Rootin' tootin' Hooten

Allston Folk at Home
By P. NICK CURRAN  |  April 1, 2009

VIDEO: Highlights from the Hootenanny in Allston

The house that Gonzo built: On a quiet street in Allston sits an unassuming home with an indoor hoops court, a pillow loft, a house band, and one main rule: leave things better than when you came. By Shaelyn Dolen.
Once a month, in the cramped A-frame attic of a house in Allston, folk singers from around New England gather to sing for each other. There's a two-song limit, creating a revolving door of musicians flowing from the floor-seated crowd. An ever-present supply of beer (origins mysterious) maintains an enthused, inebriated audience. It's a genuine Hootenanny — one that kicks off sometime around 10 pm and ends whenever the last guitar hero steps off stage.

Organizer Vince Bancheri, who lives at the house and performs regularly at the Hoot, opened this month's event this past Saturday. "For those who've never been to a Hoot, there are tons of amazing people, there are tons of people that suck. But that's what makes it great."

As promised, some people stepped up to belt cringe-worthy ballads on guitars that never knew a proper tuning. Others struck heavenly chords and broke hearts. Opening act Old Hannah killed with a staggering Appalachian/Catskill/old-time slave ballad (apparently there's some debate over the song's origin) backed by banjo and guitar. Troubadour Nick Beaven prefaced his set by saying, "Don't sneak into my heart, it's for all you ladies out there . . . and it's all your fault," then gliding into two songs that spoke to the type of irreparable heartbreak only a dude with a guitar can convey. As singer A.K., a classically trained vocalist, hit her first note, a breeze — an honest- to-god-no-this-is-not-hyperbole stray breeze — rustled through the audience. Did someone leave a window open? Perhaps. Divine acknowledgement of a righteous performance? That, too.

And the night escalated from there. A raucous, Mexi-hued punk trio took their seats next, eliciting the requisite "hoots" from the audience. Vikesh Kapoor led a crowd-stomping rendition of "Going Down That Road" (a fan favorite, with lyrics consisting entirely of the title), and a lovely lady duo offered comfort from the recession with a ukulele cover of the Cyndi Lauper hit "True Colors."

"[The Hoot] is a sharing of songs," says Bancheri. "We're learning all these songs, from different places, from different people, and it's really cool to bring it all together."

We're not sure how to reconcile old-time slave ballads with Cyndi Lauper, but then again, there was an ever-present supply of beer.

For info about upcoming Hoots, contact Vince at

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