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Mary Timony with Birthday Girl and Hilken Mancini Band - Crystal Ballroom (Somerville, MA) - March 2, 2024

4 March 2024

Mary Timony is from and back living in the Washington DC area, but she spent a lot of time in Boston, primarily during the time she fronted Helium in the ’90s. Despite the somewhat torrential rain on Saturday, the faithful came to see her play material from the just released Untame The Tiger, yielding a comfortably full room which included a lot of Boston indie rock vets including ex-Helium drummer Shawn Devlin.

Another familiar bandmate included Betsy Wright, who held down the bass position for Ex Hex. Tonight she’d be on guitar, and a simpatico feeling of playing with someone for years was evident during their performance, smiling and nodding while they traded notes and communicated silently. A third guitarist would drift on and offstage as the songs demanded, also manning the steel guitar at times for a three guitar attack that subtly wove around each other.

Not surprisingly, the bulk of the set came from her excellent new record. “No Thirds” glided and skipped about, fueled by a guitar figure that sounded like a late-era Sonic Youth song, but one who’s title escapes my grasp. Some Tom Verlaine licks were also tossed about for good measure; strong opener to the record and an emphatic statement to the crowd tonight.

The languid “The Guest” was a breathcatcher for a couple of Helium songs, “Leon’s Space Song” and a stretched out “Honeycomb,” the tempo of the liquid gold made by the bees as it drips from the hexagonal factory molds, the pedal steel’s bent notes evoking the same sort of mood used so effectively by Yo La Tengo in “Blue-Green Arrow.”

“Untame The Tiger” had an intro that wove strands of Polvo, Sun City Girls and Grails before coalescing into a song that her clear, steady vocal carried until the cloud of massed guitars took it into the stratosphere, and “The Dream” carried the ball even farther upfield. (Not sure I’d ever seen two people playing e-bow’d guitars on the same song and it happened more than once; now I’m not sure why others haven’t been hip to this gambit.) Ending her set with Helium’s “Walk Away,” the musicians did exactly that- Timony left the stage first, arms triumphantly raised, and slowly each band member stopped playing and left until there were none. Great return, Mary.

Birthday Girl opened the tour which started in Baltimore, and had quite the pedigree of DC music history. Perhaps you’ve got some records with credits listed to Canty and MacKaye? Bella MacKaye (whose dad Alec plays with Timony in Hammered Hulls) plays bass while Mabel Canty takes the mic and guitar, with Tess Kontarinis backs everything up on drums. Canty noted that they had to (cough cough) call in sick from school so they could play a couple of these shows. Their youthful exuberance showed promise and the understated “My Boy” wouldn’t have been out of place on an early Flying Nun compilation.

Hilken Mancini is another familiar face in the Boston scene, and with Fuzzy partner Winston Braman on bass, they tore into some of those pop/rock songs with just the right amount of prickly exterior. High energy from the get-go, they were a good choice to add on the bill and get the pulses in the room raised.