Berklee College of Music continues with its DIY curriculum, one that could pay dividends to the music community at large. The school already has two student-run record labels (Heavy Rotation and Jazz Revelation), and now it has its own all-ages club, Café 939, a 200-capacity venue at that address on Boylston Street, across the hall from the Cactus Club. With the guidance of administrator and former Rat booker Jackie Indrisano, the students handle everything, from booking bands to running lights and sound and serving snacks. But the participants insist that the stage is open to anyone, students or not, in all genres.
At the opening party for 939 a week ago Wednesday, Roger Brown, president of Berklee since 2004, said, “When I got here, I kept saying, ‘We’ve got to have the students do a club.’ I was following what was going on, and I knew about the problems of having all-ages shows at places that serve alcohol. And I’ve got teenage kids — where do they go for good music?”
Chris Tory, one of three talent buyers, said the idea will be for the club to get bands or artists “with a huge buzz — people we might not be able to get in a couple of months.”
At the party, endless plates of grilled sandwich halves and cupcakes streamed from the kitchen through the room, with its red-painted walls and tall windows. Four Berklee acts played — all ridiculously accomplished. The four-piece jazz band the Fix plied electric-guitar jazz rock while their pianist, a woman in a floppy Sherpa knit cap with a giant pompon, grinned wildly. The country-folk outfit Annie Lynch and the Beekeepers featured a cellist and a string player who “doubled” on mandolin, guitar, and banjo. Singer Joy Daniels fronted a seven-piece funk band and, typical of Berklee events, had a ringer sit in for a couple of numbers — drummer John Blackwell, of Prince’s band and lately with Justin Timberlake. And Julia Easterlin sat on a stool and accompanied herself with a loop-delay board on her lap, feeding it layers of vocal and percussion rhythms before singing a charming love song about a cab ride in the rain.
Another ringer was scheduled to come into 939 April 2 and 3 — rising alto-sax star Miguel Zenón, leading his own quartet and jamming with students. And Owen (a/k/a Mike Kinsella of American Football) will be in this Friday, April 4, with Unwed Sailor and Brooke Waggoner.