Matt Stubbs & The Antiguas opened with a bang their new Monday night residency at The Sinclair in Cambridge, Massachusetts last night. The Antiguas had a solid turn out for the end of a holiday weekend. The audience was fully engaged and enthusiastic about what this four piece instrumental band was laying down. Calling each Monday night’s event DownBeat Mondays, the band is sure to become as much a fixture there as they were at their last residency, which lasted over a year.
With Ken Clark on Farfisa, Mark Hickox on bass, and Chris Rivelli on drums, there was no way this line up could fail. The group’s blend of surf, blues, oldies, and psychedelic rock received its usual visual accompaniment on a huge video screen behind the musicians. The projection, created by Tracey Hansen, presented a kaleidoscope of images that augmented what the band sounded like in each of their tunes.
Opening their first set with “One Mint Julep,” the band jumped right into a blast of guitar and organ melody that swung like the swinging 1960s and became part of the evening’s vibe. Stubbs’s phrasing was a fiery blend of surf and early 60s rock and roll. Ken Clark’s Farfisa organ groove lulled everyone into “Arabian Jerk.” Clark’s wafting hippie swirl of chords made one feel part of what was going on with the projection screen and its myriad of engaging, psychedelic images. It didn’t take long for Stubbs to unleash his own particular take on the melodic line. His guitar phrase zigged and zagged in hypnotic patterns of exotic tones.
The rhythmic groovefest of “All About My Girl” proved that drummer Chris Rivelli is the band’s meter king. He kept the band’s musical adventure on a steady train, one that often changed tracks but never left the rails. The down tempo “El Segundo” felt like a Doors song, an exploratory piece that levitated in the abyss between the unknown and the forbidden. Dark guitar tones and simmering organ chords kept one in tense suspense as to which place the work would take us into.
Rocking things up a bit, MS&TA went into the edgy, jagged melodic phrasing of “Stubbzilla.” The boys punched and kicked this one forward with muscular low end from bass guitarist Mark Hickox as well as speedy, precise drumming, mountainous organ chords and a guitar line that was absolutely on fire. The lilting chord progression of “Tube Top” inspired dance floor action before it got louder not only in dynamics but in speed and flashy expansion. Then it burned with the might of a bonfire, incendiary, each and every moving part falling alit and starting another conflagration of its own. Rivelli became a sideshow of his own with a drum solo that drew rapt attention with all that he could stick in a brief span.
The rough and tumble groove of “Red Beans And Rice” made a good springboard for flinty, jumpy guitar phrasing and Clark’s screaming organ. After that catchy Booker T cover, the band played “Mangoes,” a tropical blend of island twang and assertive, palpable support loaded with colors and tones in its rhythm. A number titled “Death Grip” featured whip like guitar phrasing that cut its way through the mule kicking force of the other three as they kept the tune’s rhythmic underpinnings pinned.
Breezy and wavy as a huge flag, “Time Is Tight” floated along like a magic carpet ride, a ride punctuated with tight drumming and low end throb. “Jacksonville Jerk” was an action packed number that made one picture the rude behavior that inspired the likely parking lot fight that inspired this slam banging, powder keg number. “Del Diablo” sounded as evil as its title. Darkness erupted from Stubbs’ spiky guitar phrase while Clark kept something even more sinister brewing just beneath the surface.
The end of the first set came with “Fistfull,” a cool mesh of psychedelic organ and gripping, dizzying guitar fire. Effects laden organ music conjured images of everything from alien invasions to a zombie apocalypse, and judging by the looks on room faces, the audience was feeling it.
That was only the first set, and it had already gathered a good size crowd with people still arriving. Matt Stubbs & The Antiguas have clearly found a good home at The Sinclair on Cambridge’s Church Street. Between the gripping, over the top music, the stunning visuals, the crowd support, and the overall vibe at the place, things can only get better for this band and the venue.