By Bill Marx
Boston Does Boston: A JP Music Festival fundraiser is set for Saturday, May 18 at 8 p.m. at The Midway Café. More than 20 Boston musicians will perform cover songs of some of their favorite Boston artists.
The Arts Fuse spoke with musician Rick Berlin, one of the co-producers of the JP Music Festival, about this weekend’s fundraiser.
The Arts Fuse: What is the JP Music Festival?
Rick Berlin: It’s a full day of all music all the time at Pinebank, near Jamaica Pond . . . as beautiful a site as you could ask for. Super ‘shire.’ Twenty plus bands and performers on two stages from noon to 7 p.m. on Saturday, September 7. It’s a mom ‘n pop/corner store festival in the sense that we have no ‘ringers,’ just bands that are JP-centric. (At least one member of each act must live or work here in the hood.) We hope each year to be genre inclusive and have managed to pull that off for the most part. There are also a lot of activities for kids and awesome food trucks and merch.
AF: How did the event evolve over the past few years?
Berlin: A friend of mine at a Lizard Lounge show asked me “why isn’t there a JP music festival?” Duh. A light bulb was lit. One day later, I ran into Shamus Moynihan at a Hyde Square laundromat. Shamus called Randace Moore who called City Hall, and in days a committee was formed, a nonprofit status established, and, meeting at least once a week for a year, the dream was realized. We staged fundraisers at local venues (we were lucky to have the Galway House jump in early with sponsorship support) and lo and behold we saw our first festival come true. In the last couple of years, we’ve learned how best to improve the event, to expand the publicity, and to reach out to increasing numbers of musicians around town. This is a lot of work and, for the most part, a total blast. We could not do it without the tremendous ongoing support of the JP community and the fact that none of us, including all the performers, get paid.
AF: Boston Does Boston is your upcoming fundraising event . . . what is the idea behind it?
Berlin: The supposed “chip” on the shoulder of the Boston sound, the perception that it is somehow less than say, New York’s, is bogus. Too many incredible bands and musicians are from this city and have contributed to decades of great rock ‘n roll (in every sense). Boston Does Boston acknowledges these bands by having local musicians from all over town, as well as JP, cover songs by their fav Boston rockers and dance musicians. Tipping their hat to all the greats, past and present. The response has been tremendous.
AF: What do you think music from Boston has given the music world at large through the years?
Berlin: Besides all the unschooled original music this town has produced, there’s Berklee. Many who go there and finish, or leave early, have stayed on in the city and started many awesome bands. For years local/national radio stations supported local music and helped acts extend their reach across the country. And before there was a Paradise or a Sinclair or a House of Blues, there was The Rat. Bands from all over played that club. There was a big ‘trade’ scene between The Rat and CBGBs. Today’s scene, though perhaps more underground or social media-vibed, is as vital as ever. Bands rise and make waves nation-wide. Some, unknown but just as talented, inspire and create new music every day. Basement shows are packed to the gills. Web radio, blogs, great venues old and new consistently point us all in the direction of fine, original, Boston talent.
AF: You’ve done other fundraisers in the past where artists have covered music. Who did people cover, and how do these evenings reflect the spirit of the JP Music Festival?
Berlin: Big nights covering the music of Neil Young and Bob Dylan. Big “Dead at 27” night, covering songs from musicians who died at the age of 27. Big “Smell the Love” nights for Valentine’s Day, with love songs by favorite artists. These also give us a great opportunity to hear bands who might make it onto the roster the day of the festival. We should add that every member of the committee, every band member who plays, kick in the door cover. The festival would not be do-able financially if we didn’t have everyone contribute their time gratis. So I guess the spirit, the all-in-this-together vibe manifests itself at all our fundraisers. You can see it in the faces of the participants. This is their festival.
AF: Who are some of your favorite Boston acts from now or in the past?
Berlin: Tallahassee. Coyote Kolb. The Taco El Charro Mexican-American band. Eamon Bonner (solo acapella Irish balladeer). Amelia Emmet of Thick Wild. And for sure, the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra (with many members from JP) performing a flash mob out on the grass.