Donita Sparks And The Stellar Moments
"June 8, 2008"

Donita Sparks and The Stellar Moments turned a quiet Sunday evening into an incredibly intimate concert at TT the Bears, a small club venue just off Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, MA. This sultry summer night, just the right backdrop to listen to honey tongued, riot girl Sparks, backed by the incomparable drumming of Dee Plakas, both formally of L7, and the incredible Dat Ngo on bass with guitarist Alan "The Italian Stallion" Santalesa was more like a private party in someone's home than a public concert. I was stoked from the moment I saw Plakas setting up her drums.

Sparks and The Stellar Moments US Transmiticate Tour 2008 began June 6 at Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ. Showcasing her solo debut CD Transmiticate released February 19, 2008 on her own label, SparksFly Records. Tonight's performance was the summation of the definition of her word "transmiticate" defined by Sparks as "to communicate through transmission, pick up the signals and then send out our own. …" What I truly love about this CD is the fact that it's all true instrumentation, not fake synthesized music a refreshing break from all the hollow, bubble gum, and annoying dance music on the radio today.

Known internationally as the lead singer and main songwriter for L7, an intelligent, punk style band with triple platinum albums which toured all through Europe and the US in the '90s, Sparks' first solo US tour was with The Donnas in October of 2007. I heard Sparks for the first time last fall when she opened for The Donnas at Boston's Paradise Rock Club. I was so totally blown away by Sparks' fire breathing performance that evening, all I wanted was to hear more and Sunday night's concert exceeded my best expectations. Not only was the band totally on their mark, Sparks' excellent performance had a totally different vibe than I had experienced previously.

To say that Sparks was "transmiticating" this sultry Sunday evening, in an understated, soft, sensual way, is the best way to sum up this concert. I loved the way she so casually strolled on stage and joined in with her band, which were already playing and had taken the time setting up so that the sound was close to perfect. Sparks exudes a certain cool elegance, a graceful air of confidence on stage that comes from her rich trove of musical talent.

Being the headliner, there were two other bands Scuba and Scarce playing ahead of her. So, Sparks spent the evening strolling around the club, chatting casually and listening attentively. I spoke with her briefly prior to her performance. Very witty, refreshingly so, Sparks is a lovely, lovely woman, whose easy smile and engaging, twinkling, eyes make her appealing and approachable. There is no substitute for experience. From when Sparks stepped on stage she was right at home, capturing the audience and holding them in the palm of her hand.

The energetically captivating, selflessly engaging, Scarce, a Boston based trio composed of the wild eyed, neck vein popping, vocalist/guitarist, Chick Graning, animated bassist Joyce Raskin, adorable, in her pleated paid school girl skirt complete with blue blazer and proper pony tail, backed by the bare-chested intense drummer Joe Propatier, waves of long dark hair flying all around in a chaotic frenzy had me from the first powerful chord and hauntingly Bowie-like riff. Scarce's total control of not just my, but the entire audience's, attention is probably best summed up by the guy next to me spontaneously dancing, eyes closed, head and body thrashing. It was very cool to see this kind of intense reaction.

Chick Graning's full bodied voice on "Dead Bleux" has just enough edgy rasp. Joyce Raskin's hauntingly seductive crooning fell like waves on "What Are You Thinking About" and "Long Goodbye" that ends with a final burst of emotion that comes straight from the gut. Powerful and funky, Raskin took it all up a notch, loosing the blue blazer, letting her hair down, thrashing and jumping, punked out in just the plaid skirt and a white tank providing a solid bass foundation for Graning's pulsating haunting riff after haunting riff, peeling off one crescendo after the other of raw emotion.

Hearing this band for the first time was like finding a special shell on the beach, something to inspect and consider, lyrics to turn over and over, for further reflection. Scarce will be playing in Europe in the fall of 2008.

What happens when you take '90s indie rock, enormous distortion blended with power pop, ache and angst? You get Scuba, an underground Boston band comprised of David Grabowski, lead vocals/guitar, Steve Cainan, guitar, Tom Becker, bass, and Jason Keisch, drums.

Definitely not just another pretty boy band, this group is a very interesting take. David Grabowski, a very quiet, introspective man with long blond bangs tumbling over his furrowed brow, stood almost motionless in long Bermuda shorts, very laid back, very casual attitude perfectly matching his mellow voice, entranced in each song is an interesting contrast to Cainan standing just to the left percolating along with riff after riff. Becker, the statuesque bass player standing almost like a silent mannequin, provided grounding bass notes in sharp contrast to Keisch bee bopping along with a solid beat. A few cuts off their CD, Scuba's "Break My Heart 1000 Different Ways," "Freight" and "Maybe Johnny" are achingly lonely and lost, full of dissonance and disconnected emotion. I really liked this very interesting band and would like to hear them again soon.

All in all this was an excellent night to be out listening to music. A much needed break from all the Boston Celtics/LA Lakers drama. Definitely check out Sparks and The Stellar Moments tour as well as her latest CD, Transmiticate as well as Scarce and Scuba, two other very worthwhile and talented bands.