Indie Rock Ranger’s Holiday Spectacular offers an eclectic lineup that runs from the grunge/hard rock-inspired sound of Harris Hawk to the more poppy/dance rock of Freezepop—a little something for everyone and anyone.
By Adam Ellsworth
This time last year, local promoter Richard Bouchard put on a holiday rock show at Brighton Music Hall. The gig showcased four Boston-based bands, it sold out, and a merry time was had by all.
This year, Bouchard is building on 2012’s success by presenting five groups at a larger venue, the Middle East-Downstairs in Cambridge, MA. The show, which is billed as “Indie Rock Ranger’s Holiday Spectacular,” will take place on December 14 and features the local bands Freezepop, Sidewalk Driver, Parks, Animal Talk, and Harris Hawk.
It’s an eclectic lineup that runs from the grunge/hard rock-inspired sound of Harris Hawk to the more poppy/dance rock of Freezepop—a little something for everyone and anyone. As Bouchard explained last week, this sonic diversity is by design.
“When you have a six hundred-person room like the Middle East, you have to draw from different pools of fans,” he said. “You can’t have four bands that all have the same fan base.”
Putting together the bill wasn’t just based on the logistics of filling rooms, however. One of the reasons Bouchard recruited the bands he did was simply because he likes all of them. Also, Bouchard stressed that while the lineup is eclectic, “It’s not crazy different.” There’s a common thread running through all of the acts, so he doesn’t feel that fans that come to hear one particular band won’t be interested in taking in the rest of the show.
Two of the bands on this year’s bill—Freezepop and Sidewalk Driver—also played the 2012 Holiday Spectacular at Brighton Music Hall. Tad McKitterick, lead singer of the self-described “rock, power pop, glam” Sidewalk Driver, remembers that show fondly.
“Last year was a lot of fun,” he said. “It was a big show and everyone was definitely in a Christmas spirit.”
Sidewalk Driver have been gigging since 2005, and have played all over the East Coast as well as in the UK. They’ve opened for the B-52s and for Violent Femmes’ singer/guitarist Gordon Gano. But an all Boston-band show like the Holiday Spectacular is still an exciting prospect, McKitterick said, not to mention a good way to increase Sidewalk Driver’s fanbase.
“We just want to play on bills that will get us in front of people who don’t already know us,” he said. While playing a show with a known “national” act is one way to accomplish this, he notes that it often comes at the expense of veteran fans, who might not be able to secure tickets. Playing a “big show in a big room” with other Boston bands, on the other hand, given established fans a chance to see the show, while exposing Sidewalk Driver to a whole new set of potential supporters.
Asked what the uninitiated can expect from Sidewalk Driver’s set at the Holiday Spectacular, McKitterick answered: “I guarantee people they’ll have fun.”
“You won’t ignore it,” he continued. “You’ll want to watch and you’ll want to listen. Whether or not it’s something that at the end of the night you’ll want to do again, I don’t know, that’s a matter of taste, but I do know that while it’s happening, you’ll be into it, and you’ll want to watch and see what’s next.”
One of the newest bands in this year’s lineup is Harris Hawk. The quartet played their first show in early 2012, though vocalist/guitarist Anne Warnock and guitarist Oliver Hinds (who are joined by Michael Sullivan on bass and Steve Shannon on drums) had been playing in bands around Boston for years before they joined forces.
These roots in the local scene have come in handy and were no doubt instrumental in helping Harris Hawk land a spot on the Holiday Spectacular bill.
“I’ve known Richard [Bouchard] for a long time,” Warnock said. The promoter booked the band for their second-ever gig, she added, and they have been on his list for other shows ever since.
The Guns N’ Roses-loving four-piece is definitely the heaviest band on the bill (Warnock: “We have a lot of metal influence, though you can’t really call us a metal band”), so they might stick out the slightest bit. Not that that’s a problem for them. In fact they’re pretty used to it.
“We don’t fit all that well into a genre,” Hinds explained. “So we end up playing with a lot of different kinds of bands.”
Whether attendees come to rawwk, to dance, or to do some combination of the two, Bouchard said he hopes everyone sticks around for as much of the gig as possible, something that doesn’t always happen at multi-band shows.
“We don’t want people to just run in, see the band that they like, and leave,” Bouchard said. “That’s why it’s such a strong bill, and hopefully they [the bands] will be able to hold everyone’s attention. And I think they will. It’s five bands that are different, but they work well together and will keep the attention of people who, when they walked in, had no idea of who some if the bands were”
Regardless of how long concert-goers stay, they’re encouraged to bring an unwrapped toy/gift for donation, as WZLX’s Anngelle Wood will be there, holding a Holiday Toy Drive to benefit the Department of Children and Families. Though it’s called a “toy” drive, the presents will be going to teens as well as young children, so gift cards, clothes, and other “older kid” gifts are welcome.
Adam Ellsworth is a writer, journalist, and amateur professional rock and roll historian. His writing on rock music has appeared on the websites YNE Magazine, KevChino.com, Online Music Reviews, and Metronome Review. His non-rock writing has appeared in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, on Wakefield Patch, and elsewhere. Adam has a MS in Journalism from Boston University and a BA in Literature from American University. He grew up in Western Massachusetts, and currently lives with his wife in a suburb of Boston. You can follow Adam on Twitter @adamlz24.