Travel Notes – Peter Bjorn and John on Cinco de Mayo

Peter Bjorn and John @ Paradise Rock Club
Boston, MA

Boston was once again the place to be for this year’s Cinco de Mayo celebration. The weather was pretty, and everyone of age was having some tequila, toasting “¡salud!” to the end of another year at college. I was at Sunset Cantina with a few friends, drinking margaritas with blue salt on the rim, eating nachos and catching up before the main event at the Paradise Rock Club.

Peter Bjorn and John – the indie rock trio from Sweden that spiraled upward in fandom when they came to the states – was a much-anticipated event. We made every sacrifice to see them play a Cinco de Mayo show together. The last time they did this in Boston was back in 2007, right as they were getting national acclaim for their third major album, Writer’s Block. They were making waves in the indie scene with their single “Young Folks,” and I was promoting them through a local radio station that fostered their rise to fame.  This year, the trio returned to show us something new.

Photo Credit - Diana Wong, Brooklyn Vegan

On one of Boston’s most notorious drinking holidays of the year, the trio (guitarist Peter Morén, bass guitarist Björn Yttling, and drummer John Eriksson) took to the stage and immediately dove into my favorite song, “Up Against the Wall.” It was serendipitous; my friends and I had discussed our favorite songs by them earlier in the night. I was glad this wasn’t just a tour of their new album, Gimme Some, even though that would have been amazing. The tracks they did highlight embodied an optimistic enthusiasm for live performance. They played a variety that spanned over several albums, giving me a taste of everything new and old. They brought a great, frenetic energy to the stage. Their sound was powerful, poppy, new wave and enjoyable all around.

Photo Credit - Diana Wong
Photo Credit - Diana Wong

There were occasional jam sequences that blew my mind, and Peter would sometimes grind into his guitar and improvise solos that made my head bang uncontrollably. He even jumped into the stage a couple times to play his harmonica, and Bjorn would rock the bass in wild support. Even John had his moment, playing his heart out, standing over his drums, banging incessantly while P&B offered instrumental backup. They played an hour-long set, left the stage, and came back with drinks in their hands minutes later, toasting and celebrating before returning to another great set. I regret not staying long enough to thank them personally for an awesome show. It went on until just about midnight, and I eagerly picked up a t-shirt before racing to catch the last train home.

Travel Notes – LED ZEPPELIN 2 @ Paradise Rock Lounge

Led Zeppelin 2 @ Paradise Rock Lounge
Boston, MA
J&B straight

It was right in the middle of “Dazed and Confused” that I realized what it felt like to attend a Led Zeppelin concert. The only difference was that these guys were not the original members of the band. I couldn’t tell however, because they looked exactly like the original members during the time in which they created their following. Unless Led Zeppelin played at Paradise Rock Lounge back in the day, there was no other distinction. Did that actually happen?

It was the culmination of Kulp’s 30th birthday celebrations. His girlfriend and roommates put all the bells and whistles on what I can only call a frenetic pleasure-fest of the senses. Before I knew it, I was drinking J&B straight, licking gobs of chocolate alcohol-infused whip cream off my two, good fingers, and sampling bits of a Lincoln-log, fried Philly Cheesesteak abomination, better known as “The Kulp.” It’s due to appear on any day now.

The night sped up when I half-ran from Cambridge Terrace to Paradise Rock with J-Lew. We thought we were late, but the show had not started. Typical. People got there within minutes of us, and it eventually turned into the apex of everyone’s night. Opening with “Rock and Roll” was the most appropriate entrance, testing the limits of everyone’s expectations. I was right there, two layers away from the stage, leaning in and taking a glimpse of the moments felt by millions across time and space.

At first, the levels were out of whack. The rock was too much, and the mixers had to find a balance before people’s head’s exploded, before “Dazed and Confused” turned up. I rocked at that point, screaming “Go!!” and “Yeah!!” while the band jammed on. Then they played “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” and there was a moment in the confusion when I truly felt unlike any other. They played “Stairway to Heaven,” and it felt like the lighter in my hand was my soul, burning out in satisfaction. It made me think the end was near, and then they gave me more.

I lost sight of my friends when the band finished their second set. I stayed to buy a t-shirt and talk to the roadie selling swag. It turned out the band wasn’t finished. They came back and played a two-song encore to a reasonably smaller crowd. One of the songs was “Moby Dick,” and an outrageous drum solo ensued for close to five minutes. When the show was over, they talked with the few people remaining, including myself, about the nature of their cover band, and the intimate relationship they have with the music and the era. Almost like a religious mission, they tour the country, spreading the word of one of classic rock’s greatest acts.

I bled from the hand, not realizing it until the lights came on. The rich, red coagulation on my index finger only enthused feelings of rebellion and rock, and when the roadie made me aware of it, I wrapped it up in the newly-purchased tour shirt. After the show, the band members were nice enough to sign it, impressed and concerned about the blood stains I proudly presented. I unfortunately had to wash the shirt, but the memory, much like the song, remains the same.