Ken Maiuri's Clubland: Johnny Irion opens for Good Friends and other musical happenings

  • Johnny Irion TIM BLUHM


  • Pajama Slave Dancers in 1986

  • Winterpills JOANNA CHATTMAN

Published: 11/2/2016 3:47:35 PM

How new is the acoustic twosome Good Friends, featuring guitarist Ian O’Neil and drummer Dennis Ryan from the popular Providence band Deer Tick? A Google search results in basically bupkis. They’re bare-baby-butt new. And making one of their first-ever appearances at the Iron Horse Thursday at 7 p.m.

“They remind me of The Beatles circa ‘Please Please Me’ with of bit of The Replacements in there. Really strong catchy hooks, short songs with good harmonies. And energetic,” said singer/songwriter Johnny Irion, a good friend of Good Friends, who will open the show with a solo set and also join the duo for a grand finale.

Earlier this week, Clubland spoke via phone with Irion. He lives in Washington (that’s Massachusetts), and on the line from his deep-in-the-hills home, his voice was alternately muffled and distorted, at the mercy of a weak signal.

Irion said he’s a big fan of Deer Tick. He and they appeared at the 2014 Tonder Festival in Denmark (Irion was there performing with his wife and sometime collaborator, Sarah Lee Guthrie). The band asked him to sit in on a Neil Young song (“Don’t Cry No Tears”) and they stayed in touch.

“We kept running into each other,” Irion said, and last summer Deer Tick asked him to play at their famed Newport Folk Festival after-party.

Irion got to see one of Good Friends’ very first gigs this summer at the Dream Away Lodge in Becket and he loved hearing O’Neil and Ryan “stretch out and show their songwriting abilities.”

The duo’s Iron Horse tour is a special one-off show, not part of a tour — in fact the morning after the Northampton gig, the two musicians fly off to finish up a new Deer Tick LP with the rest of the band.

For Irion’s opening set, he’ll largely play material off his latest collection of tunes, recorded with a full band and released exactly one year ago under the name U.S. Elevator.

“It’s the rock component of my songwriting, but I can strip them back and play acoustic, too,” he said.

He plans to debut three songs, slated for the next US Elevator record, and he also has a new solo album already recorded with the band Dawes, which will come out next year. (Sarah Lee Guthrie is also working on a solo release, and the couple expect to record together again as well.)

Wait, there’s more

The experimental Meginsky/Baczkowski/Nace Trio (featuring Steve Baczkowski on sax, Bill Nace on guitar and Jake Meginsky on percussion and electronics) shares a wide-ranging quadruple bill with Northampton dark electronic duo Boy Harsher, hardcore punk band Chemiplastica and ethereal artist Lykanthea at The Root Cellar in Greenfield Thursday at 8 p.m.

Playful punkers the Pajama Slave Dancers celebrate 30 years of death-defying, life-enhancing crowd dazzling with a homecoming show at Shenanigans Pub in Westfield Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Their suggestion: “Get ready to get nuts!”

Joining them will be Westfield-based The Prozacs (celebrating their own milestone of 15 years together), New Haven punk band The Lost Riots, all-star Westfield old-school/skate/metal-punk group Stiletto Bomb and ’90s-punk-influenced group Wasted Time. The show is free and 21+.

If you’ve never been to the Dream Away Lodge in Becket — or if you need a reason to go back again before winter hits — the perfect opportunity is happening this weekend: Winterpills bring their original songs, full of heartbreaking harmonies and emotional swells, to the intimate middle-of-nowhere venue. Expect a cozy night to remember in that toasty relaxing room full of ottomans and cushions. Saturday at 8 p.m.

Lo Fine is the art-making moniker of singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Kevin O’Rourke. His annual autumn gig at the Montague Bookmill takes place Saturday at 8 p.m. This year his band will include three special guest musicians: drummer Brian Marchese, bassist Paul Kochanski and the man who plays everything, Dave Trenholm, on saxophone, flute, clarinet, guitar and more.

Ken Maiuri can be reached at

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


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