By Nicholas Stalford
On October 21, Converse Rubber Tracks Live—a newly established music division of Converse—announced that they would be sponsoring a national tour with The Orwells across eight different cities. For the opening acts, Converse allowed The Orwells to hand pick from any of the artists who had previously recorded at a Converse Rubber Tracks pop-up studio. The tour kicked off in Brooklyn on Halloween night, where The Orwells invited fellow punk rockers Twin Peaks to join them, along with opening act Shark?.
Monday night, The Orwells played their second stop on the tour in Boston at The Sinclair, with opening act Nice Guys, a cornerstone of the Allston punk rock scene. And this wasn’t the first time that The Orwells and Nice Guys had played together; they had shared the stage with FIDLAR at The Sinclair in October of 2013. So clearly, Nice Guys had made a positive impression on The Orwells. Doors didn’t open until eight, but a line had begun to form long before then. During that time, both The Orwells and Nice Guys stepped out into the street for some fresh air and a smoke as they waited in anticipation for the show to begin.
As the doors opened, the crowd flooded in, some rushing to the bar, others to the merchandise table, while diehard fans ran straight to the stage. For the hour between doors opening and the start of the show, Converse had set up a photo-booth next to the merchandise table. Fans were encouraged to take pictures, and a few lucky ones got to pose with Nice Guys. Heads quickly turned as The Orwells’ lead singer, Mario Cuomo, made an appearance, walking over to the stage and uncharacteristically hanging out with a few fans before the show, even signing some posters before disappearing back stage.
Just past nine, Nice Guys took the stage, playing a quick forty-minute set of nonstop rock mixed in with some quirky humorous banter. They played songs from a mix of their albums, including some split material with Chicago punk band Lil Tits. Nice Guys’ song titles and lyrics were highly reflective of the their attitude and sense of humor, with songs about pizza and about “those cell phone holder things,” as guitarist Jake Gilbertson put it. Keeping in line with this type of humor, Nice Guys went on to sing another song about their cat Mordecai, who had, “died in a tragic dog sledding accident,” to which one of the guys commented, “You should never let cats drive dog sleds.” Somewhere towards the end of the set, singer Alex Aronson attempted to introduce the band, but ended up just saying the band’s name and introducing Gilbertson, after which he said, “And that’s it, don’t give anyone else credit!”
After Nice Guys finished their set, the crowd was well warmed up, and people began to come down from the Mezzanine to huddle together on the floor. Just past ten, The Orwells took to the stage, receiving a rowdy applause from the crowd. Cuomo immediately took center stage, dressed to kill with a cheetah print shirt, holding a cocktail in one hand and a beer in the other as the rest of The Orwells picked up their instruments.
The Orwells played for well over an hour in an electrically charged and classically punk performance. As usual, Cuomo led the way with his wild party-boy antics, progressively drinking himself into a more and more of a stupor as the night went on. But unlike during many of his other performances, Cuomo managed to find the right combination, impairing himself just shy of throwing up, yet remaining fully capable of performing in his wildly entertaining signature crazed and belligerent manner. Throughout the show, Cuomo swung between moods of absolute madness and tranquility, leading him to punch the crowd and kick beer cans off the stage, but still being able to stand perfectly still for long periods of time. He ripped off his cheetah print jacket, dropped the microphone several times after finishing up songs, held the microphone over his crotch and rubbed his ass into the face of some lucky fan. Cuomo dived into the crowd, kicked the speakers off of the stage, and spent plenty of time on his hands and knees in front of the drum kit looking ready to retch. But he always managed to hang on for just one more song (and another drink), giving the crowd a big thumb up when his nausea subsided and he was ready to continue.
While Cuomo did his thing, the rest of The Orwells played on, seemingly enjoying their singer’s antics as much as the crowd was. Guitarist Matt O’Keefe held down one side of the stage, playing clean and catchy riffs on his shiny new red cigar box guitar. Drummer Henry Brinner quietly held a steady beat in the back of the stage all night, while his brother, bassist Grant Brinner, and guitarist Dominic Corso held down the other side of the stage.
As the night went on, The Orwells played a mix of songs from their most recent album, Disgraceland, as well as hits from their previous releases, such as the crowd favorite “Mallrats.” They also played a song by Boston-based ‘70s rock band The Modern Lovers, covering “The Modern World,” during which Cuomo proudly recited the lyrics “Drop out of BU!” This replaced their usual cover of The Foundations’ “Build Me Up Buttercup.” But much to the excitement of the crowd, The Orwells also played a number of new and unheard songs, showing that the band was continuing to work on new material even though there has been no official announcement about a forthcoming album.
By eleven, it was clear that The Orwells were wrapping things up. They had already played the majority of Disgraceland, as well as the hits and a few obscure songs from their other albums. They walked off stage sometime around eleven, only to tease the crowd and return for an encore just a few minutes later. Overall, their performance had been pretty tame, at least in comparison to some of their previous shows—Cuomo hadn’t even taken off his pants! But their encore performance quickly resolved this issue, as Cuomo found himself traveling further and further from the stage, and eventually climbing up onto the railings of the mezzanine, at least ten feet above the standing floor. Cuomo continued to sing for the remainder of the song, dangling recklessly over the heads of the crowd until the song was finished and he dropped the microphone, flipped over the railing, and ran off into the back of the venue.
The Orwells continue their tour with Converse Rubber Tracks Live, heading next to Canada to play two gigs before heading to the west coast. Tickets are free while they last, so catch them if you can.