Whack attack

Fenway celebrates its 30th session
By TED DROZDOWSKI  |  December 4, 2006
“Whack!” That’s the sound (whack!) of ¡Forward Russia! (whack!) conducting one of the most irritating (whack!) soundchecks ever done (whack!) in a Boston club. Nearly an hour of constant, methodical drumming pumped through the PA at Great Scott and punctuated by runs around the kit that, well, weren’t necessarily in time.

Although it was inexplicable, it wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t become the default soundtrack for a modest little party on November 27 celebrating the 30th show in the “Fenway Recordings Sessions” series — sporadic gigs assembled by the label of the same name and its owner, Mark Kates, who also manages Mission of Burma. The label is local, but Kates and his crew think global. ¡Forward Russia!, who make a handsome caterwaul when they’re not soundchecking, hail from Leeds, England, and Wolfmother, the Arab Strap, Portastatic, and Editors have all played previous Fenway sessions.

In these tight times for live local music, Kates has reason to celebrate. Any independent promoter who can keep a series going for two and a half years and 30 shows deserves a medal, or at least a Happy Meal. So he puttered around in a baseball uniform during the whacking, greeting guests over drinks and offering his take on the series before slicing into a big chocolate cake decorated with a mock Fenway Park and passing out slices.

“I’m not really a promoter,” he explained while I consumed my daily allowance of vitamin V(odka). “The series was really the suggestion of an intern who thought it would be a good way to promote our own artists [Consonant, Read Yellow, Unbusted, Longwave, etc.], but it quickly became something more.” Kates means it’s become a showcase for all sorts of interesting, inventive indie-rockers who might break out, but it’s obvious that the “Sessions” are also an extension of his own personality and tastes, as well as a way of keeping his hand in the local scene. “It is a form of personal expression,” he admits when prodded. “And the DJ thing is the purest form of that for me.”

“The DJ thing” is his alter ego, DJ Carbo (named for Sox hero Bernie Carbo), who was the night’s opening act. Before he moved back home to Boston five years ago, Kates was a West Coast record label executive who worked with the likes of Nirvana and Sonic Youth. And for two years he ran a night of tune spinning at LA’s Viper Room called “Atmosphere.”

At Great Scott — as soon as the whacking stopped — he spun a graceful mix that ranged from modern electrostatic to classic Cars and Clash. It was an artful intro for the night’s first band, Fenway’s Read Yellow, who hit the stage like a jittery thunderclap, are finishing up a new album, and look good on their MySpace page dressed as bananas.
Related: Mission statements, The 40 greatest concerts in Boston history: 34, Boston music news: November 24, 2006, More more >
  Topics: Live Reviews , Mark Kates, Mission of Burma, Sonic Youth,  More more >
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