Wandering stars

Humanwine's mysterious substance
By BARRY THOMPSON  |  June 24, 2009

BUILT TO SPILL "We are always speaking from our mind," says Holly Brewer. "But now we want to rip open our ribcage and puke from our hearts. It's not necessarily going to be pretty."

The line between art and entertainment gets thicker and darker every time someone opens a Facebook account. Most of us music types are entertainers, because entertainers just want attention. Artists, on the other hand, are trying to define their own reality. Take the core of the neo-classical-anarcho-punk collective Humanwine, singers and multi-instrumentalists Holly Brewer and M@ McNiss. Their honorable agenda is never to be shackled by labels, genres, fashion, geography, conventional definitions of what qualifies as a "band," or even preconceived notions of Humanwine. So it's nice to have them back in town, even if it's only for the summer.

Having just spent nearly six months hitchhiking, biking, and occasionally taking public transportation to their shows while living on the West Coast (they weren't 100 percent sure their highly DIY, eco-friendly, habitable school bus would survive a cross-country trek), all while expanding their pool of musicians, Humanwine have triumphantly returned East. This joyous occasion will be commemorated with a multimedia extravaganza Saturday at the Paradise. Their set will endure for two hours, and they'll be backed by A Far Cry — a frickin' chamber orchestra. Craziness! (And also: Significance!)

"This show is going to be a gateway into the next chapter in Humanwine's life," says Brewer, as she sips tea in the JP apartment where she and McNiss are staying. "We've been referring to it as a dark watercolor painting that uses only blacks and oranges and reds and grays. We are always speaking from our mind and planning out a story that describes what we see in the world. But now we want to rip open our ribcage and puke from our hearts. It's not necessarily going to be pretty, but there aren't going to be any words involved. It's going to be chanting and loops. Electric, visceral, and not like Humanewine is to most people."

The "story" she's referring to is Humanwine's mercurial dream dimension of Vinland, an alternate reflection of our reality in which many of their songs are couched. I don't mean to imply Humanwine are on some sort of Dungeons & Dragons kick. It's just that they, along with their fans, have a knack for theatricality. For their shindig Saturday, the Paradise will be transformed into a microcosm of Vinland, complete with a costume contest in which mystery prizes will be awarded for the most interesting interpretations of Vinlandian character archetypes.

"We don't necessarily have to be the only ones who make it a multimedia event," explains McNiss. "It encourages people to find ways to bring media into what is typically a scenario where you pay whatever amount of money, see four bands, and drink too much beer. The idea is to make it not feel like a club."

If any of this sounds a bit over the top, bear in mind that Humanwine could've hopped onto one of the bigger indie labels and become an overnight bohemian sensation, Gogol Bordello style. But they didn't. Unlike the many, many bands who lash out against corporate art, Humanwine aren't hypocrites.

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