CHRISTIAN McNEILL & SEA MONSTERS with special guest WILLY MASON
Saturday 12/27 - The YEAR END FINALÉ
CHRISTIAN McNEILL and SEA MONSTERS
with special guest WILLY MASON
$15 advance / $15 at the door
8:30 doors / 9:30 show
A self-described "career songwriter," Christian McNeill was born in Ireland but has called the Boston area home for the last 16 years. His career arc began as a punk rocker in the Irish group Schtum (Columbia Records) to his more groove - based rock with Boston band Hybrasil, to his current epiphany with Sea Monsters.
"Now I remember why Hybrasil (McNeill's former band) was such a big deal. In today's musical climate where it's not really cool for rock singers to have big beautiful voices, McNeill's startles you." The Boston Globe
A three-time Boston Music Awards recipient - taking home Best Male Vocalist in 2011 and 2012 Christian McNeill hooks fans with his world-class voice and an overwhelming live presence.
The first featured track, "Zero,'' is a hard-driving tune about Christian McNeill's own rebirth that has become a hit on Little Steven's Underground Garage on Sirius XM. DJ Kid Leo declared after watching a live performance, "Boston's best-kept secret should be exposed to the rest of the world."
WILLY MASON - With a sound that recalls Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash along with the cynicism of grunge and punk, nobody could believe wry singer/songwriter Willy Mason was only 19 when he appeared on the indie scene. Born and raised on Martha's Vineyard, Mason grew up with his parents' love of folk music. He loved it, too, but his teen years brought Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine into his life. Mason found their political and social messages much easier to identify with and soon combined folk's softer and looser delivery with the revolutionary attitude of his new heroes. Writing came easy now and the teenager had plenty of self-penned material ready when a family friend asked him to appear on his local radio show. As luck would have it, Sean Foley -- an associate of Conor Oberst and his band, Bright Eyes -- was driving through Cape Cod as Mason was on the air. Foley was captivated by Mason's song "Oxygen" and left his phone number at the radio station, setting off a chain of events that would have Oberst and Mason hanging out, doing gigs together, and touring America. With only three people in the audience, a gig at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas seemed a disaster until one of the three introduced himself as BBC DJ Zane Lowe. Lowe was also captivated by "Oxygen" and added it to his playlist when it appeared on Mason's debut, Where the Humans Eat, released by Team Love in 2004. Critics were positive about the album and unanimously shocked that the literate writer and performer of these songs was only 19. Tours with Rosanne Cash, My Morning Jacket, Evan Dando, Beth Orton, and labelmates Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins increased the fan base and influenced the Astralwerks label to pick up the debut. Astralwerks reissued Where the Humans Eat in early 2006 with bonus tracks and videos added to the original album. That same year Mason assembled a band that included Nina Violet and cousin Zak Borden, and in 2007 his sophomore record, If the Ocean Gets Rough, came out, while a live set at the Austin City Limits festival soon followed. By 2008, two world tours had taken their toll and Mason sought respite back on Martha's Vineyard, only occasionally venturing further afield to play live. He returned to the public eye in 2012 with Carry On, an album produced in south London by Dan Carey which incorporated the use of digital rhythm tracks and electric guitars.
MORE ON CHRISTIAN McNEILL
Too much music today is culled from formula and false emotion. True believers need a rebirth of passion where honest feelings rule the day. We saw it in the Grammy-winning Adele -- and we see it in a Boston phenomenon that deserves national discovery -- Christian McNeill & the Sea Monsters. Note the name. If there's justice in the world, you'll hear it more.
"I see myself as a career songwriter,'' says McNeill. "And I'm very passionate about it.'' Yup, there's that word again ... passion. It's the same thing that Van Morrison has -- and it's what McNeill, who grew up in Derry in Northern Ireland, has cultivated ever since seeing Van perform at age 10 in Derry. "Seeing Van showed me that you can really occupy a song. You don't just perform it. You live it,'' adds Christian.
A good example of how Christian has occupied a song is "Zero,'' a hard-driving tune about his own rebirth (overcoming a lost love and a draining lifestyle) that has become a hit on Little Steven's Underground Garage on Sirius XM. Its frank lyrics of "I was a zero, falling through the cracks of infinity and the void'' force anyone to stand up and listen.
"When I first heard 'Zero,' I knew I liked the band, and when I saw the live at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square, it more than confirmed my first impression,'' says Kid Leo, the program director and afternoon DJ on Little Steven's Underground Garage. As Kid adds, "Boston's best-kept secret should be exposed to the rest of the world."
And ''Zero" is just the teaser on a forthcoming album called Everything's Up for Grabs, in which Christian and the Monsters explode with raw emotion of the kind that Van the Man would love. "This is a comeback record for me. It's about finding optimism again," says Christian, who wrote all the songs. It was produced at Boston's famed Q Division Studios (Pixies, Aimee Mann, James Taylor, Dropkick Murphys) by Ed Valauskas.
Ed cites Christian's career arc from being "an angry punk rock dude" (when he was in the Irish group Schtum, which recorded for Columbia Records) to his "groovy, introspective stuff'' (with a former Boston band, Hybrasil) to his current epiphany with Sea Monsters. "He has a world-class voice and an overwhelming presence," says Ed, who is excited about the next chapter.
Christian also spent time as co-lead singer with Orchestra Morphine, the group that carried on after Morphine singer Mark Sandman passed away. One song, "Southern Cross,'' from the new album is "a hymn...I thought of Mark Sandman a lot when I wrote that," he says.
Christian's songwriting progress has been remarkable. In the riveting track "Southern Cross", he outlines his evolution: "Goodbye to the life I once lived." In the electric "Everything Changes" he notes "the second you compromise, you change your mind again." And in the climactic "You Know I Believe in You," he sings, "From your darkest day comes your brightest light." He sings urgently about love and renewal, but also about fun. He is a complete entertainer -- and the Sea Monsters include some Boston all-stars in guitarists Lyle Brewer, Duke Levine, Tim Gearan, bassist Mike Miksis, keyboardist Ben Zecker, drummer Tom Arey, and two simpatico brothers on horns, Scott and John Aruda. Soul singer Jesse Dee, who co-founded the Sea Monsters, sings lead vocals on the title track, and esteemed duo of Dwight Ritcher & Nicole Nelson (who can currently be seen on NBC's popular TV Show - "The Voice") add some fantastic backup vocals on the record.
"I'm just a heart-on-sleeve guy. I'm ready to go," concludes Christian.
--- STEVE MORSE, a former staff critic at the Boston Globe for nearly 30 years and currently an online teacher of Rock History for Berklee College of Music. He also served on the nominating committee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for 7 years.
The Lizard Lounge (View)
1667 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02138
|Minimum Age: 21|
|Kid Friendly: No|
|Dog Friendly: No|