24 May 2009

Boston: The Music

[I originally had a really really long post planned, covering the past couple of months, because I've been a terrible blogger and owe you all a legitimate post. Problem is, it got to be about the length of a novel, and I figure that breaking it up a little will make it more readable. This first installment, I'll just cover my experiences with the Boston music scene.]

In the Boston area, more venues are 18+, as opposed to 21+ like most of the good venues in Portland are (e.g. the Doug Fir, Berbati's Pan). It seems as though all ages shows are a bit rare in Boston, but as a college student over the age of 18, it's is heaven for shows!

The Orpheum (Boston)
The Orpheum is a stately venue in Boston, right off the Park Street T stop. Oddly enough, it has seating. I saw Andrew Bird there in January, and it was my first show with seating like that. While I think I still prefer shows where you stand, the seating situation wasn't terrible.

Portland/Oregon Equivalent: the Crystal Ballroom
Shows Seen Here: Loney, Dear/Andrew Bird

The Paradise Rock Club (Boston)
Located directly across from the Pleasant Street T stop on the Green Line, the Paradise is in the heart of BU-land. It's a pretty nice venue, and they have these platform/balcony areas at different heights along the sides and back of the room so you can sit or stand up there if you want, or you can be up against the stage, like I was for the Of Montreal show I went to back in April.

fire Zuave and Sugar and Gold opened, and then Of Montreal played in all their glory. For some reason, they didn't play a cover, which actually was really sad. Though, Kevin Barnes did prance around on stage a lot, and he kept his clothes on. I ended up going home covered in glitter and feathers (they dropped feathers on the audience from the ceiling twice over the course of the show), which is a fantastic way to leave a show, in my opinion.

Portland/Oregon Equivalent: the Roseland Theater, but far less sketchy
Shows Seen Here: fire Zuave/Sugar and Gold/Of Montreal

(The first two photos are of Sugar and Gold, and all the ones after them are of Of Montreal.)

TT the Bear's Place (Cambridge)
I saw the Wombats here back in September, and the venue was mind-blowing! It's phenomenally intimate, and really close to campus, which is really nice. Big names don't really play here, but if you listen to more obscure stuff, it's great because it's so small.

Portland/Oregon Equivalent: ?
Shows Seen Here: Paper Tigers/the Postelles/the Wombats

The Middle East (Cambridge)
The Middle East is essentially this complex on a corner in Cambridge, up in Central Square. They have a bar and restaurant, as well as two concert venues, Upstairs and Downstairs. I've only seen shows in the Downstairs, and I feel like more recognizable groups play there. Downstairs is fairly small and intimate, with a low ceiling, and it's really dark thanks to the black paint (a la the Roseland theater in Portland). They also start the shows an hour and a half after the doors open, which is pretty annoying. Shows there run pretty late, but it's really close to campus (it's right next to TT the Bear's), so walking back isn't really a big deal.

The Thermals show was amazing! I ended up crushed up against the monitors at the front of the stage with my friend Zoe, and the former general manager of WMBR, Ben, was there as well. The show was energetic and fun, and totally worth the bruises.

Dan Deacon was AWESOME! And I mean that in the induced-awe sense. That man has some amazing power over people. At several points during the show, he climbed down off the stage into the audience, and then instructed us to do things. He first had everyone in the room running laps (Zoe and I sat on the bar on the side of room to avoid certain injury), then he had people dancing like it was the 1800s, and the final crazy thing he got the crowd to do was incredible. He had everyone go to one side of the room, then he had some people form a tunnel with their arms, and then told everyone to go through the tunnel, and once they got to the other side to form another arch with their arms to add onto the tunnel. This tunnel clearly had to go somewhere, so he had the tunnel go up the stairs, outside through the side door, around the corner to the front door of the restaurant, in through the restaurant, and back down the stairs again. And people actually complied. Basically, the show was a huge dance-fest, and is probably one of the best shows I've ever been to. Unfortunately, the pictures I took were deleted by my computer (this is why I'll never own a digital SLR... but that's another rant), so I can't post any of the awesomeness for you.

Portland/Oregon Equivalent: ?
Shows Seen Here: Murder By Death, Point Juncture, WA/the Shaky Hands/the Thermals, Future Islands/Dan Deacon

Yep, MIT. Every year, MIT puts on a shindig in April, with a big concert in the athletic center, and a million other little events. This year, WMBR also put on a free spring music festival on the steps of Kresge auditorium. I had an event with Pi Phi during most of it, so I missed out on quite a few of the bands, but I was able to help the Harlem Shakes clean up after their set, and I saw +/-! I then went to the Ben Folds show. Hotel Lights was the first opener, and they weren't too fantastic. I guess their drummer was sick, so they did an acoustic set, but it was painfully boring. They were followed by Sara Barielles (or however you spell her name). While I don't normally listen to her music, she was great live, mostly because she's a good performer and said hilarious things in between songs. Part way through Ben Folds' set, I realized I had stopped keeping up with his music in 2005, after I saw him live with Ben Lee and Rufus Wainwright. I didn't know many of his new songs, and he played very few songs from the Ben Folds Five era. He also wasn't as all over the place as he was when I saw him the first time. A lot of people I talked to thought the sing-along portion was pretty great, but I just kind of shrugged in response, because the other time I saw him he did that too, but while standing/jumping around on top of his piano. While I was kind of disappointed by the show overall, there were two parts I am so happy I had the opportunity to hear. A while back, Ben Folds officially retired his rendition of Dr. Dre's "Bitches Ain't Shit" from his live repetoire. I had heard him play it live already, so I wasn't devastated by this news, and I didn't expect it when he played at MIT. The audience, however, was pretty insistent, and he ended up playing it. Which was awesome. The other amazing thing was the song he made up on the spot about MIT. He sang that he "loves me the gym" because of the echo, and poked fun at MIT, singing that we just "think about intellectual techinical shit," and that the crowd was siginificantly less drunk than the crowd at the show he had played the night before (which is probably true). Overall, the show was okay, and was not helped by the room getting disgustingly warm.

Portland/Oregon Equivalent: Oregon State Fair Pavilion
Shows Seen Here: Harlem Shakes/+/- (plus/minus), Hotel Lights/Sara Barielles/Ben Folds

+/- on the steps of Kresge

Overall, the music scene in Boston is probably the thing I like most about the city. Maybe it's because the shows are more accessible because I live in the city (rather than driving two hours there and back in Oregon), but whatever it is, I like it.

1 comment:

desiderata said...

Adam's cousin is in the Harlem Shakes. But neither of us were there on spring weekend. :/