Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Sunday crowd at Boston Calling – a very big one, by some accounts – is amped for Chappell Roan. (Photo: Julia Levine)

“Support local music.”

You see that phrase, or variations thereof, everywhere if you travel in the right circles. You’ll read it in this column all the time, sliced and diced in different ways, lest it become a hollow slogan. Because sometimes the messaging can start to become vague, and the who, what and why of the phrase can start to become fuzzy.

So let’s hit the pause button for a moment and remind ourselves what we’re talking about with this phrase.

“Support” is deployed here as a verb in the imperative mood. That is, as a command. Sit! Stay! Heel! Fetch! Do you feel a little bossed around? What sanctimonious voice is ringing from the rooftops, telling us what to do? The good news is that you don’t have to listen. The force of the command is not contractual, not legal in any way, and there is no direct material penalty for disregarding it. The only obligation is a moral one, and it makes itself felt only if you already, as they say, “hear the call.”

“Local” is an adjectival modifier, so let’s skip straight to what it’s modifying: “music.” (A noun, for all of you keeping score at home.) If the phrase “support local music” has any force, “music” better be a lovely thing that deserves a little water once in a while so you can watch it grow. For a musician, it’s hardly an argument that needs to be articulated. But for the rest of us: What have you done for me lately, music?

A vast and impetuous question. Music, like dogs and gastrointestinal bacteria, has been a friend to us since our prehistory. Before we could write to record a history of music, we sang and we passed our histories along down the line through the songs of bards. Music is one of precious few threads that weave throughout all of our humanity for all time. Try to forget music, and music will still remember you.

Anyone who claims they are not moved by music is like someone downplaying the power of the sun because they can’t sunbathe at midnight. What key moment or period in our lives was not accompanied by a soundtrack? The pop hits of adolescence burned into our memory banks until our last breath. The song that was playing when you first fell in love. The karaoke standards you belted out with friends. The arena anthems that blast through the soundsystem when your team is ahead, and behind. The “Pomp and Circumstance” that walks you to your diploma. Your wedding song.

Okay, you’re not a monster. You accept that basic argument that music is a good thing, which deserves your love and support. But what about this “local” business?

At this point we waste time hair splitting about what counts as “local” and what doesn’t. There is always some vaguely xenophobic handwringing that accompanies these debates. Let’s not go there. Instead, let’s just make the simple point that if you’re lobbing salvos of water and fertilizer over the fence, the grass is going to grow greener on the other side. And if you’re knitting together playlists based on algorithms installed by Silicon Valley, the grass is going to be replaced by AstroTurf.

Hats off to the individuals and events bringing life to the phrase “Support local music.” Whether it’s music director Laura Umbro leading the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School Orchestra to glory or local bands rocking out at the Orange Stage at Boston Calling, or the all-local (and local-ish) lineup for Nice, A Fest in July, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Find your own cat, and get skinnin’.

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Hit this

Sunday: Yoni Gordon & The Goods, Slo-Anne, Sailor Down (State Park, Cambridge)

Sundays at State Park used to be a free show series. Not so with this triple-stack indie rock bill, which is charging $10 at the door. Hey, no such thing as a free lunch, at least not forever. The good news is that turning the corner into a paid enterprise gives the venue a better chance of attracting real talent over the long haul. You can’t bank on the goodwill of artists playing freebie shows forever. Throw down your ten-spot for indie rock all along the spectrum from jangly to heavy to strange but true.

June 6: Baker Thomas Band with Samantha Farrell (Lizard Lounge, Cambridge)

Roots, rock, blues, folk and the kitchen sink. If you haven’t caught the Baker Thomas Band playing somewhere around town in the past 10 years, can you really call yourself a local? Punch your local’s card in the rosy subterranean depths of the Lizard Lounge. The band is joined by the sultry voice of Samantha Farrell, who brings a little jazz bounce to her delivery.

June 7: Hypnofruit, Allure, Clocked Out, Korina Zambrano (Union Tavern, Somerville)

Did Union Tavern up its booking game? These are some great local indie rock lineups gracing the stage of the former P.A.’s Lounge. We’re going to link you straight to the Instagram post about the show because the “Our site is being built. Check back soon!” sign has been hanging at the Union Tavern website for a dog’s age. No worries. Great dive bars don’t earn points on account of an elite online presence. In fact, they might lose points for that. Clocked Out is probably Clock Out, because the former is from Glasgow and the latter from Worcester. Or maybe the Union Square spot is a hot new landing pad for international tours?

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Live: Boston Calling

The annual fest has come and gone, and Cambridge Day crossed the river for all three days. For the live review that usually occupies this space, let me refer you to our daily recaps – Friday, Saturday and Sunday – with contributions by Lucy Spangler, Julia Levine and myself.

On a related note, there seems to be murmurings from attendees that the festival felt a bit too crowded on Sunday, with its sold-out general admission tickets. Boston Calling responded via Instagram. Whether a festival feels “crowded” or “overcrowded” can often depend on where you decide to plant your body. Not everyone is going to fit at the foot of the stage. On the other hand, Mass Live reported that half of the medical issues that occurred at the festival occurred on Sunday. So maybe there’s a little fire with the smoke?

Did you attend Boston Calling on Sunday? If you did, did it feel ‘overcrowded’? Let us know in the comments.


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