Thursday, August 19, 2010

Gang of forty

Eight groups make impromptu debuts for the second annual ‘One Night Band’

Wrangling more than three dozen musicians together to even show up in one place on time — never mind asking them to perform an impromptu concert of music written that day — seems like one major local rock headache. But Ashley Willard, cofounder and publisher of the blog Boston Band Crush, says last year’s inaugural edition of “One Night Band’’ went off so seamlessly, she didn’t need to tinker with the formula at all. The second performance of what she hopes will become an annual tradition takes place tomorrow at the Middle East.

“There’s very little that I have changed because it was such a success.’’ she says. “If it ain’t broke . . .’’
The event takes 40 musicians from the Boston music world and mixes them together into eight brand-new bands drawn at random. The new groups then have to perform a four-song set of material they write together that day, including one cover song. The result is something between speed dating for rockers and a very loud iPod set to shuffle. Last year it produced such inspired, if unlikely, pairings as electronic producer Michael Potvin performing with singer-songwriter Ad Frank, pop-punk singer and guitarist Joel Reader of the Fatal Flaw, power-pop bassist Jen de la Osa of Aloud, and drummer Abe Lateiner of Hands and Knees.

Frank, who won’t be performing again — once you’ve played you can never return — helped with fund-raising and production for this year’s event.

“It’s just a cool way of bringing bands together without pitting them against each other,’’ he says. “It’s the opposite, in fact. By design, everyone is removed from their element and forced to create with people they’ve never worked with, and in some cases have never met. It compels musicians to bring out their best qualities. I had four frontmen, well, one was a frontwoman, in my band, and there was way more humility than ego in that room.’’

Sophia Cacciola of the band Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, and another cofounder of Boston Band Crush, played a role in conceiving the original “One Night Band.’’ This year she will perform onstage.

“I think it was a mixture of fear, anticipation, and excitement, for the participants and the organizers,’’ she says, describing the show. “Once the music started, and the bands were actually really good, everyone settled in and had a great time being surprised by each new band.’’

Cacciola’s husband and bandmate, Michael Epstein (who also plays with the Motion Sick), will make the jump from behind-the-scenes producer to performer this year as well. He says the appeal of the event is twofold: community-building and engendering creativity.

“It’s really about the Boston music community coming together and sharing an experience, and not really about the bands or people involved,’’ he says. “The rapid nature of the songwriting encourages participants to really stretch beyond their normal method of writing and explore collaborative, quick output.’’

Both Epstein and Cacciola say the Peppermint Patties, a group made up of members of the Luxury, Vagiant (now Tijuana Sweetheart), Muy Cansado, Harry and the Potters, and the In Out stood out from the crowd with their thematic approach to this musical pop quiz. “Their approach to the night was glorious,’’ Cacciola says. “Take the standard format of ’50s pop songs and write lyrics about murder.’’ Since the triumphant experiment of their first show, the Peppermint Patties have regrouped to play several shows. A selection of all of the music and a documentary about the event can be found on the website

Willard also cites the spirit of community the night engenders as one of the most inspiring parts about “One Night Band.’’ “There was so much excitement and awe in the air,’’ she says. “I don’t think anyone expected the bands to be as fantastic as they all were. Here were all these local musicians coming together and braving the challenge, and they were all nervous when the day began, but so delighted by night’s end. I couldn’t believe how smoothly it all went. I kept waiting for a disaster to strike but not a single thing went wrong.’’

Tomorrow a new group of brave souls will accept the challenge, including Marc Pinansky of Township, Mikey Holland of Mean Creek, Will Davies and Chris Barrett of Kingsley Flood, Edrie Edrie of Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys, and Tommy Allen of Drug Rug. It’s virtually impossible to predict what any of the music a group like that might make together, and that’s exactly the point.

“I’m excited to see what will happen with a few people in particular,’’ says Willard. “Like Noel Coakley, a lap steel/banjo/mandolin player [from the Autumn Hollow Band]. Someone like Noel could very well end up in a band with a metal guitarist or a synth player, or both — so things could get really interesting.’’

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