In the Boston area? Join us at River Gods in Central Square, Cambridge, on Thursday night (April 15th, 9-11 pm) for an evening of music chosen by yours truly. It’s for this month’s Tourfilter Night – on the third Thursday each month, the amazingly useful concert site hosts an evening of music from bands that have upcoming shows in Boston. Chris Marstall, the man behind Tourfilter, graciously invited me to be the guest DJ this week. There are tons of amazing bands coming to Boston in the next few months, so I’ll get to play lots of fantastic songs. If you’re within range, please join us! And stay tuned – I’ll post my playlist after the set.
Archive for the ‘Concerts’ Category
Today in Boston: Two great bands (in two completely different genres). Two CD release parties. Two different venues. At exactly the same time. The horror. What’s worse, members of both bands are friends of mine (and frequent commenters here at z=z).
Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling is duo Sophia Cacciola and Michael Epstein (also of The Motion Sick). Their music is loud, minimal (just drums, bass and vox), and angry. Themed off the TV series The Prisoner, their music and lyrics deal with similar themes of alienation and totalitarianism. Despite all that, their songs are inexplicably catchy (occasionally dangerously catchy, as I found myself singing/yelling along to “Gun gun gunning for you!’ as I drove on the interstate). They’re releasing their debut EP, The New Number 2, today with a set at Church.
Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, with Voodoo Screw Machine, Gene Dante and the Future Starlets, Vostok 4 and Corey Tut at Church of Boston
Kingsley Flood, on the other hand, is a (post-?) Americana band, blending traditional folk instrumentation (including fiddle and mandolin) with lyrics touching on modern and urban themes – think Wilco or Hey Marseilles. And they put on a fantastic, energetic, compelling live set. They’re celebrating the release of their debut full-length, Dust Windows, with a show tonight at the Middle East Upstairs.
Kingsley Flood, with Cassavetes, Grown-Up Noise and Spouse, at the Middle East Upstairs
Both bands go on at 10 pm. Decisions, decisions….
Much has been made of the future of music being in live experiences, rather than in CD sales. But as someone who sees a lot of live shows, I can’t help but ask, ‘Where are the fans?’ It’s pretty clear that the slice of fans who regularly go to indie rock (for lack of a better term) shows is startlingly limited: largely in their 20s, more male than female and, even in a city as diverse as Cambridge, predominantly white.
Leaving aside this last point—although it certainly seems like there’s a pattern—it’s pretty clear that age (and, to a lesser extent, gender) is governed by the venues. I frequent fantastic local bars that support live music but they’re still, well, bars. They make their payroll by selling alcohol, and this has consequences. If you want to see live music in Boston, you pretty much need to be over 21. You need to be okay with staying up late on a work night, because it doesn’t make financial sense for bars to host early shows. You need to have enough flexibility with your home schedule that you can hang out for an evening (although one of the reasons I love my local bars is because they post and stringently adhere to set times). You need to be comfortable in an environment where most people are drinking. And you need to be able to get home late at night, especially in Boston, where the subway unfathomably stops running before bars close. (It’s easy to see how the latter two factors would seriously affect the gender balance, even without any additional cultural issue.) Coupled with the aversion that many people have to the risk inherent in live music, only a tiny demographic slice of fans goes to see shows in small venues.
This was a perfectly fine state of affairs when the purpose of small local shows was to attract the attention of an A&R person: the slender stratum of early adopters was all that was needed to establish the public appeal of a band before they were catapulted into the world of record sales and radio play.
But if none of that’s going to happen, then live shows are it, and fans need to be able to come out. And based on the evidence, I’m not sure that’s happening.
From the perspective of the insider-fan, there’s something to be said for a small, discrete culture of concertgoers: everyone knows the etiquette, for example (something that can’t be counted on at bigger or all-ages shows). But in the larger sense, I’m not sure that this model is the best one for musicians. While there are certainly artists experimenting with alternatives, like Amanda Palmer’s tweet-ups, for example, I can’t see a straightforward solution to this demographic conundrum.
Live music, especially in small venues, is about taking risks. And not everyone is comfortable with that.
A couple of months ago, I went with a friend to see The Killers play at the TD Garden in Boston. It was the first arena show I’d been to in many years, and what I was most struck by was how safe and controlled it was. The band transitioned smoothly from song to song, the lightshow was pretty, and all the songs sounded much like their recorded versions.
One of the things I love about seeing live music is the spontaneity and the interactivity. And, of course, that means that sometimes things go wrong. At arena shows, the larger scale means that everything needs to go right, and all of the rough edges need to be smoothed down. Something going wrong in a club show adds to the live experience; something going wrong in an arena show detracts from it. Arena shows are low-risk events.
A few weeks ago at Music Hack Day Boston, Paul Lamere talked about the fanciful idea of a ‘risk knob’ for music recommendation. If you’re having a rough day at work, for example, you can turn down the risk knob and listen to familiar music. Or you can turn it up for wilder suggestions.
Most people, it seems, have their risk knob turned fairly low when it comes to live music. They want to hear something familiar. A tiny minority have their risk knobs turned high enough to go see bands in small venues, prepared to hear something they’ve never heard before. You can play a bit with risk homeostasis: unfamiliar bands can do covers, for example. Or someone might go see a favourite singer front a new band. But, ultimately, you can’t really change people’s tolerance for musical risk. And it seems that this would have implications for bands that are trying to make a living from live gigs.
Note, also, that if you expect people at your shows to take the risk to hear your music, they need to be comfortable in the environment and with the crowd—more on this soon.
Thanks to Michael Epstein for discussions around this topic.
One Night Band. Saturday, August 29th, 8 pm at the Middle East Up Down! Go.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the new bio of Sonic Youth and I commented that one of the striking things about them was how embedded they were in their community, the 1980s New York art-music scene. And Cory Doctorow made the point that, in an age of all creative works being just a click away, only relationships aren’t fungible. So I’m really intrigued by One Night Band, a music event organized by Boston Band Crush. The deal is that 40 people from local bands get together at the godawfully early hour of 10 am on Saturday, are randomly assorted into eight bands of five people, and then scatter to rehearsal spaces all over Boston. The mayfly bands have to write and learn three original songs, and rehearse one cover, before they present themselves at the Middle East Upstairs Downstairs, ready to rock. One of the neat things about this format it is how it allows for the cross-pollination of local music fans – with any luck, it’ll draw a superset of the followers of all the participants.
Read more about the event here, here, or here, and check out Boston Band Crush’s wall-to-wall coverage of the participants. The z=z award for most honest comment goes to Henry Beguiristain of Aloud, who wrote: Am simultaneously frightened by and looking forward to One Night Band this Saturday. Should be fun and/or horrible.
Of course, One Night Band as part of the development of a local community in the digital age is only part of why I’m going – I’m also hoping to see some trainwrecks.
(Okay, well, not really – I’m hoping to see some great musicians do interesting new songs, leavened by some cool covers. But I do predict that there will be some entertaining trainwrecks.)
EDIT: No one is so wrong as someone who is absolutely sure they’re right. It’s at Middle East Downstairs, not Upstairs. Which means that there’ll be more room for you!
Winding down the summer with another great week in 02139. Tonight - Wednesday, August 26th - Ryan’s Smashing Life presents a great-looking lineup at the Middle East Upstairs, with Larcenist, Static of the Gods, The Shondes and Ian Adams. Full details at RSL, including lots of pictures and songs to download.
On Thursday night, we’ll be heading back to the Middle East Up to see The Lights Out, The Future Everybody‘s debut showing (featuring bassist Matthew Girard, who really gets around), Golden Bloom, and Gene Dante and the Future Starlets, who I’m especially looking forward to checking out after watching their Michael Pope-directed and distinctly NSFW video for ‘C Star’ (hint: it’s not actually about starfish)
Zed equals zee is back in 02139, hurrah! Postings will be light this week, thanks to Verizon deciding they need an entire week to turn the phone service on in my apartment, but I’m psyched to return to a bunch of zed equals zee local faves doing live shows. Tomorrow night (Thursday, August 6th), The Main Drag [myspace] is headlining at the Middle East Upstairs, and The Lights Out are playing with The Divorced at TT the Bear‘s (and if you’re looking for a few seconds of fame, The Lights Out will be shooting a music video at the gig). And on Saturday night, The Motion Sick will be part of the Third Annual 08.08 Party, also at the Middle East Up. And there’s a bunch of shows on my calendar for the second half of the month (like Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling and Gene Dante and the Future Starlets). And I’m really, really looking forward to the musical and community experience of One Night Band, presented by Boston Band Crush, on August 29. It’s good to be home!
Cambridge, MA’s The Franklin Kite (whose principal, Ryan Hickox, is a charter member of the z=z Overeducated Musicians Club) have finally, finally released a new EP, Explosions and Batteries. To celebrate, they’ll be throwing a release party at the Middle East Upstairs on July 6th (yes, it’s a Monday, but you should be well-rested from the long weekend). Go check out their electronica-tinged indie rock goodness. They’ll be sharing their night with Brooklyn electropop darlings Red Wire Black Wire.
Daly City’s finest dubstep/8-bit/IDM/glitch artist, David Y. Wang (better known as Mochipet) is back with a new album, Master P on Atari. While it certainly seems like his music should be a bit of a hodgepodge, it sounds great – glitchy and dirty and bleep-y, but with a driving tempo that keeps more than just your head moving. Check him out live tonight at the Broken Disco 2.0 show at Chop Suey.
Image: Mochipet @ Broken Disco, Chop Suey, Seattle, WA, 5/9/08 by Flickr user iamdonte, reposted here under its Creative Commons license.
Songkick brings together two bright spots in the world of music: fan communities, and live music. On the one hand, it’s an evolving database of live shows, complete with dates, opening bands, and fan-uploaded media like photos, posters and (of course) ticket stubs. On the other hand, you can be a Twitter-like follower of not just artists, but also venues and other users, whether they are your friends from down the block or a music editor on the other side of the world.
While there is lots of concert information on the web, it’s primarily sequestered on either artist sites or on music blogs. Songkick scrapes the web to find information related to live shows, but it seems like the predominant source of content is from users. Like all crowdsourced/social media sites, it’ll continue to get better as more people use it. At the moment the database is still a bit rocky. A search of ‘The Mountain Goats‘ returns two entries: one with an uploaded photo but no concerts, and the other with a 477-show ‘gigography’ but no photos. And the latter doesn’t include the Somerville, MA show on March 25th of this year, which Brad of the eponymous Almanac did a fantastic job of describing, recording, and sharing.
I’d love to see a local music scene make the most of Songkick by ensuring that local indie shows make it onto the site (hint, Boston Band Crush, ahem): it seems that the ability to follow and connect with other users would be particularly compelling if you could meet them at concerts around town.
Seattle’s alt-country-garage group The Moondoggies played a free show on the HUB lawn of the University of Washington campus last Friday afternoon. As far as venue locations go, this one was pretty unimpeachable, being just a few hundred metres from my office. The lovely spring day and campus buildings were a perfect backdrop to The Moondoggies’ Southern-rock-style twangy guitar and three-part harmonies.
Two great shows early this week, presented by Boston music bloggers. Slightly belated notice for a night of indie electro with Count Rockula and Cassette tonight (Sunday, April 19th) at the Middlesex Lounge, presented by Enough Cowbell. It’s a benefit for Cycle Kids, and you should go.
On Tuesday night (April 21st), Ryan’s Smashing Life presents a terrific lineup including z=z faves Logan 5 and the Runners, The Lights Out, Fishhawk, and Hundred Years War. It’s at Great Scott in Allston.
Seminal* queer pop-punk band Pansy Division is back with a vengeance, debuting a new album, a film, and a memoir.
The album is That’s So Gay, out on Alternative Tentacles. Pansy Division sounds tight, which I imagine is a consequence of their stable lineup, but musically and lyrically, it’s not a departure from their previous work, which is just fine – they’ve never been a band that had pretensions to being anything else. Songs like “Pat Me on the Ass” and “20 Years of Cock” combine catchy songwriting with Pansy Division’s trademark sexual exuberance and fit comfortably with other PD faves. The one exception is “Average Men,” with guest Jello Biafra – its sound is harder (and its humour considerably more biting) than the rest of the tracks.
The film is Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band, a documentary that started life as a graduation requirement for bassist Chris Freeman’s film degree. It’s currently out on DVD and is being screened around the country. You can find out more about it or order a copy here.
The memoir is Jon Ginoli’s Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division, a history of Pansy Division from its inception in 1990 to the present. It draws heavily from tour diaries, including the one kept by Ginoli in 1994 when they were tapped by Green Day to open for their arena tour. The memoir is an inside look at how an indie band deals with the challenges of life on the road, dealing with the record label, trying to get albums out, and trying to keep a drummer (Pansy Division could envy Spinal Tap; over the course of the lifetime of the band, they’ve gone through a dozen drummers, albeit none fatally). Of course, they faced the added challenge of dealing with marginalization and homophobia, on the road and off; Ginoli speaks matter-of-factly of women in the audience forming a human chain to protect the band while they were loading out their gear. Ginoli’s writing voice is frank and sincere, and it’s an engaging read.
Pansy Division has a special place in the heart of z=z, since their last Cambridge show featured in its very first post. And that show seems to have a warm place in Ginoli’s heart too, as he writes, “…we played the larger downstairs room of the Middle East…Combine great stage sound with a slew of crazed, screaming fans up front who knew all the words, and the result was probably the best show of the tour.”
Ginoli’s currently on a book tour, promoting the book and the documentary, with readings at a Boston Barnes and Noble on Tuesday, April 14th and at the Brookline Booksmith on Wednesday, April 15th, and a screening of the documentary at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, also on the 15th. As well, a concert tour is lined up for June and July. Dates and details for the readings, screenings and concerts can all be found here.
*I couldn’t resist. Sorry.
Okay, this sounds pretty fun. Local faves Head Like a Kite are at the Crocodile tonight, and they’ll also be debuting a feature film, described as following “the steamy affair of two impassioned Barbie dolls hell bent on adventure. Sex, fire, Superman, Barbie dolls, and a car chase.” What’s not to like? Especially when it’s projected behind HLaK’s beats.
If you’re in Boston, this is a great week to check out lots of great live music, as it’s the 31st Annual WBCN Rock’n'Roll Rumble, a battle-of-the-bands style competition in which four acts do short sets each night. In typical Boston underdog fashion, there’s said to be a curse on the winners and the losers are celebrated. You can see a full schedule here, or check out the nifty play-along-at-home chart above. It’s from Boston Band Crush, who have pretty comprehensive coverage of the event. And best of luck to z=z friends Logan 5 and the Runners and The Motion Sick.
Two bands I love are both playing tonight (Tuesday, March 31st) in Seattle – somewhat to my dismay, since I’m in Boston.
If you happen to be in Seattle, this is the plan: Head to the High Dive in Fremont around nine, to catch Mother Mother, the opening act for Sam Roberts. Then quietly sidle out (you can see Mr. Roberts next time) and head two miles up NW Leary Way to the Tractor Tavern in Ballard to catch Great Lake Swimmers (above). They’re supporting their spanking-new album, Lost Channels, out today. Go see both bands if you can.
A Commonwealth double-bill tonight (Friday) in Seattle, as Australia’s An Horse (pictured) share the Vera Project stage with Halifax, NS’s Wintersleep. An Horse are touring to support the US release of their first full-length, Rearrange Beds, which came out last week, and this concert is some US exposure for Wintersleep and their fantastic album, Welcome to the Night Sky. Should be a great show.
Even if you can’t make it to Austin this year, you get an excellent side benefit – the SXSeattle Sendoff show at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard. The lineup includes z=z faves New Faces and Hey Marseilles, together with Battle Hymns (pictured), the new band of Cameron Elliott, formerly of the Western States. I’m really looking forward to hearing their Silver Jews-esque Americana live. Headlining are Champagne Champagne, who I didn’t really think were my speed, but I’ve only heard great things about their live show (like this Seattle Subsonic review). Top to bottom, it’s a great lineup and well worth checking out on a Friday night. Doors at nine, and a very modest $8 cover, which will help keep the bands in gas and tacos.
Michael Gira is playing at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard tonight. While Gira’s bands, Angels of Light and the Swans (who I usually describe as ‘the band that makes Sonic Youth look like commercial sellouts’), are pretty well-known in their own right, he may be best known for bringing Devendra Banhart and Akron/Family to the masses, via his label, Young God Records.
I saw Gira play a few years ago (with Banhart and the Dresden Dolls), and I asked him about the story behind my favourite Swans song, “God Damn the Sun.” It’s a narrative about being left by his lover and learning that his best friend was found “face down in the street, with a bottle in your hand, and a wide smile on your face, and a knife in your back.” It turns out that he did write it about a particular friend who, however, was still alive and well (and none too pleased about his fictional demise).
If you are at all prone to depression or self-pity, you may not want to listen to this song; I’d prefer not to be responsible for a rash of z=z-related suicides. Cheerfully optimistic people only, please.
[photo credit: Anne Helmond]
In keeping with my current trend of not being in the same city as the shows that I want to see, what I would be doing if I was in Seattle on Saturday night is going to this show. Chop Suey is hosting “Dancing on the Valentine,” a benefit for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, and it’s a tribute to Factory Records. So go watch 24 Hour Party People, dig out your t-shirt with the radiofrequency pulses or the yellow happy faces (as appropriate), and channel the spirit of Tony Wilson. And then go to Chop Suey on Saturday night.
Lineup: Peter Parker, Hotels, Police Teeth, Haunted Horse, Leaders of Men, Motorik, This is Friendly Fires, Funkscribe, Atticus & the Arteries
(to be perfectly fair, part of the reason I won’t be in Seattle is because I’ll be going to this show)