By Adriane Goetz
"We're not just a band...we're a social club!"
Boots Riley repeated this phrase several times throughout Street Sweeper Social Club's performance on Thursday night, and while the largely high school aged crowd didn't seem to grasp the finer points of the political message, it didn't stop them from cheering that they wanted to become club members.
This free concert was another installment of The Edge FM 103.9's Third Thursday block party. For the last two years, FM 103.9 (formerly The Edge) has been throwing a free, all ages concert each month that in the past has featured newer acts like as MGMT and Airborne Toxic Event. Sadly, it's also sometimes featured 90s alternative bands that haven't done anything interesting since, like as Lit and Marcy Playground. Fortunately last night's show was the former, even if the group's biggest names trace their fame back to the 90s..
Former Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello and frontman Boots Riley, a member of The Coup, make a compelling stage duo, with Riley jumping and spinning like a freestyle Olympian while Morello riffs violently on his "Arm the Homeless"-inscribed guitar, often while blowing a whistle and at one point playing the guitar with his face.
SSSC performed its entire album, plus a couple of cover songs. The crowd went nuts when the band played an excellent rendition of M.I.A's "Paper Planes," but sadly a good portion of the audience didn't recognize LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out" until the chorus.
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As good as the band looks and sounds onstage, there's also a hell of a lot behind it. Both Morello and Riley have a long history of political activism and grassroots organization. Between Morello's Harvard education and Riley's community organizing experience, SSSC aims to effect change through music and culture for a whole new generation of youths who are angry but not exactly sure why yet.
Before the last song Morello told the crowd his only request was that everyone "go apeshit crazy." While these concert newbie's couldn't mosh their way out of a paper bag, kudos to them for attempting to push down the barricade and storm the stage. Unfortunately it only took a few security guards to squelch their revolution.
The show got started about an hour late, forcing Great Northern, former 30 Seconds to Mars' guitarist Solon Bixler's new band, to kick off the night instead of local act Weird is the New Cool. WINC then had the displeasure of following the headlining act. The band took it in stride though, promising two of Morello's guitar picks to those who stuck around.
Check out our slideshow from Street Sweeper Social Club's Third Thursday performanc.