HOME TEAM: What started out as a front room hosting freewheeling jam sessions has swelled into a guerrilla army of bands, poets, and artists.
On a sleepy side street in JP sits the Whitehaus, where, on a recent Saturday evening, muffled electronic gurgles and drones pulse from the basement like the sounds of some secret sci-fi laundromat. It's an experimental electronics night anchored by Boston synth overlord Keith Fullerton Whitman, but it could be any number of scenes that the Whitehaus has welcomed into its living room over the past four years. A week later, it's a spoken-word night. After that, a homecoming for Debo Band.
This Saturday will mark the collective's third annual Blastfest, for which the Whitehaus crew will move the entire operation over to the Cambridge YMCA for a long day of all-over-the-map insanity. This year's fest coincides with the vernal equinox, as well as with the release of their first big double-LP compilation, The Whitehaus Family Record Family Record.
Long-time organizer Morgan Shaker gives me a quick tour of the cavernous house and its five crannied stories. "We used to have shows at our old apartment in Hyde Square. But it eventually harshed out the downstairs neighbors, and we had to leave. This was the first place that popped up when we typed in 'eight bedrooms, Jamaica Plain' on Craigslist."
What started out as a front room hosting freewheeling jam sessions (the long-running "Hootenanies") has swelled into a guerrilla army of bands, poets, and artists scrawling handmade artwork over cardboard CD-R cases (the Whitehaus imprint now boasts 50 releases) and networking with bedroom DIY artists across the country. Peace, Loving — a Whitehaus all-star kitchen-sink freakout — are currently on a four-month tour across the US.
Shaker opens the door into the first-floor office, which sports a coin-op Arkanoid machine and walls covered with maps. A poster charts the progress of residents from their respective origins to the inner circle of the Haus — it's like the schematics of Dante's Inferno they made you draw in AP English.
Unlike a lot of show houses, Whitehaus has made itself accessible to the surrounding arts community, opening its doors for Jamaica Plain Open Studios and hosting a booth at the yearly Wake Up the Earth Festival. Combine that with their liberal booking policy and you have a residency that extends well beyond the house's doors.
At this year's Blastfest, expect spoken word, stacks of hand-copied lit from the Papercut Zine Library, upward of 25 acts, and free PB&J — a beautiful all-inclusive mess, like the trash-heap mega-sculpture of bike wheels and old cymbals that gets transplanted from the collective's ceiling onto the stage. The 27-track Family Record is the best possible document of Haus culture — scraps of pop songs, folk songs, audio collage, and brain-drain hallucination rants float by on warbly tape like lost '60s field recordings. Highly recommended. And this time, more than ever, there's a welcoming hand extended to friends outside the house. Weirdo Records' Angela Sawyer and her game-calls-only duo Duck That, the surreal twangscapes of Tulsa, and the psych-pop of Apollo Sunshine will all take the stage at some point between 11 am and 11 pm.