Category: Boston

Freakin’ Weekend: Your Friends Fest at Cuisine en Locale

Your Friends Fest at Cuisine en Locale

Your Friends Fest at Cuisine en Locale

This weekend Cuisine en Locale will be hosting “Your Friends Fest – an event put on by Dug Mccormack of Psychic Dog. The event is a celebration of local art, crafts, and music that’s being created in and around Boston. There’ll be a ton of great vendor’s – a lot of art – and some killer music (Spo, DCDR, Psychic Dog, currents, & Great News).

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Re-Birth Of A Nation: How Pedro Martínez Made The Red Sox “The Red Sox”

Pedro shares a smile before the 1999 All-Star Game.

Pedro shares a smile before the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway. (Boston Globe)

In a previous life I ran a popular Red Sox blog – the last time I wrote about the Sawx was three and a half years ago through a haze of tears as a great chapter in my life closed. Since that last sentence I’ve been able to focus on other outlets such as Visions of the Unexcused, DJ-ing, painting, and now most importantly, being a Dad. I’m content with my decision to retire the blog, and only occasionally get the itch to write about the Sox, and today that itch simply can’t be ignored, because the greatest Red Sox of my generation (no offense David Ortiz), and possibly ever, is being inducted into the the Hall of Fame.

A gorgeous sight.

A gorgeous sight.

The narrative of what it meant to be a Red Sox fan pre-2003 has been lost due to the previously unfathomable success of the Sox over the past decade. But pre-Pedro was a dark time for Red Sox fans. The Yankees were in the throes of a modern dynasty and the Red Sox were stuck in their birth-rite purgatory state of being good enough to make hope hurt. The decade before Pedro arrived the Sox averaged 80 wins per Season. The seven seasons Pedro was with Boston the Sox averaged 91, and that’s just the tip of the statistical iceberg of how much Martínez affected the Red Sox on the field, but to us Sox fans, it was his swagger on and off the field that makes him endearing. He turned our hope from its continuous pessimistic hue into a brilliantly saturated optimistic tone of possibility, not inevitability.

The keystone moment for what the Red Sox have become.

The keystone moment for what the Red Sox have become.

1999. This is the keystone year for the marketing money making behemoth “Red Sox Nation” has since become – and the Red Sox brass have Pedro Martínez (and Dan Duquette) to thank for such a solid foundation. Watching Pedro during this season, the apex of the steroid era, was the most electrifying baseball I’ve ever watched. If you had to go to the bathroom during a Pedro game you did so when the Red Sox were batting, for missing a pitch would be sacrilege. Having Pedro showcase this once in a lifetime electricity at the 1999 All-Star Game, the last to be in Fenway, as the baseball world said goodbye to Ted Williams, couldn’t have been more fitting. This was the passing of the torch.

Ted Williams and Pedro Martínez are the #1 and #2 greatest Red Sox ever. Both were inhuman in their ability to play baseball, and they both had unnerving confidence in their craft. This was shown to the World for the first time by Pedro in the best two innings in All-Star history, and then later in the 1999 ALDS, a moment that gets a little buried in a career with a plethora of amazing moments. Pedro replaced Derek Lowe in just the forth inning – this after leaving Game 1 with a back injury. The injured Pedro went on to pitch potentially the game of his life, striking out 8 over six stupendous innings of no hit ball to help the Red Sox win their first playoff Series since 1986.

It would take another five years for Pedro to help the Red Sox to the top of the baseball world, but this was the moment that made the possible real. Everything in-between that All-Star game in 1999 and Pedro holding that trophy in 2004 was magical. You never missed a pitch – his jovialness and defiance helped create the culture that made the Red Sox “The Red Sox” – which gave fans pride instead of contempt. I’ll talk of Pedro to my little boy Dylan like my Pops talked of Ted to me, another passing of a torch, and like Ted, Pedro’s light will forever shine bright on the institution he helped create – Red Sox Nation.

From Cambridge to the Dominican, thanks Pedro, congratulations on your Hall of Fame induction.


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Bacteria Is Real: What I Learned From U2’s “Secret Show” at The Burren

The empty stage at The Burren. (Photo - D.Hixon)

The empty stage at The Burren. (Photo – D.Hixon)

I’ve been home about an hour and I’m still trying to piece together one of the stranger nights in recent memory. Around 5pm yesterday social media started buzzing about a potential secret U2 show in Boston. Monday was their off day in-between a four show stint at The Garden, and given they’ve done something similar as recently 2009, it seemed plausible. So on a whim I jumped into a cab and made my way down to The Burren, the bar that was getting most of the said buzz.

One of many pints became aquatinted with.

One of many pints I became aquatinted with.

Long story short, I showed up, sat belly up at the bar for hours, had Guinness & beef stew, listened to a Scientist talk about bacteria (no….for real), and listened to a Pandora U2 radio station – all while The Burren buzzed about if the show was or wasn’t happening. The fact that U2 never showed up is a lessen in social media I’ll leave for someone else to figure out. What I’ve been thinking on is why was I even there?

Hmmmm....I don't think this is happening...

Hmmmm….I don’t think this is happening…

I haven’t truly enjoyed a U2 album for over a decade, was appalled by their Apple album, and haven’t actively listened to their music in a long, long time. But as I sat over my pints I began to realize why I was there holding onto hope – U2 is a big part of my musical journey. I remember the day my brother was given The Joshua Tree on cassette from his eventual Wife and eight year old me being absolutely blown away by what I was hearing. The first CD I bought at Fay’s Drug Store was the Unforgettable Fire and I listend to it over and over and over again. I then dived headfirst into even earlier albums such as War and October and was never disappointed – these guys were amazing.

I know in certain circles it’s not hip to like U2 anymore, and as stated above, I get it, and am partially guilty. But those four mentioned albums (and a few more not mentioned) are absolutely incredible and had a very strong impact on young me, and are part of my musical DNA. My brothers loved U2, my Mom loved U2, my friends growing up and growing old have loved U2, and like it or not – a lot of the dots in my life can be connected with U2 songs, and for that I had to take a flyer to potentially see one of the biggest bands in the world in a 250 seat room.

It was a weird and surreal night for sure, but I’m glad I sat there paying my penance for the decades worth of good music and memories they provided me, it allowed me to meditate on what U2 meant to me, all while they put on an incredible show without even being there.

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Always Dress In Black – The Too Soon Funeral of The Blackjacks

The Blackjacks

The Blackjacks burned too fast, and as a result are grossly under appreciated.

The Blackjacks should have been to Boston what The Replacements were to Minneapolis – a revered, influential, flawed, and cornerstone band. Instead they went off the rails too soon leaving two killer records as their epitaph wrapped in a whole bunch of what-if’s. Playing snarled rock in near drag was not normal in mid-80’s Boston, and despite some moderate local success, the band never got past their own demons or insecurities. Both Basic Blackjacks and Dress In Black are absolutely essential albums – and as far as Boston rock goes, should be mentioned in the same breath as The Real Kids and Modern Lovers, but they’re not because they let substance derail their junk train – total bummer.

Reading Boston Rock Archives biography on the Blackjacks is another must – where quotes like the below bring into focus why their music was so potent, raw, and short lived.

After the gig, Angel was out-of-control enraged, and his bandmates dosed his beer with Valium to try and sedate him, not knowing he’d already downed a handful of the benzo’s. Out for three days.

Recommended If You Like: The Replacements, Mid-70’s Stones, MC5

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Endation Shoot First Video For “Staab”

Endation on Set for "Staab". (Photo - D.Hixon)

Endation on Set for “Staab” at Studio 52. (Photo – D.Hixon)

I first heard Endation at the Benefit for the Victims of the Boston Marathon at TT the Bears in April and the two-piece had a huge impact on me. After the bombings weird became the new normal, leaving my psyche scrambled and daily view skewed. Other bands played before Endation that night, but it wasn’t until they plugged in that I was yanked from my thousand yard stare state and smacked back into reality. God Bless Rock & Roll.

Leah & Michael complete a shot. (Photo - D.Hixon)

Leah & Michael complete a shot. (Photo – D.Hixon)

Since that night I’ve developed a soft spot for Endation, and when the opportunity presented itself to help with their first Music Video it was a no-brainer. The video was for “Staab” – the opening track off their stand-out album The Absence of Everything. Anthony Conley (vocals & guitar) informed me the song’s about having no control, however, they certainly had control of their vision for the video. Directed by the talented Michael J. Epstein and produced by Sophia Cacciola – their skillful, fun, and adept work made the possible real, as a group of great people converged at Studio 52 in Allston for the shoot.

I won’t give too much away, but there was blood, rock & roll, a wraith-like creature, and a mental hospital vibe. I also got to die twice, which was the least I could do, given Endation brought me back to life in April.

Michael gives direction during a hallway scene. (Photo - D.Hixon)

Michael gives direction during a hallway scene. (Photo – D.Hixon)

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Take Cover: From Faceless to Famous

Jahar Tsarnaev looking like a goddamn Rock Star on the new Rolling Stone cover.

Tsarnaev looks like a damn Rock Star on the Rolling Stone cover.

I’ve lived in Boston/Cambridge for the past 12 years, and it’s still hard to explain my emotions for what happened during the week of the Marathon Bombings. I wrote about that tragic day the morning after, and decided that “hope took a sucker punch from a gutless and faceless enemy”. Well…today the enemy’s no longer faceless but famous, and thanks to Rolling Stone the gutless appears to be just another celebrity face – and potentially a rock star.

Marathon Monday was as surreal as it gets for Bostonians, and as the week progressed the surreal raced around in a roused spin cycle of sadness, disbelief, fear, unity, and mourning; only to have our emotional laundry end its cycle on the morning of April 19th as we awakened to life in a Police State, no longer allowed to even leave our apartments.

The week was heavy on so many levels, and as day crept into night that Friday we all became defiant and restless. We no longer wanted to be holed up in our apartments watching sketchy reporting about the events that happened in my home of Cambridge, and were happening real-time in neighboring Watertown. So we reacted like any good Bostonian would, and flocked to the bars. Enough was enough.

We were sick of the constant hum of helicopters overhead. We were sick of feeling edgy when on a crowded T. We were sick of hearing of friends Family members who were fighting for their lives in a near-by hospital. We were sick of surveillance footage of two terrorist bros walking down Boylston. We were sick, sick of it all, and we wanted to let off steam and put a defiant middle finger in the air directed firmly at terror, or whatever it’s called.

I may be overly sensitive to the Rolling Stone cover because of this – and honestly, I shouldn’t care that much about a media outlet that’s 20 years past relevancy – but the photo used was in poor taste. I’m not a flag waving “Boston Strong” (a phrase I’ve come to loathe) automaton by any means, but making Tsarnaev appear as glamorous and famous as anyone else who dons that cover is unsettling and disrespectful for those who didn’t just experience that week over the internet or TV.

A couple weeks ago Boston got together again to celebrate the 4th of July and the number of police out was disturbingly noticeable, and the thought of the bombings was on the tip of everyone’s mind. When the barge on the Charles shot off its customary warning shots that the fireworks were about to begin people stopped talking. Everyone around me on the Beacon Hill rooftop I was on looked around nervous and wondered, “What was that…?”

I don’t know, like i said, it’s hard to explain, but we’re all still healing on different levels, and the reaction of the Boston music community is pretty much universal on the Rolling Stone cover. It’s made the faceless even more famous, and presented terror in a too favorable light.

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Rise Above: Interview with Vanyaland Founder Michael Marotta

Michael Marotta of Vanyaland. (Photo of Michael - Sarah Sparks)

Michael Marotta of Vanyaland. (Photo of Michael – Sarah Sparks)

Michael Marotta is the Founder of Vanyaland, an excellent online music magazine which ironically rose from the ashes after the storied and historic alt-weekly, the Boston Phoenix, ceased publication this past March. Michael was the music editor at the Boston Phoenix as well as the music director at Marotta’s also the DJ/promoter of the long-running indie dance party the pill, and is an all around champion of music and the Boston scene.

Visions of the Unexcused: The closing of the Boston Phoenix occurred when you and others with the paper were down in Austin, TX at South by Southwest – far away from Boston. Do you think that was a conscious decision, or just poor timing?

Michael Marotta: I’m really not sure, and it still doesn’t make too much sense. You can’t just shut down a nearly 50-year-old operation on a whim, so of course it was planned by the higher-ups for a while. Why the hammer dropped while we were in Texas, who knows? Although I like to joke that none of my superiors wanted to tell me I couldn’t go to SXSW, so they said screw it let them go and we’ll deal with it when he comes back.

Visions: How soon after the announcement did you decide to shift your efforts at both the Phoenix and WFNX and pour them into Vanyaland?

MM: It took about 36 hours until boredom set in and I re-booted Vanyaland, which I created around 2008 as a means of staying busy and covering Boston music while I was at the Boston Herald. I didn’t get many assignments while I was there, so I filled the void with my own personal blog, posting mainly about music but also baseball and hockey and reality television. I left it up when I joined the Phoenix but rarely updated it. After the Phoenix died, I starting posting regularly again, just to stay sharp (and sane), with the idea that I would re-launch it in the next few weeks as something bigger, almost like the Phoenix’s music page, with a stable of writers and more varied voices and coverage.

Visions: Do you ever see Vanyaland making the shift to print? Or was Egon right – is print dead?

MM: It’s unlikely, though I’d never rule it out. Printing costs are prohibitive, and the world moves too fast in 2013 for a print publication to keep up. Possibly one day we could morph into a newsprint alt-weekly – I wasn’t a fan of the glossy magazine the Phoenix had become in its final months – that would serve as a best-of, so to speak, for our longer-form pieces.

Visions: What made you decide to re-launch on the one year anniversary of the sale of WFNX’s signal? Do you view the future of Vanyaland inherently connected to the past of the Phoenix and WFNX?

MM: It was a bit of a coincidence, honestly. We originally were going to launch in mid-April, but with the Boston Marathon bombing it didn’t feel right, the city was vulnerable and still shaken up a bit, and launching something like this takes a bit of chest-thumping and cheerleading, which I didn’t feel was appropriate at the time. When we looked to mid-May, the re-launch date – May 15 – made sense; I’ve always had an affinity for the number 15, as it was my baseball number when I played competitively when I was younger. When I realized it was the day before the one-year anniversary of WFNX’s 101.7 FM signal sale (I learned about the sale the day before), it seemed poetic.

A lot of things in my life seemed to go sour after the sale of 101.7 FM – I lost my radio show, an intense personal relationship ended a few weeks later, and the black cloud stretched all the way to March’s closing of the Boston Phoenix. It wasn’t a great year. So having a sort-of rebirth on that date made sense to me, as I was starting a new chapter.

My approach to Vanyaland is similar to the Phoenix, though we only cover music. I will always be grateful of the opportunities I was given by WFNX and the Phoenix, being music editor of the Phoenix was by far the best job I’ve ever had. I miss it tremendously.

Visions: There’s a lot of great new acts coming out of Boston, which ones do you think have the best chance of making a National impact?

MM: Bad Rabbits are just about there, they owned Boston Calling and are now doing the late-night TV circuit, playing for a national audience. I think North Shore garage rock trio Fat Creeps are ready for a breakthrough, as are modern rock band Burglary Years. And the Western Mass scene is incredible right now, with Speedy Ortiz and Potty Mouth ready to put Massachusetts, as a state, back on the map. Closer to home, but not quite Boston, is Worcester’s Secret Lover. Boston’s RIBS just did a quick tour with Joy Formidable. And of course there’s Bearstronaut, a dance-pop band from Somerville, who I love so much I started a record label in 2011 out of my bedroom just to put their music on vinyl.

Visions: What’s the best way for up and coming bands to contact Vanyaland for a possible feature? If you had a choice, would you rather have a Sound Cloud link, CD, or Record?

MM: Soundcloud/Bandcamp links are preferred, I’m always at my laptop and the easier I can hear a band’s music, the better. CDs are clutter, and vinyl is cool only when you like the band (haha). Anyone can email me at I get a ton of email, so no one should be discouraged if they don’t hear back; a lot of times I’ll get an email, pull up the band links, and listen to the music while I’m doing other stuff. Many times I’ll get an email and mark a show into my calendar.

Visions: Your favorite “classic” Venue to see a show in Boston/Cambridge is…

MM: The Paradise is still the best place to see a show in Boston, and we’re spoiled around town with Great Scott, the Middle East, and TT The Bear’s. I love the network of clubs we have here.

Visions: Your favorite new Venue to see a show in Boston/Cambridge is…

MM: The Sinclair has a great feel to it, and sounds incredible, and Radio in Somerville (I guess they’re not really new anymore) is a super friendly place that I never have a bad time at.

Visions: Your favorite place to get late-night grub is…

MM: Tedeschi because Boston hates late-night culture.

Visions: The best album of 2013 thus far is…

MM: Suede’s Bloodsports. I’m still amazed that my favorite band of all time pulled off a remarkable comeback a decade after I left them for dead. I’ve also been really digging Charlie XCX’s True Romance, as well as the Jagwar Ma record and the new Gozu disc.

Visions: The future of music reporting and discovery lies in…

MM: Twitter, the most important online entity in the world.

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