Here's the beef

MIT's Steer Roast at Senior Haus at MIT, May 2-3, 2008
By RICHARD BECK  |  May 6, 2008

Steer Roast took a while to grow on me. Sure, MIT student mud wrestling had been a sight, and yes, the slow-roasting cow flanks were throwing off all kinds of nice aromas. But Cambridge can be cold and rainy on a Friday evening in May, and for a while there I couldn’t find the beer. Standing underneath a leaky tarp, I looked across the courtyard and saw a guy pushing mud around with a stick. That was kind of a low point.

So thank the Lord for local arty punksters Ho-Ag, who kicked off night #1 of this mini-music festival with happily horrible noises and a knack for jerking their audience around. The relatively straightforward indie rock of Oxford Collapse sounded boring by comparison, and a few sound problems didn’t help. Lead singer Michael Pace was the first to get the crowd moving, however, and he seemed especially attuned to Steer Roast’s sensibility. “If this is laced with acid . . . ,” he began, as a man dressed as the Burger King handed him a sandwich. (Note to MIT administrators and concerned parents: it wasn’t.) Neptune followed with a gloriously skronky set of almost-industrial rock, and if closers Professor Murder were too jam-bandy for me, their shades-of-dancehall endless groove sent the kids to bed happy.

Saturday evening arrived drier but chillier, and the afternoon’s glorious (so I was told) steer feasting seemed to have subdued even MIT’s most determined partiers. This was a shame, because rock quintet Big Bear’s Carducci-level heaviness fell on unenthusiastic ears. As lead singer Jordyn Bonds said, jumping around is a great weapon against the cold — but to no avail. Sometimes these things just don’t click. The rest of the night was a letdown as well. Closing act Excepter put on a fine set, but some 30 hours past the ceremonial lighting of the fire pit, their weird, tranced-out electronics matched the mood almost too well.

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