Here is a collaboration that showed what two organizations sharing the common goal of embracing community can do together. Cuisine en Locale, located on Highland Avenue in Somerville, is an event space that hosts public events throughout each week, accompanied by their fresh and flavorsome meals cooked in-house which they also offer as a caterer. During the first weekend of November, Hassle Fest gave attendees the opportunity to watch homegrown musicians showcase their talent while also being able to eat homegrown food. All of Cuisine en Locale’s ingredients come from locations across Massachusetts and New England.
In other words, if you were anywhere else that weekend, you weren’t experiencing New England at its finest.
Rosie and the Rosies kicked the fest off as the room began to fill up for the first night. Friday night showcased bands such as Pile and Guerilla Toss — two bands that have released consistently top-notch records while also touring extensively, gaining them followers across the country and expanding past the borders. Hunnie Bunnies returned from Philadelphia for a quick visit, bringing familiar faces while extracting reactions from new ones. Looking out over the function hall was a seating area where attendees could dine while enjoying the show below.
Carpools left Somerville to travel to Allston where the night’s after-party would include Ian playing a packed basement. It was here that I walked into the living room to find six or seven Boston Hassle volunteers crafting programs for the next day. The dedication of those working at 1 a.m. must be praised — the teamwork effort was in full effect the entire weekend, no matter what time.
The next day started a bit earlier. I took the 86 as far as I could before ending up on the other side of McGrath highway. I decided to walk to the venue and feel out the surroundings. The hill that takes you up Highland Avenue includes a public library, senior citizen housing, and Somerville High. Residents went about doing their errands or holding conversations with one another. Hardly anyone was staring down into their LCD screen of information.
Day two opened up with Fat Bobby of Oneida playing keys for a good chunk of time before Couples Counseling took stage. Last year, DigBoston called Couples Counseling “Lorde’s less-with-it older sister,” which is something I balked at. While Lorde has been molded and trained by various producers at Universal Music Group since she was a pre-teen, I doubt she’s spent much time experimenting and developing her own style the way Virginia has. How can you call someone “less-with-it” when they constantly play shows and interact with a community of artists on a daily basis? If anything, Couples Counseling gets it more than Lorde because she represents a side of music that hasn’t been fully exploited by the record companies for profit. Using a variety of samplers and pedals, Couples Counseling is an orchestra of emotion filtered through experimental technique.
During Colin L Orchestra, Hassle head Sam Potrykus, who had been running around the entire weekend managing, was still making sure everything was going smoothly even during a set he was playing. I noticed that as he came to a rest in one song, he started checking his phone as fast as he could. In other words — he was on-point during a time he didn’t even have to be. It’s these little things — the minor checks — that let you know just how dedicated Boston Hassle is to making sure the fest went smoothly for artists and attendees.
Tomboy has spent the past few years becoming a staple of DIY shows in Boston. Many of the best shows that took place in basements since “the crackdown” have either included them or have included other projects they have a hand in. Ali Donahue has worked on Smash-It-Dead Fest which, this Spring, will be in its fifth year. Last year, $5,800 was raised for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. The festival not only has music, but invites community members to develop and lead workshops that attendees can participate in. Smash-it-Dead is one of the prime examples of community using their power to develop and promote positive change in Boston.
Tredici Bacci brought an orchestra to the intimate dining hall in the upstairs of Cuisine en Locale. Playing their renditions of Italian pop music led by Simon Hanes, the ensemble was a special treat.
Brandon Seabrook, who played about an hour later, created a lot of rash and fast sounds for one man. He has released music on New Atlantis, a label run by one of the members of Hyrrokkin, who also played a bit later in the night. Another example of community working together.
That’s really what this festival celebrated. It’s the encouragement of community. It’s the open invite for exposure to music and ideas that might not have crossed someone’s path yet. It’s the fact that Andy & Alanna came all the way from Toronto to experience it, yet that wasn’t the farthest traveled for the event. The Boston area has always had a local community of artists and more bands than it knows what to do with. In a world that is connected, where knowledge and information is spread at the click of a button, there isn’t a better time to build on that. Mayor Walsh recently hired Julie Burros as the city’s first “Arts Czar.” When the Globe Opinion section ran a feature with letters to her covering most aspects of the city, I felt like there was one thing left out: the underestimated.
These are the people who either grew up or settled in the area, working part-time jobs and trying to get rent in on time every month. They are residents of the city who, instead of reading and listening to whatever music blogs are posting, dig just a bit deeper to see what the people around them are creating. We have an entire world of art centered in Boston, as well as the greater Massachusetts area, which deserves the encouragement and backing of the city to continue to innovate and grow.
Of course, with the cycle of students that almost seems to hit a refresh button every few years, don’t be surprised if Boston’s community of artists and activists starts to blossom in a way that hasn’t been seen in decades.
CHECK OUT OUR WENT THERE SECTION! SEND US YOUR VIDEOS and/or PHOTOS and REVIEWS FROM RECENT SHOWS YOU’VE ATTENDED!!! OFFER PROOF OF WHERE YOU WENT!! AND WHAT YOU SAW & HEARD!! C’MON!! JESUS.