Sunday, July 14, 2024

Indoor Friends performs Sunday on the Cheap Chocolate Day bill at The Rockwell in Somerville’s Davis Square. (Photo: Mike Gutierrez)

There’s a certain point in the life cycle of a local band when the itch to tangle with the Music Industry (capital “M” and “I”) arrives.

Suppose the band has passed all the local milestones. A few house shows? Check. A demo? Check. The first “real” gig at a place you actually pay to hear music? Check. A self-released EP (or even an LP), an interview with a Music Blog of Record, an opening slot for a nationally recognized act touring through town? Check, check, check.

When all the nearby hills have been climbed, the siren song of loftier peaks in more distant lands is heard. Musicians with grit, ambition and a flexible schedule start to eye the “industry fest” circuit. You know, the type of fest that caters to “insiders,” pays artists little or nothing and showcases their music to strangers in the back alley of pizzerias in the early afternoon.

Why would a band put up with such treatment? I shudder to articulate the notion that an artist aims to be “discovered.” It’s true that once upon a time a little known Canadian band called Arcade Fire blew up after a few gigs at the CMJ Music Marathon, a former industry fest in New York City. But a band today is likely to put more stock in gaming social media for attention than hoping to catch the ear of a tipsy music exec. So why do bands still do these things?

It can be a valuable experience to break out of the comforts of your local music scene. Where everybody knows your name. And they’re always glad you came. Fresh ears hear your music and you make connections with bands from all over.

You also get to see the professional side of the industry, and the view can be eye-opening. Some of the artists in bands that play our Camberville clubs night after night for pennies will graduate to a full-time career in music. The vast majority of these careers, though, will not be as performers on stage. They will be sound techs, artist managers, bookers, venue operators, music educators or any of the countless ancillary occupations that make music as a living possible.

Easy enough for the casual fan, or even music critic, to forget that the business is more than the Taylor Swifts, Beyonces and Ed Sheerans clamoring for your attention. They’re just the face of music – and behind them is an entire body doing all the heavy lifting. Making the pilgrimage to an industry fest is one way to learn more about how to take a step forward in music beyond just booking your next gig.

There are 571 artists from the United States alone performing at SXSW this March, never mind the legion of musicians coming from the rest of the globe. Doubtless, we’ll have a Massachusetts contingent in Austin. But if you’re looking for a less hectic, cheaper and more digestible industry fest experience, consider the New Colossus Festival, scheduled a week earlier (March 6-11) in New York City.

There are at least four Bay State bands making their way to the fest: Carinae (Hadley), Coral Moons (Boston), Paper Lady (Boston) and Prewn (Northampton). If you’re passing through the Lower East Side that week, stop by and show some support.

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Until then, shop local.

Friday: Husbands, Cigarettes for Breakfast, Glimmer and The Dreamtoday (Cantab Lounge, Cambridge)

Four shoegaze bands with bite assemble in the subterranean depths of the Cantab Lounge to do battle against the forces of evil. Kind of like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You could place a down payment on a new car with the dollar value of the stompboxes that are going to be at this show. Cigarettes for Breakfast are visiting from Philly on the heels of their recent LP “Join The Circus,” and Glimmer is from NYC. The remaining two bands are standout local yokels just looking to grind. Cowabunga!

Friday: Matt Pond PA, Alexa Rose (Club Passim, Cambridge)

Matt Pond has been angling to drop the “PA” from his moniker in recent years. No dice. Like cowboy Heath Ledger said to cowboy Jake Gyllenhaal: “I can’t quit you.” And the prolific indie rocker can’t stop rocking, touring the freshly minted EP “Call and Response” that he recorded with Alexa Rose and released in January. The pair make a charming Americana combo for a night full of honeyed harmonies, golden licks and purple mountain majesties.

Saturday: Rebirth Brass Band (Crystal Ballroom, Somerville)

Traditional New Orleans brass band music shot through with strains of funk, soul and hip-hop. If you’re looking for a change of pace in deep winter, listen to the bright notes of Southern horns on tour. Once a local institution, now a gift to the world. Make Friday your own personal Mardi Gras. Beads optional.

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It was Cheap Chocolate Day 2024 at the Rockwell this past Sunday. No joke! Bowls of candy everywhere you looked. Kisses, peanut butter cups, heart-shaped confections of all types. Is it true that stores discount the seasonal candy offerings after Valentine’s Day? More likely some psychopath MBA orders employees to take a flamethrower to excess inventory to keep prices high.

The headliner for the evening was The New Limits. Ska, ladies and gentlemen, a mile beneath the Earth’s upper crust in the depths of Davis Square.

There are few venue entrances in Camberville with as much intrinsic drama as the descending staircase at The Rockwell. You open the door below the marquee and you find yourself at the top of a long, Porter T station-style double staircase. Like you’ve just crested the first peak of a rollercoaster and you’re about to take the plunge. No doubt a few loop-the-loops in your future. And it’s only right that there’s a horn section and black-and-white checkered apparel waiting for you at the end of the ride.

The New Limits rolled seven deep, which tallies one more than their usual membership. The extra head? A trumpet player. There’s really no upper limit on how many players belong in a ska band. And if you’re adding another ska-colyte to the proceedings, they might as well add them to the horn section.

Besides the headliner, though, no ska to be had on the rest of the bill. You usually want to go “full ska,” if you’re going ska at all, when constructing a bill. It helps bring the ska state of mind and worldview to fruition.

But the second-best option is to surround your ska with quality local giggers of whatever shade or stripe. Lady Pills delighted in their first show of 2024. Trash Rabbit didn’t miss a beat with a fill-in bassist (their regular bassist is off doing “some jazz thing in New York”), cranking out high tempo, melodic thrashpop. And Indoor Friends answered the question that was on everyone’s mind: “This is an electric ukulele, not a child’s guitar.”


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