By Max Chow-Gillette
“Hi, we’re Letters to Cleo from Boston, Massachusetts.”
Every one of their shows begins with this statement. It’s more than just an introductory statement; it’s a mantra that has marked their entire career as a band. Now, some thirty years after their foundation, the legendary Bostonian power pop outfit still wears their city as a badge of honor.
For a band with a fanbase that’s traded their grungy outfits for greying hair, Letters to Cleo’s yearly homecoming show was a high energy affair. The crowd sang along to “Demon Rock”, a track off of the band’s 1995 record Wholesale Meats and Fish, an album that foretold the trend of alt-rock bands experimenting with a heavier sound on their sophomore albums a year before Weezer released Pinkerton. Lead singer Kay Hanley, Letters to Cleo mug in hand, rocked out with the same energy that she had when the band was getting their start at legendary Boston underground venues like The Rathskeller in Kenmore and T.T. in Cambridge. Despite being a band steeped in early 90’s sensibilities, Letters to Cleo didn’t rely just on nostalgia for the days of dingy clubs and two dollar beers. They played a good number of songs from their latest EPs, including their latest, OK Christmas. Even though this concert took place before Thanksgiving, Letters to Cleo were eager to get the crowd into the holiday spirit; their lyrics asking “where the fuck are my presents” while sleigh bells jingled and red and green strobe lights flashed.
Letter to Cleo’s deep connection to Boston didn’t end with the conclusion of their main set. For their encore, the band brought out keyboard player Greg Hawkes of the immeasurably influential Boston new wave band The Cars. Hanley, deeply overjoyed, danced around the stage as the band and Hawkes played Dangerous Type and Bye Bye Love, two Cars deep cuts. As the band took their final bow and looked out at the adoring crowd, Letters to Cleo cemented themselves as a band just as relevant here and now as they were in their heyday.