Henry M III Beach Bash
White Crest Beach, Wellfleet, MA
June 26, 2021
Al Janik and the Plastyczny Ser Orkestra
Notch Brewing, Salem, MA
June 27, 2021
Words and photos by John Keegan
It was tough missing the Red-on-Red party for a prior commitment,
but sometimes that's the way it goes. Once I got down to White
Crest Beach in Wellfleet and melted into that summer Cape Cod
groove I felt a whole lot better. The clouds broke. The sun was
warm but not boiling and oppressive. The National Seashore glittered
in the distance below the steep dunes, just across the yellow
sun. All the bands were doing their first post-pandemic gig. Everyone
was itchy to play. Not a lot of cobwebs here.
What better band to start off Henry M III's annual beach bash than Beware
the Dangers of a Ghost Scorpion? The bandolero masked Scorpion boys
proved to be a perfect choice for a leadoff band. Nothing like a little Texicano
surf to harmonize with the seals and sharks in the big Atlantic Ocean just beyond
the dunes. Once the coming and going beachgoers got a taste, they stop in the
parking lot and smile, move their hips, and tap their flip-flop feet. The crowd
had been seeded and stayed fifty-plus strong through the night. The Scorpion's
twin guitars jacked up on reverb invoke Dick Dale, pipelines, and California
east. No one could resist the big wave instrumentals, that whammy bar, and those
insistent, short and curly solos.
Crow Follow comes up next. It is tough to review a band you
play in. Well, nobody left and that's a good sign. Tim Sprague
barks our his swampy, pulp noir novellas. Judith Sprague's
contrasting, evocative, slow-dazzle songs explore dystopian sci-fi scenarios,
a wayward industrial complex, and the promise of hope. I mostly get the put a saxophone squall sound in bits. The bari
is an interesting horn. People tend to like its big and brassy
way. Some seem unsure if it's a proper instrument or a brass urinal
ripped off a doorless bathroom wall in some small dive. Multi-talented
Carolyn Corolla of Curious Ritual, Butterscott,
and Bikini Whale fame recently joined on bass. She gives Ramona
the Drummer somebody to play catch with back there in
the rhythm section. Crow Follow ends with a new
Ramona/Tim co-write that runs past the swamp and slaps at Sister
Ray and the MC 5's Black to Comm.
Margaret Garrett grounds the turbulent busting Mr.
Airplane Man for the night and takes off in a turbo prop model that
allows her to spread her wings. She goes with a little less gut in the bucket
and a lot more conversational swinging patter in Gregory R. Porter's
drums. She brings in Al Crockett's bass to push the groove
and add low-end propulsion. The early songs shimmer with the last rays of the
setting sun - Garretts voice light and high. Later, they build intensity over
In the daylight, outdoor shows have that community vibe going for them, usually
at the expense of a more diffuse soundstage. I don't know about you but my money
is on when the night comes down. In the darkness, Garrett's music takes on a
ritualistic power. As Mr. Morrison once said "this is the best part of
the trip". Two small red stage lights don't usually cause much excitement
but these two do double duty and both murkily illuminate and ratchet up the
intensity. The set, and the night, follow the same arc.
Hm 3 joins in and adds that Triple Thick
maracas and tambourine shimmy to the incantation. Even as things build, the
band keeps it chill, talking with each other and using their sneakers to hold
down their wayward, windblown cheatsheets. Rumor has it that they have already
laid down a disc worth of new music to bookend the recent Mr. Airplane Man EP.
The Providence-based Atlantic Thrills kick the rock into
overdrive. They have a disc in the can and a second disc of new tunes on top
of that. Once again we see the pandemic quarantine push a blast of creativity.
The trio takes a gleeful, everything and the kitchen sink approach to plunder.
They click through whiffs of Beach Boy whimsy, well-placed screams, some cramped
up swamp, sonics northwest proto garage, big, catchy riffs, a whiskey flask,
and the kitchen sink. The appropriately named Atlantic Thrills had a year's
worth of pent-up rock to burn. By this time the audience was sun-stroked and
oiled up and the party kicked up another notch. They were dancing crazy under
the starlight at White Crest Beach... and then we hit the bonfire on the beach!
Plastyczny Ser Orkestra
Speaking of dance parties, Al Janik led the annual outing of
the Plastyczny Ser Orkestra to the Notch Brewery in Salem for
a sweltering afternoon of everybody's favorite Polka hits.
The place is packed. The frosty local brews are flowing and an assortment of
fantastic pierogi sizzle on the open griddle. Folks are swinging and ompahing
front and center. You might mistake this for a lark if the playing wasn't so
damn good. The accordion stakes out the Bavarian territory. The horn section
keeps the staccato pumping. The three Golumpki Twins layer
on shockingly tight three-part harmonies that class up the whole shebang. Last
but surely not least, taking us from sentimental to bawdy, from lullaby to midwestern
lampoon, from street parties to the courts of Bohemia you have Al Janik
- straight from your favorite uncle's VFW in the Pocono's - bringing it all
to memorable life.