Avant gardening

'Brainwaves’ invades the Regent
By DAVID DAY  |  November 13, 2006

NERD APPEAL: The fest, Jon Whitney says, will feature “people who don’t play their instruments the way the instruction manuals tell them to.”

One of the premier avant-garde music festivals in the world happens to be taking place this weekend in Arlington. It’s all to celebrate the 10th anniversary of brainwashed.com, a music Web site founded and run by Massachusetts native Jon Whitney. For three days, some of the leading lights of the underground, including a multitude of local artists, will call the Regent Theatre home for “Brainwaves,” four events filled with music, visuals, and DJs.

“I’ve never done anything of this magnitude before,” says brainwashed.com founder and publisher Whitney, “unless you consider doing Brainwashed for 10 years.” Whitney began to plot the festival years ago. “I credit the genesis to the band Mono. They were relatively unknown, they were playing at the Zeitgeist, and they said if I ever started a festival, they’d be interested in playing it. I thought, ‘That’s an interesting idea, doing a festival . . . ’ ”

After he’d abandoned a plan to host the festival outdoors in Vermont, his thoughts turned to Arlington. “A lot of bands are flying in, and they’re not going to have camping gear, and the Regent is a fantastic theater. The people are really, really nice, and it’s so important to me that they’re willing to help and be a part of it. I’m not a big organization. There’s a lot of people who are helping out: crew doing sound and video and transportation and security, and that’s the type of people I want to work with. That way I can say it was a success, even if I don’t break even on it.”

Brainwashed has always been a labor of love for Whitney, and its pre-Pitchfork existence was born from the collaboration of some very particular people. “Most fan Web sites at that point were just ‘Ooh, I love Tori Amos, here’s a picture of her album cover!’ You know? So Brainwashed was really a music nerd’s place where we could find discographies and things like that. It was just a bunch of music nerds.”

Eventually those nerds, who traded tapes through the post office, became more like an army, with members from all over the world. The site is home to 50 mini-sites, labels like Kranky (Labradford, Godspeed You Black Emperor!) and artists like avant-diva Diamanda Galás. For seven years it was even the on-line space for post-rock leaders Tortoise. Add news, a radio stream, record reviews, podcasts, and, most recently, a video podcast and the content the site generates is overwhelming.

Whitney: “We’re unified in the belief that people should have access to information, people should not be prevented from finding out about music. If you want to talk about Pitchfork or the Wire or Rolling Stone, there’s a lot of music they won’t cover.”

Brainwashed was early to champion artists like Antony and Johnsons, Sigur Rós, and local stars the Dresden Dolls. “Any band that has any sort of longevity or any sort of relevance really has to build its audience. The people who are superstars overnight are obscure overnight.”

1  |  2  |   next >
Related: A fest for the brain, Panoramic pop, Rock-and-roll circus, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Entertainment, Music, Pop and Rock Music,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
More Information

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.

Share this entry with Delicious
  •   DAY BY DAY BY DAY  |  September 18, 2007
    Two years ago, the Phoenix asked me to write a weekly column about Boston’s growing electronic music and DJ scene.
  •   THE DUFF CONNECTION  |  September 12, 2007
    “I really haven’t had to deal with any crazy paparazzi, since we usually keep a low profile and sneak in the back door of places.”
  •   BASSTOWN NIGHTS  |  September 12, 2007
    If 2006 was the year Boston germinated, 2007 is the year it grows up.
  •   PARTY PROS  |  September 06, 2007
    Weekend Warriors, or WKND WRYRZ, is the Sunday-night lounge party at ZuZu in Central Square.
  •   CITIZENS OF BASSTOWN  |  August 29, 2007
    The proliferation of dance parties in Boston has led not only to a rise in the number of DJs but also to a growth in the ranks of dancers.

 See all articles by: DAVID DAY