With their attitude and ensemble alone, Somervillian indie rockers Tall Boys capture the audience before they are even able to utter a note.

8/27/19 – House Show

Under a canopy of towering spruce trees in a quiet neighborhood in Burlington, golden rays of the setting sun peek through the branches, illuminating the suburban landscape. Golden hour is settling in comfortably, and the humidity hangs thickly as the day begins to end. It smells like a classic American summer: a smoking barbecue, freshly-cut evergreen lawns, and beer. The backyard of Boston musician Maddy Roop is brimming with peoplea brilliant audience for a low-key summer house show. Blankets and chairs take up the entirety of the lawn, facing a charming, makeshift stage where amps, drums, and microphones clutter an oriental carpet. Everyone’s arranging equipment for the next act: Tall Boys. The band, beaming with mischief and excitement, have scampered down the steep hill from which they had been perched while watching the previous acts, and are now scrambled together in Roop’s home. Through the side door off of the porch, you can see them arranging things, pushing past each other hurriedly, getting things in order. When you see them emerge from the house, you can’t help but beam, too.

Vocalist and guitarist Charley Binkow—whose persona evokes a brilliant fusion of Justin Hayward Young, Brian Wilson and Ezra Koenig (all while maintaining his own originality)—leads the pack, who are all clad in the same freshly-pressed blue-and-white striped collared shirts, tucked neatly into khaki shorts with thick belts, complete with white tennis shoes. They’re giddy, and the crowd audibly admires their matching ensembles. “Beach Boys!” someone shouts, and the guys grin as they take their places on stage. While Binkow takes the lead, guitarists and backup vocalists Peter Fuoco and Josh Star flank him. Ryan Shaver, the band’s drummer, sits at the neon green drum set with a nod and a smile. They’re ready. The, whimsical, eager energy that Tall Boys emanate, even before they begin playing, is infectious. With their attitude and ensemble alone, they have captured the audience before Binkow is able to even utter a note. It’s gold.

The Somerville-based indie rock band recently released an LP, Homes in Boston, a follow-up to their 2018 EP, We Are Tall Boys. Their sound fits the hazy summer atmosphere impeccably. The setlistwhich consists of tracks from both recordsis packed with breezy, lo-fi tracks with raw and powerful guitar hooks that fill the air as dusk settles in. Binkow and Fuoco go back to back as they shred on their guitars alongside Shaver’s steady, quick rhythm. Binkow conjures the audience’s enthusiasm with humor in his persona during sonically harder tracks like “Good Times !!” The band goes through their setlist with an effortlessly comical attitude that makes it a joy to watch: they’re having a blast and they don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s contagious; you can’t help but have a good time watching them. 

On “The David Byrne Song,” Binkow’s vocal tone and pronunciation in the lyricism are calming as he delivers the charged lyric, his face contorted dramatically as he sings: “You’ll be feeling mighty shitty soon enough / Can’t sleep ‘cause your bed’s on fire / You wanna a lover like David Byrne.”  Binkow’s ability to engage the audience makes it feel as though in the moment, he is singing to you personally—it’s in his eye contact, as well as his intensity.

“Blue Towels,” a track off of Homes in Boston, further showcases Tall Boys’ impassioned lyricism. It’s melancholic, dreamy riffs ensnare you into the honest lyrical narrative that Tall Boys spin: “Those are the times that love really counts / When you’re lost and you can’t find your way and you’re unhappy / But goddamnit you’re unhappy together.” 

The catchy track “Cape Cod Chips” is a crowd favorite, gaining laughs and cheers. An audience member scurries to the front to swiftly place a large bag of Cape Cod chips in front of Binkow. 

Looking around at the audience as the set winds down, all eyes are glued to Tall Boys. Whether it’s a fast track or a mellow one, each song melts into another; by the end you’re left wondering where the time went, and if there is any time for a few more songs before the next artist is up.  As if on cue Tall Boys announce that they have one more song. “Here we go,” Binkow says, after wiping his forehead with a bandana, tucking it into his back pocket and exploding into the early Vampire Weekend track, “A-Punk.” It’s an absolute banger, with Binkow jumping around on his tiny stage, Star and Fuoco going back to back as they riff on their guitars. Tall Boys, impassioned and fiery, beckon the audience to join in, and the backyard echoes every “Oh, oh, oh,” and “Hey, hey, hey,” that Binkow shouts at them. Once it’s over, everyone’s caught the fever that the Tall Boys brought with them. Tall Boys crowd around and peel open their tribute of Cape Cod chips, munching away as everyone congratulates them on a great set. I’m left with the question: when are these guys going to be playing something bigger, like The Sinclair or House of Blues, and where can I buy a ticket?

Don’t miss Tall Boys playing with Maddy Roop and Matt and the Skeleton Crew at The Middle East Downstairs on October 26.