Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Big Sadie plays an indoors pop-up gig Sunday at the Solid Sound festival in Western Massachusetts. (Photo: Michael Gutierrez)

The 1971 film “The Omega Man,” starring Charlton Heston, took place in a barren, dystopic Los Angeles wasteland. The majority of humans were dead from a lab-engineered plague, a minority morphed into a sunlight-fearing albino zombie cult called the Family, while the smallest sliver of survivors, impervious to the disease, soldiered on as the rarest specimens of proud, red-blooded humanity.

Heston, of course, was included among the latter. From my cold, dead hands …

The first few scenes in the film were the most striking. The Hollywood star raced a red sports car around the empty Los Angeles streets, the whole city becoming a kind of sad playground for the square-jawed bachelor. He flirted with mannequins, pretended to haggle with non-existent used car salesmen and fired up the projector for a private screening of “Woodstock” at the local movie theater. Sounds like a hoot, but the atmosphere of brooding loneliness is too much to bear until he spies one particular afro-blessed mannequin. No spoilers!

You might feel a similar sense of brooding loneliness around town these days. Seems quiet, doesn’t it? Has everyone with a vacation home taken off for the month while the rest of us huddle indoors by the AC unit? When the heat kicks in, some of us turn into those albino zombies, fleeing the sun and living in the shadows until the heat of day subsides. If it ever subsides.

Do empty streets mean empty music venues? Sometimes. You lose a little bit of the local crowd, who are less likely to spontaneously attend gigs if it means braving the heat. On the other hand, if the AC is blasting at the club …

The vacationer phenomenon cuts both ways, though. We get summer traffic from out of town like most other attractive metro areas. You know, yahoos who save up their frequent-flyer miles all year long for a big weekend in Magoun Square. When you see strange folks wander into the club, be nice, be kind, tip them off to the good local microbrews, make them feel like part of the Family and tell them to hit the shows below.

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Saturday: Lovina Falls, Parlour Bells, Happy Little Clouds (The Rockwell, Somerville)

When we last reported on Lovina Falls, the jumbo ensemble had squeezed itself onstage at The Middle East Upstairs for one of the preliminary rounds of the Rock N Roll Rumble. Seven, eight, nine, 10-piece? Hard to say; the band kept slotting musicians in and out depending on the needs of the particular song. And you can satisfy a lot of different needs with that many musicians, though the sound tended to gravitate toward moody, droning alt rock. The band is the brainchild of Valerie Forgione (ex Mistle Thrush), who will bust out all the bells and whistles down in the batcave of Davis Square. Indie rockers Parlour Bells and Happy Little Clouds open.

July 10: AS3 (The Lilypad, Cambridge)

AS3 is code for the Andrew Stern Trio. But no secret password or handshake is required to attend this date in Inman Square. In fact, if you stay in one place long enough, Stern will eventually set up his gear and play a gig within earshot. The guy is in 10,000 bands. And each of them benefit from the kind of versatile guitar work on display in his latest solo release, “Lonely Hunter.” Good enough to hang with the jazz heads, badass enough for rock ’n’ roll. AS3, powered by the rhythmic contributions of Brad Barrett (drums) and Dave Fox (bass), splits the difference for a fusion fiesta.

July 11: Sorry Mom (Warehouse XI, Somerville)

Don’t get confused. This is the NYC-based Sorry Mom, not the local Sorry Ma! (which sometimes drops the comma, or the exclamation point, in listings around town). Nor is it the Sorry Mom from Kent, Ohio; nor from Atlanta; nor from Vermont; nor from Tallahassee, Florida; nor from Greensboro, North Carolina; nor even the Sorry Mom from Medicine Hat, Alberta. Apparently, apologizing to your mom has run rampant in indie rock. Maybe hit up this show, and give your mom a call before or after. She’d really appreciate it. Shout out to Seattle’s Sorry Mom (and Dad).

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Live: Solid Sound (North Adams, Friday through Sunday)

Summer has arrived. It’s the special season for taking time off and striking farther afield for rest and recreation. Why pay extra to mix with hot and sweaty crowds in exotic locations, when you could rub shoulders with strangers in your own proverbial backyard? Say hello to Solid Sound, a biennial arts and music festival nestled among the green mountains and fog-filled valleys in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.

The festival unfolded at the Mass MoCa campus over the course of three days, capturing a cross section of weekenders wearing about as many Red Sox caps as Yankees caps. The real team that we were all rooting for, though, was Team Wilco. The alt-country legends curate the festival, which is at once the greatest strength and greatest weakness of the experience.

Love Wilco? You’re going to love this fest. Wilco, or some meaty mutation of Wilco, headlined all three nights. On Friday, the band played a “deep cuts” set, consisting of lesser-known tracks that had fallen out of regular rotation over the years because “they never received any applause.”

On Saturday, Wilco headlined again, playing a two-hour set of songs that people liked.

On Sunday, “Wilco” took a break while Wilco lead singer Jeff Tweedy headlined with “friends.” Actually, he was playing with friends all weekend, parachuting as a special guest into countless other sets and pop-up gigs throughout the festival. It was the musical version of manspreading. But if you’re a Wilco fan, you must have thought you died and went to heaven.

If you’re just so-so on Wilco, then you’re just so-so on Solid Sound. The celebrity-curated approach to festival lineup construction carries with it both risk and reward. The risk is that you fall into a recherché hobbit hole of musical fancy with a roster of artist’s artists that only a musician could love. The reward is that you might hit the subculture zeitgeist square on the head, assembling a bill that faithful Wilcoheads will fall in love with without ever having heard the bands before. If the risk is rearing its ugly head, there’s always the Wilco-variant at the end of the evening to lift your spirits.

Side note: Rainy days are standard. The 2024 edition was no different, with sporadic showers on Saturday and a downpour on Sunday. Bring a poncho and spend as much time inside the museum as you like, which is free admission for the festival crowd all weekend.


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