Have you heard of the Record Hospital? I should hope so—it has been a huge proponent of Boston’s D.I.Y. culture for over 30 years now. Started in 1984 on local college radio station WHRB, it was established to provide airtime to students involved in and passionate about the budding independent rock scene around them. Well isn’t that a nice thought? Harvard kids feeling punk—or rather, as Television Personalities put it, “part time punks”—has an air of absurdity to it: the supposed pretension of actually caring about forms of music that often seem to reproach aspirations for wealth, prestige, exclusivity, and power (hallmarks of the Ivy League).
While it is hard to escape this affiliation, my experience over the past five years on the Record Hospital has shown me that the department cares deeply about community radio, the independent artist, and the illuminating experience of live music. WHRB (95.3 FM) is well known for its classical airplay, and even as its singular dedication to the collected recordings of Vladimir Horowitz has often received countrywide acclaim, it maintains a milieu of revulsion for the alienating and frequently abrasive sounds of the subsequent programming conducted by the Record Hospital.
However, for decades this programming has frequently drawn the attention of counterculture misfits, socially marginalized individuals, embittered commuters, and frustrated adolescents alike. Running every weekday from 10pm to 5am (though nothing too cheeky before 10:15pm), we play primarily vinyl dating back to the early sixties. Our “coffins”—the expansive library of records collected by members over the years—catalog half a century of independent music. Compilations of garage music, mod rock, the earliest punk/post-punk records, hardcore demos, post-hardcore splits, power violence, thrash, crust metal, grunge, shoegaze, no wave, slowcore, chimp rock, pig fuck, and so on (I could continue but I probably wouldn’t be helping the pretension thing) line our shelves. And remember: This is radio so since we got, you do too.
One of the most important ways RH has contributed to the local music community over the past decade has been through our annual fest. This traditionally entails a two-night function at a locally operated community space, with one night dedicated to New England hardcore/post-hardcore bands and the other dedicated to acts purporting other forms of sonic eccentricity. In more recent years, the lineup has been dichotomized into a “loud” night and “less loud” night—which is a shame, as it seems more endemic of the campus community’s aforementioned revulsion for channels of untrammeled musical expression. Often times the Democracy Center has been kind enough to accommodate Record Hospital Fest, and members have been supporting other shows held there for as long as I’ve known. In the past our fest has housed performances by now-legendary underground groups from Massachusetts to California. To name a few: Ampere, Orchid, Daniel Striped Tiger, Libyans, The Body, Lucky Dragons, Sinaloa, Off Minor, and Social Circkle. I was also amped to see Sean Yeaton (from DST and Parquet Courts) recently waxing lyrical about RH Fest to Nardwuar “The Canadian Toothbrush”!
This year RH Fest will be held at Holden Chapel (in Harvard Yard) this Saturday from 6pm to midnight. Due to unprecedented cancellations, it has been condensed by the members into a single evening. I will be releasing another post about the specifics of each act, but the lineup can be found on Facebook and on flyers around your neighborhood. Acts I’m most looking forward to this year are DOG, IAN,and JULIUS EARTHLING, all of whom are bound to do justice to this sense-stirring tradition.
Record Hospital Fest is an all-ages, no booze, no drugs affair. We ask for donations of $10–15 at the door, most of which go toward the bands, while the rest is allotted to a local charity or cause decided on by the members. (Needless to say, RH is functionally a non-profit entity.)
I hope to see as many Boston Hassle supporters there as can make it—and, hey, tell your friends!