Monday, June 28, 2010

Dance Rock Revolution: Boston's rock and electronic scenes make sweet music together


As a general rule, it's a good idea to be suspicious of trend pieces in magazines, particularly when it comes to something as mercurial and amorphous as the concept of a brand new music scene! Half the time the stories end up predicting the dawn of a genre no one gives a shit about five minutes after publication, and the other half they read more like a recap of last night's episode of Duh the series. With that in mind, I'm not exactly going to come out and say this is officially the year that the worlds of rock and electronic music have finally consummated their long-drawn-out courtship in Boston, because those two kids have been engaged in an on-again, off-again thing for years. (Get a room.) But just between us, it's a pretty exciting time to be watching the worlds of rock and dance, well, rock and dance together.

The first thing you're gonna need when you're trend-hyping is a big shiny example to hang your idea on. There's no question here that Passion Pit, the hottest band out of Boston on the national stage for the past two years, fit the mold nicely. The band's ghostly carnival-tripping-through-space songs have been licensed all over the ad world. They've been selling out shows across the country and doing tons of high-profile remix work. And even weirder, they are seriously good. It's not supposed to work that way, right? Let's put it this way: they are a band from Boston that everyone reading this has heard of. That's not all that common.

Part of Passion Pit's appeal comes from their sonic and stylistic fence-sitting. But haven't rock bands in Boston been utilizing the liberating neon power of synths and computer effects ever since that girl out of The Human League was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar? "It's funny to think of what makes an ‘electronic band' at this point," says Sean Drinkwater, a longtime veteran of the Boston electronic/rock border clashes given his 10-plus years performing in the synth-pop outfits Freezepop and Lifestyle. "I think Passion Pit are a band that uses electronics in the studio, but live they are still more or less a rock band. It's a good formula. You get the impact of musicians really laying a foundation, but the arrangements get to be more complex and thought-out since they're triggering lots of synths and samples that have been programmed in advance. It's a smart decision for many reasons."

Boston hasn't always been so welcoming to the seemingly simple marriage of genres. "I think Boston has come into its own as far as electronic music goes, and I'm a bit disappointed that it didn't happen five or six years ago," says Drinkwater. "At this point, we kind of feel even more like outsiders to the whole thing, even though we've been attempting to re-pioneer it for seemingly ages in many different bands."

Why did it take so long for things to cross over then? "The dance club scene generally doesn't follow local rock very closely," says Dave Virr, aka Dave Duncan, local music booker and WFNX DJ. "Synth pop has always had a foothold here. But bands like Passion Pit and Bodega Girls have crossed over to that [dance club] crowd. I think some of it has to do with dance nights that feature live bands at the beginning of the night, whether it's The Pill or Paper. Those nights attract people who wouldn't go to T.T. the Bear's to hear four local rock bands on a bill together, but they will check out a band while they're working on their dance floor buzz over at the bar."


"I sometimes get guff from my DJ buddies about liking ‘guitar-based music,' " says Jamie Michalski, aka Die Young, one of the resident DJs at Make It New at the Middlesex Lounge, the center of the trend-forward dance club scene in Boston for the past couple of years. "I would imagine that the same applies for rock kids that listen to techno."

"I would agree," says Evan Kenney of Bodega Girls, perhaps the literal embodiment of this scene cross-pollination experiment. Composed of members of notable Boston rock bands like Kenney's defunct screamers Read Yellow and longtime scene vet Jake Brennan, the band throws "lo-fi hedonistic dance parties"  that are a blend of soul, funk, punk, and electro. Remember all that stuff in the Bible about how dancing makes you pregnant? This is what they were talking about.

"Even though Boston is basically a small town, it is easy to be unaware of different ‘scenes.' If you didn't know where to look, you would never know that electronic music and DJ nights even existed in this city if you never left the rock-and-roll bubble," says Kenney.

"My old band was definitely heavily involved with Boston rock and roll, but at the same time I was a huge fan of electronic and hip-hop music, and it took me some time to find where to go in Boston to be a part of it," Kenney continues. "I think the shift just happened because there needed to be a change. Shit was getting pretty stale there for a spell. The crossover sounds within these newer bands may have helped in drawing a wider audience. We all love the same records, people still love to dance, and they love to rock the fuck out and get rowdy. This has become more apparent in the nightlife."

The style gap has been closing for a while, Michalski says. "With more and more [international] artists that cross the divide like Cut Copy and Hot Chip, Memory Tapes, Neon Indian, and Delorean, and with some older acts like Out Hud and !!!, both camps can probably agree, for a few minutes anyway, that dance-informed rock is good and is getting better. And it's not a new phenomenon either; it's just more the logical end to millions of kids from the 1980s having access to ... any band they want through the power of the Internet, then throwing all of those influences in a blender and coming out as bands that throw down a mishmash of all of their favorite and, more importantly, nostalgia-inducing music."

It could also be just a matter of economics and logistics. DJ equipment is cheap now, and drum kits are unwieldy. Programming beats on your laptop saves a lot of money and space in a van. YouTube and inexpensive equipment have democratized the practice of DJing, says Nate Bluhm of Mystery Roar, the Boston band with the most seamless blend of dance music presented in a live-rock format and my new favorite Boston band of any kind (just saying). "All you need is taste, and to be a good host and performer," Bluhm says.

But some people still won't think of that model as a "real" band. Some people are assholes. "I think when people don't see a drummer or other musicians playing the music they hear coming from the PA, they tend to have a hard time justifying it as live music," says Paul Morse of noisy beat project PPALMM. "The past 10 years, people have been changing their perspectives on music, so much so that the conjunction of the typical rock-band layout and the electronic-music setup are basically all the same thing. Everyone's got a synthesizer now, and everyone is over-producing the hell out of music on their laptops because you can work outside of the limitations of band mates and the band relationship dynamic."

"Locally, the demarcations you are talking about were completely obliterated by the [Together electronic-music festival recently held in Boston], with its mix of live acts and DJs," says Bluhm. At Dopamine, the label that puts out his band's records alongside other rock and electronic acts, "They don't give two shits about the old paradigm."

Another band trying to work outside these outdated limits is the synth-pop dance-rock group Bearstronaut. "Our mentality in Bearstronaut is trying to produce the same effect as a DJ, but playing instruments on stage," says frontman Dave Martineau. "A certain level of engagement is now being demanded by the Boston dance bands. We want people to feel like they're welcome to join us on the dance floor at as many of our shows as possible in order to break down that sometimes inevitable wall between band and audience."

This sort of genre crossover is being seen more and more often at places like Middlesex and his club, says Good Life owner Peter Fiumara. He believes in it enough that he's just launched a record label called Fort Point Recordings that will put out both live-band and electronic records. "Most DJs are in bands or producing with bands," he says. That's the case with one of his first signings, DJ André Obin's decidedly rock-and-roll outfit Endless Wave. "People want to see a little of both, and just as the musicians are interchangeable, the fans are as well."

At the Middle East, they've had a lot of success with just that, throwing electronic music-oriented dance nights with rock-show trappings like Throwed! "The rock and dance scenes are definitely separated, but on the best occasions, the scenes mix well," says club publicist Clay Fernald. "Rock bands that have a party vibe mix well with the DJ scene, if pulled off properly. Bands first ... then a raging dance party after."

"I do feel like kids nowadays hold less of a blood allegiance to specific genres," says Christopher Principe. His band Hooray for Earth, the Boston-New York outfit who've just released a genre-confounding EP called Momo, seem next in line for breaking through to national indie status. "I'm not sure why, but it's probably because of the magic Internet making everything so readily available. Music dorks have such a giant and diverse pool to choose from that it's easy to cross genre lines. If a song is good, then it's good. It doesn't matter where it comes from or what instrument it was made by. So now you see the same slouching hipster at a dance night at Middlesex one night and a rock show at the Middle East the next."

"The bands that are doing dance rock or pop, like us and Bodega Girls, are not only performing at traditional rock venues, but we're hosting dance parties at Enormous Room, Middlesex, and ZuZu," says Bluhm. "Some of these are straight-up DJ nights, and others include live performances." At a recent Enormous Room show, he DJ'd before and after his band's performance. "We mixed into our first song and out of our last song as seamlessly as I could at the time, and it was really inspiring."


Most of us have become omnivorous in our musical tastes by this point, so it makes sense that mingling "scenes" would come as a result from literally mingling scenes. "It comes down to the fact that what's happening is that what used to be different crews is all in one," says Michael Potvin, one half of electro duo #1Dad & DJ Fred Mertz and DJ at parties like Thunderdome.

In his opinion, remixes of bands' music always end up being better than the original. Why not just cut out the middle man? "That's finally happening now," Potvin says. "We've got original music being produced, and those same producers are DJs and in a band. And they're bumping different versions of their track as the situation calls and feeding back between live performance, dance floor, and the World Wide Web."

"Here in Boston, there has always been am emphasis on live shows, and the rock-and-roll style of guitar, bass, and drums on stage, so electronic musicians are borrowing from that idea to bridge the gap from dance club to rock city. In that, they're getting the people, too, bringing the bedroom DJs together with the Sound Museum rats of Allston," Potvin says.

The result is a sort of Frankenstein's monster of instrumentation - DJs bringing their gear in front of a rock-club audience and screaming "It's alive!"

"It really gets interesting when you are starting to see more and more producers of electronic music dragging the studio onto the stage and rocking out next to bands with the old standard lineup," says Potvin. He name checks PPALMM as a good example of that phenomenon. "His music is 100% electronic in nature, yet his live show appeals to crowds who like live music, as well as those who appreciate DJ sets. It's that kind of thing that is driving this shift."

Meanwhile, having rockers and club kids meet up in mutual appreciation "creates something in this city that has been lacking," says Bodega Girls' Kenney. "It's pretty beautiful." His Cool Ranch party at Middlesex brings in tons of different types of kids, down for whatever.

Everyone knows that all it takes for a trend piece in journalism is three examples, and that's like, what, a hundred right here I just covered? Looks like another case closed. Kenney plays us out to the finish: "Maybe I am a hippie, but I am still into the whole ‘unity' thing," he says. "It's just a party. We aren't trying to be anything great; we just want to be one big energetic mixtape, a soundtrack to a night of hedonism. Dance, drink, make out ... we keep it loose." Those are a few things that pretty much any scene can agree on.

Want to hear these sonic hybrids yourself? Click here for a mix of tunes by some of the artists mentioned above. 

The Art Of Drowning: Musicians Take Action Against The Gulf Oil Spil

When faced with an environmental disaster on the scale of the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the average person can often feel hopeless. Tens of millions of gallons of oil have already leaked into the Gulf Coast since the British Petroleum (BP) oil rig explosion in April, and as the effort to contain the spill continues to falter, it's getting worse every day. Signing up for Facebook groups speaking out against BP might satisfy one's sense of outrage momentarily, but it's easy to wonder if that sort of online protest ever has any real world impact.
That's why a group of high-profile musicians led by KORN are trying to do right with a proposed boycott of BP for their summer tours, pledging not to fuel up at gas stations with the BP logo. Joining them are RISE AGAINST, FLOGGING MOLLY, DISTURBED, SLIGHTLY STOOPID, ROB ZOMBIE, MEGADETH, ANTHRAX and FILTER to name but a few. "This is the worst thing that has ever happened to the environment in U.S. history,” said Korn frontman JONATHAN DAVIS in a press release recently unveiled. ”From everything we're hearing about now, it's become clear that BP cut corners to put profit ahead of safety. The message we are sending should tell all the oil companies to spend the money and take the necessary precautions to make sure this doesn't happen again. I'm really proud that this many artists have already come on board, and I hope more will join soon." THE ROCKSTAR ENERGY DRINK MAYHEM FESTIVAL is one of a few tours pledging to boycott BP as well. The tour’s creator KEVIN LYMAN (also head of the VANS WARPED TOUR) has long advocated for the use of bio-fuels. Lyman said in a statement, "We have so many friends that are now affected by this spill that unless BP spends whatever is needed their livelihoods are lost forever. To that end we are encouraging everyone we deal with to find alternative ways to get down the road this summer."
In an exclusive interview with, Davis explained his motivation to boycott BP. “We were thinking, ‘What can we do to prevent it from happening again?’ The best option for us was boycotting any kind of BP products, and getting all our friends in bands and their fans to not buy their products to send a message to the company.” Like many critics of the spill, Davis says that the British company cut a lot of corners in regards to safety. “If they spent a few million more bucks and two days’ more work, this wouldn't have happened. Doing something so simple as not going to the gas station and filling up will send a message that [BP] will have to pay the money [to fix the problem]. This is complete, utter bullshit. It's horrible what's happening to those people in the Gulf and to the Gulf itself. I've never seen anything like it in my life. I have no interest in politics, but this is something that has moved me, seeing the destruction and those poor people down there.”
MATT McCLAIN of THE SURFRIDER FOUNDATION, an organization dedicated to protecting the world’s beaches and bodies of water, says the outlook for the health of the Gulf Coast ecosystem is grim, and only getting bleaker every day. The 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska was widely considered to have been the greatest environmental disaster in history. A counter on the Surfrider website keeping track of the oil spilling into the Gulf, is at more than 72 million gallons—the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez spill every 12 days. Clean-up efforts have been stymied, and as oil continues to erupt into the Gulf, the prospect of containing the mess seems unlikely. “There's not a whole lot we can do for the Gulf,” says McClain. “We can do our best to rescue some of the animals that are being impacted. But the problem is only going to get worse. We've seen tens of thousands of animals impacted and we'll see scores more. But the more serious concern is what effect this incident is going to have on the long-term life of the Gulf. This is an area that was already seeing multiple dead zones from all the nitrogen run-off from agriculture coming down the farm belt from the Mississippi River. We're also dealing with an area already losing wetlands at a rate of a football field every 15 minutes. Now you throw in all the wetlands being killed by oil and the dissolved methane at the ocean floor turning entire sections of the ocean hypoxic. I don't think anyone, including the best scientists, have a clear picture of what the long-term effects will be, but I think we all agree it will be profound.”
RISE AGAINST vocalist TIM McILRATH, who has also been very vocal in his anger over the incident, actually visited wetlands in the Gulf area just before the spill. “A few weeks before the oil disaster, coincidentally enough, I found myself in New Orleans for a three-day political retreat with a handful of other musicians,” he says. “Even though Rise Against have played New Orleans a couple times, I felt like that weekend was my first introduction to this amazing city. Our hosts took us to the wetlands to show us how beautiful they are and also to explain the important purpose they serve in protecting Louisiana from storms and providing a home for an abundance of wildlife. I met a man named Aaron from the Gulf Restoration Network, and he was very concerned with the state of the Louisiana's wetlands. This was all before the spill. It was like pouring gasoline on a fire, and all of Aaron's worst nightmares were coming true. [Saying I’m] outraged is an understatement.”
BROCK LINDOW of Alaskan metal band 36 CRAZYFISTS has witnessed the devastating effects an incident like this can have on a community in the wake of the Exxon Valdez spill. “I sympathize with the people [of the Gulf] and I’m shocked that BP didn’t have a better contingency plan. BP also has a poor record here in Alaska with the corrosion issue on our pipeline.” RYAN MORAN of California reggae-punk outfit SLIGHTLY STOOPID says that being in a touring band allows musicians to more easily sympathize to the effects of the spill than maybe someone in the Midwest does. “What makes it unique for us, we're in bands that travel to all those places,” he says. “We've been to Biloxi [and] New Orleans tons of times, Tampa and all those places that are on the Gulf Coast. All the surroundings states— Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida—they're all getting fucked. I think it's our responsibility to spread the word that what's going on there is bullshit.”
FLOGGING MOLLY drummer GEORGE SCHWINDT echoes that sentiment, saying, “[No matter the odds,] It’s still important to take some sort of action. The greater outcome is this disaster is the first step in reducing our addiction to crude, which can only happen if there are some serious financial consequences to the offending company and a serious financial upside to alternative forms of energy. The lesser outcome may be that we’re just irritating, little gnats singing in BP’s ear. Ultimately, the boycott may be an exercise in futility but we remain in the possibility of change for the better.”
Even if it can seem fruitless in the face of such a giant company, Rise Against’s McIlrath says protest is still vital. “Any expression of anger at least lets people know that something is wrong. But don't let that anger stay contained in the virtual world. Bring it into the real world. Instead of bouncing messages around your social networks, write a letter to your local politician and let them know where their constituents stand. It sends a message loud and clear that consumers will not tolerate the kind of reckless irresponsibility and lack of respect BP has shown for, among many things, the myriad ways of life in the Gulf of Mexico. If it makes even one company re-think its safety measures, or maybe offshore drilling as a whole, your voice is worth it. Until corporations grow a conscience, the only place to hit them is their wallet; their bottom line.”

Critics of the boycott point out that the gas stations under the BP logo aren't even owned by the British company anymore, and that efforts like this won’t have the desired outcome. “So Korn say they're not gonna use BP,” says RICK ARMELLINO of THIS OR THE APOCALYPSE. “BP is not going to be affected. I have this image of BP's public relations people reading that rock bands aren't going to use BP and they just tilt their heads back and start laughing. There are millions of vehicles fueling up in our country and what it comes down to is, ‘What's the first gas station off the highway exit?’ Our country is not known for making adjustments that are inconvenient.” Another criticism of a BP boycott is that it will only hurt the local branch owners and their employees. Armellino, for one, is reluctant to lash out at BP stations. “You could tell kids to start putting bricks through BP station windows, but at the bottom of the food chain, you've got people working there for minimum wage who are gonna have to clean up the gas and go home and try to find a way to feed their kids.”
But Rise Against’s McIlrath says that a boycott is one of the only outlets for change. “If a filling station is flying the colors of the BP logo, then they are on some level relying on that logo to attract customers,” he says. “American consumers need to reverse that trend and send a message to the market that we will rejectanything flying those colors.” TANNIS KRISTJANSON of MISS TK AND THE REVENGE—who recently released The Ocean Likes To Party Too with proceeds going to the Surfrider Foundation—agrees. “Unfortunately, [a boycott] would be putting pressure on the smaller people, but its all about sending a message to the higher-ups,” she says. “Yes, I am outraged, disgusted and broken-hearted over the spill and the lies and the greed. Why aren't people in jail? That's what I'd like to know.”
The Surfrider Foundation, like many other environmental groups, has been opposed to deep water drilling for years. Congress has had a legislative ban on offshore drilling for nearly 30 years in response to an oil rig spill off the coast of Santa Barbara in 1969. The Energy Policy Act of 2005, enacted by then-President Bush and Vice President Cheney, both of whom have deep ties to the oil industry, played a big role in deregulating energy companies and opened up the prospect of offshore drilling like we're seeing in the Gulf now. In 2008, President Bush rallied to lift the ban on offshore drilling (originally put into effect by his father in 1990), causing environmental organizations to step up their game. If anything positive comes out of this tragedy, McClain thinks it may serve as a wakeup call to people eager to pursue oil exploration. “We think we do have a good opportunity to gain support for a national moratorium again.”
SHAWN KILMURRAYof environmental advocacy group ROCK THE EARTH says BP isn't the only villain here. The company simply rents the platform that was built and owned by Transocean, a Swiss company with an American office in Texas. “[Transocean]owns the platform and the well and the drilling apparatus that blew, that was maintained and owned by Halliburton. So we need to go back and look at all the stuff with Halliburton during the last administration. So much of the stuff that is impacting us now—from natural gas fracturing, to deep-water drilling—comes from changing laws under the Energy Bill of 2005. Deep-water drilling was illegal until five years ago. There's a reason why.”
McIlrath says that the entire incident is symptomatic of a larger problem. “Boycotting BP will not end our dependency on oil, or change the fact that our infrastructure is set up so that we all use oil in some capacity of our daily lives. Is boycotting BP the answer to our nation’s dependency on oil? No. This disaster signals that America is overdue for radical changes in our infrastructure, not just a boycott.” Some would argue that avoiding BP stations doesn’t actually hit the corporation as hard as it will the local branch owners who operate BP stations. But McIlrath thinks that it’s time everyone involved with the oil industry start rethinking their practices. “Are the gas stations you visit instead of BP [owned and operated by] perfect angels? No, but they are scared shitless that you might boycott them too. If that's what it takes to get them to clean up their act, so be it. The worst thing that we can do is stand by and do nothing.”


GUSTER frontman ADAM GARDNER is founder of REVERB, a group that works with musicians and music fans to educate and advocate for safer environmental practices. He has a few suggestions for how you can get involved in the recovery from the Gulf oil spill and lessen our nation’s dependency on petroleum:
  • Carpool
  • Ride your bike
  • Get a reusable water bottle
  • Get your hands dirty and volunteer in the Gulf
  • Donate to the clean up.
  • Tell President Obama not to expand offshore drilling

Friday, June 25, 2010

Double Date: "Picasso Looks at Degas" and Mezze Bistro


It’s well known that Pablo Picasso was fascinated by Edgar Degas, but until now no one has done an in-depth study of the connection between the two artists. “Picasso Looks at Degas,’’ showing this summer at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, is the “first exhibition to really take the whole idea and investigate it thoroughly, and to look at the ways in which Picasso gave evidence of interest in Degas throughout his career, as well as in a few particular moments,’’ says Sarah Lees, one of the museum’s curators.

When Picasso first arrived in Paris in the early 1900s, “he was very interested in the same types of subjects, people in cafes, sort of lowlife subjects in a way, that Degas was particularly well known for,’’ Lees says. Later in his life Picasso managed to track down a handful of Degas prints that he had coveted for years. These were the inspiration for a series of prints Picasso did depicting Degas as a creepy voyeur.

Displaying this large collection of prints, drawings, and sculptures together provides an eye-opening point of comparison. One of the most striking instances comes in a grouping of three sculptures of dancers. “Degas’s are very classical, with women in definable ballet poses. Picasso’s are very humorous. He takes that idea and makes it funny and abstracted in a way. It’s a clear instance of Picasso taking a Degas theme and making it his own.’’

“Picasso Looks at Degas,’’ Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, through Sept. 12. 413-458-2303,
Since the theme of people sitting in cafes and bistros is something that runs throughout the exhibition, you may find yourself getting thirsty and hungry along the way. The nearby Mezze Bistro and Bar is a work of art in its own right.

“We are currently offering a selection of ‘cultural cocktails’ in support of some of our cultural comrades,’’ says owner Nancy Thomas. “We like to say ‘food is culture.’ Many of these, like the Picasso With a Twist, take their inspiration from the art at nearby museums. And like most of the food and drink items on the menu here, it gets its base from locally produced ingredients, in this case Berkshire Mountain Gin. It’s rounded out with Campari, sweet vermouth, and a Basque Rosado. (Picasso’s periodo rosado comes to mind.) In addition Mezze features a wide range of French and Spanish varietals that Degas and Picasso may well have enjoyed themselves. These small-production wines “have rich traditions of small farmers working their particular parcel of land to tell their story,’’ says Thomas. “Mezze Bistro is trying to help tell the story of our region, the Berkshires, and offer a sense of place.’’

Mezze Bistro and Bar, 777 Cold Spring Road, Willamstown. 413-458-0123.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thursty: Think Tank

It makes sense that in Kendall Square, home to the city’s cutting-edge laboratories and mad scientist lairs, you’d find a spot that defies the natural order of bar classifications. Part shiny and modern, part dive-lounge, Think Tank is a new retro-futurist species all its own. “We call it stylishly divey,” says co-owner Vincent Conte. A gleaming stainless-steel bar and sleek design touches jut up against an orange, faux-leather lounge area, smooth bowling lane-style floors, a photo booth and old arcade games. 

“Think of a teenager in the 1970s moving into their grandmother’s basement,” Conte says. “You walk in and you’re like, ‘Is this supposed to be upscale?’ Then you see the video games and worn fixtures. It’s a little bit ‘Barbarella’ and a little bit ‘Logan’s Run.’”One of the best compliments he’s gotten so far (they’ve been open about a week) is that the place looks like it’s been there forever.  

Think Tank will retain the previous club’s 2 a.m. license, a rarity in the neighborhood, with DJs and dancing after dinner. That comes in handy for the second half of the venture’s neologistic bar genre; they’ve branded themselves a bistro-techque: part bistro, part discotheque. The word play on the bio-tech heavy neighborhood adds an extra layer to the joke, you just have to think about it. 

What he's having
Like a lot of bars now, the cocktail list here skews toward old slings and juleps and the like (wines are largely organic and sustainable). But they don't take themselves too seriously Conte says. “It's about not being too pretentious and giving some great flavor.” Muddling black pepper into a Ginger Rogers variation called the “F” Ginger Rogers made with Karlsson's vodka, ginger, lemon and mint is the staff favorite so far he says. “In a way these are dumbed-down, friendly classics that I'm working on here.”

Think Tank
One Kendall Square
MBTA: Red Line to Kendall Square, 617-500-3031

Monday, June 21, 2010



Pop music grumps who get heated about Ke$ha and Katy Perry clogging up our collective mind-space with spangled twaddle and tosh are probably just salty Sia fans upset with lesser talents for dulling the latter’s shine. In fact, you might be a Sia fan and not even know it. Aside from club staples like “Little Man,’’ her 2003 song “Breathe Me’’ likely made you bawl your eyes out during the finale of “Six Feet Under’’; and her covers of everyone from Britney Spears to the Church have only added to her all-encompassing pop appeal. But it’s “You’ve Changed,’’ the breakout single from the Australian chorister’s fifth full-length that should finally get you to remember her name. It’s a pulse-quickening electro-disco cut with gritty, heartfelt soul falling out of its tight pants pockets. Like the dance-floor romance “Clap Your Hands,’’ it’s ripe for club banger remixes, but it also sustains an emotional through-line that grounds it in heart-rending territory. While the music isn’t out of step with what we’ve come to expect from American pop stars, the difference is Sia’s songs here sound downright lived through: See the fragile cover of Madonna’s “Oh Father’’ for reference. Poppy dance music isn’t disposable on its face, it’s just that our best-known exemplars aren’t doing it right. (Out now).

Friday, June 18, 2010

Beach Boners: Gavin McInnes Goes to Coney Island

Do: Create a fashion story inspired by Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes's new book, Street Boners. Don't: Allow him anywhere near it. Well, one out of two ain't bad. What follows is the result of a day at the beach with the maturity-challenged enfant terrible and a stable of very understanding models. View the full gallery, and, after the jump, take an in-depth look at the method behind this particular brand of madness. Photography by Ruvan Wijesooriya. Styling by Christopher Campbell. Scribbles by Gavin McInnes

Of all the attractions on the Coney Island boardwalk, “Shoot the Freak” is the one Gavin McInnes seems most excited about. Coney Island is a stretch of commercially-blighted oceanfront dotted by implausible tourist traps and so many compounded layers of bygone New York City fashion castoffs that it would take a really bummed-out anthropologist years to sort through the mess. In other words, it’s the perfect setting for McInnes to flex the uncanny irreverence familiar to readers of Vice magazine, particularly the “Dos and Dont’s” section, where McInnes mercilessly and hilariously critiqued people for how they dressed.

“Shoot the Freak” becomes a mantra over the course of the day, popping up whenever there’s a lull. “They use death row inmates in it,” McInnes explains of the game. Actually, It’s just a thing where you blast a carny in the dome with paintballs while an Italian barker shouts at you in an epic Brooklyn accent. But like all the other far-fetched stories McInnes tells, it’s said with such a matter-of-fact affect that half the people listening almost believe it. We’re in Coney Island to shoot our own freaks, as part of a photo shoot featured in our June/July issue. Its inspiration is a new book McInnes has written. Street Boners: 1746 Hipster Fashion Jokes is basically one big “Dos and Don’ts” bible, and it shares its name with McInnes’s current online venture.

After the shoot wraps and we’re cruising back to Manhattan in a motorhome, McInnes has the driver pull over at a bodega because he’s diabetic and is going to die if he doesn’t get some sugar quick. It isn’t until he rolls back in with a couple of six packs for the crew that everyone realizes he was bullshitting.

The constant bullshitting makes interviewing McInnes a pleasurable challenge. Unlike a lot of boring subjects where you have to push to get anything even remotely interesting, McInnes is almost too quotable.

Upstate, where he spends his time away from the city, “Everyone wears their p-fucking-js,” he says. “Half the people in WalMart are dressed in pajamas. Same thing with the airport. It’s like, denim is too uncomfortable for you now? Spun cotton isn’t doing the trick anymore?”

McInnes seems like he’s constantly workshopping bits. Twitter and the comments section of Street Boners are his favorite place for trying out new ones, although he does get a little annoyed with some of the meaner comments on Street Boners. “It bums me out when people talk about the girl’s bone structure or something. Your beef is with god, not her. But the internet is all horny fourteen-year-olds. So you’re fourteen and you can’t get anyone to fuck you, and now you’re mad at chicks.”

Larry David and David Cross carry around a note pad at all times to write down jokes as they think of them, he says. “The beautiful thing with Twitter, is you have your notebook anywhere. You can’t lose it. And you can tell if it’s funny from retweets. Like the other day, I said, ‘Park Slope? That’s like the most Korean name ever.’ No one retweeted it. I guess that’s not a zinger.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of his material ends up being scatological or dick-related. During the shoot, when we’re interviewing the models for the iPad video component of this spread, most of them play along. Anyone who ever said models were humorless never had to watch them play it straight while an interviewer asks them whether or not they think fat people should be shot. Aside from dicks and poop, what else is there, McInnes wants to know. “Vaginas aren’t funny. They’re like the boss that the alien calls up before they call in the invasion. Like this guy with blobby tentacles.” His impression of a floppy alien vagina commander is pretty spot on. Best I’ve seen, anyway.

Before getting in a cab to come to the shoot, McInnes tells me, he popped an adderall and drained a cup of coffee. Not a good idea before his morning shit, it seems. He vividly recalls feeling like a pregnant lady in the movies—breathing heavily, hoping the driver doesn’t hit any big bumps. Retelling the story gives him an idea for a bit where the cabby gets out to help perform an emergency delivery, but instead gets sprayed in the face with diarrhea. What follows is a discussion about the best ways to rig the fake shit and what angle to shoot it from so it looks most believable. You know, showbiz talk.

We’re looking through stacks of commercialized bullshit in one of the dozen or so gift shops along the strip, shopping for snorkels, giant inflatable banana cocks, cartoon bikini t-shirts, the usual Coney Island business. “Superman is like brute force,” he says unraveling a long superhero beach towel. “He’s like WalMart. Spiderman is more tenacious, though. He’s like Goldman Sachs. He’ll bundle mortgages behind your back.”

I mention the thing about his riffing making him an easy interview subject. “Well, I basically did your job for fifteen years,” he says. “I usually like to try to figure out where the dude is coming from and basically do his work for him.” That’s totally cheating, by the way, but okay, because it’s pretty much what he’s done here with the Shoot the Freak motif. Shoot the Freak could be another name for Street Boners, actually. But instead of lobbing paint ball volleys at a parolee in a riot gear costume, McInnes is shooting a another type of freak, taking pictures of kids on the street in different, but no-less ridiculous costumes of their own.

If you’ve ever read Street Boners or the “Dos and Don’ts,” you’re probably curious about how it works. Do people know what they’re getting themselves into when he comes over with a camera? Shouldn’t they be wise to his schtick? “I mostly have handsome or beautiful people do it,” he says. “It doesn’t work with this face. I’m actually surprised at how much training it takes, though. A lot of times they’ll come back with homeless or fat people: one of those is a mental illness and the other is self-indulgence. Or they’ll just do beautiful people that are normal. So I said what I want is people 18-25 that are ‘alternative,’ for lack of a better word, trying to be stylish. I don’t care if they’re hot or not. And I want mostly women, because they care more about fashion than men.”

Do people get salty when they end up getting a bad rating on Street Boners? “They get really mad, actually,” McInnes says. Conversely, when he’s writing a complimentary caption, as he did for this shoot, the joke has to be more on him, like he’s got a boner for the outfit, or the shoes and socks–and with him it’s very often the shoes and socks that engenders said boner. The humor comes from his overreaction.

People ask him all the time whether his wife gets mad. He was doing this when they met, he says. It’s not something he started recently. “And it’s not like I’m thinking about holding this woman and spooning her. It’s more like a Benny Hill type of thing.” Still, he has to watch himself in public. “You’ve got to be careful if you see a hot ass. The trick with wives is to point out hot dudes too. For every three hot dudes you point out it earns you one ogle.”

A lot changes when you get older and settle into a relationship, McInnes says, and he’s sorting out the details of his next book with that in mind. It’s going to be a series of reminiscences called The Death of Cool. It’s a title that sums up his feelings about getting old. “I hate when people say that cool is dead,” he says. “It’s because their era is over. It’s this myopic view that people have, like when they’re shitting on hipsters. What it means is that ‘I am too old.’ But cool is over for me because I have a wife and a kid.” (McInnes also starred in documentary, A Million in the Morning, where he tries to break the record for non-stop movie watching.)

We’re walking past a group of screaming kids nearby barely containing their hurl on a free-fall ride. Two leathery beach relics are relaxing in the sun over a couple of beers. Probably retired civil servants, he thinks. “This place is like an elephant’s graveyard for cops.” Civil servants are an issue of particular interest to McInnes lately. He’s just written about how much money cities waste on firemen. “How many fires have you actually seen in your life?” he asks. “A couple, right? It would probably save money to just let the houses burn down and then rebuild them rather than pay these guys to sleep all day.”

It doesn’t seem like the city has been paying much attention to this area for a while. All around us the slouchy buildings and empty lots are covered in signs calling out the iconic seventies camp classic The Warriors. “Dear Coney Island, The Warriors is a movie about how much this place sucks,” he says. “They’re bummed when they get here. There’s no party waiting for them.”

It’s a film about a bunch of dudes dressed up as cowboys and baseball players and Indian roller skaters trying to kill each other on their way to Coney Island. Some of the characters look like they wouldn’t be out of place in Street Boners. Freaks, basically. Readers of Street Boners, and anyone else who’s ever walked five feet down the block, know kids in New York have always worn some weird shit, it’s just that the details of the costume keep getting changed. Fortunately, someone has been documenting it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Black Book Reviews

I just finished doing my 200th bar, restaurant, shop and hotel review for Black Book. Not going to repost them all, but go check them out over there if you're looking for a place to go. Or for some corny jokes.

Rafiki Bistro

* 1682 Massachusetts Ave.
* (Sacremento St.)
* 617-661-7810


For a bistro aiming to serve mostly organic menu options with a focus on vegetarian and vegan dishes, this new bistro couldn't have picked a better neighborhood. The hippies and limousine liberals of Cambridge will eat it up. Opening for breakfast and lunch every day sets them apart from like-minded spots on either side, The West Side Lounge and Temple Bar, both of whom Rafiki seems to have taken a few notes on. The interior is great looking, although coming after the divey, but beloved, Forrest Cafe that used to be here, almost anything would look pretty.


* 118 Beacon St.
* (Berkeley St.)
* 617-576-7700


Bergamot aims to bring some much needed sophistication back to the comfy, but under-utilized Kirkland and Beacon Streets neighborhood. Room has upscale rustic pantry feel, and appears to be striving for a level of service that transcends informality. They're also calling themselves "Progressive American Cuisine" which can mean anything. Here, it means roasted lamb loin with caramelized spring onions, black trumpet mushrooms, faro risotto and stinging nettle sauce or a salad of baby roasted beets with local cheese curd, shiso, apricot ginger puree and toasted walnuts.

East by Northeast

* 1128 Cambridge St.
* 617-876-0286


You can discern the method behind the madness in this restaurant's name. East, meaning, you know, the Far East, and Northeast, being a testament to its focus on New England ingredients. The two concepts meet in Inman Square, an area that's become the latest restaurant haven. Chef Phillip Tang, an alum of standouts Lumière and Hungry Mother, brings the small plates approach to hand-rolled dumplings and noodles. Beef, veal and pork are locally sourced and come from sustainable farms. All of which wouldn't mean anything if the food wasn't actually good. It is.

El Pelón Taqueria

* 2197 Commonwealth Ave.
* (Lake St. and St Thomas More Rd.)
* 617- 779-9090


When a fire took out much of the Fenway block on which the old El Pelón was located it came as a huge blow. For the owners, sure, but also for the loyal following of burrito-heads and hungry college kids who made eating here on the cheap a daily practice. The new locale shifts the focus to the Boston College area, where we're pretty sure they'll be able to find more than a few converts to old favorites like the pescado tacos (crispy cornmeal and spice encrusted cod topped with arbol chile mayo, limed onions, pickled cabbage and cucumbers).

Summer Festival Round-Up

Look, you're probably gonna be sweating somewhere anyway. Why not spend part of your summer at one of the many festivals or package tours slated in the upcoming months? Whether you're looking for metal, indie rock, jam bands or, well, Lady Gaga, we've got your guide to which days you're gonna wanna request off work right here.


All Time Low, Boys Like Girls, Third Eye Blind, Good Charlotte, Forever The Sickest Kids, more
Through June 27 (TICKETS)
This year's traveling Bamboozle tour may be winding down (and not without its share of controversy), but you've still got a few more chances to catch it. Singer/songwriter CADY GROVES says being a part of the tour has been an amazing experience for her as both artist and music fan. "The best thing is getting to meet all these amazing and talented bands that I can hang out with and learn tons of stuff from," she says. "The bands are always walking around and hanging out and there's less of a divide between the bands and their fans. It's a very cool, mingling feeling."


Circa Survive, Matt & Kim, Minus The Bear, As Tall As Lions, B.o.B., more
Santa Monica, CA
June 19 to 20 (Tickets free at PacSun locations)
Two days of skating, biking and rocking out on the pier in Santa Monica, California, sounds pretty good any time of year. Throw in the fact that this festival is this coming weekend and absolutely free, and you probably need a last-minute plane ticket. A wide-ranging lineup of bands, from recent AP Tour alumni CIRCA SURVIVE and AS TALL AS LIONS to indie geniuses MINUS THE BEAR and rapper B.o.B. will be providing the soundtrack to the sick stunts, wealth of sponsor booths and whatever else it is those skater types do.


The All-American Rejects, Bring Me The Horizon, Andrew W.K., We The Kings, Four Year Strong, VersaEmerge, Never Shout Never, more
June 25 to August 15 (TICKETS)
"Warped Tour is such a rare tour in that the fans really get access to their favorite bands and the bands have the opportunity to meet hundreds of their fans each day," says guitarist Christian Meadows of AFTER MIDNIGHT PROJECT, who are playing the scene's most storied traveling festival, now celebrating its sweet 16. With multiple stages, a veritable city of vendors and activity tents and literally hundreds of your favorite artists roaming the grounds, it ain't nicknamed "Punk Rock Summer Camp" for nothing. While there's plenty of excitement for fans, it's also a great chance for young bands like AFM to share the same bill with revered scene vets like ANTI-FLAG and FACE TO FACE. "I'm very excited to see Face To Face this year," says Meadows. "I grew up going to their shows and it's a great honor to be on tour with them. I'm also excited for SUM 41 and EVERCLEAR." WE ARE THE IN CROWD vocalist Tay Jardine says it's the sense of community between musicians and fans that sets Warped apart from its festival brethren. "The fact that so many people are in one place for one common reason is awesome," she says. "Fans are stoked to meet bands and bands are stoked to meet fans."


Heart, Metric, Tegan And Sara, Mary J. Blige, Kelly Clarkson, more
June 27 to August 16 (TICKETS)
It's been more than a decade since SARAH McLACHLAN assembled the sisterhood for her summer-long celebration of women in music. Back for the first time since 1999, this year's Lilith (don't call it "Lilith Fair") features a wide-ranging lineup ranging from the usual suspects (BETH ORTON, EMMYLOU HARRIS, INDIGO GIRLS) to the unexpected (RIHANNA, METRIC, TEGAN AND SARA).


The Flaming Lips, Grizzly Bear, Passion Pit, She & Him, more
Oxford, ME
July 2 to 4 (TICKETS)
"There's nothing like this in New England," says Nateva Festival CEO Frank Chandler of the inaugural, three-day jam-oriented festival in the woods. "When you think about festivals in the summer, you think about hot [temperatures]. But Maine is kind of cool. Nice moderate days and cool evenings." That's better than sweltering in the sun, right? Many of the attendees will be camping out on the festival grounds or at a free camping site a few miles down the road. The festival will showcase a broad range of bands and genres, from Grateful Dead spin-off FURTHUR (featuring Phil Lesh and Bob Weir) to GEORGE CLINTON & PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC. Indie darlings like PASSION PIT and SHE & HIM will also be on hand for what will be a relatively intimate affair. "Usually, if you see a lineup like this, it's with 60,000 people at Coachella or Bonnaroo", says Chandler. "But this is for just 15,000 people."


Silverstein, Emery, We Came As Romans, Dance Gavin Dance, I Set My Friends On Fire, Sky Eats Airplane, Ivoryline, Close To Home
July 8 to August 8 (TICKETS)
guitarist Lee Duck jokingly says that from a fan's perspective, "The best thing about festivals is that you can meet a lot of the bands since each band is competing with each other for fans to buy their merchandise." With eight bands--including the recently added WE CAME AS ROMANS--there'll be plenty of merch hawking when the tour kicks off mid-summer in New Jersey at a special show also featuring THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, MISS MAY I and YOUR DEMISE. AUGUST BURNS RED and STORY OF THE YEAREMERY
will also be making two appearances as the tour winds down in August. keyboardist/vocalist Josh Head says fans can't beat the bang for their buck with the tour. "I think kids get a great deal," he says. "You can see eight or nine bands for a reasonable ticket price."


Korn, Rob Zombie, Lamb Of God, Norma Jean, Atreyu, In This Moment, Shadows Fall, more
July 10 to August 14 (TICKETS)
With three stages, a freestyle motocross demo and the insane variety show of Beacher's Madhouse, the name of this metallic version of Warped seems pretty apt. Expect some mayhem--and that's even before you consider the lineup of heavy hitters like LAMB OF GODNORMA JEAN. Producer John Reese (also of the Uproar Festival) says if you haven't experienced the nü-metal onslaught of the event's headliners, now is the time, "How can you not
and love Korn?," he says. "They're in a genre all to themselves."


As I Lay Dying, Underoath, Between The Buried And Me, Blessthefall, the Acacia Strain, Architects, Cancer Bats, War Of Ages
July 12 to August 1 (TICKETS)
As if you needed even more incentive to catch AS I LAY DYING along with CANCER BATS, BLESSTHEFALL and more, the Cool Tour will also be the debut of the new version of UNDEROATH as they take on the world without drummer/vocalist Aaron Gillespie and withhistoric.
ex-Norma Jean drummer Daniel Davison. This could be more than just cool--it could be


The Disco Biscuits, LCD Soundsystem, Ween, Girl Talk, more
Mariaville, NY
July 15 to 17 (TICKETS)
bassist Marc Brownstein says the model for his band's annual Bisco festival throwdown are Coachella and Bonnaroo. "We're like a small, East Coast Coachella," he says. "But one with lots of Disco Biscuits sets. It's the hottest mainstream, modern and interesting lineup that a smaller sized festival could possible dream up." Mash-up artist GIRL TALK joins the likes of METHOD MAN, GHOSTFACE and RAEKWON of THE WU-TANG CLAN on a bill that's as electric as it is eclectic. "Let's face it, lots of jam band kids come to our festival," says Brownstein. "But the music scene has really changed a lot. Festivals like Bonnaroo book all sorts of bands and attract all kinds of people. That's what we're hoping to accomplish by booking such a hip lineup."


Pavement, Modest Mouse, LCD Soundsystem, Broken Social Scene, Sleigh Bells, more
Chicago, IL
July 16 to 18 (TICKETS)
The annual three-day Pitchfork celebration again boasts an impressive lineup of the elite in indie music including MODEST MOUSE and the reunited PAVEMENT. Now in its fifth year, three-day passes sold out in less than a week, but individual passes are still available. Got a bike? You're encouraged to ride to the show, but good luck riding back after what will surely be an exhausting day of entertainment.


Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers, Andrew Bird, the Avett Brothers, O'Death, Calexico, more
Newport, RI
July 30 to August 1 (TICKETS)
While the Newport Folk Festival may not pack the decibel punch of some other summer gatherings, this legendary event--first held in 1959--makes up for it with world class talent and iconic history. "This is the granddaddy of all American music festivals," says producer Jay Sweet. "It's the one that started them all; it's where [Bob] Dylan went electric and the Pixies went acoustic." It also takes place in a breathtaking locale in Narragansett Bay. "With respect to [Washington state's] the Gorge, it's the most stunning backdrop for a festival in America." This also isn't your daddy's folk festival anymore --unless your dad is a lot more current than you thought. Folk-metal band O'DEATH, Americana weirdos BLITZEN TRAPPER and soulful indie rockers DAWES join JIM JAMES of MY MORNING JACKET in a lineup that instantly triples your indie cred with a ticket stub.


Soundgarden, Green Day, the Strokes, more
Chicago, IL
August 6 to 8 (TICKETS)
The crazy, eccentric uncle of traveling rock festivals may have settled down in Chicago, but the event also managed to become even bigger by staying in just one place. This year's lineup--scattered over three days and eight stages--looks like a tour through the ghosts of Lollapalooza past with headlining sets from GREEN DAY and recently reunited SOUNDGARDEN. That's cool and all, but what about seeing basically every other band ever since they're probably on the bill? AFI, Arcade Fire, MGMT, the Black Keys, the National, Spoon, AFI, Metric and plenty more join Lady effing Gaga for three sweaty days of hedonism in the summer sun.


Kid Dynamite, Sheer Terror, Ink & Dagger (featuring Thursday's Geoff Rickly), Horror Show more
Philadelphia, PA
August 13 to 15 (TICKETS)
Though this hardcore festival reportedly sold out in less than 36 hours, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention it (just in case you can miraculously find a way in). Reunions are the theme with SHEER TERROR, KID DYNAMITE and HORROR SHOW among those coming back for the three-day fest. A reunited INK & DAGGER (fronted by Thursday vocalist Geoff Rickly) will also be a highlight. As if that weren't enough, you've also got BANE, CEREMONY, CRO-MAGS and many more to fully celebrate the winding down of summer.


Weezer, Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson, Steve Miller Band, more
Denver, CO
August 14 to 15 (TICKETS)
Spread over 14 soccer fields just nine miles from downtown Denver, the Mile High Music Festival packs a ton of summer touring favorites like DAVE MATTHEWS BAND and STEVE MILLER BAND alongside scene favorites like WEEZER, PHOENIX and ATMOSPHERE
on a bill 42 artists strong. Feeling lightheaded? That might not just be the altitude...


The Strokes, Kings Of Leon, Social Distortion, Phoenix, more
San Francisco, CA
August 14 to 15 (TICKETS)
Promoter Allen Scott says San Francisco's Outside Lands is more than your run-of-the-mill music fest: it's a celebration of everything that's the Bay Area. "In addition to having some of the best music on the scene, the festival focuses on food, wine and technology--all pillars of Northern California," he says. Art and food are all well and good, but what about THE STROKES? "Outside Lands will be only their second U.S. appearance since 2006," says Scott. "This seminal garage rock band's set will be one of the highlights of the weekend." Who else is he excited to see? "THE TEMPER TRAP. For such a new band, this Australian band has one of the more polished sounds out there. Their live show just feels so big." He also encourages concert-goers not to miss the set by GOGOL BORDELLO. "A gypsy-punk band with accordion and violin? Enough said."


Ozzy Osbourne, Mötley Crüe, Rob Halford, DevilDriver, more
August 14 to 24 (TICKETS)
After a year absence, OZZY OSBOURNE again pummels the country with his trademark metal festival. This year, the emphasis is on classic hard rock acts like glam icons MÖTLEY CRÜEROB HALFORD of JUDAS PRIEST. But there'll also be plenty of new-school metal from the likes of NONPOINT, DEVILDRIVER and DROWNING POOL.


Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed, Halestorm, Stone Sour, Hellyeah, Airbourne, Hail The Villain, New Medicine
August 17 to October 4 (TICKETS)
"We've got eight amazing bands on two stages," says producer John Reese-one of the minds also behind the winter Rockstar Taste Of Chaos Tour. "[With] HALESTORM, we've got a [frontwoman Lzzy Hale] who's like a young Pat Benatar and the three closing bands all have brand new albums coming out right on top of the tour." Add metal supergroup HELLYEAH, and you're set for a leather-clad day of moshing in the sun. "If you don't like [Hellyeah/Pantera drummer VINNIE PAUL], then something's wrong with you," says Reese. On top of the wall-shaking music, there will also be wrestling matches, midway games and a charity tie-in with Child Find America. But what does Reese find most exciting about the tour? "Most of these bands haven't toured in at least a year-and-a-half." At least, not until now.


Bob Dylan, the Decemberists, Weezer, Rise Against, Hole, Motion City Soundtrack, LMFAO, more
Seattle, WA
September 4 to 6 (TICKETS)
It's probably safe to say this is the first time LMFAO and BOB DYLAN will be appearing on the same bill. It's the diversity that is the best part of this long running festival, says programming director Chris Porter. "We always aim to have a broad spectrum," he says. "That's been the goal of Bumbershoot ever since it started [in 1971]." Aside from the musical lineup, the festival also spotlights comedians, visual and literary artists, performing artists and the American Poster Institute's "Flatstock," an exhibit featuring the work of underground poster artists. Another aspect setting Bumbershoot apart from similar fests is its location in the heart of downtown Seattle with outdoor and indoor venues. "It's almost campus-like," says Porter. "That makes it a lot different, with all due respect to festivals that are in big, dusty outdoor fields."


Ben Harper And The Relentless 7, Dr. Dog, OK Go, more
Canton, MA
September 11 to 12 (TICKETS)
"The entire spirit of this event is charitable, raising money for kids facing life threatening challenges," says James MacDonald, director of Good Vibes for the Life Is Good clothing company who are putting on the first annual event this summer. "Our starting point wasn't just to have a great day of entertainment," he says. "How do we use that opportunity to really make a difference in the lives of kids?" Part of the answer was to create a family-friendly concert environment where children's music wasn't an afterthought. That means that after you take your kid brother to see children's performer DAN ZANES, you can then rock out alongside Mom and Dad to OK GO and BEN HARPER. "We set out to find bands whose message was optimistic and positive, but not just a folkie or hippy dippy way," says MacDonald. "We really wanted to get every kind of genre and represent true diversity in the lineup."

Compiled by:
Luke O'Neil and Tim Karan Alternative Press