Mark Mulcahy and his backing band - Anders Griffen, Marc Seedorf, and Ken Maiuri

Mark Mulcahy with Lou Barlow

The Shea Theater, Turners Falls, MA

November 11, 2017

Story, photos, and video by Kelly D

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See more videos of the night on my YouTube channel HERE.

It’s no secret that my area of the world (Western Massachusetts) is lousy with rock stars. Sometimes it’s lovely to be reminded of that fact and to go see some living legends at a revitalized performance space in a nearby town. Thanks to the good folks at Signature Sounds, I saw Mark Mulcahy, frontman of the bands Miracle Legion and Polaris (the latter being the “house band” for the 1990s Nickelodeon TV series The Adventures of Pete and Pete), at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls. Lou Barlow, of Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh and whom I’ve dubbed “the Bill Murray of the Western Mass music scene” due to his propensity for showing up unexpectedly and delighting local fans of alternative rock, opened for him.

In fact, I had seen him perform a raucous one-off song with the Mountain Goats just a few days before. Check out my review of the Mountain Goats’ concert in Northampton HERE. Barlow, who now lives in my hometown, played a low-key set with zero frills. Sitting on the edge of the stage with but a microphone and guitar, Barlow played originals from his various projects, peppering his set with some charming self-deprecating banter and anecdotes of living in Los Angeles versus the sleepy valley of Western Mass. In one absolutely precious moment, Barlow brought his son Hendrix with his friend Jack to perform an “interpretive dance” to one of Barlow’s earliest songs “I Love Me.” The dance was mostly just the two children whaling on each other while Barlow slammed simple chords on his acoustic guitar and the sight was tear-inducingly amusing.

The notion that I was watching a noise rock icon just hanging out in his ‘hood was not lost on me. There’s a reason why I stay in the town in which I grew up, after all. Anytime one can run into Rachel Maddow at the supermarket or Black Francis at a coffee shop is pretty dang cool, in my opinion.

Check out my review of Dinosaur Jr.’s secret show in Amherst back in September HERE.

Monte Belmonte, local radio host of 93.9 the River, president of the Shea board of directors as well as all-around gadabout, introduced Mark Mulcahy. Mulcahy is a wiry scruffy dude and plays a mean guitar as well as sings with an impressive vocal range. He performed with Marc Seedorf, Ken Maiuri, and Anders Griffen. In a fun visual bit, the musicians changed up their instruments from time to time depending on what song was playing. Mulcahy’s set ranged from ambient indie rock to more poppy sensibilities to shoegaze.

His most recent release, Possum in the Driveway, featured a song the DJs were playing a lot on the River- “Chasing Mice.” However, this was not performed the night at the Shea, which slightly bummed me out. Regardless, it was fun to watch Mark Mulcahy share vocals with Marc Seedorf, who plays bass (and hangs out with Dinosaur Jr. professionally, nbd) and at times took to the keys to accompany the man of the hour. Griffen even busted out a trumpet while still maintaining his spot behind the drums.

Mulcahy shuffled around onstage, wearing too-short pants and a wild hairdo that reminded me a little bit of Mad Madam Mim from the Disney film The Sword in the Stone. I had put together he was the same person as the lead in the short movie Father Willie, a showing of which I had seen the week before at the Parlor Room in Northampton. To be fair, that version of Mulcahy sported a massive beard and no glasses.

The flick, which features Mulcahy as a charismatic and foul-mouthed cult leader grappling with the end of the flower-child era, has a very simple theme song: Father Willie, we love you Father Willie, we love you Father Willie, we love you Oh, oh Father Willie And at one point Maiuri, taking a break from his current role as keyboardist, began gently taunting Mulcahy by singing the aforementioned tune.

Playing along, Mulcahy directed everyone’s attention to the movie’s director, Jason Mazzotta, who was in the audience. Too perfect! The whole vibe of the evening was relaxed and fun- shortly after the “Father Willie” ad lib, Mulcahy busted into “Pinball Wizard” by the Who.

The encore saw Mulcahy bringing Lou Barlow out to the stage again, bashfully clutching a sheet of lyrics. With Maiuri accompanying on keys, Mulcahy and Barlow duetted most adorably on “If I Fell” by the Beatles. As they both craned their necks to sing delicately in their microphones, entwining harmonies, I again was awash with the feeling that this is why I stick around Western Massachusetts. Where else would you see such a rare and precious sight?

To submit a story or to just say hello, email us at [email protected]

Check out the Live Music News and Facebook page for updates and announcements.

See more videos of the night on my YouTube channel HERE.