Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Jon Svetkey, Jim Infantino and Brian Doser at Kiva House Concerts, 3-19-16 Concert Review

"Oh Massachusetts"
My appreciation for folk music and for singer/songwriters really began with four guys: Ellis Paul, Jon Svetkey, Jim Infantino and Brian Doser. They performed individually, of course, but collectively they were known as End Construction. My friends and I saw them as often as we could in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This was the time of the Old Vienna Kaffeehaus and of Coffee Kingdom. These were good times. The four musicians have done a few reunion shows over the years, but for one reason or another, I've missed them. But on March 19th, three of the four End Construction members got together for a special house concert in Billerica, Massachusetts, and I was able to attend.

They performed in the round, but for the most part everyone played and sang on the others' songs. They started at 7:39 p.m., and Jon Svetkey kicked off the first set with an excellent new song, "Matchbox Car." Before the song, he had mentioned how Jim Infantino is always writing impressive new material, so after the song, while introducing "We Got Nothing," Jim joked, "This is a song I wrote while Jon was playing that song." What a wonderful and unexpected treat to hear a couple of new songs to begin the show. These guys continue to write great material. Brian Doser then joked, "One of the reasons I like to go third is I like to figure out what I want to play." He decided on the beautiful "Waiting For The Moon."

One of Jon Svetkey's current projects is a band called The Loomers, and he played "Oh Massachusetts" from that band's Reeling Down A Road CD. (Toward the end of the first set he also played "Paul McCartney Got It Right" from that album, with the audience singing along.) Earlier in the evening some of us were reminiscing about various End Construction shows, and of course we ended up talking about the first tour (called "de-tour" to play off the band's name), just three shows in upstate New York. The third show was at a frightening town called Piermont, where every house had a yellow ribbon and a U.S. flag proudly displayed (this was in early 1991, the time of the first Gulf War). I took several photos of the town before the show, including photos of a cannon that was dedicated to God. So of course the line "cannons on commons" in "Oh Massachusetts" again reminded us of that time. In many ways this show brought me back to my late teens, when music first felt not only important but personal.

After "Oh Massachusetts," Jim commented, "That is a tricky song to follow," then said, "I'm not choosing well; I'm just choosing." I always appreciated Jim's wit and way with words in his songs, and the song he chose was "In My Cult" (during the soundcheck he had played part of it as "In My Coat," which a friend of his actually believed was the title), and the line "Of course the end is tragic" got a big laugh from the audience. And "Stress" was totally fucking hilarious. At the end of that one, Brian asked him, "How do you keep making that new?" Seriously. I can't even guess how many times I've heard that song, and Jim always manages to crack me up.

Brian Doser has become well known lately for entertaining children, and at this show he joked, "I'm like the pied piper of the north shore." His son Timothy then joined him on ukulele for an unusual and wonderful medley of "Over The Rainbow" and "Wonderful World." Brian also did a cover of "When The Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob Bobbin' Along)." And after playing "The Ballad Of Joe And Naz," he kidded that the song doesn't go over well with three-year-olds. Jim added that it was probably the television being broken in the song that bummed them out.  I like that song a lot, but perhaps even more interesting to me was a newer original tune, "Leah's Lullaby" (and yes, he talked about the earlier lullabies he had written, one of which is on the Resume Speed CD).

Of course, they did some of the old fan favorites, including "Dead End Street," "Television," "Tonight," "Been There, Done That" and "I'm Sorry (That I'm Not Sorry)." In the verse about music school in "I'm Sorry," Brian changed the line to "No no, uh uh, I'm going to be an international children's singer." Another highlight was Jim's "Prince Charming," a song that has always appealed to me. This rendition was also notable because Jon played mandolin on it. End Construction had always chosen some interesting songs to cover (you should do your best to track down a copy of their David Bowie medley), and at this show they played Talking Heads' "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)," Peter Mayer's "Holy Now" and Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" (and actually before the Richard Thompson song, Jon sang a little of Arlo Guthrie's "The Motorcycle Song").

And yes, in case you're wondering, they did mention the fourth member of End Construction a few times during the show. At one point Brian mentioned how they all tried writing epic songs, and in particular named Ellis Paul's "This Old Car." And they ended the night with a cover of Ellis' "3,000 Miles," with Jon on lead vocals.

Set List

Set I
  1. Matchbox Car
  2. We Got Nothing
  3. Waiting For The Moon
  4. Oh Massachusetts
  5. In My Cult
  6. Over The Rainbow >
  7. Wonderful World  >
  8. Over The Rainbow
  9. Dead End Street
  10. Free
  11. The Ballad Of Joe And Naz
  12. Paul McCartney Got It Right
  13. This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)
  14. When The Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along)
Set II
  1. Holy Now
  2. Down Here
  3. Hope
  4. Leah's Lullaby
  5. Outside Home
  6. Television >
  7. Long Train Runnin' >
  8. Television
  9. Tonight
  10. Stress
  11. Been There, Done That
  12. I'm Sorry (That I'm Not Sorry)
  13. Prince Charming
  14. Embrace The Day
  1. 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
  2. 3,000 Miles
The show ended at 10:42 p.m. Here are a few photos from the night:

"Matchbox Car"
"Over The Rainbow"/"Wonderful World"
"Dead End Street"
"Holy Now"
"Down Here"
"I'm Sorry (That I'm Not Sorry)"
"Prince Charming"
"Prince Charming"

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