At 9 p.m., every chair in Concord’s Green Martini was occupied, and by the time Blake Patria began his set, standing space was also at a premium, a situation that remained all night. Granted, the room is small, holding no more than 50 or 60, but the smokers parked on the sidewalk taking in the music raised that number a bit. More impressive, many in the crowd knew the words to the all-original music coming from the hot, sweaty corner of the room.
An easy camaraderie prevailed between the performers as well. As Tim “Scrimmy” Boucher, guitarist for headliner Yankee Cockfight, and Caught Flies front man Ryan McClellan worked on the mixing board before the show, Scrimmy said, “This is our brother band. We play all over together — Manchester, Portland, Salem.”
This turned out to be fortunate: an amplifier blew up during Yankee Cockfight’s first song and McClellan was there with a replacement. It’s quite different from other scenes where fans often show up, catch one band’s set and leave. The vibe was more house party than nightclub, though PBR and Jägermeister requests kept two bartenders busy throughout the evening.
There’s plenty of cross-pollination in the music as well, and McClellan, wearing a Motorhead T-shirt, joked that Caught Flies occasionally play out as a metal band, switching the tempo and velocity of their rockabilly-infused punk songs to reinvent them for headbangers. Boston-based The Old Edison played before McClelland’s band, offering an acoustic set that was anything but laid back; the quartet strummed and shouted on songs like “Faith In My Fretboard” with a ferocity that didn’t really require microphones.
The Green Martini show was the first Concord appearance in more than a year for any of the bands, and probably the last for a while.
“The Martini gets booked really fast,” says Scrimmy, noting that none of the other clubs in town are interested in their music, a hybrid of deep blues players like R.L. Burnside and roots Americana, with more than a few Hank Williams songs. “We used to go and sabotage open mikes at Penuche’s, but they don’t want anything to do with us. That’s sad because we’d fill the room — it’s our home base; it’s where Junior and I met.”
Singer and harmonica player The Mighty Junior befriended Scrimmy a few years ago when he was in Grafton County Killers and Scrimmy was about to leave his on-and-off band Mantra. “We hung out and talked about music for over a year before we decided to play together,” says Scrimmy, a multi-instrumentalist who also plays with Meatsaw and the long-running Manchester punk band Subsystem.
Yankee Cockfight’s earliest gigs were decidedly off the cuff. “The band wasn’t supposed to be this huge thing,” says Scrimmy. “We never rehearsed for our first show. I got a bass drum and practiced the night before and that’s how the gigs were for the first six months. We’ve never had a set list after 120 shows in two years; we’ve played in garages, basements, anywhere we could. We’d do shows on two hours notice. All our equipment can fit in the back of a Jetta, so it’s easy to move around.”
The response to Yankee Cockfight’s music is a bit hard to fathom, says Scrimmy.
“It’s a really weird experience not to have it be just a bunch of our friends at a show. Now we can fill Plough and Stars [in Cambridge]; it’s a small room, but still — we’ve had tour offers and turned down record deals. People bootleg our shows like we’re the Dead and give us copies later on.”
The up side of success is that it allows them to bring others into the mix. Scrimmy rattles off a list of performers, including the Caught Flies and Down to the Well, Genuine Rust and On Response, with whom they’ve done package shows. “We put these bands in front of a crowd. We can set up our own shows and we don’t have to make our bands sell tickets. It’s like 10 years ago. There’s something really cool coming together.”
Since Yankee Cockfight’s formation in 2009, a budding scene has evolved around them at places like Milly’s Tavern and Mad Bob’s in Manchester, and Seacoast venues like the Dover Brick House, Barley Pub, and the Press Room. It’s close-knit and friendly. “We play with each other so much that we all kind of know each other’s songs. We played with Caught Flies and Down To The Well a while back as an eight-piece, just pulling Hank Williams songs out of our butt. I’d rather put a show together where we can hang out and have a good time together.”