Caitlin Kenney is a “lady” about town.
Due to mild poverty and proximity I happily hit the basements hard this year. 2014 was a bit of a whirlwind, which I won’t complain about. These are the things that made it memorable for me…
[January] Monuments: Work by Zoárd Tyeklár Welles @ Lilypad
This was a big year for one of my favorite local artists, Zoárd Tyeklár Welles, and it was a satisfying thing to witness. His first exhibit (ever), Monuments @ Lilypad back in January, truly rang my bell. The prints and drawings in this show question the authenticity (and value) of our connections to one another and even ourselves. The process of carving drawings into wood and then printing mirrored versions onto paper only perpetuates the show’s theme of inevitable abstraction. His zine by the same name is a real treasure too.
This summer, Zoárd ran a Kickstarter campaign to rent some studio space and up his output. It worked! Since then he has shown at East Hampton’s pop-up Fugitive Arts Project, Cambridge’s Industry Lab, multiple zine fests, and our own regular Black Market art/zine/flea market.
I’m happy to see the right people investing in their own talent and watching it pay off. Can’t wait to see more from Zoárd in 2015.
[February] The Bad Plus @ Scullers Jazz Club (Allston)
I’ve probably seen these guys about a dozen times in Boston and NY, and I’d happily see them another dozen. The Bad Plus is Ethan Iverson on piano, Reid Anderson on upright bass, and Dave King on drums. Considered a jazz group, their influences are varied and their timing impeccable. I find their live performances to be completely entrancing, as each musician works with and off each other. They tour the world regularly but usually hit Regattabar annually in the Fall. Admission to the show was a birthday gift from one of my closest comrades, a generous gesture that made this show extra special.
[February] Company One’s production of “The Flick” written by Annie Baker
I admittedly did not see a lot of plays this year…just how the cookie crumbled. I did, however, make it my business to see Annie Baker‘s new play “The Flick” over at The Modern Theatre downtown.
Baker, 32, is a New England playwright who tells stories of outsiders from the inside, or maybe through the back door. Her characters feel like real people, she’s not afraid of silence, and she knows how to make an audience genuinely laugh repeatedly. As a playwright, she writes characters that are complicated and well developed but still give the actors room to breathe.
Theater should be all about collaboration, and it’s most satisfying when all the players are actually playing. “The Flick” was a second collaboration for Baker with director Shawn LaCount and actor Alex Pollock. Back in 2010, Company One produced a trilogy of Baker’s plays, including “The Aliens,” which was easily one of my favorite theater productions this decade. Click the links and read more about them.
Music for making the Boston Compass newspaper
From finding out about events to choosing content to writing to editing to layout to print. The moons become suns and a pdf becomes 15,000 newspapers. I’ll never get used to that. It’s been a monthly ritual putting together the new issue, working either at home or at a room at Whitehaus with Rose Parry, Sam Potrykus, James Staub, Sydney Kinchen, James Mobley, and rotating others. It’s been one of the most edifying exercises/experiences of my life, and I gotta whole lotta love for the people who showed up (physically or mentally) to make it happen.
The range of music that kept our gears greased through this process was vast and varied, but a few things constantly in rotation were Ed Schrader’s Music Beat (Baltimore), Crosss’ album Obsidian Spectre (Halifax), Joey Pizza Slice/Son of Salami (VT), Tredici Bacci (Italia/Boston), and the Memories station (740AM) when the sun would come back around. When writing at home, I listened to a lot of Yves Montand, Yann Tiersen, and the Bad Plus. Yves Montand always had the voice, but he gained a real ease with age that I find very soothing to think alongside.
[April/May] Études: Kenji Nakayama @ Fourth Wall
2014 marks 10 years since Kenji Nakayama changed his life-course from a mechanical engineer in Japan to an artist in Boston, moving to study traditional sign painting at the since-closed Butera School of Art. This was his first major solo exhibit and, for my money, truly the best of the year.
Études featured a series of 49 paintings, all created with the same limited materials, which only enhanced the overall wow factor when hung all together. Every single part of this show exuded thoughtful and beautiful energy, from the title to the number of paintings in the series (referencing the 49-day period of mourning observed in Zen Buddhism, during which the soul transitions from death). Visually, Kenji achieves true depth, and there is a musicality to his strokes which move in symmetry…each piece seems to radiate eternal harmony.
This show was also the last major exhibit for Boston’s beloved Fourth Wall Project—an art space run by the Bodega crew with the talented Oliver Mak as director. This was a space that had popped up in the Fenway area, putting up ambitious show after ambitious show beginning in 2009. They kept it almost entirely local and DIY, but done so well I don’t think most people realized.
Fourth Wall Project is a shining example of what can happen when the right people start utilizing some of the vacant spaces around town, and why the city needs to review their poppycock permitting policies.
Looking forward to more, more, more from the Bodega boys and Kenji…
[June?] Son of Salami, Frank Hurricane @ Deep Thoughts
Every year technology advances, the more I wanna retreat. That might be why I’m always down to see Joey Pizza Slice building songs in a basement with his mic and his tape recorder sans eraser head. This was a solid show all around, with Frank Hurricane’s bountiful good vibes leading the way and an intimate set that charmed as per usual. I made a fair trade for the tape Joey made during the set, which I prize. Lo-fi DIY a lá R. Stevie Moore.
[Summertime] Late Night Cinema Roll @ Spooky Corral (JP)
This summer I spent more than a few warm nights (early mornings) watching quality movies under the stars with friends at this outdoor screening series. From John Waters’ Female Trouble to the beginning of surrealist film with Luis Buñuel and Dalí to the lethal dance moves of E.T.’s branded fourth cousin-in-law in Mac and Me to watching Jimmy Stewart’s gears turn in Hitchcock’s Rope, the curators have taste and the Spooky Corral itself is a pretty magical spot—one that I still need to see in the full light of day…next year.
[August] Chain and the Gang & Ed Schrader’s Music Beat @ Lilypad
Lots of people came outta the woodwork for this, and rightly so. These bands don’t know how to let down an audience. Each harnesses a different kind of electrifying current that seems to grab you ’til they’re done with ya, while the rest of the world fades into the background…
Hanging out with Ian Svenonius (aka Chain of Chain and the Gang) had me hopeful for humanity for, like, a week. Incomparably quick and present, his never-ending thirst to know and see and hear might be what’s led him to be one of the most relevant independent thinkers of our time. Yawn, or so says I. His balance of kindness and coolness to all needs to be the new model, but I don’t know if anyone else could strike it.
Sick show. Sick night.
[8/16] New England Zine Fest @ Cambridge YMCA
I love zines. I love their versatility. I love their brevity, their accessibility, and especially how cheap they are to mass-produce.
Whether you’re an illustrator, writer, photographer, philosopher, poet, collage artist, or whatever…this is a format that allows lots of people to put their thing out there. Anyone with an idea, some degree of effort, and access to a photocopier can make a zine.
This fest was the first event I organized for the Hassle and it was a pretty gratifying experience. Two floors, 40 vendors, workshops and skillshares with people like Brian Connolly (Nothing Mattress), Papercut Zine Library, Trifecta Editions, Zoárd Tyeklár Welles, Dana Maple…Next year’s will certainly be better, but this event was a lot of fun and there was a lot of talent to check out. Major thanks to the hands that helped!
[9/27] John Funke goes from Backwoods to Burnt Biscuits on 88.1 WMBR
Since I unknowingly stumbled upon John Funke’s show Backwoods on WMBR, I truly began looking forward to Saturday mornings at work. This wizard of wax has been gettin’ people loose locally for decades. You might know him as one of the DJs from the Soulelujah family over @ Zuzu (who have been shakin’ asses every Saturday night since 2003), or maybe from his Thursdays @ the Independent, OR from “Pretty Funke” Mondays with Pretty Things Beer @ State Park…
Anyway, every Saturday from 10am–12pm you could depend on tuning into 88.1 FM for your daily dose of invigorating vintage rock’n’rock, heavy on the soul—until late September, when this announcement came out of the blue to his legion of listeners, letting us know this was the last Backwoods show after 20 years on the air. The clouds soon parted as he then announced his new show, Burnt Biscuits, which has been boppin’ heads every Saturday from 11am–12pm on 88.1 FM WMBR ever since.
In reality we’ve only lost an hour with the affectionately known Uncle Funke, but it’s still the end of an era. So let’s appreciate the man for always putting in the time to do what he does so well. Boston and Cambridge wouldn’t be the same without ya!
[10/2] The Artist’s Voice: Sheila Hicks @ ICA, then Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, Bugs and Rats, and Free Pizza @ Church
This was a FREE talk at the ICA with Jenelle Porter, curator of the exhibit Fiber: Sculpture 1960–present and Sheila Hicks, a textile artist featured in the exhibit.
These lighthearted and lucid ladies are clearly friends with a lot of respect going in both directions. They also seem to share the privilege of enjoying careers doing exactly what they want to be doing. This talk was full of interesting stories and genuine laughter. From Hick’s beginnings with fiber in South America to her day-to-day routine in Paris, she leads a rare life that continues to challenge and fulfill her. Glad to have caught this.
After the talk, we walked over to see Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, Bugs and Rats, and Free Pizza play at Church in Fenway. Which translates to: This entire evening was a delight.
[October?] Olivia Neutron-John, Blood Club, Miami Doritos @ Black Lodge
I actually remember most of this day; the cards were in my favor for its entirety. I found money and baked goods, and I learned that THIS show was happening. Fuck. Ølivia Neutron-John claims the spot of the most beautiful and powerful performance I saw this year. Somewhere between Japanese Noh theatre and nothing else I know of. Anna Nasty is Queen.
This was also the first time I saw Liana as Blood Club, who really floored me.
Grateful to have been to this one.
[10/26 & 12/13] Black Market art/zine/flea markets
This year I saw many thoughts and conversations become a reality with the start of Black Market, a regular ongoing flea market I organize with Dan Shea and Ignore Rock*n*Roll Heroes. These are all about offering affordable opportunities for local artists/artisans, small businesses, record labels, and amateurs alike to sell their merch/service and build a local audience.
On the other side of this thing, it’s a chill marketplace where people can find 60+ vendors’ worth of curated and affordable secondhand goods, artwork, new and used music, vintage clothing and accessories, locally made bodycare, woodwork, and other cool handcrafted crap.
It’s inspiring to see so many people doing their own thing. Next one is February; stay tuned for more details…
Black Lives Matter
This year marks a pretty appalling time for our joke of a justice system, although I’m sure it’s always been this way. I hope its complete failure to protect and represent all its citizens continues NOT to be tolerated. Let’s hope the careless deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner serve as a wake-up call and a catalyst for change.
[December] The Last pRIMORDIAL sOUNDS
For the past few years, Noah Bond and Spencer Gralla have been holding down the psychedelic garage-rock fort every first Wednesday @ Middlesex Lounge over in Central Square. This December the boys behind the pRIMORDIAL sOUNDS night and record label had a proper send-off to celebrate the end of their monthly series with a bevy of bands, showing their love and hanging out. It might be over, but at least it was always good. Now get psyched for what’s next…
Aaaaand 2014 sets I won’t forget…
Every time I saw the Particulars this year.
Guerilla Toss @ Deep Thoughts (first time I saw them live with the new line up/material. Fuuuuuuuuuck)
Horselords, Bugs and Rats, (New England) Patriots, Designer @ Neverland
Beat Awfuls, Creaturos, Chris Warren and Nightime Sunshine @ Zuzu
Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, Skimask, (New England) Patriots @ Church
Tredici Bacci at Hum Journal Launch Party @ Loft in the Seaport district
Tellavision @ an Allston spot
The Channels @ Lilypad
Flag Day, Jesus Vio @ JP Drive In
Ursula @ Casablanca
The Monsieurs, Nice Guys, Free Pizza @ Cantab Lounge
Sam Rogich solo project, Slender Men @ Hoot room
Creaturos @ Neverland
Trophy Knife @ Hoot room
Couples Counseling @ Casablanca
HASSLE FEST. Kim fucking Gordon.
Hope 2015 treats you well…thanks for reading…this was long