was this night. Also, it was a fund raiser for Stephen Fredette (ex-Scruffy The Cat and currently of Pony) who has medical problems and medical coverage is a problem (Don't get me going on that issue.).
   As an anniversary celebration it was very low key. I never saw Joseph or Nabil Sater although I wasn't there all night. There was a nice spread of food on the side. As a fund raiser I think it was more successful. The Saters let all the door money go toward Stephen's fund and the club was full all night with some turnover. As a birthday party we had a short appearance of a cake and Billy doing the MC work all night. Billy dresses in black and white but he's one colorful guy.

   Coming from work I just caught the end of Helms a trio with an interesting sound. I got one fast picture and they were off.
   Next up was The Reid Paley Trio. Reid is still remembered fondly from his days with The Five (a good LP if you come across it) and it's hard to forget that raspy voice. He's now based in Brooklyn, NY and has developed his own thing. He's a little like Tom Waits without the hipster baggage. There are some real winners on his current CD. He did a few of these songs tonight. He has a bare bones sound from his low key guitar work and stand up bass that fits the mood he sets with his lyrics. It's a little quirky and very enjoyable. I hope to catch him again.

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Thalia Zedek
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Thalia Zedek
This picture shows that
neat Hagstrom guitar.
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Chris Brokaw
while playing with Empty House Co-op
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Reid Paley
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Reid Paley
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Billy Ruane
Birthday Boy
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Springa jumps the stage.
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Chris with the cake.
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The food table

   I was surprised to see an electric cello setting up. This was The Empty House Co-operative with includes Thalia Zedek. They also had a violin and at one point someone played a saw, and to top it off Chris Brokaw on guitar. They played one long atmospheric piece full of swooping and keening sounds. It was very tasteful and different for a rock club. Chris was very impressive. He had a solo CD a few years ago that I let go by. I'll have to search for that.
   Some of the same personnel were on stage for M.G. Lederman who were much more song oriented. Lederman plays a very appealing piano.

   Again some of the same personnel stayed on stage for The Thalia Zedek Band. There are a lot of people who talk of Thalia with reverence and you can see why when see gets to the mike and summons up some serious stuff. This is adult material. Most rock seems puny and childish in comparison. The last songs were Come songs done with Chris Brokaw. The group sound seemed to rise into a behemoth, a powerful and raw thing, Thalia controlling all with her voice. This was a great live experience, no record could capture this sound and feeling.
   The Come songs are raw but Thalia also plays more conventional songs and this has been the key to her longevity to me. She's a fearless musician who is creative with any musical form she fancies. Her solo records have been surprising and impressive. Her career gets more and more highlights as she goes on.

Photos by Blowfish
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Ed Moose Savage, Anya, and Boby Bear
Catching the music and supporting Fredette
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The Reid Paley Trio (Duo?)
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Thalia and Chris
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Thalia and cello.
During Empty House Co-op.
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Thalia and guest singer.
During the Thalia Zedek Band

   But now here's Chris Brokaw with a cake and hey, it's Springa doing a stage blitzkrieg. Billy Ruane grabs the cake before it can be thrown around.
   I left before Hallelujah The Hills came on and I had missed Drug Rug and IV Diffusion at the beginning of the night, but I got to see five groups.
   All in all a good night and it will be a while before I lose that feeling of those Come songs.

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Copyright © 2007 Paul Lovell. All rights reserved.