John Harvard’s Beer Flight

Disclaimer: there is a whole different story being made called “John Harvard’s Beer Flight,” but this is not that story…

I went to John Harvard’s for dinner sometime ago with a friend, Jimmy C., and took the chance in trying a flight of their microbrews. I recommend you try it, if you like trying new beers. Couple that with a good dinner and you’re all set! They gave us a good deal for ordering two, and we ended up ordering pints of our favorites afterwards.

John Harvard’s Beer Flight:

Colonial Gold
Pale Ale
Holiday Spice Ale
Demon DPA
Milk Stout

Colonial Gold:
This was a their blond ale, a German-style offering that’s smooth and very light in body and color. It was refreshing, but had a hoppy aftertaste.

Pale Ale:
This was a great pale ale, full of body and smooth taste. It was darker and sweeter than the Colonial Gold, kind of like Sierra Nevada, but with a floral aroma to it.

Holiday Spice:
This was their seasonal offering, a holiday brown ale loaded with cinnamon and nutmeg. It was a great blend of sugars and spice that made this one go with the season.

Demon DPA:
This is their double IPA, a stronger hops, a stronger beer. It was smooth going down, and there was a light aftertaste, but that thing had a strong, hoppy bite. Very tasty!

Milk Stout:
This was a variation of a classic rich stout, smooth and flavorful. It wasn’t overpowering at all; it was very dark, sweet, and milky, and the roasted malts tasted like coffee.

My favorite out of all of them was the Milk Stout, seconded by the Pale Ale. I bought a pint of each before the night was through, Jimmy had another Holiday Spice. It was a great way to sample everything they had in the house. Their food menu is a whole different story!

AHMAD JAMAL @ Regattabar

Ahmad Jamal @ Regattabar
Cambridge, MA
Sam Adams Lager

His entrance was noble; the last one to show up, sitting down while everyone was clapping, and jumping right into something groovy. The band was on queue and picked up right when he did. The tempo was fast at times, and made me think of the fast city streets.

There were moments of release that charged the audience and got us moving in our seats. At other times, things were slower, orchestrated to perfection. There were great solos from all the players, full of improvisation and personality. Manolo Badrena was a creative delight on the percussions. Idris Muhammad was sharp and strong on drums, and James Cammack kept the rhythm and foundation on standing bass.

Ahmad Jamal took the melody and harmony to incredible levels. It was my first impression of him as a musician, and I had no idea he was a major influence on jazz in the 1950s and 1960s. Elements of swing swept the beat from song to song, not wasting a second too long for applause and cheer. My leg kept tapping to the beat underneath the cocktail table, almost spilling my Sam Adams Lager.

I bought his most recent album after the show, and I noticed he was signing autographs after the show. I was the last in line to see him. I told him it was the first time I ever heard his music, and this show made me a fan. He was pleased to hear it, signed the album cover I handed to him, and wished me well as I left. I left him there, knowing he would sit there silently before returning to the stage for a second show. He’s still got it.

HOORAY FOR EARTH @ T.T. The Bear’s Place

HOORAY FOR EARTH – August 17th, 2010
T.T. The Bear’s Place, Cambridge, Massachusetts
9:45pm, Pabst Blue Ribbon

Lights passed above as I entered the dimly lit spot in my friend’s hand; welcoming the others and grabbing a beer at the slightly vacant bar. Not too many people were around yet. People were loitering around the more popular scene next door. The joke was on them – the real show was back here.

I get there late but the show hadn’t started yet. My friend was entertaining a seedy group of enthusiasts inside before he came out to welcome me. He gave me my ticket; I was upset to see a different band headlining – ADMIRAL RADLEY – but I didn’t care. They were not what I came to see. I came to see HOORAY FOR EARTH, and they were on shortly.

Photo by Jon NickersonAt a place like T.T. THE BEAR’S, bands can embrace the small performance arena, throw everything they got at the audience at volume ten, break the knobs, and still sound great. That doesn’t work for all bands out there; unfortunately… you have to have talent. The ground shook when HOORAY FOR EARTH came on stage. Almost out of competition, THE MIDDLE EAST – DOWNSTAIRS had a show on too, and their fire down below was completely smothered by the footfalls of rockers young and old. It was the best live act I’d seen in a long time.

HOORAY FOR EARTH is Noel Heroux, Chris Principe, Gary Benacquista, and Joseph Ciampini, formed in 2005. They’re mostly based out of New York, but they have roots in Boston that keep them coming back to destroy local venues. Joe on the drum keeps the energy going while Noel and Chris tear up the guitar and bass. Gary’s on the other side, playing synthesizers with the occasional guitar act. Noel, the man behind stories of sleep-deprived inspiration, broke off on occasion in frantic mini-fits of thrash and metal. It was awesome. Chris and his bass kept the melody in motion with on-point precision, and my head began to rock uncontrollably with the beat.

These guys know each other, like good friends, and it’s helping them control and mold the musical fury they create. Their sound is clean and their energy is hot. I bought their MOMO EP a few weeks back on my friend’s recommendation (including the vinyl, a very cool press). Fortunately for me, they played that album live at T.T. THE BEAR’S, so it was all my familiar favorites, and if anything they bettered their studio work. Young, indie, club rockers across the world would eat this stuff up.

Hands rise in the air when “SO HAPPY” begins with its anthem guitar distortion, and people dance when they bring on “SURROUNDED BY YOUR FRIENDS,” a personal hit laced with uplifting undertones of life and death. Their lyrics seep into the teenage wasteland within, and they stand behind a thrash-electro-pop sound that makes contemporary rock wonder where its mojo went. Just try “HOW ARE YOU HERE” and you’ll hear what I’m talking about. As for a top track suggestion, I would go with “VIDEOSTORE” for its climactic finale, a total blowout of melody and percussion that hits an apex unachieved by other pieces. The audience rocked around me, bobbing like waves of skin and sweat, praising ecstatic when they finished their last song. I was hitting my apex too… and then the lights came on for the next act and final act.

I would check them out whenever you get the chance. They are definitely worth a listen. Try the three sites below for songs and more information on upcoming shows.