Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Cody Rico with Misfit, the founder, owner, CEO and lead talent buyer for Rico’s Ibookthings. (Photo: Cody Rico)

You might have seen the booker behind Ibookthings around town with glasses and a Groucho Marx-style mustache. In October he organized a show at the Tasty Burger in the shadow of the venerable university. The bill included two bands – no, three, four, five!

The music multiplied itself like mushrooms in the basement of the burger joint. A gala showcase featuring Cape Crush, Magazine Beach, Phantom Bay (dropping in from Germany, no less), Blame It On Whitman and Regal Seagull. No band among them a stranger to the subterranean depths.

To top it all off? The show was free, gratis, zero dollars.

No one’s asking for free shows all the time. (Well, maybe they’re asking). But cheap is good. And Ibookthings is a pretty reliable organizer of cheap shows. For the cost of a drink (or two, if you’re drinking domestic tallboys) you can hear a lineup of local talent, spiced with the occasional touring out-of-stater.

Will cheap shows at Tasty Burger become a thing? The bands enjoyed themselves, at any rate. Blame It On Whitman fired off a ribald “What the fuck is up, Tasty Burger?!” in the opening slot. What’s a basement show good for if not a little vulgarity? Regal Seagull counted a capacity room by the time the headliner hit. And the foreign nationals Phantom Bay felt right at home amid the spartan setup: “All you need is a PA, a backline, a band and an audience.” The building owner’s imprimatur doesn’t hurt either.

It would be nice to have a reliable bridge and meeting place between the DIY scenes of Allston and deeper Camberville. But if Tasty Burger’s remains a one-off, it wouldn’t be the first small-stage casualty of late. Charlie’s Kitchen had a good thing going for a while with the upstairs shows put on by Get To The Gig. When that spot fell through, the remaining show calendar was transferred to Sundays at State Park bar by MIT, and a certain kind of music was left wondering whether it could find a home in Harvard Square.

Maybe it can’t? There are superlative music venues in the tony neighborhood, including but not limited to The Sinclair, Club Passim and the newly reopened jazz haunt Regattabar. Fine places to catch a show, one and all, but not cheap. Not expensive, but not cheap. Not “scrambling between the virtual cushions of your virtual couch for admission to see your ex-roommate’s band” kind of night out. What’s a punk to do besides rent a few hours at the Cambridge Community Center or Democracy Center?

Thankfully there are more squares to explore. Here’s a few options:

Saturday: Awnthay, G.O.L.E.M., The Snorts (The 4th Wall, Arlington)

When one door closes, another door opens. A new DIY venue birthed in the hollows of Capitol Theatre. Don’t break the movie screen – it’s expensive!

Sunday: Mal Devisa, ENiAM, babybaby_explores (Middle East, Cambridge)

If you’ve come to associate The Middle East club with endless metal buffets promoted by blurry JPEGs, this sneaky experimental bill might catch you by surprise. Rhode Island’s babybaby_explores is on a heater of late.

Tuesday: Razor Braids, Mint Green, Matilde Heckler (The Rockwell, Somerville)

Brooklyn’s Razor Braids cross the river after conquering O’Brien’s this year. Will someone tell The Rockwell that they can’t use black font against a black background if they want to promote shows on their show calendar?

Nov. 17: Small Million, Gold Casio, Ruby Grove (Lilypad, Cambridge)

One of the best spots for jazz is really just one of the best spots for music. Period. An intimate venue that will showcase anyone willing to pay the rental fee. This bill’s a perky pop sampler. Locals Ruby Grove bring a little trip-hop edge.

Nov. 17-18: Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys Present: Something Strange (Crystal Ballroom, Somerville)

“Boys and girls of every age / Wouldn’t you like to see something strange?” The local treasure and music collective don’t make promises they can’t keep. A spectacle of sights and sounds awaits.

That’s a strong list of local venues hosting more or less local acts. Like Gordon Gano said: “I like American music.”

But for those whose tastes know no boundaries? Drop in on the Global Arts Live showcases popping up around town.

Last week we previewed the Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness gig at Crystal Ballroom. The South African percussion-led psych ensemble burned down the house on a Sunday night. The bandleader ran the group through its paces, dialing the funk intensity up and down as the direction of the wind dictated. Forty minutes in, they concluded their second song. It was that kind of set. A real sweaty “three water bottle” set that moved the NPR crowd in attendance into fits of ecstasy.

Everyone’s got to get off somehow, whether it’s in the basement of a burger joint or the top floor of the Somerville Theater. Get to it.


Michael Gutierrez is an author, educator, activist and editor-in-chief at Hump Day News.