Editor’s Note: Palehound has since dropped off the Ladyfest Boston Benefit show. The show will continue as scheduled.
For a city known for punk house shows and dozens of college-aged bands, Boston is disregarding fall’s vegetation cues to declare an early season of change.
Bands like Ian Sweet relocated to Los Angeles and New York City, bands like Transit broke up, and, for acts like Krill, the only option was to move and then break up. It’s a trend Boston knows all too well, arguably more so than other cities guilty of the same pattern. Don’t blame the bands, though. It’s not their fault. Boston’s primed for tectonic shifting in its musical landscape.
The constant influx of students allows Boston to hit refresh on its music pulse. Each year, a sea of wannabe guitarists and hopeful freshman join forces to push out songs, focusing more on the act of playing and performing instead of pressing physical records. Sure, most bands fizz out. Others gain somewhat of a cult following and then, when graduation approaches, cut the cord. A few stick around for two to three years following that. It’s a city of population change, and with that comes improvements not only in terms of who feels they can climb the ropes, but what they need in order to do so.
Though exhausting, that mindset—one that encourages experimentation and effort over natural or perfect talent—allowed Boston and its surrounding neighborhoods to urge those curious about music to finally pick up instruments.
Take, for instance, alt-rock, pop punk act Gay Sin. Picked as one of our rising acts to watch, the local semi-supergroup sees members trying out instruments that, near the time of formation, were foreign to them. Christine Varriale drums in Puppy Problems, but in Gay Sin she’s on bass. Larz Brogan swaps her bass from Daephne in favor of drums in Gay Sin. By trying—and, shortly after, totally rocking—these instruments, Gay Sin sets an example for the Boston community of what it means to play music in a DIY region. Yes, there are bands whose music reaches into bordering states and the West Coast that call our beloved bean home, but there are acts in our backyard who take the DIY ethics to heart—and have a hell of a good time in the process.
It goes without saying why that’s important, but hell, we’re going to say it again. Encouraging learning experiences and musical growth thanks to support from friends and the community is something Boston should be proud of. It’s scary to start a band as a 40-year-old as much as it is scary to start a band as a 16-year-old. Boston’s abundance of acts allows newcomers the chance to see themselves fitting into the fold. After all, when the spectrum includes nationally touring professionals and Bandcamp-only artists, it’s easy to find a place to fit in.
What that leads to is a more open field across races, genders, sexual orientations, and ages. As certain bands depart our city, those who fill their shoes are beginning to break the stereotypes, specifically those that peg Boston as a city of straight, white, young males playing punk rock to the masses.
Just look at the Democracy Center’s show lined up for this Friday. The stacked bill sees countless women taking charge of the stage. Ellen Kempner, one of the best guitarists this city has ever seen, headlines with her band Palehound. Before her comes Northampton vocal powerhouse Mal Devisa, the one-woman act responsible for one of the most moving albums you will hear this year, Kiid. With aforementioned acts Gay Sin and Daephne joined by Dump Him and Dog Tears, the show boasts a bill that’s as talented as it is motivational.
By allowing fans and curious onlookers to come free of worries—the show is all ages and, despite the sliding ticket cost of $7 to $10, will allow free entry to anyone who cannot afford it—the show builds Boston’s DIY scene into one that talks the talk, walks the walk, and rocks the rock.
As the musicians change, so does the belief that our community can embrace and strive for more. Naysayers, we hear you. Of course, in three years’ time, many of these acts will be questioning where they live or what they create, but that doesn’t change where we’re at currently. Right now, Boston is at a pivotal point of DIY growth, and, by the sound of it, we’re very lucky to be here.
MAL DEVISA + GAY SIN + DAEPHNE + DUMP HIM + DOG TEARS. FRI 8.12. DEMOCRACY CENTER, 45 MOUNT AUBURN ST., CAMBRIDGE. 7PM/ALL AGES/$7-10. DEMOCRACYCENTER.ORG.