Thursday, July 18, 2024

Paper Lady performs Friday at Crystal Ballroom in Somerville’s Davis Square. (Photo: Michael Gutierrez)

As the New England Patriots exit a season of misery (and enter an offseason of misery), we can remind ourselves that football isn’t the only team sport out there worth your time. Music is too.

For every one musician you see on stage, there are 10 helping hands behind the curtain making the music scene happen.

Bookers, for example, are often the first domino to drop in the course of bringing a live event to fruition. Either the booker contacts the artist or the artist contacts the booker, who is responsible for piecing together the show calendar at your favorite venue. From there a nice idea transforms into a thing that is, actually, you know, going to happen in real life.

We talked to Heather Timmons of Tiny Oak Booking to learn a little about what the local music scene is like from her point of view. (See also our piece profiling Cody Rico of Ibookthings.) You can see Tiny Oak shows regularly at local venues such as The Jungle, The Rockwell and Midway Cafe.

What got you into booking? How did you get your start?

I wanted to be involved in the music scene in some way but wasn’t sure exactly how, as I wasn’t in a band and didn’t have any experience. During college, I started applying for different types of internships in the Boston area and landed one with DAve Crespo of WEMF Radio/Full Scene Ahead/UNregular Radio. From there I started working the local shows DAve was booking, eventually sharing the booking responsibilities and becoming more involved in all aspects at WEMF Radio. This led to me starting my own booking adventure, Tiny Oak Booking.

What’s a “successful show,” in your estimation? What’s a “mission accomplished”?

This is hard to answer because the definition of success is subjective. Obviously the goal and the hope is that the shows are enjoyable and financially successful for all those involved. But I think if everyone walks away from the show gaining something positive, it’s a success. If the venue wants to keep having shows, the bands want to keep playing and the fans want to come back – that’s enough.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about fairness in the ticketing marketplace, partly due to the Taylor Swift phenomenon, partly because it’s just a conversation that’s been simmering for decades. Is there any aspect of or fallout from that conversation that affects your work?

Ticket fees and prices for a lot of larger shows have been outrageous. Especially since a lot of that profit isn’t being disbursed to the proper parties involved. What bums me out the most is that people will complain about paying $10 to see four local bands at a local venue that helps support their community but will pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to see these national artists.

I understand that part of it is the “knowing what you’re paying for” aspect as well as the sheer scale of these large shows. But all these national artists started somewhere. How cool is it to say you saw so-and-so back when they played a small, intimate venue in your city?

The next show you see at The Jungle just might be a Tiny Oak event. And all those acorns on stage just might grow into something amazing.



Here are a few more acorns getting planted on stages around town.

Friday: Boston Urban Ceilidh (Crystal Ballroom, Somerville)

There are plenty of events to grab your attention at the 21st Annual Boston Celtic Music Festival, unfolding at venues across Cambridge and Somerville from Thursday to Sunday. But how many give the audience a starring role like the Boston Urban Ceilidh (sounds like KAY-lee)? Follow the lead of the “in-time caller” and learn social dances from the Cape Breton and Scottish traditions. No experience necessary. The event opens with a performance by Highland Dance Boston and closes with a Celtic EDM from Ramblxr.

Monday: The Fringe (Lilypad, Cambridge)

Hard to believe that the free jazz project The Fringe has been at it for more than 50 years. The trio of tenor-saxophonist George Garzone, bassist Richard Appleman and drummer Bob Gullotti formed in 1971. Though the lineup has evolved over the years – Appleman departed in 1985, replaced by John Lockwood, and Gullotti passed away in 2020 – the experimental ethos rides again every Monday at 10:30 p.m. The long-running residency attracts a motley salon of jazz connoisseurs, A-plus collaborators, music students of all stripes and tourists just passing through town. The dimmer switch turns down real low during these sets. Don’t forget your flashlight.

Jan. 18: Basel Zayed (Crystal Ballroom, Somerville)

Global Arts Live strikes again! The world music series pops up in Davis Square, playing host to vocalist and virtuoso oud player Basel Zayed. The world-traveling musician draws from a deep familiarity with the maqam and Arabic music tradition to perform songs full of pathos, wonder and joy. Zayed is bringing the full band, to expect a big sound.


Speaking of Crystal Ballroom, Worcester’s Geskle pulled through Davis Square on Friday. The band is the brainchild of chief songwriter Jesse Golliher, who spins alt-pop yarns with his four-piece band. Plenty of family, friends and well-wishers in attendance. So much so that when Golliher led a “happy birthday” song in honor of the bassist’s father, you’d be excused for thinking you stumbled into a private event. But all gatecrashers were welcomed to the party.

It was a strong three-stack bill top to bottom, with opening performances by Trophy Wife and last year’s Boston Music Awards-nominated Alt/Indie Artist of the Year Paper Lady. Those are two strong bands with two strong lead vocalists crooning and caterwauling their way through hazy, gazey walls of distorted chord progressions. A school of thought suggests you might separate two strong vocal attacks on the same bill with something in the way of a musical palate cleanser. But we’ll take these two bands any way we can get them. Will Trophy Wife perform in the area less now that they’ve up and moved to Brooklyn?

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