Boston could always be depended on to provide the major labels with bands that would get some good reviews and cult success, if little else. Yet coincidentally or not, in the era after Nirvana, some of those same artful bands started scoring hit singles. Gigolo Aunts, once shunned as too Beatle-esque for their own good, got onto a Hollywood film soundtrack. (Their song “Where I Find My Heaven” was in Dumb and Dumber.) Two singer-songwriters, Jennifer Trynin and Tracy Bonham, found themselves the objects of separate major-label feeding frenzies. The buzz on Bonham brought Chris Blackwell — the man who’d broken both U2 and Bob Marley to Americans — into the Rat. (Bonham signed with Blackwell’s Island label; the alliance was short-lived but got her a 1996 Grammy nomination for best alternative performance.) A similar buzz brought Warner Bros. sniffing after Trynin; and Warner formed a million-dollar alliance with Squint Records — the label Trynin had started in her living room.
And the hits kept on coming. The abstract pop groups the Dambuilders and Fuzzy both got signed to Atlantic Records. Jonathan Richman was hip again, as the Farrelly brothers built their comedy hit There’s Something About Mary around his troubadour persona. The experimental guitarist Reeves Gabrels, who’d played in the theatrical rock troupe the Bentmen, got a plum gig playing guitar with David Bowie. Tanya Donelly, once of Throwing Muses, and her dreamy pop band Belly found themselves with national airplay for “Feed the Tree” (whose title came form a New England expression meaning “pushing up daisies” — hardly the usual stuff of pop songs). Throwing Muses themselves got some commercial radio airplay with “Bright Yellow Gun,” and the Muses’ Kristin Hersh found herself amused by the “grunge” revolution: “The Parisians finally liked the way I dressed!”
WILLIE ALEXANDER + ASA BREBNER + DENNIS BRENNAN + ELLIE AND JOE FROM THE CHARMS + ANDREA GILLIS + ROBIN LANE + LYRES + DAVID MINEHAN + MUCK & THE MIRES + NERVOUS EATERS + JOHN POWHIDA + JJ RASSLER + KEVIN STEVENSON | Middle East downstairs, 480 Mass Ave, Cambridge | September 22 | 617.864.EAST
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