The cold rain that pounded the streets of Cambridge on Wednesday evening was a cruel contrast to the warm weather that had teased us the weekend before, and the city was quiet as if in silent protest. But Toad was full of life. Inside the tiny music bar in Porter Square, people perched themselves on stools, talking and laughing. When we arrived, Mike Hastings and his band were just beginning to set up. Cool in a leather jacket and checkered newsboy cap, Mike made his rounds, greeting friends and introducing himself to others who had come to see him and his band play.

He started off the night with two solo songs as his band members mingled with the crowd. He set the rhythm with a tambourine that he tapped with his foot, keeping his hands free to play the guitar. The groove complemented the huskiness of his voice, and made the transition smooth when his band members joined him. Accompanied by Jim Moran on guitar, Mike Weafer on bass and Boey Russell on drums, Mike played two roots-rock sets of both covers and originals.

The stage was tiny, and the drum set took up nearly half the space—it was impossible not to feel the expert beats that Boey generated. A few songs in, Mike stepped down from the stage and quickly set up several kitchen pots on its edge to add some rhythm of his own. Even the slower songs had a pulse, which kept the audience rocking in time to the music until one in the morning.

“I didn’t really make a set list,” Mike said at one point, grinning. “Does anyone have any requests?” Several song names were shouted out from the crowd, but “Ocean Blue” was most distinguishable.

“There is no place I need to be, you know how to talk to me… it makes it easy to let you wash away my sins,” he sang.  From the way that the people listening nodded their heads, they believed him. In another song, the words “I wait too long to put on the heat,” made the chill outside seem even more potent than before. Mike kept us here for a while, describing the scene of a dark, cold night and then using gradually warmer images until he came to the title refrain: “Under the Sun.” This show-don’t-tell style of songwriting characterized many of the pieces.

 

 

 

 

Even though the crowd dwindled a bit when the group took a break, the Mike Hastings band lost no energy in the intermission and came back with pieces that rocked a little harder. For four guys cramped on a very small stage, they synced together extremely well. It was hard to extract myself– I barely caught the last bus home. Cutting out before the music stopped seemed out of the question.

When Mike Hastings isn’t playing at local venues such as Toad, he can often be found busking around Davis and Harvard Square. Next time you’re out, keep an ear out for the sound of guitar and a tambourine, and if you see Mike, stop and listen for a while. You just might leave a little warmer.

Beating the Chill: Mike Hastings Band
Pros
  • Good musician/audience interaction
  • Songwriting
  • Energy
Cons
  • Hard to see some performers due to the stage configuration
8Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)
2.6

2 Responses

  1. Mike McLaughlin

    I just saw Mike and his band open up for the band Todo Bien in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Saturday. I think the place was called the Press Room. Two really great bands. Both very tight and interesting. Mike has a wonderful voice and sounded great despite confiding to me that the hamburger he had dried his mouth out a bit. I had a burger there to and it was tasty. Mike has told me he started his musical career as a drummer and I really appreciate how that rhythmic thinking translates into his guitar playing and song writing.

    Reply

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