A Blast from the Past with Human Sexual Response

There’s nothing quite like going to a show in a band’s hometown. Especially if the band is Boston’s infamous Human Sexual Response, an 80’s cult favorite that hasn’t played more than a small handful of shows in the past two decades.

It was a brisk Friday night, and House of Blues was packed with middle-aged parent-types sporting wrinkled band tees and basement-scented leather jackets. The crowd buzzed with a special kind of energy: all of these people had been waiting a long time for this show.

The opener was a rough and dirty local punk band, featuring a middle aged vocalist who performed with angst and rage that was surely resurrected from his younger concert days. After their performance of a good number of short, fast-paced, power-punk songs, which featured the lead singer crushing several beer cans over his own bald head and throwing them generously into the audience, the crowd was ready for Human Sexual Response.

hsr photo

Human Sexual Response, early 80’s

The band, which currently consists of seven members – four vocalists, bass, guitar, and drums – came onstage in coordinating, brightly colored suits featuring unique designs hand-painted by the bass player. They executed a wonderful assortment of classic old-white-dad dance moves and delivered almost two dozen eccentric, new wave tunes that took everyone right back to the 80’s.

Though I didn’t know a single song that was played, most of my personal favorites were some of their “hits” (although they were never extremely well-known) including “Jackie Onnassis,” “Land of the Glass Pinecones,” “What Does Sex Mean to Me,” and “Cool Jerk.” Their sound largely belonged in the new wave genre, with lots of interesting distortion, ethereal sound effects, and eccentric lyrics and vocals made possible by the presence of four different lead singers. The overall sound most closely resembled the music of Talking Heads, which speaks for the wacky and unique elements of the music.

Each song was a huge hit amongst the audience, many of whom knew all the words. The band performed with as much passion and energy as a bunch of 60+ year olds can, delivering every number flawlessly and with just the right amount of eccentricity. As someone who had never listened to the band before and unaware of what I was getting myself into, I was in for a funky, groovy, time hop back into the 1980’s. All the while I was surrounded by the people who had experienced it the first time around, right in the nightclubs of this very town. Even though I didn’t know the words to the songs, I was infected by the danceable nature of the music nonetheless, and it was a great time. I feel honored to have been present at the band’s last performance ever.

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