What began as a house party dubbed "Rodfest" in 2003 among friends turned to tragedy when its host was killed in a car accident three years ago. It has now become, improbable as it might seem in the wake of such catastrophe, both a celebration and tradition.
Named after Gregory "Rodney" Moynahan, a 23-year-old Stonehill College graduate whose love of music led him to throw himself a birthday concert every year, "Rodfest" has been kept alive by a cadre of bands who've transformed collective grief into far-reaching good will. The proceeds from the annual concert, which features raffles, door prizes, and music by a handful of Boston-area bands, go toward the "Greg Moynahan Memorial Scholarship Fund" for Stonehill College students.
Friday's bash, which as always was spearheaded by Moynahan's cousin and Three Day Threshold frontman Kier Byrnes, was dubbed "Rodfest V" and sold out the Paradise main room -- which should tell you something about its popularity. So should the nearly $20,000 that was raised that evening toward the scholarship. The raffled-off Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics memorabilia notwithstanding, the stars of the show were the five bands that each performed 40-minute sets and offered a compelling (and at times amusing) snapshot of the local music scene's diversity.
First up was Watertown's ski-masked buffoons BeaglePuss.
Besides props, such as inflatable guitars, prosthetic marital aids, and a ridiculously extroverted lead singer named Mr. Classy (he wasn't), these politically incorrect knuckleheads brought with their bluntly honed resolve to offend and insult everybody in the room. The band's lyrics are mostly unprintable in a family newspaper.
The Boston buzz band Cassavettes, who last year won a Boston Music Award as "Outstanding Americana Act," followed with an exuberant set of Laurel Canyon-tinged country rock that fell somewhere between the Beachwood Sparks (the quieter, pastoral moments) and Old 97's (the louder ones).
As such, the foursome's pearl-buttoned Western-style shirts and Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers matched its tastes perfectly.
Taking the stage wearing rubber masks of former presidents George Bush and Ronald Reagan (face wear was, apparently, an ancillary theme of the night), the smarmy, hedonistic Kalvin Koolidge came across like Ween goofing on the Afghan Whigs -- or maybe the other way around. The Scituate trio roared and pimped its way through an unhinged set that sounded like a radio dialing through '80 s-style arena metal, B-grade action-flick soundtracks, and Greg Dulli side projects.
Girls Guns and Glory delivered a graceful, sturdy set of Buddy Holly-meets-Buck Owens twang 'n' roll that translated to the night's most sublime performance. Singer-guitarist Ward Hayden has the pillowy voice of a '50s pin-up star -- the constant comparisons to crooners like Chris Isaak and Lyle Lovett are well-deserved -- and his band's amber-soaked melodies, tight musicianship, and casual elegance were a tonic to an evening where mayhem shared center stage with the music.
Three Day Threshold's hopped-up hybrid of roots-rock and revved-up bluegrass made for a potent, fitting climax to a show that had doubled as one gigantic house party.