Back in ’77, the second side of Spectres kicked off with a crowd pleaser/pumper called “R. U. Ready 2 Rock?” (did Prince have a copy of this record?) and they often started live shows with it to get things going. Blue Öyster Cult didn’t trot that one out tonight, and it’s probably just as well because 2020’s notion what of a rock show is like has been reduced to an awkward caricature of how it used to be. Spread out on the sprawling lawns of the Cheshire Fairgrounds, this is the current landscape for live music and I had to drive nearly out to Keene NH for a taste. And without a vaccine, this is probably about the best we can hope for. It’s gonna be a long, brutal winter.
Anyways, let’s get down to how it went down. At this point the band’s really just been Eric Bloom and Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser for quite some time and if you’re gonna have to pick two original members to soldier on under the name, those have to be the best picks. They’ve been on the road forever, have enlisted a very solid band and have a pretty large back catalog to pull from. Of course you’re not gonna not hear “Don’t Fear The Reaper” or “Godzilla,” and there were definite signs of a calcifying set list over the last few shows I’ve seen but tonight’s selections were quite varied and welcomed. With everyone having a parked car between themselves and their neighbors, people could relax on camp chairs on a beautifully perfect evening and enjoy their first dose of live music in months. Not sure if Eric’s voice was having a bit of an off night but Buck took more of the lead vocals tonight, and along with “Burnin’ For You” and the aforementioned “Reaper,” the sterling psych epic of “Then Came The Last Days of May” and “The Vigil” were played as well as a super deep cut of “Harvest Moon,” not the Neil Young cover but a song from 1998’s Heaven Forbid (featuring a pretty horrible cover with a reasonable facsimile of Sarah Silverman on it).
Making it appropriately local, the NY boys threw in a pretty funny and seemingly random nod to nearby Mount Monadnock for the encore, and closed out with two well-known barn burners in “Hot Rails To Hell” and “Cities On Flame,” though perhaps a more topical closer would have been “This Ain’t The Summer Of Love.” Fingers crossed for a speedy return to normalcy in the live music.
Primarily based in Boston, Massachusetts, Tim Bugbee is no stranger to traveling throughout the country or overseas to capture the best live music photos.