Avant gardening

By DAVID DAY  |  November 13, 2006

Dresden Dolls frontwoman Amanda Palmer knows the feeling. She may be enjoying major cult success now, but it was a long time coming. And Brainwashed was part of the process. “Jon Whitney and I go back to 1992 or ’93, when we met on the Legendary Pink Dots BBS,” she writes via e-mail. “The little bits of support and help he’s given us are endless. He even gave me my own personal URL to post up business info when I was a street performer.” In addition to hosting her e-mail for five years, Whitney teamed up with Palmer to bring Swans leader M. Gira to Boston.

Other local entities who have leaned on Whitney include Keith Fullerton Whitman (a/k/a Hrvatski), Lowell’s RRR Records, and microsound label Intransitive Recordings. But the site extends around the globe. “Brainwashed is another internationally visible example of Boston’s creative culture and our city’s active participation in the world of underground and experimental music,” says Intransitive owner Howie Stelzer. “If weirdo music is at all your thing, there’s value in seeing another aspect of what Boston has to offer.”

Whitney adds, “I’m really excited that people have bought tickets for ‘Brainwaves’ from Greece, from Japan, from Australia, Ireland, and England. I’m going to put on the best damn show these people can get for that type of money.”

Each of the four events offers a diverse range of performers, from noise acts to ambient droners to rock bands. But the shows are unified in their aesthetic, which Whitney characterizes as “people who don’t play their instruments the way the instruction manuals tell them to.”

Each event incorporates specific artist videos and some impromptu collaborations; Palmer, for one, promises a duet with Pink Dots founder Edward Ka-Spel. “Brainwaves” will also feature the world premiere of Lumb’s Sister, a film (20 years in the making) starring dark-folk icon David Tibet and scored by Nurse with Wound. “I asked people to play the fest who I knew personally,” Whitney explains. “I’m not dealing with managers or publicists or the kind of network you need to pull off a huge festival where people have to find sponsors and advertisers like soda companies and computer manufacturers.”

This staunch anti-commercialization stance may keep Brainwashed from reaching a wider audience, but Whitney has no problem in that. “Maybe a few more people will know who we are after this,” he says, laughing. “It’s okay: the important people know. The nerds know who we are. And we’re the nerds ourselves. Those are the people I want to please the most. It’s for everyone who comes, everyone involved, everyone who plays . . . and me.”

On the Web
Brainwaves: http://www.brainwashed.com/10/
Amanda Palmer: http://www.brainwashed.com/amanda

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For the full story on “Brainwaves,” go to www.brainwashed.com/10/. Event passes are available on-line or at Twisted Village in Harvard Square for $75 for all three days.

November 17 @ 7 pm | Z’ev + Troum + Nadja + Dresden Dolls + Edward Ka-Spel And Silverman | Along with the Dresden Dolls, Friday’s mix includes two members of the Legendary Pink Dots — Ka-Spel and Silverman. “We already road-tested some songs when they opened for us in Berlin,” Palmer says. “Edward sang ‘Missed Me’ with us and I played on ‘The Wedding,’ a great old Pink Dots song.”

November 18 @ noon | Howard Stelzer + The Caretaker And V/Vm + Goodiepal + Cock Esp + Keith Fullerton Whitman + Greg Davis + Landing | Saturday afternoon’s the ear-testing part of the program, with the howling experimental electronic funk of V/Vm and the dain-bramaged DJ-enabled Cock ESP, as well as two local indie luminaries, Keith Fullerton Whitman and Howard Stelzer.

November 18 @ 7 pm | Aranos + DJ Steven Stapleton + Colin Potter + Irr.App.(Ext.) + Volcano The Bear | Steven Stapleton is the center of Nurse with Wound, a world-renowned sound collective who’ve shared audio projects with most of the rest of this bill, as well as with Stereolab and Current 93. Stapleton, a major collector of vinyl, is DJing. His play lists are like Biblical tomes to the vinyl massive. “I’m most looking forward to irr.app.(ext.), who I first heard about from Jon about seven years ago,” Stelzer says. “They’ve become something of a big deal in avant-noise-type circles.”

November 19 @ noon | Charles Atlas + Jessica Bailiff + Christoph Heemann + Andreas Martin + Windy & Carl + Non + Thighpaulsandra | Sunday’s an all-day affair, with Germany’s Christoph Heemann, a legend for his tape music experiments. Heemann also collaborated with both Stapleton as HNAS (a German acronym for “Stag Not on the Sofa”) and Ka-Spel (as Mimir). Windy & Carl and Jessica Bailiff both play delicately quiet music well suited to the theater setting; keyboardist Thighpaulsandra is a member of a host of projects including Spiritualized and Coil.

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