Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Hereboy performs Saturday at Remnant Satellite in Cambridge’s Inman Square. (Photo: Michael Gutierrez)

Shots fired!

Last week’s column stirred the SheerHive, as I greeted the headliners for this year’s Boston Calling with a lukewarm reception. Who knew Ed Sheeran fans had such thin skin? (You knew Ed Sheeran fans had thin skin.)

In truth, though, the piece was more about spotlighting local artists playing the Big Name Festival than taking digs at established entertainment commodities. It’s a great thing to see deserving local musicians make the leap from small stages in small rooms to large stages with large crowds.

But did my entry point to the ultimate takeaway traffic in, as one commenter framed it, music snobbery? Before marking Y or N on the questionnaire, let’s reflect on the nature of music snobbery with the help of local artists. Thanks in advance to all the artists who responded to my unsolicited Instagram message!

First off, what is a “music snob?”

“A music snob is anyone aurally dissatisfied by mainstream contemporary genres or artists and someone who is constantly on the hunt for less status quo sounds.” (Husbands)

“A music snob is someone with strong opinions who isn’t afraid to share. Most people think of the word ‘pretentious’ when they hear music snob.” (Circus Trees)

You know, that doesn’t sound all that bad. The music snob comes off as passionate about music and unabashed to hold an opinion about it. The word “pretentious” starts to walk us into other territory, though …

“A music snob is a person who wields deep knowledge of music or certain kinds of music as a cudgel.” (Thighs)

Okay, now the negative sense of “music snob” is starting to come into focus. Nobody likes a bully. Nobody likes someone who uses their strengths to punch down at other’s weaknesses. We’ve all been in a classroom or workplace where some asshole flashes one extra iota of knowledge or know-how to make you look like a fool.

And yet there’s a little wiggle room in the responses received that might save some form of music snobbery. In the words of local rockers Slo-Anne, “There’s probably a gray area between snobbery and being passionate about your curated taste.”

Avoid being the bully, embrace being the champion of music you love. If you can walk that fine line, the concept of “music snobbery” might evolve into something semi-respectable, something to aspire to, an ethos to live by for music creatives and fans alike.

Can we affirm the following form of snobbery?

“I would definitely classify myself as a music snob – while I do pore over literally hours of music a day as just a simple fan of music, I’m selective with what I check out, if only because there aren’t enough hours in a day.” (Husbands)

“Selective listening” sounds like the most defensible form of music snobbery. And we all make our selections based on our personal and subjective tastes. Alt-punks Voided Shape might cultivate a “snobbish” taste in progressive metal or bebop jazz, and you might not. Slo-Anne might be gonzo about a specific live recording of Chick Corea, Vinnie C. and John Patitucci from Tokyo 1992 that doesn’t move you. Husbands sees depths in the discography of Radiohead where you see an opaque mire. And the SheerHive discovers humanity’s redemption in the polished pop warbles of the English singer-songwriter.

Fair enough. Make your choices, I’ll make mine. If you read my column (thank you!), you’re not going to find me trashing artists more than championing them. Writers who write about arts and culture put in the work to articulate ideas about music, theater, film – whatever you like – that are worth defending. And if the occasional golden calf gets toppled in the course of defending a worthy ideal? Well, shit happens, and I’m sure I’ll hear about it in the comments.


Now get off your weird message boards and go drop some dollars on live music!

Sunday: Illiterate Light, Caiola (The Sinclair, Cambridge)

The musical duo of Illiterate Light mix country and rock ’n’ roll, which isn’t an earth-shattering experiment, but you don’t often see the intersection mapped onto a guitar-and-drums two-piece. You know, White Stripes, The Black Keys, Japandroids. Usually the explosive combo is a rock concept. And if it takes a country turn, well, then you add a support regiment of pedal steel, fiddlers and banjos, as you please. Illiterate Light keeps things lean, light and breezy, and they win you over with a cowboy hat full of charisma.

Tuesday: Makaya McCraven, Photay (Crystal Ballroom, Somerville)

Jazz percussionist Makaya McCraven has been on the receiving end of high praise since at least his breakthrough album “Universal Beings”’ in 2018. But the road to and from that achievement is well worth tracking. The artist thinks of himself as a “beat scientist” as much as your standard percussionist, and he’s been busy in the lab fine-tuning a signature approach to jazz that’s all his own. Photay (who collaborated recently with Carlos Niño, who recently collaborated with Andre 3000, who recently collaborated with a flute) opens.

Feb. 23: Brittany Karlson, Forbes Graham, Nick Neuburg (The Lilypad, Cambridge)

This Music Series presents jazz shows all across town. The emphasis is on improvisation, which is the true spirit and gift of the genre to the world. Brittany Karlson will handle the standup bass, Forbes Graham takes the trumpet and Nick Neuburg sits in on the skins. Unexpect the expected.


A warm night in February, and a little rain, set the scene for a double-stack bill with Hereboy and Otis Shanty at Remnant Satellite last Saturday. The restaurant and biergarten is the little Cambridge cousin of the Somerville location. Not that people need convincing to drink beer, but a free slate of music sweetens the deal.

The location’s PA won’t win awards any time soon, but the microbrewed suds and amplified squawks created a convivial pub rock atmosphere that’s perfect for musical high-wire acts with minimal safety net.

If you’ve heard Otis Shanty’s immaculate EP “Early Birds,” you know that band makes sweet sounds in the studio. But there’s always a question of whether the studio ideas will land in the more rough and tumble sound environment of a brewpub. Sometimes the nuances of melody get traded for the visceral propulsion of rhythm, which you can feel, whether you hear it or not. Sometimes those are the best nights out.

Opener Hereboy found firm footing in their second set. (Each band played consecutive 30-minute sets, which, presumably, maximizes beers consumed for guests in attendance? That being said, a handsome crystal array of glasses and water pitchers was available at the foot of the stage for the temperance crowd. Classy!) The bouncy indie rock trio played a mix of covers and originals, including their single “moonblue.”

Four 30-minute sets? A masterful stroke of business-forward programming. But you take good music where you can get it. A local stage is a local stage. Remnant Satellite has salvaged the old music spot that was Atwood’s Tavern. That’s something to be thankful for at a moment when the Lord Hobo takeover of the old Once Lounge and Ballroom has fallen through and the rebirth of Toad resides perpetually on the horizon.

So count your blessings and sing sweet Saluds to flights of Cosmic Dawns, Soft Polygons and Flipped Orbits all the night long.

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