ALL SYSTEMS GO, at Lee's Palace, June 17. Tickets: $7. Attendance: 200. Rating: NNNN
For guys playing what is essentially hard-edged pop rock -- albeit very good, very songwriterly pop rock -- All Systems Go have more pizzazz than they have a right to. Blame John Kastner.
Somewhere along the line during his extended stretch with the Doughboys, the singer/guitarist stumbled on a largely unrecognized great cosmic truth that utterly transforms the performances of those few who deploy it. It's called... smiling.
Kastner beams when he plays, and that usually small gesture tells his audience that he's having fun up there, and maybe we punters should be having fun, too. Really, what's the point of playing music professionally if it gives you no more joy than punching a clock or entering data from within the confines of your personal veal-fattening pen?
Admittedly, Lee's Palace was airy Saturday night, but it didn't appreciably matter to Kastner or his less sunny though no less accomplished sidekicks -- guitarist Mark Arnold, demon drummer Dean Bentley and bassist Peter Arsenault.
Kastner, dreads flying, merrily bounced around like he was playing for thousands, even permitting himself the grand rock-god indulgence of trying (and ultimately failing) to mount a speaker stack.
Catchy, riff-roaring songs may be the cornerstone of All Systems Go's appeal. But with Kastner in place -- and let's face it, easy on the eyes is always a selling point -- they could be massive. Damn straight.