One of a few pictures in which I could get all of The Feelies. L to R: Glenn Mercer (click for Dig interview), Dave Weckerman, Bill Million, Stan Demeski, Brenda Sauter.
Sorry R.E.M, Sonic Youth, and Yo La Tengo fans: The Feelies beat them to it. Call it college rock, indie rock, or alternative rock—The Feelies did it first.
No, this is not coming from some music snob using the space so generously afforded to him to plug the band whom he so loves but so few others have ever heard of. In fact, my educated guess is that the members of these three bands would agree. Peter Buck—the guitarist for R.E.M.—cited Crazy Rhythms (click for the review that I posted on Amazon.com several years ago), The Feelies’ inimitable 1980 debut album, as a major influence and co-produced the band’s very different but equally spectacular 1986 follow-up The Good Earth. (The first R.E.M. release, the EP Chronic Town, came out in 1982.)
In the summer of 2008, long-time admirers Sonic Youth invited The Feelies to open for them at the River to River Festival in New York City on July 4th. To warm up, the post-1983 Feelies line-up played three consecutive nights at one of its old haunts, Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey. “Reborn for the Fourth of July,” proclaimed a New York Times headline.
Later that year, The Feelies played a New Year’s Eve gig with indie-rock favorites (click for a hilarious Onion article) Yo La Tengo. At the Wellmont Theatre in Monclair, New Jersey, YLT lead singer Ira Kaplan confirmed what I suspected before I knew about the video below.
Late in 2009, The Feelies opened a few more shows with Sonic Youth, including one at the Wilbur Theatre that I attended with absotively no intention of sticking around for the headlining act.
For the past four years, it has been a regular thing for The Feelies to do ten or so shows per year, though they rarely venture farther west than Philly or farther south than D.C.
During this time, I have seen them every time that they have been in Boston: once at The Roxy (now Royale Boston), twice at The Middle East Downstairs, once at the Wilbur Theatre, and—as of this past Saturday night—once at the Paradise Rock Club.
A Feelies concert cannot possibly be bad because The Feelies do not make bad records. Granted, they don’t make very many, either. Between 1980 and 1991, they released only four albums. Since reuniting to tour in 2008, they have released only one, 2011′s Here Before (click for The Dig’s review). The few hundred in attendance at The Dise on Saturday—when the upstairs was closed off and the show wasn’t sold out—were exhilarated to hear every song that the band played, but each attendee probably could have named at least one song that he or she wished that they would have but didn’t.
Still, between the band’s two sets—the first of which started at 9:00, the second at 10:30—and the encores, the deliciously nerdy quintet played more than 30 songs.
The only one of their originals that may have been familiar to non-fanatics was “Let’s Go,” from The Good Earth. This song appeared on the soundtrack to the Noah Baumbach-directed, Wes Anderson-produced film The Squid and the Whale in 2005. Two years later, it was in a Volvo commercial.
Part of the excitement of a Feelies concert is hearing the covers, which get so thoroughly Feelies-ized that they hardly seem like someone else’s songs. On their albums, counting the 2009 CD and vinyl reissues of Crazy Rhythms and The Good Earth (thank you, Bar/None!), the band has covered The Beatles (“Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey”, “He Said, She Said”), The Rolling Stones (“Paint It Black), Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers (“I Wanna Sleep In Your Arms”), Neil Young (“Sedan Delivery”), The Velvet Underground (“What Goes On), and The Stooges (“Real Cool Time”).
On Saturday night, The Feelies spread seven covers across five—that’s right, 5—encores. In addition to the aforementioned songs by the Fab Four, the Stones, and The Modern Lovers, the quintet treated the crowd to Bob Dylan’s “Seven Days,” R.E.M.’s “Carnival of Sorts,” and “Take It As It Comes” by The Doors. (Early in the first set, they performed the Velvet’s “There She Goes Again.”)
But it is The Feelies’ own songs, of course, that make all of their shows red-letter events.
From the literally crazy rhythms of “Raised Eyebrows” (on which three members play percussion) and”Fa Cé-La,” to the pastoral 12-string acoustic warmth of The Good Earth‘s “On The Roof,” “The High Road,” and the way electric “Slipping (Into Something),” to the rockin’ “The Final Word” and “Too Far Gone” from 1988′s Only Life, to the poppier elements of “Doin’ It Again” and “Invitation” from the 1991 album Time For A Witness, Feelies classics were plentiful.
And the songs from last year’s album—including “Nobody Knows,” “On and On,” and “Time Is Right”—proved that the band’s magical musical formula is as potent as ever.
Here’s hopin’ for new Feelies album before too long that that old fans can sink their ears into, or, better yet, that new fans can discover them by.
Oh yeah, Weezer fans—The Feelies did this first, too.