Concussion Ensemble - "Voodoo" -mp3-

Concussion Ensemble
by Joe Bonni
The Pit Report, Boston 1993

It was about four years ago, hell maybe five, that I met Rich Gilbert. I was a huge Human Sexual Response fan (In a Roman Mood is still the best album I have ever bought for $3.00 - Newbury Comics 1986 - VINYL) and the Zulus rank as one of my all time favorite local acts. A friend of mine told me he gave guitar lessons so nervously I gave him a call and even though I could only afford three lessons, he opened up my playing and whether he realizes it or not showed me I could do more than 1-4-5 Rock'n'Roll.

About a year ago, while working with the Bentmen in Worcester, Larry Dersch convinced a haggard club manager that there should be a fifth of Jack Daniel's backstage. Delivered from the bar and still sealed, Larry shared with all his winnings. This would be only one of several projects I would catch Larry working with.

When Ken Winokur left the Bentmen, I wondered where he could set up the most eclectic drum kit in town. After seeing The Alloy Orchestra provide live accompaniment to Fritz Lang's Metropolis, I began to understand that being eclectic does not close doors, but opens new ones. Brian Gillespie's projects range from organic to electronic and he is one of the few musicians in town well versed in both forms, currently working with ZIA, but also well known for his time with goth act, The Five.

Terry Donahue's list of accomplishments could fill a whole book, but let's just say his musical partners have ranged from Roger Miller to Ottmar Liebert (The New Age Flamenco King).

On the back of some warehouse in Charlestown, one can read a huge grafftti piece - "Condo Pygmies". Mike Brown took over for Rich Gilbert in this band when Rich went off to other projects.

And Rich Cortese, perhaps the only grandfather in Boston Rock, was there for The Zulu's rise and eventual, disappointing departure.

The Concussion Ensemble is rich in Boston music history. Past members included, Ellen Mieczkowski from Slaughter Shack, Mark Olsen, also from the Condo Pygmies, and Malcohm Travis, formerly with The Zulus, now playing with Bob Mould in Sugar. This is why we've included a family tree in the ensuing pages. But not only is the history amusing to look at, it provides a reservoir of talent that has kept this band at the top of most club-goers "must-see" list. Unlike many supergroups, that sometimes become masturbatory experiences for those members involved, the songs are where it's at for Concussion Ensemble. Hell, with no frontman (no vocals at all) and four drummers, there isn't a whole lot of room for anyone to steal the spotlight downstage. Terry would be in the way.

After two single releases, relentlessly played on local shows and college radio 'round these parts, Concussion Ensemble have decided to go whole hog and release their own CD. Relativity has picked up distribution for the independently recorded disk, and as you read this article, the first true opportunity to learn the name's of Concussion's tunes is now available.

"They have to be big, big names," explains Brian Gillespie, his brogue making his voice on the mterview tape the only one I can guarantee I'm correctly attributing quotes to. "Usually having to do with diseases or natural disasters. "

"No song is truly named until it's on a record," adds Mike Brown.

"Onomatopoeia. Despite the fact that there are no vocals, where traditionally people seek the emotional response [for a song] through what the vocals say, with us you can feel something through the strong melodies or atmospheres that are created and that's kind of cool."

Yes, it is. The idea of an all instrumental format in Rock'n'Roll is a rare but occasionally tried format that usually delves into musical experimentation. Long trippy sequences, time signatures that send your neck out of joint if you try to bop to them, and generally strange phrasings, harmonies and melodies that create a spartan, although usually dedicated, audience. Concussion uses all these techniques at times, but sparingly, and it is perhaps their concentration on a strong memorable song, along with musicians not only talented, but wise enough to know when it's time to hold the line and when it's time to blow a crowd away that has allowed them more success than most instrumental bands. It is arguable, that by being guitar heavy, and rock oriented that they are using a lower common denominator to garner this success, but I take a different look on it. If indeed, they appeal to many people, because loud guitar rock is more easily understood/accessible, well than they also prove that Rock'nRoll songwriting is a viable form on it's own. Guitars, bass and drums are as viable as a full symphony, because as I mentioned before there is no one up front in this band gesticulating to scantily clad youngsters near the edge of the stage. Concussion is one band that lives and dies by its songs, and so far they are vibrant with life.