Fuse Concert Review: OTP — Having Fun at the Middle East-Upstairs

Despite the band’s obvious affinity for alcohol, there’s nothing sloppy about OTP. They’re a tight unit.

OTP -- at the Middle East last Saturday night. Photo: Adam Ellsworth

OTP having fun — at the Middle East-Upstairs in Cambridge last Saturday night. Photo: Adam Ellsworth

By Adam Ellsworth

“This is a drinking song. It’s called ‘I Like Drinking with My Friends.’”

So began OTP’s forty-five minute set at the Middle East-Upstairs in Cambridge Saturday night. As it was Halloween weekend, the man who introduced the song, OTP singer/guitarist Colin Garrity, was dressed as Spider-Man nemesis Venom (minus the mask; it’s probably tough to sing with that on). OTP drummer Jake Fuller was outfitted as Waldo (found him!), and bassist Natan Keyes was disguised as…the bass player. Keyes’s lack of costume was redeemed by the appearance of “Ball Park Frank” (Jared from the Dailey Grimes, dressed as a hot dog), who came onstage to add vocals to a selection of Misfits covers the band played in honor of the holiday.

“I Like Drinking with My Friends,” from the Somerville-based band’s 2012 Full Mouthful EP, is a bouncy folk punk strummer and a fine choice to open a show that’s meant to focus on fun. Consider it a mission statement for what OTP are all about.

“Face, To Face,” from 2011’s Where We’re Found, isn’t about imbibing, at least not on the surface, but Garrity introduced it Saturday by stating, “This is a drinking song. Actually, more of a drinking challenge.” He then went on to dare members of the crowd to take a swig every time the band sang the word “face.” Luckily, no one took him up on this because the song features an awful lot of “faces.”

Cover art for OTP's "Full Mouthful" EP

Cover art for OTP’s “Full Mouthful” EP

Despite the band’s obvious affinity for alcohol, there’s nothing sloppy about OTP. They’re a tight unit. Fuller, who is brand new to the group, is Ringo-steady, while there’s a nice melodic quality to Keyes’s bass playing and harmony vocals. It’s Garrity’s barre chord-heavy guitar work though that gives the songs their edge. It’s a (deceptively) simple way to play, but it provides a directness that the songs require.

All this said, a little bit of criticism needs to be directed at Garrity’s stage presence. He spent most of Saturday night parked behind his microphone. More movement would’ve been welcome, but truthfully this wasn’t too much of a problem. After all, there’s only so much running around you can do when you’ve got to play guitar and sing at the same time. What was an issue, however, was that as he sang, he kept staring up and to the left, in the general vicinity of where the wall met the ceiling. After a few songs, I began to think maybe I was missing something and I started looking in the same direction. It turned out nothing was there; Garrity was just avoiding eye contact with the crowd. Whether this was due to shyness or deep concentration, it broke the connection between Garrity and his audience, a sin that should absolutely be avoided.

Ultimately, OTP’s performance was strong enough to withstand Garrity’s staring contest with the wall. In addition to playing songs from each of their three EPs and a mini-set of Misfits tracks, the band featured five new tunes, all of them representing a step forward. The upbeat “Forget It” was reminiscent of Nirvana at their punkiest, while “Don’t Worry About a Thing” could have passed for one of the Misfits songs the band had just finished covering. Best of the lot though was the set closing “Worth the Weight.” The song boasts a killer hook in the chorus, and Saturday night it seemed like it kept speeding up. As legendary producer Guy “There are only two Phil Spectors in the world and I’m one of them” Stevens once told the Clash, “All great rock and roll speeds up.” Then OTP must be on the right track.

OTP played:

“I Like Drinking with My Friends”
“I Don’t Care What You Think”
“I Don’t Mind” (new song)
“Face, To Face”
“The Story of Whoah-oh”
“What Would Happen” (new song)
“Forget It” (new song)
“Halloween” (Misfits cover)
“Teenagers from Mars” (Misfits cover)
“Children in Heat” (Misfits cover)
“We Bite” (Misfits cover)
“Last Caress” (Misfits cover)
“Don’t Worry About a Thing” (new song)
“Sleep with Your Friends”
“Worth the Weight” (new song)

Adam Ellsworth is a writer, journalist, and amateur professional rock and roll historian. His writing on rock music has appeared on the websites YNE Magazine, KevChino.com, Online Music Reviews, and Metronome Review. His non-rock writing has appeared in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, on Wakefield Patch, and elsewhere. Adam has a MS in Journalism from Boston University and a BA in Literature from American University. He grew up in Western Massachusetts, and currently lives with his wife in a suburb of Boston. You can follow Adam on Twitter @adamlz24.

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