A sense of triumph wafted through Rubblebucket’s show at the Paradise Rock Club this weekend. The sold-out house was probably the largest the band had ever played to on a headlining date, trumpeter-songwriter Alex Toth mused from onstage — a fact that left cramped quarters for fans’ customary pogoing. But the more emotionally potent element came from a joyously fierce performance by Kalmia Traver, the very charismatic frontwoman who underwent treatment for ovarian cancer this summer.
Whether Traver was locking down center stage with an intense belting of new tune “Shake Me Around Road,” or playfully cutting choreographed dance moves alongside Toth and trombonist Adam Dotson, the only visible evidence of her recent travails was very short-cropped hair—upon which was painted a brightly colored heart. Rubblebucket typically pulses with life-affirming energy; that subtext was in the foreground this evening.
With DayGlo-colored scarves dangling off mike stands (and sometimes Toth’s head), ample mid-song crowd surfing, and a 6-foot multicolored phallus provided for the crowd to bat around, the show was long on low-budget spectacle, but never simmered in a Flaming Lips-like irony.
The Boston-spawned seven-piece has already headed southwest to seek its manifest destiny in Brooklyn, N.Y., and could easily choose to coat its brassy Afropop-influenced stompers with more of a hipster patina. But it prefers straight-faced earnestness. Call it the musical manifestation of what Woody Allen once dubbed “the good sentimental.” Rubblebucket makes it safe to smile at a rock show. So when it pulled off a funked-up encore reading of the Doobie Brothers’ resolutely uncool “What a Fool Believes,” there was no winking required.
Fighting through a room mix that managed to sound both muddy and thin, the band offered a generous sampling of newer material. But still, familiar favorites from 2011 album “Omega La La” provided the expected high points. The euphoric fanfare of “Breatherz (Young as Clouds)” offered a head rush noticeably unmatched in selections from two subsequent EPs.
Opener Body Language delighted with a high-energy set of arty dance-pop built around two synths, drums, glockenspiel, and attractive vocal harmonies. Their unassuming, just-happy-to-be-here vibe fit right in.