When Out of the Blue Too Art Gallery & More first opened its doors on Prospect St. in 1997, it didn’t expect to become a safe haven for misfits young and old. That openness makes sense if you know owner Tom Tipton. He and the gallery are a symbol of the city’s art output – and, more importantly, how supportive the community is in return.
After a move to Commonwealth Ave. in Central Square less than two years ago, that little art gallery became a big art gallery that books belly dancing sessions, poetry readings, and raucous music performances, all with the intent of supporting the local scene. Now that they’ve established stable footing, they’re ready to celebrate our city’s absurdities on a bigger level: with the gallery’s first proper music festival.
This Friday and Saturday, Out of the Blue Too presents Fools Fest, its first ever two-day festival. The all-ages event has an impressive scroll of bands performing on two separate stages with no overlapping sets. Once doors open at 6 PM on April 1st, The Barbazons, IAN, Home Body, Sound of Ceres, Pick a Piper, Steep Leans, Vanishing DMC, Neolibz, Taboo, The Mardi Kings, What Nerve, Horsehands, Jazz Masaagers, Bat House, So Sol, Dyr Faser, Candy Miami, and The 7th House are set to perform. The following day sees Midriffs, Magic Shoppe, Black Beach, The Channels, Littlefoot, W00dy, Sam Gas Can, Procedure Club, Arkm Foam, Robert Robinson & The Connecticut River Band, Rosie and the Rosies, Frank Hurricane, Secret Lover, earthquake Party!, Jarva Land, Birthing Hips, Sun Young, Listening Woman, The Forgotten Jam, Audrey Harrer, Patchouli Mist, Sunhine, John Cushing Trio, Fat Shuggy, and Johnnie & the Foodmasters playing.
It’s a massive list, and yes, it’s a wide range of genres. Psych jams fit besides garage rock and harp-led folk at a place like Out of the Blue. “That’s what Out of the Blue represents: this creative expression and freedom to find ways to be creative in an independent way, to brush shoulders with other musicians, to open the doors for others,” says general manager TJ Edson. He and co-worker Travis Long, both in their early 30s, made sure to keep the venue’s motto in mind when creating the festival lineup. Not only are they doing their part to organize, support, and present to the public at large the creative efforts of local artists, musicians, and more from our community, but they’re encouraging artists to share insight from their respective cultures and backgrounds.
Fools Fest offers a safe environment where people of various genders, ethnicity, abilities, talents, and beyond can gather to support music that’s making Boston and beyond such a vibrant area. It’s a community that never stops growing. “There will be a belly dancing night and then people are loading gear in for a show after, or there’s a storytelling night and bands show up early for that night’s show and then start watching something that they’ve never seen before,” Edson says of the space. “There’s a lot of freedom here and it lets fields overlap. You have to let things happen and give people a chance if you want to see a community grow.”
This past fall, the gallery threw a one-day festival called Back to School Fest that saw 11 bands take over the space. This time, they’re utilizing the room’s expansive structure to go twice as big. “We wanted to have bands that play the Middle East, bands that are weird, and bands that are local but don’t market themselves often,” says Long. “There’s a lot of smaller bands in Boston who don’t land on big shows and get to play for a lot of people, so we wanted to give them a chance to play on a big bill so things can grow from there.”
“I’m excited for Steep Leans to return,” Edson gushes. “They just went on tour with Wavves and we caught them on this rise. I can’t wait to see Pick a Piper, too, because I’ve been a fan of Caribou and they’re drummer plays in this band. I’ve heard their recordings but never heard them live.”
If you plan on going, make sure you arrive early. The first 40 people who come in will receive a mix CD of unreleased tracks by bands playing that evening. “It’s a super cool thing to do, but it’s also us adding more stress to our plate,” Edson laughs. “I’m realizing what a lot of work it is. We didn’t have to do this, but I’m glad we are because we really care.”
Oh, and don’t forget earplugs. Now that the new location – which, by the way, used to be an abandoned Blockbuster (Remember those?) – is in the heart of Central Square, they can turn amps up as loud as they please. “My old band is only two people,” says Long. “We used to play at the old spot on Prospect, but I have a big setup with drums and keyboards and accordion. There would be 40 people at the show but only eight people got to watch us play since we took up more than half the floor. We can play loud now. As far as I know, the new space is the only place in Boston that’s accepting and lets artists show what they want to show. Bands that were playing in basements and had to worry about police showing up can now play in a safe, large, clean space.”
Fools Fest signals not only a new year for Out of the Blue Too Art Gallery & More, but a new year for Boston’s underground arts scene. “People kept coming on board, talking about it, and showing up,” says Edson. “By now, people love the space and appreciate its existence. It’s weird to imagine the city without it now.”
We’ve got a feeling that in a few years the same could be said about Fools Fest.
OUT OF THE BLUE FOOLS FEST. FRI-SAT 4.1 – 4.2. OUT OF THE BLUE TOO ART GALLERY & MORE, 541 MASS. AVE., CAMBRIDGE. 6PM/ALL AGES/$13-30 SLIDING SCALE. CROSSROADSPRESENTS.COM. OUTOFTHEBLUEARTGALLERY.COM.