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Fire, rock with me

On the Friday before Halloween, the Providence electro duo Mahi Mahi were the second act to squish onto a tiny plywood platform flanked by buckets of fire in the courtyard of Massachusetts College of Art. As the group’s robotic tummy rumbles echoed through the square, a lava-like liquid poured down chutes that ended in jack-o’-lanterns, creating the spectacle of carved pumpkins spitting liquid flame. By that point, the courtyard resembled an infernal apocalypse: flames shot up from a handful of furnaces stationed around the grassy quad, and students dressed as a skeletons scurried about in shielded helmets, safety gloves, and protective suits tending to each blaze. Inside, Robert Pinsky and friends were to read from his translation of Dante’s Inferno, but this was MassArt’s annual Iron Pour, a student-run spectacle in which art-school metalsmiths cast molten metal into sculptures while local bands provide the background noise.

"There’s no adult supervision here," noted one adult spectator who seemed more amused than concerned as sparks rained down on Mahi Mahi keyboardist/vocalist Josh Kemp’s white spacesuit. But two firemen materialized during Ho-Ag’s set when a cylindrical cupola’s bottom collapsed; molten liquid dribbled onto the ground and a thick cloud of white smoke engulfed the band. Fighting not only steam but sound problems, the local art punks covered Devo’s "Girl U Want" and "Uncontrollable Urge." (The following night, their full-on Devo tribute set sold out O’Brien’s in Allston.) Just as headliners Fat Day climbed onto the makeshift stage, the flames were extinguished — suddenly, everyone smelled like a campfire, and there was barely time left for the band to play.

On Sunday, the seven-year-old Britpop dance night the Pill held its second annual Halloween party downstairs at the Middle East. The Bon Savants, a moody indie-pop trio who’ve been compared with Pulp, owned up to their most overt influence, even adding female keyboardist Wendy Mittelstadt of the Cyanide Valentine and drummer Patrick Flynn to become the Sheffield fivesome. Singer/guitarist Thom Ramon donned Jarvis Cocker’s trademark sunglasses to croon Pulp’s wry ode to class warfare, "Common People." At one point, Ramon hopped into the costumed crowd of bloodied bodies and practically kissed a feathered flapper in the front row while an Eddie Izzard clone stared curiously. Across the river at O’Brien’s, South Shore indie-proggers Sunset Is a Battle were scheduled to play Weezer’s Pinkerton at 10:30; they were running late, however, so the rap-rock fivesome Angry Balls pulled on knit caps, buttoned only their top buttons, and desperately tried to be Cypress Hill. The long-haired blond impersonating B-Real instead came off as a dead ringer for Jason Mewes (a/k/a Jay, Silent Bob’s stoner buddy); his earnest attempt to start a call-and-response of "Cheeba!" was countered by a heckler yelling "Smoochie boochies!"

Down the block at Eximious Productions’ party at Great Scott, MC Kasey Kasem (a/k/a experimental-noise priestess Donna Parker) was about to crown the winner of the costume contest. Beating out an inspired collaborative effort — Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper, Buddy Holly, and the pilot of the plane they went down in — was Trevor Smith, drummer for the post-rock trio Piles, who came as Courtney Love. Then the math-rock foursome Shore Leave took the stage in funny wigs and pretended to be Television, pulling off a flawless version of "Marquee Moon." Next up were the Valhalla Kittens to perform the campy, show-tunish catalogue of early-’80s Boston cult faves Human Sexual Response ("Jackie Onassis," "What Does Sex Mean to Me?"). As the Kittens segued into their last song, red-wigged back-up singer Kitten Rosa cooed, "It’s nice to see so many men in drag." Added singer Scott Dakota, who’d been summoning the B-52s’ Fred Schneider by way of Richard Simmons all night, "Gender confusion — we like that."

Camille Dodero can be reached at cdodero@phx.com

Issue Date: November 5 - 11, 2004
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