Ken Maiuri’s Tuned In: Spottiswoode and His Enemies at the Iron Horse in Northampton kick off a busy week of tunes in the Valley



Last modified: Thursday, October 23, 2014

Have you lost faith in seeing live music? Feeling jaded about the whole thing? Too much “meh” and not enough spark on the stage, you think? Here they come to save the day: Spottiswoode and His Enemies are returning to Northampton for a show at the Iron Horse Music Hall Friday at 7 p.m.

Jonathan Spottiswoode is the Londoner up front, smartly dressed and with a wicked gleam or a weary soul, depending on the song. His band is so telepathically in tune with him and each other, the songs become mini-movies, transfixing and transformative. Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Joe Cocker, Nick Cave, Ray Davies — Spottiswoode shares DNA with them all, and I’ve seen him command a room by standing still and crooning with eyes closed, or literally crawling the walls. The last time he played the Iron Horse, he climbed across the tables, up the stair railing and dangled from the rafters as he sang one theatrical number.

I was lucky enough to see the group twice this past May, the first time at a venue in an old Maine church. The quintet took the stage not with a big rock bang but with some plaintive piano chords and, soon, a chorus that snuck up on the heart: “I’m gonna die / trying to find / salvation.” By its end, the song had grown into a wild gospel storm as Spottiswoode hopped up and down, howling guttural interjections. The fury suddenly fell away and he ended the song as quietly as it began. Like the best short stories, the perfect final line of lyric came out of nowhere, feeling like fingers snapping me awake. I was dazed in my seat, realizing the emotional journey I’d just been taken through, trying not to sniffle too loudly in the hushed room.

And then two songs later I was laughing at the band’s bawdy wit. They are, as I’ve written before, the kind of group that’s so good, so talented, you can’t understand why they’re not regularly headlining huge sold-out theaters.

Do not miss Spottiswoode and His Enemies! A highly recommended show. David Berkeley opens.



Colorway isn’t wasting any time. The trio, led by singer/songwriter/guitarist F. Alex Johnson and featuring bassist Dave Hayes and drummer J.J. O’Connell, put out a self-titled debut last summer — and they already have the title and release date of their NEXT record set in stone (“The Black Sky Sequined,” May 5, 2015), with plans to record it later this month, again at Easthampton’s Sonelab. Colorway will play a “Pre-cording Party” set to shine up the new songs (and throw in some old tunes, too) at The Luthiers Co-Op in Easthampton Friday at 8 p.m. Mark Nomad plays first at 7 p.m. and Them There Ghosts follows at 9:30.

King Tuff conjures up hazy memories of ’70s AM rock/pop goodness with a quirky power-pop edge. The band (multi-instrumentalist Kyle Thomas and whoever else he has along to play other instruments at concerts) has a new record out on Sub Pop, “Black Moon Spell,” and they’ll be at Flywheel in Easthampton Saturday at 7 p.m. Cassie Ramone (ex-Vivian Girls) opens the show.

Pugwash! The Irish indie-pop band led by Thomas Walsh (he’s been inspired by and written songs with XTC’s Andy Partridge and has some Jeff Lynne in his songwriting veins, too) just put out its first-ever international release, “A Rose In a Garden of Weeds: A Preamble Through the History of Pugwash,” a collection spanning the band’s 15-year career. They’re celebrating with their first-ever US tour, and will play the little ol’ Basement in Northampton Saturday at 8 p.m. Rick Murnane opens.

It’s a singer/songwriter night featuring Mark Schwaber, Ray Mason and Sarah Harper at the Platinum Pony in Easthampton Saturday at 9:30 p.m.



Anais Mitchell has a brand-new solo recording out (“XOA”) and is on a solo tour to support it. The powerful singer/songwriter plays the Iron Horse Sunday at 7 p.m.



Forbes Library Community Concert No. 20 — the final one until further notice — offers unique performances by Police Kittens (Bob Fay and Andy Goulet playing odd songs, improvised and otherwise) and Mike M. Presents Plastic Music (Beach Honey’s Mike McLellan’s original songs inspired by things found on cheap colored vinyl records). It all happens in the Community Room in the Forbes Library basement in Northampton Wednesday at 7 p.m. Free.


 


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