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Home stands
Lovers and the Perceptionists, back and intact

"Ya’ll feel like doing a little audience participation? It’s wicked easy," said Cubby Berk during her Tuesday-night set at the Middle East, in an accent that betrayed both her down-South roots and her New England credentials. A fixture on the Athens, Georgia, scene, Berk, who records as Lovers, moved to Jamaica Plain a few years back — yes, she was the hottie serving you coffee at the Diesel, sometimes — and then moved to Portland, Oregon, this summer. Now she’s back on tour. In her shy, charming, gently self-depreciating manner, she explained to the audience the extent of the intuitive "do-do-doos" that she wanted to hear. While Lovers is "orchestrated" on record — her band remained in Athens even when she lived in Boston — Berk performed with just her ragged, girlish voice and her guitar. Stripping songs down to their essence is a real test of quality, and Berk has some sort of ineffable magic that gives her songs heft. She played new songs from a forthcoming album and a bunch from 2004’s The Gutter and The Garden, with lyrics recalling old partners in sympathetic specifics, like the "horses drawn on the wall between my nightstand and my bed." Lovers record for the Elephant 6–related label Orange Twin, but watching Berk play, it was hard not to think that she’d be huge if she was on Saddle Creek, or that she ought to be as popular as Mirah. One kid with a fuzzy Kermit visor was losing his shit, putting his head in his hands with glee when Berk started another tune. Nearby, local pop smarty Ad Frank looked on and admitted that he was "openly admiring and jealous."

"Are the Red Sox gonna fuck around and get swept?" asked Mr. Lif from the Paradise stage on Thursday night, when this appeared to be a distinct possibility. Just as the Sox were coming home, the Perceptionists were kicking off a tour. Lif’s foil Akrobatik rocked a Division Champs jersey for the other hometown team — the one whose Super Bowl victory was celebrated on the Perceptionists’ mixtape track "The Razor" — while an audience of mostly white college kids lost their shit. It’s an audience the Perceptionists know well. With DJ Therapy backing them, the dudes had so much energy the people up front were consistently throwing their hands in the air. They asked if the crowd "liked hip-hop lyrics" (as opposed to the other parts?), then demanded, "If you love freedom, say ‘Hell Yeah!’ " As a reward, Lif and Akrobatik freestyled for a bit. Akro gave a shout-out to Phyllis Diller and told some kid his hairstyle was "The same steez I’ve been rocking since 1993." A drunken dude in his late 20s busted out some breakdancing moves on the upper level. He was so drunk he couldn’t decide whether he wanted his shirt on or off, but then the spirit of hip-hop moved him and he’d execute a quick series of six-step, turtles, and windmills in front of the bar before breaking off to grind with his girlfriend.

Elisabeth Donnelly can be reached at elisabeth.donnelly@gmail.com

Issue Date: October 14 - 20, 2005
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