Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Shagg Stuns in Cambridge

Photo by Joel Gausten

As previously discussed on this site, the very strange tale of The Shaggs will forever be one of Rock’s oddest narratives – and certainly one that few ever believed would have an addendum in recent times. After more than four decades, Shaggs singer/guitarist Dot Wiggin resurfaced last year with a new studio album, Ready! Get! Go! (Alternative Tentacles), and a stronger-than-ever appreciation for her history and place in the world of music. She might be a working class mom in New Hampshire most of the time, but at last night’s intimate show at the Lilypad in Cambridge, MA, she was the true star and legend she deserved to be.
Accompanied by pianist Brittany Anjou (Elysian Fields) and drummer Laura Cromwell (The Vivian Sisters, Queen Moonracer), Wiggin delighted the college-age hipster crowd with a selection of songs from Ready! Get! Go! and The Shaggs’ beloved back catalog. While recent tracks like “Banana Bike” and “Speed Limit” were well received, Shaggs classics like “Philosophy Of The World” and “Who Are Parents?” left the adoring crowd breathless. Unsurprisingly, the immortal “My Pal Foot Foot” earned the greatest applause of the night, as Dot encouraged the crowd to sing along. (“Maybe you can cover up my mistakes,” she quipped.) The undisputed highlight? Dot performing The Shaggs’ “It’s Halloween” for the first time since the band’s early days at the Fremont Town Hall. It was also intriguing to watch Anjou and Cromwell – clearly experienced musicians – struggle at times to unlearn what they knew about music long enough to give Wiggin’s compositions the alien structures they required. And let’s forget the rare appearance by Dot’s sister/other surviving original Shagg Betty Wiggin, who sat on a chair directly in front of the ensemble and soaked in the tunes. With third sister Helen no longer with us, this was the closest to a full Shaggs reunion we’ll ever see. Just the mere fact that they were in the same room together as “My Pal Foot Foot” emanated from the stage was magic enough.
Yes, Dot Wiggin has been on the receiving end of 40-plus years’ worth of snickers by critics, but anyone who attended this performance saw one of the purest and most honest musicians one can hope to encounter. Yes, her tunes are often a very difficult listen, but every weirdly executed note is clearly created from the heart – and that’s all that is ever needed to make any music extraordinary. It’s impossible not to cheer Dot Wiggin on as she gives it her all. There are infinitely more conventional and Earth-bound songwriters out there, but only a truly special person could conceive “My Pal Foot Foot.”
A Dot Wiggin show is a rare gift. Experience one if you ever get the chance.
More information on Dot is available HERE

Your humble reviewer with Dot (left) and Betty Wiggin of The Shaggs


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