RadioBDC Logo
Dog Days Are Over | Florence + the Ma Listen Live
Text size +

Berklee for Africa for Berklee

Posted by Joel Brown January 25, 2013 07:52 PM

Neo copy hiIn the last few weeks the news from northern and western Africa brings fresh conflicts. But Homeland Security means something different at Berklee College of Music on Monday night, where students from Africa will present a concert of music and dance from their homelands of Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa and other countries.

Homeland Security: Celebrating Contemporary and Traditional African Music and Dance will feature original student compositions with deeply personal meanings, including “Va Gumulelana (No More War),” by Helder Tsinine, the first non-English language song to win the Peacedriven Songwriting Contest, and “Battle” by Jason Ekhabi Sibi-Okumu, about his struggle with kidney failure. Berklee’s 16-member West African Drum and Dance Ensemble and another group choreographed by student Jeniffer Criss will perform traditional drum and dance pieces from Ghana, Togo, Guinea and Mali.

Berklee's been getting increasingly international lately, with satellite operations and outreach. The West African ensemble features percussionist Victor “Blue” Dogah, who in 2008 was named Berklee’s first Africa Scholar—an award covering full tuition and room and board for four years  – through a program started by Berklee president Roger Brown. (No relation.)

The show is Monday at 8:15 p.m. at the Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Ave.. Tickets: $8 in advance, $12 day of show, at the BPC Box Office. More info: 617 747-2261 or

Photo: Berklee student and concert performer Neo Karabo Mashao from South Africa, courtesy Berklee.

Originally published on the blog

Big-screen Strangelove at the MFA, Kubrick style

Posted by Joel Brown January 23, 2013 06:03 PM

Pf_kubrick_doc_03As a juvenile film fanatic, I was given copies of "Truffaut/Hitchcock" and "Stanley Kubrick Directs" one Christmas or birthday in the early '70s, back in the days when you could see all their films at the Brattle or the Orson Welles or at your nearest college film series. DVDs and cable have pretty much put an end to those outlets, but "Psycho" and "Dr. Strangelove" remain perhaps disturbingly close to the top of my list of all-time favorites. And now the Museum of Fine Arts is offering a chance to take in Kubrick's complete filmography in order on the big screen in February.

Offerings include: "Fear and Desire," the little-seen 1953 war allegory in a print restored by the Library of Congress (Feb. 1, 2, 3 and 7); Kubrock's first masterpiece, the World War I drama of cowardice and heroism "Paths of Glory" in a print restored by UCLA (Feb. 7 and 9); and of course his 1964 peak, "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb," a bit of Cold War insanity that's a shortgun wedding of "Fail Safe" and "Duck Soup," that's also one of Peter Sellers' greatest films (Feb. 14 and 16). And of course those great Kubrick couples - Hal & Dave, and Tom & Nicole - are also on the schedule.

Tickets are $11 (less for members, students, seniors, etc.) at, 800-440-6975 or the MFA ticket desks. Click the web site to find out which theater each show is in and other info.

Photo: Kubrick and Sellers on the "Strangelove" set, © Sony/Columbia Pictures Industries Inc. / The Stanley Kubrick Archive

Originally published on the blog

First listen: Kingsley Flood face their 'Battles'

Posted by Joel Brown December 12, 2012 02:26 PM

KF-BattlesFresh off a win as Best Americana Band at the BMAs, Kingsley Flood seems intent on proving that they'd like to take the whole deal.

The band's new full-length, "Battles," officially due Feb. 5, still offers the intimacy that drove their 'bout-perfect first album, "Dust Windows," but you no longer hear the crickets and seldom expect Levon Helm to come in on the chorus. Again, there's an abundance of big hooks and little grace notes that will lodge these songs in your head. But "Battles" continues down the rock road of last year's "Colder Still" EP, as frontman and songwriter Naseem Khuri leads his merry band of brothers and one sister further out onto their own not-especially-categorizable musical terrain. "Battles" might be just the thing to get them into the plain-'ol'-best-band category next year.

Not that they've turned their back on rootsy. From its title to its picked-guitar intro to its timeless-sounding chorus, "Waiting on the River to Rise" couldn't be any more heartland. But it quickly dawns on the listener that there's something a little strange and slanty about that piano line, and the lonely whistling is more Morricone than Mayberry. Then, with a change of just a couple of words, the last verse goes somewhere unexpected, a declaration of - well, what? Ambition? Revolution? - before there's this ominous solar flare of a noise (Mellotron) at the close that makes you think it's something even worse. Sui generis.

Kingsley-Flood-live-2At the other end of the spectrum - and the very next track - is "Down," a slashing little poseur-takedown driven by a throbbing fuzz bass riff that would not have sounded out of place from bassist Nick Balkin's other outfit, electro-rockers Logan 5 and the Runners. It's one of the slightest songs on the album, but definitely the kind of thing to make clear KF's ambitions aren't confined by genre.

Subtler effects flavor many of the tracks on this ambitious album, which was produced at Great North Sound Society in Parsonsfield, Maine by Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter, Langhorne Slim). But it's not the electronics, it's the resulting broody atmosphere that matters on tracks like the opening "Don't Change My Mind" and the haunting "Habit."

With its little plucked riff and its instant-earworm "I know, I know" vocal hook, "The Fire Inside" will stick with you. Faux-jaunty "King's Men" has musical-hall piano and trumpet and a barking dog; it's "Penny Lane" to the Kinks-ish blare of "Sun's Gonna Let me Shine" and "Pick Your Battles." "Strongman" is a straight-ahead stomper that comes closest to the joyous gonzo of the band's live shows (although I could do without the "bad cold" vocal filter here and elsewhere).

As always, from song to song Khuri's lyrics jump from confessional directness to Dylanesque and oblique, and at best split the difference. What's he singing about? Somewhere in most of these songs is the struggle to stay true to the self and what's right, against the temptations of self-doubt and fear, fame and sex, surrender and anger. Sometimes he sounds like a budding rock success trying to embrace his temptations ("Sun Gonna Lemme Shine"), while at others he's a busted-out working man overwhelmed by failure or family or infidelity. Even the twisted ones think they're doing the right thing, or at least embrace the wrong with open eyes.

"Hard times for the quiet kind" indeed. If there's any justice, and at the risk of making Jersey wince, 2013 ought to be the Year of the Flood.

Originally published on the blog

Anatomical art show wants you - today

Posted by Joel Brown November 30, 2012 02:07 PM

Plate_Frontispiece copyBetween the time she sent her press release and when I actually read it, Naomi Slipp's Kickstarter reached its goal, so some of the suspense has gone out of this. But you still have one day to kick in more to support the exhibition she's organizing, Teaching the Body: Artistic Anatomy in the American Academy, from Copley, Eakins and Rimmer to Contemporary Artists, set for Jan. 31-March 31 at the Boston University Art Gallery. Slipp, a BU grad student, says she's trying to create "a unique project that will draw together the Boston arts and medical communities and provoke a rich conversation about what it means to picture the human body." Given how large and important those two communities are here, and how interesting the results can be on the rare occasions when they interact - Remember the giant photos of cancer cells at MIT? - this seems like a worthwhile project. premiums available to backers include a copy of "Teaching the Body" (the illustrated exhibition catalog) and a private exhibition tour with Slipp.

The exhibit is especially challenging behind the scenes as she is arranging to borrow (and prepare and ship) works from all over, While she has secured significant funding, one source dropped out late in the process, leaving her with a $2,500 shortfall. Hence the Kickstarter. And her laptop got ripped off this week, which means a little extra would probably be appreciated.

From her Kickstarter sales pitch: "Over eighty works in the exhibition [many never exhibited before], including drawings, prints, sculptures, paintings, and texts, illustrate the relationship between American art and medicine, a collaboration founded because of their shared interest in the human body and the study of anatomy. Included in the exhibition are: illustrated anatomical lecture tickets; photographic stereoviews; anatomical sketches, studies, and models; pathological anatomy illustrations; and American anatomy books written for women and children. Fine art created by American artists Harriet Hosmer (1830-1908), Kiki Smith (1954- ), Thomas Eakins (1844-1916), William Rimmer (1816-1879), Hyman Bloom (1913-2009), Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), and many others, along with visual works from the 'everyday' including magazines and prints, will illustrate the ways that artists studied artistic anatomy. Perhaps, most important, this exhibition examines both what that study meant for these artists and for the way we, today, think about our own bodies and how they work."

Originally published on the blog

You do need a weatherman...

Posted by Joel Brown October 24, 2012 07:38 PM

Hurricane Sandy has local forecasters getting on their foul-weather faces and rolling out their bold-faced fonts, although there's still no telling exactly which way the storm will go early next week. Normally I'm loathe to fall under the spell of publicists who try to tie their arts events to such things - storms, the Red Sox, whatever. (Isabella Stewart Gardner liked going to Fenway, we get it, now give it a rest.) But the New England Philharmonic opens its season this saturday with - wait for it - "Atmospherics." The 8 p.m. at Tsai Performance Center program will focus on composer in residence David Rakowski's fourth symphony - wait for it! - Scare Quotes. Our local forecasters are not involved, but each movement in the symphony use titles taken from The Weather Channel website: Waning Crescent, Current Conditions, Ice to Rain and finally, Double Shot. Each movement "quotes" musical themes from pieces by other composers, including Bach, Mahler and Oliver Nelson with his jazz standard "Stolen Moments." Tickets, $25, at On the (literally) bright side, the program also includes Thea Musgrave's "Rainbow."

Originally published on the blog

Get thee to 'Dogtown' before it closes

Posted by Joel Brown October 4, 2012 01:44 PM

You have ten days to get over to the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester and see Marsden Hartley: Soliloquy in Dogtown, an exhibition of the great American painter's depiction of one of the stranger places in Massachusetts. If you don't know about Dogtown, an abandoned settlement on high ground in the center of Cape Ann, start with Wikipedia and then move on to Elyssa East's book. East was captivated by Hartley's paintings and drawings, which he made during two separate stays in Gloucester in 1931 and '34. You will be too.

The Cape Ann owns some of the works and borrowed others for an exhibition in 1985, when community leaders were gearing up to save Dogtown after its problems were brought to the fore by a murder that is the centerpiece of East's book. Now more than 3,000 acres are protected as conservation land and offer a relatively safe place for hikers and bikers and birdwatchers, although the place still retains its unique spookiness. And the museum has mounted a slightly larger version of the exhibit, which ends Oct. 14. It only takes up one room, but it feels larger.

Cape_Ann_Museum_Hartley_Summer_Outward_Bound_Gloucester.jpg.670x500_q95Soliloquoy in Dogtown features a dozen drawings but it is the paintings that are striking. Hartley's flattened perspectives and blunted shapes somehow embody the skewed feeling of the place. The colors are similar from painting to painting, somehow both vivid and unsettling, greens and greys and browns dominating under a blue sky with white clouds. The exception is the brilliant canvas simply titled "Dogtown," alive with autumn red and gold. This is one of those paintings that you'll want to absorb for a while.

The exhibit also includes a portrait of Hartley by Helen Stein and a variety of Dogtown memorabilia that should further whet your appetite for the real thing. Dogtown was largely open in Hartley's day, but is no less individual now for the scrub woods that have grown up. It's less than ten minutes from the museum by car, and there are maps at the trail head. But it's still easy to get lost there.

Image: Marsden Hartley (1877-1943). Summer Outward Bound, Gloucester, 1931. Oil on board. Gift of the estate of Robert L. French, 2009.

Originally published on the blog

In Cambridge, it's time again for RiverSing

Posted by Joel Brown September 21, 2012 01:26 PM

Saturday brings the autumnal equinox, which means it's time for music, poetry and communal singing at the 9th annual Revels RiverSing at the Charles River. Revels music director George Emlen hosts the free outdoor celebration featuring over 100 chorus members, the Revels Children's Chorus, musician David Coffin, the Second Line Pleasure Aid and Social Society Brass Band, sax man Stan Strickland on the river (right) and more. Did we mention it's free? There will be group sings of about 20 folk songs (lyrics available onsite and at Actors' Shakespeare Project's Steve Barkhimer and Jennie Israel and Cambridge poet Toni Bee will recite. The main event is at 6 p.m., but festivities begin at 5 with family fun in Harvard Square's Winthrop Park, followed by a procession to the river. This is fun for anyone who likes music and ritual, and those with an anthropological interest in Cambridge's unique culture.

Originally published on the blog

For Breaking Bad fans, waiting is the hardest part

Posted by Joel Brown September 4, 2012 10:16 AM

Many TV shows kick off a pop culture meme or two, and a brilliant few invade your dreams. "Breaking Bad" invaded reality a couple of weeks ago, as Alabama authorities put an alleged meth cook named Walter White on their most-wanted list. That the arrest of a real-life Walter seemed unsurprising was an interesting data point in understanding just how much this AMC drama about a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher turned badass meth kingpin has gotten under my skin. So it's going to be a bear waiting until next summer for the show's final eight episodes. (SPOILERS AHEAD!)

HankThe 2012 finale on Sunday night ended with a classic "Breaking Bad" moment. Walter (the amazing Bryan Cranston) hosted a family party a few days after he told his wife he was out of the meth biz. The unspoken theme was a return to normalcy. But then Walter's DEA agent brother-in-law, Hank, sat down for a little bathroom reading and picked up a volume of Walt (!) Whitman. Inside he found a hand-written inscription that made his jaw drop to match his pants, linking Walter to a murdered meth chemist. I worried Hank was going to have a stroke right there on the can as he faced the absurd truth that he has subconsciously suspected for a long time: Suburban milquetoast Walter has a double life as the evil Heisenberg! Walt is Heisenberg!

DEA agent brother-in-law? Whitman? Toilet? Heisenberg? What? All this may sound like gibberish to the non-fan, but we are so far down the rabbit hole with this show that it's way too late to bring newcomers up to, ahem, speed. Suffice to say that the moment's ruthless plotting, painfully mundane setting, literary touches and wonderful acting (by Dean Norris as Hank) were all expressions of what makes this show great.

I disagree with some fans who find the Whitman book's appearance unbelievable; the book has been sitting in Walter's house and was seen at least once this season. Walt may be meticulous at cleaning up his meth lab, but this is not the first time his arrogance has led him to overlook something. And as always in a show whose writers are this meticulous, Whitman was chosen very much on purpose - Mo Ryan topped her recap with that angle.

Music cues, always a biggie with this Vince Gilligan show, were off-the-charts fun on Sunday. He must have been waiting a long time to use "Crystal Blue Persuasion" for a meth-business montage, which brought a laugh of recognition. But setting the brutal prison-murders sequence to silky-voiced Nat King Cole was stone-cold perfect.

The more I mull these last eight episodes, though, it seems there weren't quite as many of those classic "BB" moments as in the four previous seasons. They've moved the plot along after last season's literally mind-blowing "Gus face" finale, but no train robbery or pallet of cash could match that. Some letdown was inevitable.

Walt's sidekick Jesse (the also amazing Aaron Paul) was increasingly sidelined; Gus Fring no longer looms over the proceedings; and minor characters Todd and Lydia took on larger roles, in Walt's operation and in the show. Even the dementedly corrupt attorney Saul (Bob Odenkirk) wasn't his usual hilarious self. So this year hasn't offered many of the you-laugh-because-it's-so-insanely-right moments of wrongness that we're used to. At least until that final shot.

The season's other great moment was the previous week's death of Mike, the former Fring henchman and Walter's exasperated criminal skills tutor. He managed to stagger down to a scenic spot for his final line, after Walt put a bullet in him. Sitting on a log, Mike listened to Walt's apology briefly, then said, "Shut the ---- up and let me die in peace." Cut to a long shot of the two of them sitting side by side, one mississippi, two mississippi, and then Mike keeled over.

Mike was played by Jonathan Banks, a wonderful actor who has now played the gravelly voiced cynic on two TV cult crime classics, "BB" and "Wiseguy." He's never been better than he was here.

Hank's bathroom revelation gives a hint where the eight episodes next year will go. The law will catch up with Walt, and I wonder if he will take Jesse down with him. There have been hints that Walter's cancer may be coming back, too, and it would be ironic - and too easy, I think - if that got him instead of the consequences of his actions. I don't believe he's truly out of the business, no matter what he told his wife. His ego would not want to stop being Heisenberg, instead of poor henpecked Walt. There's no going back, anyway. The storm is gathering, which is maybe why even Saul isn't so funny anymore.

And then there was that mysterious flash-forward at the beginning of this year's first episode. A bearded, tired, quiet-loner-ish Walt pulled into a diner and bought a machine gun from some guy's trunk. There hasn't been a hint about it since, but it's a sign that Gilligan knows exactly where he and Walt are going.

Waiting is tough.

Originally published on the blog

Zombies donate to fire relief effort

Posted by Joel Brown August 25, 2012 12:56 PM

Baby zombieA fire at 95 Columbia St. in Cambridge left a bunch of folks homeless this week, and now the zombies from New Exhibition Room are helping to raise money for the victims.

A few weeks back I wrote a Globe column about New Exhibition Room's "Zombie Double Feature," a darkly comic summer extravaganza of two gore-soaked zombie plays ("Terror at BPT" and "Last Night Cabaret") at Boston Playwrights' Theatre. One of the rotating lineup of musicians in the show was among those left homeless by the fire, and apparently several other artists of various stripes with ties to the troupe are also among the victims. There's a Facebook page for those who want to help them.

But all in-person ticket sales to tonight's 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. "Zombie Double Feature" performances will be donated to the cause, and the zombies will be taking up a collection as well. More details here.

Pictured: Omar Robinson and Greer Rooney with Baby Zombie in "Terror at BPT." Photo courtesy New Exhibtion Room.

Originally published on the blog

September music in JP, on Ray Charles

Posted by Joel Brown August 16, 2012 03:11 PM

Jp-music-festival-logo-comboSeptember shapes up as an interesting musical month around town. Some 24 acts have signed on for the second annual FREE Jamaica Plain Music Festival at Pinebank Field on Saturday, Sept. 8th, from noon to 7 p.m. Boston rock stalwart and co-organizer of the festival Rick Berlin is on the bill fronting the Nickel & Dime Band, but the lineup on two stages is so diverse as to defy representative sampling. I'll try anyway: Mariachi Mexamerica meets the Jamaica Plain Symphony Orchestra meets Lovewhip meets the Whiskey Boys. And many more.

Ray_Charles_(cropped)Meanwhile, Berklee College of Music is gearing up for Inspired By Ray: the Ray Charles Symposium, Sept. 21-23, celebrating the genius and influence of the singer-pianist-arranger-composer-bandleader and all around happening man. Presented by Berklee's American Roots Music Program, the event will include academic discussion of Charles's astonishingly diverse output. Charles made everything from country to jazz to rock gospel to to soul his own, and let's not forget "America The Beautiful," either.

There is, of course, a concert involved. inspiRAYtion: A Tribute to Ray Charles is set for Saturday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. at the Berklee Performance Center, with an appropriately diverse lineup including Ricky Skaggs, John Scofield, Raul Midon and Charles's former music director Victor Vanacore, among many. I'm told a few Raeletts will also be performing: Tonette McKinney, Renee Georges, and Katrina Harper. Tickets, $15-$35, are available here. Or for $100, you can sign on for the symposium and the conference here.

Ray Charles photo by Alan Light used under a Creative Commons license.

Originally published on the blog

"Passion Play" around town

Posted by Joel Brown August 1, 2012 01:07 PM

Passion play press shots final-13 (Large)Usually the Boston premiere of a Sarah Ruhl play would come from one of our city's established troupes, but this month's "Passion Play" is the work of the Newton-based Circuit Theatre Company, made up of theater students from colleges around the country. “Passion Play” tells the story of three communities producing the Passion: one in Elizabethan England, one in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power, and one in South Dakota in recent years.

My favorite part is that a single actress portrays Queen Elizabeth, Hitler, and Ronald Reagan. But others may be more intrigued to learn that the cast of 12 will play and sing all of the music and create all of the sound effects for the piece live on stage, which they say is the first time that's been done.

Students from schools like Brown and Johns Hopkins are in the group, as well as a few local high schoolers. This is their third summer, but their first production outside of their base in Newton. The show actually premiered over the weekend at the Davis Square Theatre.

Tickets are $15 for performances tonight through Friday at the YMCA Theatre in Cambridge's Central Square and Aug. 10-11 (the latter a matinee) at the Old South Church’s Gordon Chapel. Prices are $12/$18 for the closing performance, which is at Oberon in Harvard Square on Aug. 12. Tickets and info at

Originally published on the blog

Score one for WGBH vs. WBUR

Posted by Joel Brown July 27, 2012 09:34 AM

Executives of WGBH and Public Radio International say all the right things in this morning's Globe story. That PRI will remain independent after its acquisition by WGBH. That the deal won't affect PRI's distribution deal with WGBH's crosstown nemesis, WBUR. But c'mon. Despite the genteel face everyone likes to put on things in public broadcasting, this is a smart, hardball move by WGBH in its ongoing campaign to catch and overtake WBUR in local radio. One might almost say cutthroat, but public broadcasting people only use such words when talking about, you know, Somali pirates.


PRI distributes "This American Life" and other popular shows to stations including WBUR. And it also syndicates WBUR's "Here & Now." Despite all the nice talk abut how the WGBH deal isn't going to affect that, it's impossible to believe that 'GBH won't have an inside track to get national shows like "This American Life" the next time the contract comes up. And to get their own shows syndicated. They'll all deny it now, but just watch. And if you were running WBUR, would you want to entrust your own shows to a syndicator controlled by your crosstown rival?

They'll say this is all about strengthening WGBH's national profile and PRI's finances and, you know, better serving listeners. But I bet there were a few high-fives behind closed doors at 'GBH HQ when they sealed the deal. After the bad PR they earned with their recent jazz massacre, and the wide lead 'BUR has in local ratings, this is one round that goes to the challenger.

Originally published on the blog

Jazz fans taking the fight to WGBH tonight

Posted by Joel Brown July 5, 2012 12:54 PM

WgbhJazz lovers of all stripes are invited to turn out at 1 Guest Street, Brighton, tonight at 8 for a swinging New Orleans-style jazz funeral, complete with live music. The address is the home of the WGBH broadcast empire (right), and the funeral is for jazz on WGBH-FM (89.7). More of a protest march, really. But swingin'. No word on who'll be carrying the coffin. Or maybe WGBH will come to its senses, and the box will be empty.

If you're reading this, odds are you already know that WGBH is cutting the majority of its jazz programming, shifting the long-running, Monday-through-Thursday "Eric in the Evening" program to weekends, cutting Steve Schwartz's Friday show altogether and - this part is still rumor - cutting the weeknight editions of the overnight syndicated "Jazz with Bob Parlocha" as well. News and talk, primarily reruns of WGBH shows, will replace the missing jazz hours, as the station continues its attempt to win the city's news-and-information audience from WBUR-FM.

The first two moves were announced as a "new focus on jazz," which sounds a lot like Mitt Romney telling us the dog loved it up there on top of the car for 500 miles.

Wear your dancing shoes.

The event was put together by an ad hoc group of jazz lovers in town. Facebook pages for Save Eric In the Evening; Save Jazz on WGBH; and tonight's event.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Originally published on the blog

Mulling the jazz downgrade on WGBH

Posted by Joel Brown June 22, 2012 09:05 PM

You've probably heard by now that WGBH (89.7 FM) has pulled the carpet from under weeknight jazz listeners, with plans to move Eric Jackson's venerable "Eric in the Evening" jazz show to the weekends, cutting it from 16 hours a week to 9, and eliminating Steve Schwartz's Friday night show altogether. Jackson has been on the air in more or less the same slot for 30 years. Jazz fans were up in arms, storming the barricades via a Facebook page. We'll see how that works.

The best part was that WGBH had the Orwellian brass to call this "a new focus on jazz." Call the BFD! Pants on fire!

Lots of folks noted that jazz fans can get whatever they want from the Internet, and Dan Kennedy perhaps shot from the hip with the observation, "I suspect not many people listen to terrestrial jazz radio in the age of Pandora." I suspect that many Internet jazz listeners are in fact dialing up terrestrial stations online - WGBH when Eric's on, as well as the wonderful WWOZ from New Orleans or KKJZ from Long Beach. (As I type these words, Ella Fitzgerald is scatting on K-Jazz, Dan; I think they knew I was going to mention you.) But yes, the Internet has had its usual impact here. And Jackson is 20th in his broadcast time slot.

That's what it's about, ratings and dollars. WGBH decided some time ago that it must battle WBUR for the large audience that tunes in for "Morning Edition," "All Things Considered," "Marketplace" and other "news and information" programming, be it local or national. And that means anything that doesn't fit those plans must be shunted to the sidelines - hence the move of WGBH's classical programming to WCRB (99.5 FM) a couple of years ago. Probably the classical listeners had a Facebook insurrection too, but it doesn't appear to have made much of a dent.

You might be one of those naive old-timers who remembers that public broadcasting was created to provide programming that wasn't supported by the marketplace. About the best spin you could put on the present reality is that fine folks at 'GBH and 'BUR have looked at the degraded news operations of the networks and the cable screamers and decided that their most important, their sole mission, should be to provide a news and information alternative.

That both stations are providing pretty much the (oxymoron alert!) same alternative, well... tough. They're afraid for their jobs like everyone else in the media these days, and if big ratings is what they need to keep them...

But I can't see myself driving along the Charles late some night, looking at the city lights, and wanting to tune in reruns of a midday issues talk show, not matter who's doing the talking.

Originally published on the blog

Streaming Tanglewood history

Posted by Joel Brown June 11, 2012 01:30 PM

TWD75_stack_364A 1938 recording of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, led by Serge Koussevitzky, a 1975 performance of Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1 with Rudolf Serkin, led by Seiji Ozawa, and Harbison's Symphony No. 1 led by John Harbison in 1984 are among the highlights of the Boston Symphony Orchestra's digital celebration of Tanglewood's 75th anniversary.

The BSO will make a single Tanglewood performance available for free streaming each day from June 20-Sept. 2 at, after which you can buy the downloads. Most of the 75 recordings featured have been digitally re-mastered and are available in MP3 at 128 or 256 kbps. The performances are from many different eras and feature, the BSO notes, "recorded sound of widely contrasting quality."

Other offerings range from a 1990 performance of Brahms' Clarinet Trio with Harold Wright, Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax to a 1961 BSO pension fund concert led by Danny Kaye. Everything is on the schedule, from works led by BSO music directors and major guest conductors to Tanglewood Music Center performances and Boston Pops concerts. And yesss, there's a 2009 performance by James Taylor with the Pops scheduled to stream on July 1.

Originally published on the blog

Levon Helm honored at Passim

Posted by Joel Brown May 29, 2012 01:53 PM

Band Levon Helm was a smoker for much of his life, not a huge surprise for a guy who began playing drums in roadhouse bands when he was still a teenager. Helm, the drummer and a singer for The Band, was hit with throat cancer in the 1990s. While that didn't derail a late resurgence of his solo career, it was complications from cancer that killed him in April. Now Club Passim in Cambridge will honor Helm with a benefit for the American Cancer Society on June 4.

Image001There's no need to repeat here how central Helm was to the sound of The Band, that aura of American rural history that percolated up through its elements of rock and country, barroom and hymnal. He was the only American in the band, renowned as one of its three lead singers ("The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"), a brilliant and understated drummer ("The Weight") and a complicated character who was angry at the way a disproportionate amount of both attention and royalties seemed to accrue to guitarist Robbie Robertson. But the cancer actually begat a great second act to his career, as medical bills led him to began hosting the Midnight Rambles at his Woodstock barn and recording studio in the early 2000s, intimate concerts with many guest stars that led to albums and tours.

DirtPassim regulars including Ryan Fitzsimmons, Danielle Miraglia, Sam Otis Hill, Patrick Coman, Autumn Hollow Band and Steve Mayone will pay tribute, with The Blue Ribbons as the house band. I would not be surprised to hear some of the Band's Americana classics sung by Helm, as well as songs from their longtime collaboration with Bob Dylan, or even some less well-known tracks from Helm's work in the 2000s, like his "Electric Dirt" album.

Tickets for the 7 p.m. show, $12, are available at or by calling (617) 492-7679.

Originally published on the blog

Zombie apocalypse needs backers

Posted by Joel Brown April 30, 2012 06:02 PM

Zombies_NightoftheLivingDeadIf you have a few bucks to spare and want to support the upcoming zombie apocalypse, read on. The New Exhibition Room theater group is trying to raise money to buy enough rubber viscera, stage blood and tattered clothing for its upcoming August zombie double feature. As they tell it on their IndieGoGo fund-raising page: "In the spirit of the Grindhouse Double features of the golden age of the drive-in movie, we will create two comically horrifying works about the impending Zombie Apocalypse. You've read right, friend, a Zombie Double Feature: a one-two punch of Zombie movie-ish magic in a live theatre event in August of 2012 at the Boston Playwrights' Theatre." With 12 days to go, they've raised about half of their $2,500 goal, which in turn is about half the shows' budget. Go here to read more and donate.

(The image is from "Night of the Living Dead" - the film's in the public domain now.)

Originally published on the blog

Cambridge's Club 47 folk venue celebrated in new documentary

Posted by Joel Brown April 12, 2012 08:05 PM

Bob Dylan and Betsy Siggings Club 47 Photo by Dick Waterman from For the Love of the MusicIt's difficult to overstate the importance of Cambridge's Club 47 to America's folk music boom in the 1960s, although many have tried. Now the iconic club known today as Club Passim is celebrated in "For the Love of the Music: The Club 47 Folk Revival," a documentary set to debut Tuesday at the Boston International Film Festival. Joan Baez, Tom Rush, Taj Mahal, Judy Collins, Maria Muldaur, Geoff Muldaur, Jim Kweskin and Peter Rowan are among the many interviewed for the film, which starts on the fateful day in 1958 when the young Baez walked into the club, then a Mt. Auburn Street jazz venue, and talked her way into a gig.

Co-directors Todd Kwait and Rob Stegman, who met as BU freshmen in the 1970s, spent nearly two years working on the film, which also includes performances by present day Passim staples like Ellis Paul. Also prominent in the film is Club 47 founding member Betsy Siggins, pictured here with the young Bob Dylan. The film debuts Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Loews Theatre /AMC Boston Common. Details: The trailer:

Originally published on the blog

Greenfield festival features Woody Guthrie family tribute, stellar lineup

Posted by Joel Brown April 6, 2012 04:51 PM

Los Lobos smallYou might want to start making plans now to spend July 14-15 in Greenfield for the 26th annual Green River Festival. This year's installment of the fun but low-key festival presented somewhat improbably by the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce features a celebration of Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday featuring Arlo Guthrie and the Guthrie Family Reunion. But the main-stages lineup would be pretty great even without that. Los Lobos (pictured), Richard Thompson, Ozomatli, Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express, Lost Bayou Ramblers with Gordon Gano, C.J. Chenier and Boston's own David Wax Museum top the list. The WRSI stage offers Peter Mulvey and The Crumbling Beauties, Alastair Moock and friends, Session Americana and more.

As usual the event on the ground of Greenfield Community College will feature food, crafts, a dance tent, a wide array of kid's activities and entertainment, and hot air balloon rides. All of it adds up to a pretty good time in Franklin County, which is as gorgeous and green in summer as it can be bleak and cold in winter (when we have one).

Tix info? Early birds: April 2- April 13: $60 for the weekend, $45 per day; Advance: April 14 -July 13- $75 for the weekend, $55 per day; Day-of: $75 per day at the gate. Parking is $15 for the weekend or $10 a day or you can take a free shuttle from sites around town. Tickets are available at and various locations in Franklin County. Gates open at noon each day. The Green River Festival happens rain or shine, tickets are non-refundable, and alas, no dogs, tents, or alcohol are allowed.

Originally published on the blog

Like music? Dig the outdoors? Hang in Cambridge much?

Posted by Joel Brown March 21, 2012 05:44 PM

HireThen boy, have we got a job for you. Earn $14.28 an hour listening to tunes out in the fresh air. It sounds like some Craigslist scam or email spam come-on. But this is straight from HireCulture, the Mass. Cultural Council's "free, searchable database of cultural employment opportunities in Massachusetts."

Usually the ads on Hire Culture range for curators to janitors - not that I'm looking - and like job listings everywhere they're rich in indentured servitude internship offers. But this seasonal gig seeks applicants for THREE part-time, seasonal positions as a ...wait for it...Street Perfromer (sic) Monitor for the Cambridge Arts Council.

The job description for this awesome summer gig?

"The Street Performer Monitor(s) will work under the direction of the CAC Community Arts Program to carry out to the following: Enforce the articles of the City of Cambridge Street Performer Ordinance (Ord. No. 1176) as outlined in the Sidewalk Use Ordinance (Chapter 12.16, Section 12.16.170). Ensure that all performers active on public property have and display valid city-issued Performer Permits. Manage sound levels of performers through the use of a calibrated decibel reader and care taking of said decibel reader through due diligence which the equipment is in your possession. Respond to program-related complaints as necessary and at the request of the Director of Community Arts and CAC staff. Submit weekly reports on performer/monitor activity to the Director of Community Arts. Act as the official liaison between the Cambridge Arts Council and performers, residents and members of the business community in matters pertaining to the Street Performer Program."


"MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS: Ideal candidates have a strong interest in music and/or performance art, excellent verbal and mediation skills, a desire to work with a diverse community and a commitment to sustaining the cultural life in the City of Cambridge. Bachelor's Degree required. PHYSICAL DEMANDS: Street Performer Monitors are expected to spend between 10-20 hours per week in the field conducting routine monitoring, mediating performer conflicts, and responding to program-related complaints. While performing the duties of this job, the employee is frequently required to sit, talk, walk, and hear. Must have sufficient mobility to travel back and forth to and from various sites throughout the city. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions. WORK ENVIRONMENT Performs duties inside and outside of buildings. Exposure to all weather conditions. Exposure to moderate noise level caused by music and other live performances."

No word on whether you can wear earplugs, due either to those noise levels or the erratic quality of the performers. The application period ends April 19. See the full ad here. And tell 'em HubArts sent ya.

Originally published on the blog

Berklee's working out a groove

Posted by Joel Brown February 27, 2012 02:17 PM

You don't have to put on the funkalicious shades like Berklee College of Music President (and drummer) Roger Brown did to greet honorary degree recipient George Clinton the other day. It's easy to see with the naked eye that Berklee's impact has grown under Brown's tenure, which began in 2004.


The museums have been getting most of the ink lately when it comes to cultural impact around here, as the ICA makes itself felt in its new digs, the Museum of Fine Arts unveils its massive makeover, and the Gardner shows off its sleek addition. But despite its own changing profile and big expansion plans, Berklee hasn't gotten quite the same attention.

When I moved back to Mass. almost 15 years ago, the venerable music campus still had to remind us journos at times that it was a college now, not a school, even though that change had taken place back around 1970, when a relative of mine was taking classes there in big-band arranging. Jazz was still what people thought of when they thought of Berklee - the names most commonly mentioned were Pat Metheny and faculty member Gary Burton - as well as the Berklee Performance Center. Those in the neighborhood also knew it as the source of all those kids with instrument cases clogging the sidewalks around Tower Records.

The kids are still there, though Tower isn't. Berklee's student body seems to grow ever more talented and diverse, like this bluegrass fiddler from Prague. Now, though, folks like Clinton regularly pass through the campus, sometimes performing for the public, but almost always hanging and jamming with students. Students, alums and the occasional passing bigger name drop into the school's Cafe 939 to perform. Student and faculty ensembles pop up all over the city with (usually free) performances, especially in warmer weather and outdoors. And in September the Beantown Jazz Festival draws a hearteningly huge and diverse crowd to Columbus Ave as well as venues around the city. (Wish they'd called it something other than Beantown, but ....)

Berklee has long done well at the Grammys, but often with producer or songwriter credits that don't get much attention. Student-turned-faculty-member-turned-jazz-phenom Esperanza Spalding lives out of town now but did much to raise Berklee's image with that surprising 2011 Grammy win for best new artist. Spalding also appears on alum and percussion professor Terri Lyne Carrington's "The Mosaic Project," which followed her into the Grammy spotlight this year by winning best vocal jazz album.

Trey Parker of "South Park" and "Book of Mormon" fame and the brilliant singer and guitarist Susan Tedeschi are also alums who were among Berklee's eight Grammy winners this year, as is songwriter Jeff Bhasker, who won best rap song for "All of the Lights" by Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi, and Fergie.

There are plenty of other signs that Berklee is hitting it right, but I'll name just one more: the Rethink Music conference, which Berklee runs with Reed Midem and Harvard's Berkman Center for Society and the Internet. Last year's event drew a full house of music business insiders to yak for two solid days about whatever the hell it is that's happened to the industry and where it goes next. There were endless podium and hallway debates about copyright and digital distribution and bands charting their own course in the increasingly chaotic field.

This year's event, featuring keynotes from the president of Pitchfork Media and the chief content officer for Spotify, is set for April 22-24 again at the Hynes Convention Center. I encourage Brown - no relation, by the way - to break out the shades, and maybe some nice stack heels too.

Photo of Clinton and Brown courtesy Berklee.

Originally published on the blog

Jazz in Rockport, roots in Cambridge, love in the air

Posted by Joel Brown February 8, 2012 08:30 PM

Danilo-promo-lgTwo notable shows between now and Valentine's Day that you might have missed... Tickets are going fast for Danilo Perez and friends at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport on Friday night. This is a pretty smashing combination of the "Pan-American" jazz pianist and one of the most interesting performance spaces in the entire Boston area. This small, wood-and-glass performance hall offers great sound and a beautiful harbor view. Now, sure, it will be dark when the show begins at 8 p.m., but Perez will cast plenty of illumination anyway. Tix are $25-$35 and if you're interested, I'd call 978-546-7391 or go here right now. Bonus: The show is a benefit for the North Shore Jazz Project, whose All-Star band will open. Not a bad date night.

The other show is more directly Valentine-related. Three real-life couples, rootsy-folkie types all, will play Songs of Love at Passim in Harvard Square, Cambridge, on Valentine's Day, aka Tuesday. Darol Anger and Emy Phelps, Lissa Schneckenberger and Corey DiMario, and Brittany Haas and Kai Welch will present what they're calling Sweethearts’ Night Out, with originals and covers looking at romance from, well, both sides now and then some. The 8 p.m. show is $23 for Passim members and $25 for non-members.  They can be purchased in advance here or at 617-492-7679.

Originally published on the blog

Not watching the Super Bowl? Passim offers an alternative

Posted by Joel Brown January 26, 2012 05:05 PM

Cover540Very alternative. While the rest of us will be tuning in for the Patriots-Giants rematch, the Harvard Square folk landmark will feature Grammy-nominated producer/performer Nicolay and "exploratory jazz" trio The Hot at Nights performing the music from their recent "Shibuya Session" EP, which you can hear here. Nicolay is an electronica producer best known as half of The Foreign Exchange with rapper Phonte. North Carolina's The Hot at Nights feature 8-string guitar virtuoso Chris Boerner, with Matt Douglas on sax/woodwinds and Nick Baglio on drums. The EP features new versions of tracks from Nicolay's 2009 album "City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya." It's pretty mellow, decidedly unlike Vince Wilfork slamming Eli Manning to the ground.The gig is scheduled for 8:00 pm, by which time I hope Wilfork will have done that at least twice, at Club Passim, 47 Palmer Street, Cambridge. Tix: $13 for Passim members, and $15 for non-members, at: or (617) 492-7679.

Originally published on the blog

Eddie Coyle at the end

Posted by Joel Brown January 14, 2012 02:38 PM

CoyleOnly one show left, Sunday at 7:30pm, for "The Friends of Eddie Coyle" at Oberon. I've written about the theatrical adaptation of this Boston crime classic by Bill Doncaster a few times over the past year, including attending its first reading more than a year ago in the back room of the Burren. Thursday night I finally got to see the full version at Oberon - I brought my dad, who took me to the movie back in 1972, and we scarfed beers and burgers over at Charlie's  Kitchen first to get in the old-school mood.

The play was everything I expected, with its network of conspiratorial conversations staged all around Oberon and sometimes overlapping as the web of circumstance tightens around the characters. I don't review plays I write about, but this was dark fun. Special nod to Rick Park as the bartender/ex-con Dillon, whose seemingly genial, reasonable exterior is gradually revealed as a disguise. Peter Darrigo is also effectively real as a familiar kind of cranky, self-aggrandizing, working-class Masshole; it's just that Jimmy Scalise's gig involves guns and banks instead of power tools or paint brushes.

I'm still debating the depiction of Coyle himself by Doncaster, director Maria Silvaggi and actor Paulo Branco. Mind you, they deliver on their artistic intent - I'm just not sure I share their interpretation 100%. Sure, the movie's performance by Robert Mitchum gave the character more gravitas than author George V. Higgins may have intended, but the Coyle they give us in the play is a total mook.

Overall, this is a compelling restaging of the tale, and last I heard, there were only a couple of handfuls of tickets left for the final performance, at 866-811-4111 or

Originally published on the blog

Work and play at MASSMoCA. And a boat.

Posted by Joel Brown January 5, 2012 04:11 PM

1-12 moca5Made one of my regular visits to MASSMoCA in North Adams last weekend and found that the current exhibits - at least the ones I could hit in a couple of hours - are as usual a mix of the sublime and the ridiculous. At the sublime end of the spectrum of course is Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective, which has its own building and its own web site and is expected to stick around through 2033. I've been through it perhaps half a dozen times since it opened in 2008, and the work still feels like genius.

The Workers: Precarity/Invisibility/Mobility, on display through April 14, does something different for a MoCA show, tackling its subject head-on, almost polemically at times. The idea is to show how far labor has fallen from the days of Rosie the Riveter in our era of economic despair, outsourcing, migrancy and exploitation. A series of photos shows workers increasingly buried on a beach, in sight of distant factories, until there's nothing left of them. A nearby installation combines a workers' break room and a gallows, like a New Yorker cartoon that needs no caption.

Paci 11Most compelling is Adrian Paci's tragicomic "Centro di permanenza temporanea," a large-screen video that shows solemn-faced minority workers lining up to climb one of those wheeled airport staircases - but instead of boarding a plane, they are left standing stoically on the staircase in the middle of the airport, while the shiny jets of commerce taxi and take off all around them. (Image courtesy MASSMoCA.) The video is specifically intended to comment on the plight of undocumented workers, but the sense of abandonment seems to apply to pretty much everyone these days. This five-minute film was a kick in the head.

1-12 moca1Upstairs in Building 4 is the exhibit Nari Ward: Sub Mirage Lignum, running through February. This is one of those shows where the scale of the works is designed to take advantage of the huge spaces at MASSMoCA, which usually make an impact even if the curatorial explanations don't always convince. The centerpiece of Ward's show is "Nu Colossus," which features a fishing boat cut in sections and a giant, conical basket-woven fish trap of a kind used in Ward's native Jamaica. One's immediate impression is that the hunter has become the hunted. But of course such obvious interpretation is never correct here at MoCA, and the accompanying text informs us, "This duality of seduction and entrapment is key to Ward's idea of mirage, which as an image both distorts reality and points to a sense of need."

1-12 moca3I sometimes feel as though I am insulting the artist when I talk about what's most affecting in these giant installations, as it's often different for me than the stated intent of the work. Does my sense of wonder at their immediate visceral impact trump the Moebius-strip curator-speak of the cerebral explanations? Disbelieving some of the airy conceptual constructions does not make one a Philistine, does it?

By itself, bringing a boat into the gallery no longer floats mine. But a look into the gaping maw of the fish trap - filled with broken furniture (more on that in a sec) and lit in sinister chiarscuro by the gaps in the basket weave - was a stunner. All I could see was an upsettingly intense still-life of a tornado's unholy inner chaos, looking up into the funnel as it sucked away me, Dorothy and Toto. My crappy cellphone pic can't do it justice, but perhaps it doesn't matter, as this interpretation is apparently an unintended consequence of the artist's craft and vision, and nowhere mentioned in the text. Thanks to eavesdropping, though, I know I'm not the only one who saw it immediately.

1-12 moca2

The furniture, as well as the foam rubber, resistors and capacitors making up Ward's giant "Mango Tourists" in an adjacent gallery, were sourced around the museum, which occupies the former Sprague Electric factory complex. A large installation in the Workers exhibit re-creates and comments on an "artwork" of disposable cups stuck in a chain link fence at the Sprague plant during a 1970 strike. To use a couple of verbs much favored by curators nowadays, it 2011-12-31_14-12-53_197would be interesting to "unpack" the ways that these works "interrogate" the site's history. There are places in the museum where the workers' passages (in both senses of the word) remain vividly present.

Finally I wandered into the football-field sized Building 5 gallery, the site of MASSMoCA's most mind-blowing triumphs and its most hilarious misfires. The sheer size of the joint brings out artistic ambitions that raise the stakes so high even the misfires are must-sees. That, alas, was not the case with Katharina Grosse's one floor up more highly, an exhibit which ended, fortunately or unfortunately, on New Year's Day.

The main portion of the exhibit consists of truckloads of dirt heaped on the gallery floor, spray-painted in various colors and stuck with large, styrofoam rods that look like the icy wastes of Superman's home planet. It called to mind the el cheapo alien landscapes on the original "Star Trek." The exhibit text says that Grosse's work "opens up a new path for painting while rearranging conventions, hierarchy and our very habits of seeing." Also: "the anarchic work embraces a state of ambiguity that allows for alternative ways of processing what is seen." To which I can only say, uh huh.

1-12 moca4

Originally published on the blog

About the author

Joel Brown is a regular contributor to The Boston Globe and writes the blog. Catch his tweets between posts at More »

More community voices

Child in Mind

Corner Kicks

Dirty Old Boston

Mortal Matters

On Deck

TEDx Beacon Street


Browse this blog

by category