70°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

LOCAL MUSICIANS FIND NATIONAL AUDIENCE

The Push Stars, headed by Boston’s own Chris Trapper, held it down at the Paradise Rock Club Saturday night, packing the club with vociferous fans and delivering a full set of well-received tunes. Fresh from their recent cross-country tour, the folk-pop rockers are riding the wave of commercial success that has met them at every turn lately. In 1999, the band was signed to Capital Records, and released the critically acclaimed album After the Party. In addition, the band scored a huge lift when their song “Everything Shines” was chosen for the soundtrack of the popular comedy There’s Something About Mary.

Last Friday, the Push Stars were on the UMass Boston campus, taking part in a special program called “Guest Mix,” which is being featured Friday mornings on WUMB-FM. For this, Trapper and bassist Dan McLoughlin talked about and played songs from artists who have influenced them, who they currently listen to, and whose songs they wished they could have written. Throughout a well-developed discussion, the duo spun music by artists ranging from Miles Davis to Coldplay.

The Push Stars performance Saturday at the near-full Paradise was fun. They opened their set with “Much Too Much Pride,” “Meltaway” and “Moving Target,” a solid block of songs that got the audience warmed up. Trapper, who is one of the rare guitarist/singers out there who sincerely makes the job look fun, gained the approval of the crowd by flashing a few “rock star” looks and playing a few of his well-known tunes, in this case, “Paint the Town” and “Everything Shines.” A special guest appearance by trombonist Kevin Williams on “Drunk” and “Lay My Body Down” was the highlight of the set.

By this point in the show, The Push Stars were pumping out high energy, jam-infused music with full feeling. Drummer Ryan MacMillan was on-point all night, and guest keyboardist Scott Leslie proved that too much talent in one room is OK. Moving into “Shameless Explanation” and “Cinderella,” the only lull in the energy came when Trapper paired up with opening-act singer Cassidy from the band Antigone Rising for “Sofkuri’s Room.” After a short break, the band came back to a cheering crowd with the fan favorite “Any Little Town” and “Waiting, Watching, Wishing” from their new album. The group encored with “Minnesota” and “Boston Girl,” also accompanied by Williams. When all was said in done, The Push Stars has succeeded in entertaining the hell out of people.

On their recent tour, the Push Stars carried their hometown pride with them like an old friend, sharing stories from their early days in the Hub. McLoughlin took a minute to thank the audience for providing an enjoyable homecoming, noting that the band had been looking forward to being back in Boston. This is the type of rapport that local audiences like, and the Push Stars needed only to mention the city’s name to get a reaction. The high spiritedness of the atmosphere was at its best when a fan jumped on stage between songs to applaud the band and share his affection for the audience. After he hopped off stage, McLoughlin joked, “Was that Drew Bledsoe?” (referring to the stage-diving incident, at this club, involving the former Patriots quarterback).

While it is true that The Push Stars are known for drawing a majority of women to their shows, there was nothing about this band that would alienate a male fan. With few exceptions, the songs they played were universal, sparing them the ever-feared “sensitive band” label (Yes, the one that brings down so many other groups). The truth is that this band makes up for its sub-trendy commercial appeal in two very important ways: First, they have major talent. Since 1996, the band has released four highly reviewed albums. Hits Magazine called their first Capital release, “(a) stunning major label debut.” Moreover, reviews with lots of superlatives are not hard to find in reference to this band. Tracks from two of their albums have appeared in two Hollywood movies (including Me, Myself, and Irene). Second, they are committed to their audience and their music; in the tradition of genuine folk artists, they make their way by performing. This particular show was no exception.

Finally, this reporter must admit that he did not have to pay for the show. Much to the surprise of himself and his guest, the big guys at the front door with the black t-shirts just waved us both in. I do not know whether this was a mistake or not, but I must admit that I actually felt welcome at a show in Boston for the first time in a long while, and that’s no small thing.