Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Blastfest 3!!!

Anyone who has been to the Whitehaus has probably spent some time staring into the wall collage of knick knacks, toys, broken instruments and other assorted randomness like an ISpy book you read as a kid. Each year on the vernal equinox, all the most interesting sculptures adorning the walls, ceilings and all the spaces in between the haus are dragged from Jamaica Plain to Cambridge in order to decorate the stage and concert hall of the Central Square YMCA. A similar collage of sounds was assembled from the Whitehaus Family Record’s artists and friends, for the all day, 22 band talent showcase that was the third Blastfest.

Bands switched off from the main stage and the corner of the room to streamline set up time of the vastly different acts. In the back, Girlfriends playfully ripped everyone's ears off with the garage insanity of their self-proclaimed already-been-chewed-bubblegum trash pop. After, everyone spun around to watch Greg Mullen melt the main stage with just an acoustic and harmonica. He was dressed in a three piece deep ocean blue suit, matching the aquatic themed tunes of his recent release The Hungry Ocean. Immediately following in the back was the digital psycho-instrumentals of the Concord Ballet Orchestra Players. The spacious dissonance of guitars, bass, drums, and trombone were mashed together with synth-melodies and even a theremin. Then later something completely different would be on the main stage, like the slam poetry of Casey Rocheteau.

There were also tables set up by the Papercut Zine Library. Zine-sters, graphic novelists, even anarchists were selling and handing out a variety of hand-stapled, xeroxed goodies. And if you got hungry, there were two huge jars of peanut-butter and jelly, free for all. The festival also coincided with the release of the vinyl label sampler The Whitehaus Family Record Family Record. Other highlights include a visit from Shai Erlichman's parents during his set, reaffirming the "family" part of the collective's title.

Blastfest was one of the first chances audiences anywhere had to hear the electrified French Cops' catchy, foot stomping songs, like the collective favorite "Miah." In between tunes, lead Morgan Shaker stopped to do a thank you countdown for everyone that helped make the festival possible. He’s the main man behind the fest that assembled all the troops. The group had been up since 5 a.m., delivering multiple carloads of hootenanny to the concert hall. Greg Mullen was also one of the hard working hausers, manning the soundboard and progressively shedding articles of his suit throughout the day.

Another was Greg Beson, filling in on drums for basically every band that needed percussion. For his own set, with the band Manners, he had two drum kits set up. On "Knives," the dual percussion became essential, as they would pound out a single beat and then mute it, causing an overwhelming ruckus one quarter note at a time. Beson mentioned that he was leaving the haus soon to go "skip stones in Maine." Perhaps reflected in the change of the song's lyrics from "I wear a coat of knives, try and hold me," to "I shed my coat of knives so you could hold me."

When the Needy Visions took the stage to end the night, everyone got to their feet and a cloud of people gathered from out of nowhere, dancing and grooving to their silly pop rocks sweetness. During their closing tune, "Number of the Beast," the collective members jumped on stage and attempted to destroy the set, but mostly just ended up goofily dancing.

I wish I could mention every single band that played Blastfest, because they were all amazing. I'll include the whole list below with links. Check 'em out:

Hosted by Simone Beaubien.
1130 – B Law
1200 – Wolf Woolf
1230 – James Lindsey
1 – Girlfriends
130 – Boy without God
2 – Gregory J Mullen
230 – Concord Ballet Orchestra Players
330 – Apollo Sunshine
4 – Shai Erlichman
430 – Casey Rocheteau
5 – The Great Valley
530 – Debbie and the Bullets
6 – French Cops
630 – Ambitious Tugboat
7 – Turtle Ambulance
730 – The Woodrow Wilsons
8 – Duck That
830 – Avi Jacob Rock Band
9 – Manners and the Woolves
930 – Tulsa
10 – Rene
1030 – The Needy Visions

Photography by Lee Stepien

Published in Performer Magazine, May 2010 issue.

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