photo: John Mancini
It’s All About Arts Magazine April 2018
THE HI-END – Crank It Up!
To be honest, this kinda music is for more hard-edged folks than me, but when something
special perks up, I’m all ears. The very first time I saw this group was less than a year ago at Sally O’
Brien’s in Somerville. It was early in their career, but their enthusiasm and spirited energy bristled
with real Boston rock & roll dedication, which basically consists of a punkish yen for bar-band sounds
combined with twitch, sincerity, and a good-time attitude. As for heritage, think of similar major outfits
like The Rolling Stones, Alice Cooper, AC/DC, Eddie and the Hot Rods, or some local heroes as
Aerosmith, The Nervous Eaters, The Neighborhoods, and Third Rail.
The Hi-End is made up of musicians from some of Boston’s best bands of recent past with
Johnny Carlevale (from J.C. & His All-Stars) = lead vocals, Curt Florczak (from B-Movie Rats and
Greg Allen’s Fringe Religion) = guitar/vocals, Anthony Giordano = bass, Bruno Giordano = guitar/
vocals, and Scott Sugarman = drums (all from The Boston Swindlers). That they are able to sculpt
their own identity in Boston’s music scene is a true testament to their collective talents. Their 2017
debut EP, 100 Proof, was a raw, back-to-basics blast, showcasing their sensibility, unpretentiously
enjoyable tunes, and most importantly, tremendous playing – already evident, though the polish had
yet to be applied to these upbeat tracks, full of imaginative, loopy edges. Crisply supporting their
unique suave vocalist, both guitars soar and dive, attacking during the solo jams, whilst the rhythm
section both grooves and growls, foretelling a strong desire to develop into an essential, cutting-edge
outfit. Now, here comes their new 7-song album, Before You Run Out of Luck, and their improvement is
immediately recognizable. Bypassing any comparisons, listening to these songs and seeing them
on stage is to immerse yourself in rock & roll’s glorious camaraderie. This is a mature band that will
give their all – and then some – to entertain and encompass their heritage. No juvenilia, but dedicated
followers of classic R&R: anything considered rebellious with spunk and style – British Invasion, 70s
punk, glitter, pub rock, hard rhythm and blues, early metal, power-pop, etc. Three tunes especially –
“Looking for Some Kicks”, “Blood Red Lips”, and “To Be Alive” – are absolute stand-outs and should
be blasting from radios around the world.
I had a chance to recently meet up with them to chat about their vision. They discussed their
formation for the 2016 J.P. Music Fest, which was met with great success. Scott said: “I guess we’re a
real band now!” and that material became their debut EP. Most of their current songs are worked out
in rehearsal sessions, sharing riffs and musical themes. Johnny, who has notebooks filled with lyrics
and ideas, sums up their approach: “We don’t get upset with what we’re doing until we’ve played it
enough. It’s always collaborative.” Bruno adds: “By the time we’re ready to record, everything has
coalesced.” Curt sums up this thought: “I don’t think we went in a conscious direction so much as we
kept developing the things that we felt represented us honestly and that we all enjoy playing. I feel
like with the new album, we’ve set ourselves up with a sound and vibe that is truly us.”
Their short-term goal is obviously more local shows with respectful, affirmative audience
response. A recent packed show at The Midway was met with effusive cheering and support. Anthony
added: “We must keep doing the right stuff – it just takes time! We wish we could have more
kids showing up, though sometimes our music doesn’t filter down to them. We have an upcoming
show with The Nervous Eaters, who have set a high standard for decades. We want to continue on
that same path.” As with most groups, getting press and radio play is a constant consternation that
plagues many. Rock music has been diluted as clubs close and fanzines disappear, though the internet
offers great personal hope. The possibility of bringing their sound to European festivals, which
honor the frenzied rock tradition, appeals to Johnny especially. One of his former rockabilly bands
found success there and he hopes that might be a bright turn of events for the group. Until then, they
plug on, write more stunning material, and hold their heads high. Definitely, check ‘em out now before
they hit that rocky road towards national prominence! Absolutely recommended!!
download the issue now!
by Curt Naihersey
Rockin’ on the Edges of The ‘Lypse
When you reach a Certain Age, you realize the The Apocalypse isn’t a singular flash of blinding light and instant death that burns life and institutions into their own shadows, nope. The End is but a slow, engorged-on-wealth beast, slouching towards Scottsdale, with a relentless gait that obliterates everything in a widening feedback loop of greedy anti-gravity and bullshit. Reagan and the Cold War. The Internet and Social Media. The Kardashians. Justin Bieber. Trump. You might as well toss the gentrification of Boston into that, too, economic terraforming that began transforming the socio-economic landscape of the city in the late Nineties and hasn’t stopped since. One of its many victims was the vital rock scene at the Rat in Kenmore Square, which shuttered its doors in ???, to be forever replaced by high-end condos and restaurants. Many black leather jackets called out in terror and were silenced. Something terrible definitely happened.
Many other venues followed suit and what we had was another End of an Era. But like with any disaster (slow or instantaneous), there is always, always the Sole Survivor—the apocryphal cockroach, that lives on not because it OMG wants to rebuild Society, but because it doesn’t give a shit. It Knows No Other Way. Nature gave the roach—and rock and roll—the genetic adaptations to survive, and so both will, fuck all.
Also true this is of the funky Yoda dwelling that is the Midway Cafe in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. The Midway (now the subject of a documentary) has been, without change or pause, hosting and cultivating band after band after band after band since 1984 (1984, people! Think about that for a minute, especially those of you who weren’t born for another 15 years). And, no, the Midway isn’t retro or TBT because like the cockroach, The Midway isn’t very self-aware (or is it?—scary thought), and just does it what it does because that’s what it does. It exists on a through-point that pierces every fleeting popular cultural fad that has come and gone for the past 35 years. And by “pierce” I don’t mean that it has been (briefly) a part of them; the Midway is simply an unstoppable force that on its journey to the dark side of 6344 P-L, merely ignores the unbreakable wall and keeps going, and like the cockroach, does not give two fucks if you’re wearing skinny jeans or Journey tour t-shirt or make 500k in an office downtown or even secretly like some of Bieber’s early stuff. The Midway just wants to rock on the edge of the-ever-coming-that-never-ends Apocalypse, because that’s where gravity bends, where time stops and music becomes dark matter that fills the spaces of the rest of life. It’s dark, it’s dank, it’s lived-in worn leather dark with sweat stains the shape of a foot, the inside of the urinal is plastered with stickers from bands present and long past (some that were good, some that were bad, some whose members have gone on to have kids and live the suburbs (and we pee on them in salute)).
The Midway, then, is the kind of venue where, like The Rat, where Tom and Petty and his Heartbreakers could wander off the dusty post-Apocolyptic wasteland of the “You Got Lucky” video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtLpZWNyM0I) and comfortably rub spiked elbow pads at the bar with Coma the Doof Warrior (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozmjV_VLYyo) and an even dustier and seething Furiosa (although Doof and Furiosa are now friends—life’s short in the wasteland and who doesn’t like music?). But also with sun-faded Seventies rock fans in denim jackets and gray ponytails. And militant lesbian SJWs. And hippies (*still* finding a planet to orbit around after Gerry’s death). And urban professionals. And suburbanites. (and, yes, even the occasional hipster)
So all of which is a long-winded set-up for telling you that I had the pleasure of catching one of the Midway’s regular bands, Hi-End, for a couple of gigs recently. Guitarist Bruno Giordano is a cockroach. I mean that in the nicest way because like the Midway and that a half-empty (not half-full) bottle Johnny Walker Red vibrating violently while resting against the P.A. in the practice space, Bruno keeps on walking. Bruno has been in bands continuously since the mid-Nineties (since before the Kenmore Kale and Craft Beer Apocalypse) from pop group Ten Second Rule to straight-up rock act Everyday Moses. Bruno formed speed/sleaze metal act Amigazo in the Aughts, and more recently, he and Hi-End’s other guitarist, Curt Florczak made headway with the Majestic Twelve and began exploring, and became a fan of, the down-and-dirty rock and roll he cooked up with the Boston Swindlers (which includes two members of Hi-End—Anthony Giordano on bass and Scott Sugarman on drums). Bruno, Curt, Anthony, and Scott joined forces with self-described cow bell padawan and vocalist Johnny Carlevale and in an Immaculate Conception of Rock, thusly became Hi-End.
Hi-End is a perfect act for The Midway because like the venue and the cockroach and the ever-coming Apocalypse, the band doesn’t give a shit about the color of the atmosphere or the temperature of the room. They just want to rock out of their skulls and have fun. And rock they did during both gigs with tracks from their suitably titled premiere album “Before You Run of Out Luck”. Bruno’s straight-up-rock residency in Majestic Twelve and The Swindlers clearly carries over into Hi-End with metal-wheels-on-gravel riffs and solid soloing from Florczak. Along with suit-wearing Carlevale’s clear and energetic vocals and Giordano The Elder’s rollicking 200-ton-bass-anchor, you have a band that evokes everything from the aforementioned Petty to The Stones to Clutch to The Sword to maybe even a little of the camera shake of Red Fang (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VufilzHKTqk). Whatever, any band review is a cliche, and the best proof of Hi-End’s talent and showmanship I can offer is that during the first show, they had many fans (and a few of Midway’s eclectic regulars) dancing in front of the stage (a spontaneous display that you probably don’t see with many of The Midway’s acts).
But don’t take my word for it. I’m a swindler. A fraud. I’m part of the problem, part of the relentless end of the world that’s been about to happen for eons (but this time could REALLY happen), so go see for yourself before it’s too late, catch Hi-End (and other bands) at their next gig. Doof will thank you, and so will rock and roll. With a head-butt to the bridge of your nose.
The Hi -End/ 100 Proof e.p
It all came together rather quick and easy for The Hi-End – a five piece, high octane
Rock & Roll band out of Boston. Knowing each other in the local music scene and
having previously played together in various projects and in assorted incarnations over
the years, they joined forces in the summer of 2015 to compete in a “Bar Wars” show…
a benefit to raise money for the regional Jamaica Plain Music Fest. There at the one-off
gig they played diverse cover songs of some of their favorites by The Jam, AC/DC, and
Judas Priest. They never really considered winning the thing – so, of course, they did!
The prize earned them a slot on the big JP Music Fest where they would now perform
to hundreds of people. !
The performance guidelines for the festival required that The Hi-End to play original
material. As they all wanted to form a new band together anyway they stepped it up,
wrote some tunes, played the festival and just kept on going. !
Now one year and a handful of killer shows later the band is geared to release its first
official EP titled 100 Proof. The four songs within are bright, catchy and tough with a
strong pop sensibility. The music is to the point, with memorable hooks and swagger,
complete with confident vocals, dual rhythm-guitar interplay, and a tight bass and drum
combo holding it together by the throat. !
Singer Johnny Carlevale’s lyrics embody a heartfelt aesthetic touching on topics of
scene apathy, inner strength, dangerous women and good times. Musically the band’s
sound is a gritty cross between Brit pub-rock, proto punk, 60’s soul and a straight up
rocking stomp. Let the good times roll indeed.!
“…much too short, but a well-recorded piece of spirited rock’n’roll that mixes the
best of 70’s and 80’s punk’n’roll with pop influences. Recommended for sure!”!
-Rich Coffee (Rich’s R’n’R’ Rants and Raves)!