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Concert Review: Caveman at The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA

February 27, 2013

The Sinclair
Cambridge, MA
Reviewed by: Dorise Gruber

It’s no secret that I was mostly underwhelmed by the music that got cranked out in 2012.  I spent my fair share of time devouring and digesting tracks from artists across genres, but only a handful supplied any urgency to explore beyond the first song.  Caveman was one of the few bands to give me pause.  The second I streamed “Old Friend” off their breakout album, CoCoBeware, I was captivated by the atmospheric mood resonating in their music.  With the announcement of their impending S/T album gearing up for release in early April, their second single, “In The City,” has been circulating the media junket, and equally as compelled by this piece as the original release, I jumped at the chance to see these guys live.

Normally when I think of musical arrangements, I think of the bass and the drum lines sitting at the bottom of a song, with the guitar and the vocals riding up at the top (as well as any poppy synth or other insert-kitch-instrument-here).  These songs were just layered differently.  The bass and the synth were buried in the bottom layer, creating a thick soup of sound that would dredge cochlear canals with or without earplugs.  The guitar would take turns pocketed at the bottom or gliding along the middle, and while unsurprising to find the vocals at the top, the drums capped the height of the mix right alongside them.  It didn’t hurt that singer Matthew Iwanusa would occasionally hammer on a floor tom at stage front, and with his kind of goofy, lumbering hunch, it wasn’t hard to envision an actual caveman’s percussive beating at a primitive fire pit, with the rich echo of synth and backing harmonies adding to its potency.

The band members themselves seemed a little on the dorky side – Iwanusa and guitarist James Carbonetti essentially wore inverse outfits – Iwanusa with pink pants and a blue splatter shirt, while Carbonetti wore blue pants with a pink splatter shirt.  There was something clumsy about the banter, like after Carbonetti would say “Thank you!” it sounded like it should be followed by “I’ll be here all night folks, try the grilled cheese.”  The drummer, Stefan Marolachakis would make awkward, unabashedly gleeful faces while whacking away at the skins.  If anything, though, this just made the band seem more human – while their stage presence was a little rough around the edges, their sound had depth and professional polish.  I especially appreciated that the concert was able to capture an almost concept-album-like feel in its between-song orchestral arrangement, not taking too many breaks to gab, and even when they did, to still keep some semblance of drone seaming the flow of new and old songs together.

This was my first concert at Boston’s freshest venue, Sinclair, but the upscale industrial feel of the space lent itself neatly to this show.  It was the perfect size for a 200-ish person audience – the territory gave the audience members space and a rare quiet, supporting the collective intimacy the band crafted.  Caveman swaddled us in reverberation, and we engaged with it.  If you’re looking to be moved, look no further than the men of Caveman, and I recommend putting in your time with CoCoBeware now before you can’t take their upcoming S/T release off repeat.

*Photo by Phil Di Fiore

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