For the past five years, Joe Harvard has lived and worked in Asbury Park. But the East Boston native — born Joe Incagnoli — made his bones in these parts, primarily as a producer and founding co-owner of Fort Apache studio from 1985 to 1993. He was back at the Middle East upstairs last Saturday to celebrate his 49th birthday, and to stage the fourth of what he refers to as his “Jersey Junkets,” for which he brings along a talented artist from Jersey to join Boston rockers. The treat this time was singer/acoustic-guitarist Rick Barry, who played powerful, sometimes political, songs in the key of mournful, accompanied by Harvard on pedal steel.
To add to the festivities (which included a belly dancer), Dan Kramer screened his Boston rock doc Counting Backwards, which, named for a Throwing Muses song, was narrated by Harvard and featured many of the key bands who were associated with Fort Apache, among them the Muses, Dinosaur Jr., the Pixies, and Mission of Burma. Kramer, who produced the film, said it demonstrated that “Boston trumped Seattle. Its import globally was huge.”
Interviewed in 2000–2001, the bands in Counting Backwards reflected on the Boston club scene that was: the Rat, Chet’s Last Call, Jack’s, the Underground, and more. “At its best, the music scene when we were happening, was utopian,” Burma bassist Clint Conley says in the film. “So earnest, so righteous. Art above all, fuck the record companies!” Morphine’s late Mark Sandman got props — producer Sean Slade called him “the king of the beatniks.”
“A lovefest of chaotic frenzy” was how guitarist Asa Brebner described the night. His witty, hard-rocking band followed Barry. The Joe Harvard Band capped the night with a roots-rock/country set. Harvard has on the way a CD, Country Eastern, that he recorded a full 18 years ago at the Fort, plus a disc of newer recordings in the works. His set featured the original “Patriotic Pseudo Pacifist,” which hit #19 on Neil Young’s anti-war on-line song chart. The irony was that, before the show, he got into a fight on Mass Ave that left him with a wound on his right cheek