For the first professional boxing event at Encore Boston Harbor casino in Everett, promoted by Murphys Boxing, thousands showed up from all the requisite walks of life: authentic old neighborhood barnacles recalling their days in the ring; ambitious up-and-comers on hand with their timeworn trainers; and, of course, scores of Dropkick Murphys fans who have beaten the dogshit outta at least one dirtball who gave them shit for ordering a cranberry juice or parked in their shoveled-out spot. Which was relevant, since there may be more streetside parking in a Southie snowstorm than there is anywhere near Encore.
In case you missed the torrent of flattering press that the casino has won over the past month, the gambling den is not actually located in Boston, but does offer a shuttle service to squire patrons through the clusterfuck of Sullivan Square, which is actually a deadly pair of traffic circles. Last Friday, those buggies helped aplenty get to the main event by the ring, which is actually a square.
It takes all of three steps inside the door and a deep breath to realize that the Encore casino isn’t Bob Hope’s turf. Nor is it Frank Sinatra’s, though there’s a restaurant named for the chairman that pays tribute “with modern, sophisticated riffs on classic Italian cooking … starting with Frank’s Clams and ending with Ossobuco ‘My Way’ or the signature Veal Parmigiana.”
Southie’s Joe Farina got his man on the ropes
The lobby smelled of high-grade formica and palm trees. The plastic kind. You’ve heard about the befuddling carousel that spins front and center, flanked by a crass statue of Popeye (yes, the sailor) that magically causes people to scratch their heads and make that insanely goofy look as if they are embarassed about being too dumb to know why the work before them exists, let alone is headlining a gambling facility across the pond from Somerville. Must be something to do with the water.
While the spectacle of Encore is surely that of a glitzy Vegas-style refuge for high rollers and big spenders, the heads on hand for fight night came from a whole other planet altogether. I’m not talking about the sort of casino diversity the Boston Globe can’t stop gushing about; last month, the paper celebrated how the “Chinese market was present en masse,” along with “European tourists, a klatch of well-tailored lesbians eating Italian food, couples and families of all ages from Boston and nearby towns who came to see a carousel made of flowers, and plenty of ruffians at the gaming tables and pensioners at the slots.” And earlier this month the broadsheet further explained, “Encore Boston Harbor in Everett has drawn a clientele that cuts across demographic lines—race, class, and age—to an extent rarely seen” in this region.
But last Friday was something else entirely.
Instead of insufferable upper crust yuppies who use “summer” as a verb and dress for the Cape and Islands when they’re pounding vodka sodas downtown, most of the bloodsport spectators looked as if they stashed away a few months of blue-collar paychecks in order to get there. In the moment, tattooed crowds converged upon the craps tables and filed into the big ballroom to see noble fighters beat each other stupid.
But who were these people? These faces! From where did they come? They looked like caricatures of car mechanics from Dorchester. But they’re real. And, sweet Jesus, there were a hell of a lot of them—screaming through the gaming area all evening, wet humping the American dream, that vision of a winner somehow emerging from the rust like a casino in Everett.
Lawrence Fryers stops Bryan Abraham
Such striking images abound; the bouts were precisely what the night called for. Greg Vendetti, proud son of Stoneham, won the IBA Junior Middleweight Championship belt after 12 rounds, and a Southie kid scrapped out a victory too, as Joe Farina picked up his third win of the year. Luis Arcon Diaz dropped Mario Lozano in the third round, while Dublin’s Lawrence Fryers stopped Bryan Abraham, Carlos Hernandez handed local favorite Mike Ohan Jr. his first loss, and James Perella went the distance for the first time in his career, beating MMA veteran Bryan Goldsby.
Through it all, the casino was a colosseum; well-placed punches separated hunters from the hunted.
“It was a very special night,” said Ken Casey, the beloved Dropkick bassist-singer and Murphys promoter. “To be the first-ever ticketed event at a brand-new resort casino that hasn’t even been open for a month and to sell the place out with a local fighter in the main event was an amazing experience and a historic night.”
It’s terrific news, especially as Encore otherwise finds itself on the ropes in a class-action lawsuit. The house is presently accused of rigging the gloves on its one-armed bandits and intentionally throwing low blows at blackjack players with payouts that could “result in an additional $30 million more in profits each year,” as estimated in a suit filed in Middlesex County Superior Court.
Only the tale of the tape will ultimately tell, to be sure. Will future knockouts be delivered via gavel? Or glove?
With Murphys returning for a hardcore encore on Aug 23, the latter’s a sure bet.
On Wednesday, July 24, at 10 am, homelessness will be highlighted all across the country on noncommercial radio frequencies as part of the 21st annual Homelessness Marathon. For 14 hours straight, stations, including this year’s host site WMBR in Cambridge, will broadcast a series of interviews, live reports, and call-ins centered around homelessness and intersecting issues.
The marathon began as an impromptu broadcast by founder Jeremy Alderson in 1998 for his old radio show in upstate New York. He often found himself frustrated with not being able to fit everything he wanted into his regular timeslot, and asked the station’s manager if he could run the show for a bit longer.
“To my surprise, he said, ‘Sure, you’re the last local program on the schedule’ … and then I got this incredible gift of airtime,” Alderson said in a phone interview. “That just made me realize, ‘Well, I gotta do something with it that I think is important.’”
Having himself experienced a period of couch surfing, an often overlooked form of homelessness, Alderson felt inspired to dive further into the issue, but says his debut “was an awful broadcast.” Still, he kept at it, and growing interest in the concept and his willingness to learn more about homelessness led him to take the marathon national in 1999. In the decades since, he’s brought the show from city to city, having discussions at the cross-section of national and local challenges.
Data is notoriously unreliable in this realm and often fails to represent some populations that are statistically “invisible” or in some cases do not consider themselves to be homeless. As for the official numbers, according to a 2018 assessment by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, an estimated 552,830 people are considered homeless in the US. Despite an almost 80,000 person decrease overall from 2008 reports, the Commonwealth has experienced an upsurge.
From 2007 to 2018, homelessness in Mass increased by 4,941 (32.7%). The Bay State also saw a significant increase in its homeless population (14.2%) between 2017 and 2018. In the Hub alone, an estimated 6,203 people are homeless, according to a 2019 census run by the city of Boston.
While homelessness is steadily trending downward nationally, Alderson wants people to discuss how they can fix things now instead of later.
“We said we’re going to do this the same way the British had to get their troops out of Dunkirk,” the radio host said. “It was an immediate need. They were going to die and homeless people are dying.”
Marathon anticipation aside, Alderson concedes that efforts like his can feel limited. In considering “the combined efforts of all of the homeless advocates in the United States put together for more than three decades,” he said, “I’ve only succeeded in watching things get worse and worse.”
At the same time, for groups like Health Care Without Walls (HCWW), Alderson’s annual show gives a spotlight to organizations that aid the cause in the shadows.
“The issue of homelessness is a difficult one, and focusing on women who are homeless is something that is often not recognized as a significant issue,” said Eileen Samels, who runs development and operations at HCWW. The organization has provided free healthcare and services to women for 20 years and will be using its time to shed light on the unique issues homeless women face. Samels hopes to have some of the women her organization has helped share their experiences. Opportunities like these—allowing the homeless to speak directly on air to a national audience—are what Alderson regards as the real benefit of the broadcast. To that end, this year’s marathon will include interviews with homeless people from countries as far away as China and the UK, the mix of whom will amplify the similarities as well as differences of plights across the globe.
“Homeless people who participated in it tell us they feel a greater sense of dignity after they’ve spoken because somebody took them seriously,” Alderson said. “It makes them feel like the citizens they are and to have the dignity they ought to have. If that’s all we accomplish, so be it. That’s enough.”
It’s worth the effort, even if his work providing a bullhorn for the homeless and engrossing himself in the issue has taken a toll on his own well-being.
“It’s just made me a bitter old curmudgeon,” Alderson said about halfway through our 30-minute conversation. “The biggest frustration is talking to homeless people and wishing … wishing I could do anything for them, and nothing ever changes for them. It’s just terrible.
“Homelessness is a problem that can be solved. … And it’s got to be solved in a way that recognizes people’s rights and their status as citizens.”
The 21st Homelessness Marathon live broadcast will take place in Boston on Wed 7.24 from 10 am to midnight in conjunction with WMBR in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Christian Solano Cordova speaks to a room of journalists, editors, and publishers at the 2019 AAN convention in Boulder, Colorado
While some of us were out in Colorado last week at a gathering for the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, our hosts from Boulder Weekly were thoughtful enough to expose editors and reporters from all across the country to a local theater group based there called Motus. Motus artistic director Kirsten Wilson explained her process of working with immigrants to share their stories and introduced four undocumented collaborators who came to speak to the throng of journalists. With the threat of ICE raids in the air, all their stories were extremely powerful and sad enough to make more than a few hardened hacks tear up. The following was shared by Christian Solano Cordova, a DACA recipient who works with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. –Dig Editors
When I was my baby sister’s age, just 11 years, I didn’t have any worries. It’s funny because my baby sister is a US citizen, so things should be easier for her. But they’re not, they’re not right now because the people she loves the most in this whole entire world—our mom, my other sister, and I—we’re all undocumented. And when we’re threatened, she’s threatened. So as a result, my baby sister is forced to bear the burdens of a tax on our communities.
I remember election night 2016, my mom and I were in complete shock, trying to figure out what had just happened to the country, trying to strategize about certain possibilities. I remember frantically Googling, What happens to a US citizen child if an undocumented parent is deported?
My dad died young, so I needed to assure myself that if anything happened to my mom, that my other sister and I could take care of [my younger sister who is a US citizen] if all of us were deported. My mom and I totally lost track of time in our election night panic, so when hours later when I came downstairs, I was surprised to see my baby sister sitting alone in a corner, crying. Red-faced with puffy eyes. With my dad gone I always had to be a father figure since my mom was always working—help with homework, read bedtime stories, play games, try to answer those unanswerable types of kid questions. And I tried to comfort her, but she was scared. And I wasn’t used to having to comfort somebody when in reality I needed so much comforting myself. I just remember tilting her chin, listening with streams of tears toward me, looking into those deep brown eyes, and trying my best to give her easy answers to difficult questions. Just repeating, “Don’t cry, don’t cry, it’s going to be okay, I promise.”
Why would you be deported? Do you know what that word means? You shouldn’t have to. Listen to me—you are an American citizen, and you will never be deported. And you’re right, I’m not a citizen, but I have DACA, they can’t deport me. I know Mom doesn’t, but she’s going to be okay. She’s lived here for decades.
Whatever happens, we’ll be together, I promise. I’ll be there to put Band-Aids on your scraped knees, to help with your school projects. Yes, we’re going to finish reading Harry Potter together, and I’ll be there when you’re ready to apply for college and when you fall in love for the first time. … I’m going to walk you down the aisle one day, and it doesn’t matter where, as long as we’re together. And of course the puppy’s coming with us if we go. He’s part of this family too, I’ll have you know.
That’s the dimple-y smile I like to see. It’s going to be okay.
At least that’s what I told her. I did my best to offer her what I wanted to hear, what I wanted to believe—both for her and for our entire family. Because how do you talk to a child about being taken away from their parents or siblings without terrorizing them? Without stripping them of their innocence?
With each day of this administration, the increased deportations of people like my mom, the attempts to end the DACA program that affects me and my sister, the willingness to end rules for how long children can be detained, and even threats to strip children of their citizenship—with all these mounting threats against our family, it feels increasingly cruel to offer what amounts to be a fairy tale, when in reality she may need great strength to overcome great threats. So today, I offer you another story, and this story won’t kiss it and make it all better, but I hope it will help us stay strong, regardless of any challenges that we might face.
I was 3 years old and my other sister was just 1 when we crossed the border with our mom. We walked with a group of people, maybe 10 or 15, across the desert for hours. We were out in the middle of nowhere following some dim silver light in the distance. We finally got to the road, and to avoid being seen, we crossed through a drainage tunnel. My mom had me walk in front of her while she crawled behind me, my sister in a shawl.
I remember I was wearing those little kid light-up shoes that everyone was going crazy over that year. My mom had saved up a lot of money to buy them, because we were going to be seeing my dad after he was here on his own for over a year. So she wanted us to look our best. And those shoes were actually super helpful in that drainage tunnel to light the way for Mom and all the other people crawling on their hands and knees. But of course, in the desert, in the dead of night, they were a dead giveaway.
When we were finally able to see the light and get a breath of fresh air, the coyotes asked that we take off our shoes. There was a border patrol car outside the gas station where the drainage tunnel let out. The officers were inside, we assumed, so we waited a little while for them to get back in their car and drive away. Nobody was coming out, but for some reason the coyotes were impatient and told everyone to move. In the chaos, everybody scrambled, crawling around in tall grass on their hands and knees. But the ground was covered with cactus thorns, and I didn’t have any shoes. And while everyone crawled, my mom stood up, carrying both me and my sister in her arms, and she just started walking. And at first, I thought she was giving up—we’d surely be seen, since everybody else was crawling on their hands and knees. But she stood up tall, and walked with a defiant pep in her step, as if she belonged right there where she stood.
That night is when I first realized that she hadn’t given up. That she had faith. Walking quietly was her best strategy to protect us. She was resolved that somehow, somewhere, we would be okay, and that we would find a home where our family could thrive. I’ve never forgotten the look on my mom’s face, as she walked into the darkness of an unknown country. That is when I first realized that the meaning of courage is not to pretend to be immune from fear, but rather to calmly and steadily take action in spite of it.
Our current president may characterize my little 3-year-old self as a diseased criminal murderer gang member in the making. He may try to scare people who don’t know any undocumented immigrants into thinking that a mother carrying her children to safety is nothing less than an invasion. But [my sister] and I, we grew up to be beloved members of our communities. We both went to college, and I became the student body president of my university. I’m not part of some invading army fighting against America. I’m here fighting for the American ideals I know we can live up to. They may want to take away my baby sister’s right to citizenship, but I remain hopeful that she or some other young girl might be our future president, and might actually lead us to a future where we have liberty and justice for all. But that reality is going to take a lot of hard work, and not just on my part or the part of the immigrant community. Every single one of you. As Anne Frank once wrote in her famous diary, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
I hope it’s cool with you, dear reader, that I’m publishing this letter in this space this week. It is formally addressed to brass at NBC Boston and New England Cable News (NECN).
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing to lament the cancellation of The Take with Sue O’Connell. As I imagine several others have as well, since the program was more than merely a nightly talk show for a lot of us.
Admittedly, the loss is a significant personal blow to my newspaper, DigBoston, and nonprofit, the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, since our contributors have appeared as guests on multiple occasions. With that said, I’m not simply concerned about face time for us, but rather about the impact on exposure for the communities and people who are typically ignored by major media but who were able to get a word in on Sue’s show, both directly and via the kind of stories our long-form reporters do. Just last month, for example, Sue and her producers had on one of our journalists who had been facing threats for a piece she wrote about racism in local law enforcement. Others were afraid to cover the story; The Takefeatured it front and center.
I was happy to learn that Sue still has a job at NBC/NECN, and that she will continue to impact the news cycle in this region at a level that only someone with a television platform can. That is to say your stations and the content their reporters break on social media reach people with power and influence in suburbs far beyond the cities where my paper is distributed. For that and other reasons, I hope you seriously consider Sue’s role moving forward. For if you’re simply making judgments based on ratings, you may be missing an important metric. As a co-publisher of an alternative weekly in this market, I often have to explain to my advertisers that while we may not have the reach of Boston.com, for example, we nevertheless connect with groups that set the tone of conversations in the community at large. Influencers, trendsetters, whatever marketers are calling creatures of the counterculture these days. It’s because we are an open platform, and the same could be said of The Take, which more than all the other programs on NECN combined offered an equitable bullhorn for individuals from groups that are rarely portrayed on their own terms on the evening news.
The unique viewership that Sue managed to wrestle in such a competitive time slot should count for something. I hope your strategists consider the importance of not only occasionally finding but actually retaining the sort of diverse swath that regularly watched and appeared on The Take. I would argue that such reach, whatever its size, is priceless, a whole new loop on the Venn diagram of NECN viewership, even if it’s not always apparent on the balance sheet.
There’s a reason the whole country’s hooked on New England IPAs
Living in New England, it’s rare that a week goes by without someone putting me onto a mesmerizing beer that I have never tried before (needless to say, I hang at several bars and with people who drink). Sometimes they are new to the market, while other times they’ve been around and somehow dodged my radar. On July 4 weekend, for example, an old friend put me on to Outermost IPA by Hog Island Beer Co.; clean, crisp, and delicious, I’ll be moving it into my regular rotation, yet it managed to evade me for two years.
In any case, it’s been a killer year for beer around here. As one metric, no less than six Mass companies scored trophies at the recent US Open Beer Championship—Wormtown Brewery, Wachusett Brewing Company, Harpoon Brewery, Castle Island Brewing Co., and Braintree’s Widowmaker Brewing, whose silver award-winning Greenbush, a New England pale ale, is the first on our list of beers that we love so far this year (even if they came out a little before 2019). Here are the others.
Rec. League APA (Harpoon Brewery, Boston)
The session to extend all sessions, Rec. League is definitely something that I never thought could possibly exist—3.8% ABV beer that I actually like drinking. It’s satisfying despite its light weight, and at 120 calories is fit for the weight watchers among us. Finally, I might be able to get my mom to quit drinking Michelob Ultra. The possibilities are endless; while I’m too old to promote binge drinking, I could be game to go head to head and can for can if anybody wants to start a rec league of their own.
Don’t Worry IPA (Wormtown Brewery, Worcester)
While Wormtown’s signature Be Hoppy is that perfect mix of clever pun and delicious hop punch, Don’t Worry packs less of a bite than its taller and slightly shadier brother. That’s not a knock for me and it should not be for you either, though; these silver bullets aren’t for the hop-wary. At 5.8% ABV, Don’t Worry is the perfect halfway bitter solution for day-drinking all summer long and way into the fall, a sweet tongue shower longtime fans of Wormtown’s flagship will begin to worship in short time if they haven’t already.
Curiosity Fifty Seven American Imperial IPA (Tree House Brewing Company, Charlton)
It’s obviously cruel and unfair to include a beer that was brewed only once and that I was fortunate enough to encounter. Something like a fruity mead spun by the gods themselves, you’d want to sip this nectar for breakfast as well as lunch and dinner. As Tree House out in Charlton steadily becomes a place where brew aficionados make regular pilgrimages, almost everything it drops is worthy of applause; of all its brilliant beers, though, the Curiosity series stands out.
Hopheads Guide to the Galaxy New England IPA (Cambridge Brewing Co., Cambridge, MA)
A 7% ABV triumph for the serious beer drinker who wants it all, CBC’s Hopheads Guide to the Galaxy is smooth but rugged, simultaneously simple and complex. There’s citrus bursting out of every sip, but I would go so far as to recommend it to hopheads who are not particularly crazy about juicy treats. There is enough action bouncing around this universe to tickle virtually any palate.
Do me a favor. Do you a favor. Do us all a favor, and stick your nose right up to your can of Citra Brau after you crack it. Better yet, wait 20 or so seconds. It’s a metaphor made for your nostrils—you can tell there’s something sweet, even special tickling your senses, and unlike with the kinds of heavy in-your-grill IPAs that we tend to love in these pages, there’s nothing even close to bitter or offensive in this craft ringer from Jack’s Abby. The scent parallels the taste, which is all-around spectacular.
Crop Circles New England IPA (Night Shift Brewing, Everett)
Crop Circles is for people who have been downing Night Shift staples such as Whirlpool and Mosaic, and who need some change without wandering too far off of the reservation. I’m so satisfied with this selection that I hate to reach in ascertaining what exactly makes it sing—it’s probably not the best testament to Crop Circle’s subtle brilliance, but the most impressive thing about this beer may actually be what it is not: not too pretentious, nor too light, hazy, or sweet, it’s balanced magic in a Goddamn can.
Insert Hip-Hop Reference There New England IPA (Trillium + Monkish)
Have you been lucky enough to put your lips on this 10% banger? An all-Citra triple IPA that beer geeks are chatting about and ordinary sippers are also appreciating, Insert is a holy grail of sorts, not just for its pedigree and baseline expectations, but also for the way it’s executed. One of those high-alcohol numbers that dances all over your taste buds before ruining your day, it’s worth hunting down any last drops that may still be out there.
I was sitting in a cafe in my hometown, the Boston suburb of Arlington, when I overheard an attractive older white woman talking with a bald middle-aged white man. She said, “I’ve been involved in the Truth movement for eight years.”
“I’m always learning new things about you,” he responded, fondly. “You’re involved in so many interesting things.”
“You don’t know the half of it! I’m only kidding. But several of us meet regularly. We each are experts on different things. You can’t learn everything. But we study the things they don’t talk about in mainstream media.”
As it turned out, she was headed to a so-called Red Pill Expo in Hartford.
“Red pill” is a term used by the far-right and the alt-right. It’s taken from the film The Matrix, as in people who have accepted the “harsh realities of the world” have taken the red pill or been “red pilled.” It also includes a lot of hateful beliefs involving misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, and transphobia. They don’t seem to realize that The Matrix was made by then-closeted transgender sisters. And when they wrote it, estrogen pills were red, according to Victoria Darling of transethics.org.
Listening to this woman in Arlington talk with her friend, though, she sounded totally reasonable, intelligent, even sympathetic. Maybe I misheard her say red pill?
No, she mentioned the Red Pill conference again. I thought about warning her friend that red pill refers to hate, and about saying a bunch of mean things to the woman. Then I decided to ask her some questions to draw her out.
“Can I ask you what the Red Pill conference is about?”
“Oh, it’s about the truth they don’t tell you on mainstream media,” she said.
“Wow. Okay, like what specifically?”
She didn’t give a clear answer but responded, “There’s some great YouTube stars that will be speaking there. YouTube is the only place you can find the truth these days.”
“Oh yeah, like who?”
She encouraged me to look at Know More News and David Icke. Checking the sources, I immediately noticed that Know More News has a lot of anti-Semitic images and headlines (i.e., “Jewish Supremacy Expo$ed,” and “Benjamin Netanyahu’s Plan to Rule the World.”)
“Hmm, there’s a lot of Jewish stuff?” I calmly observed.
“Yes, he talks a lot about the problem with Zionism,” she said. The videos are clearly anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist. I myself am proud to be Jewish and anti-Zionist. Criticizing the state of Israel and being hateful to Judaism and Jewish people are two different things. But for some they go together.
“And there’s a lot about Alex Jones. They don’t like him?”
“There’s a lot of controversy around him now. Some people think he’s a shill,” she explained.
I looked at David Icke’s YouTube page, only to notice that some of his videos have millions of views, including one that reads, “David Icke Exposes Michelle Obama.”
“What’s this about Michelle Obama? How much trouble can she cause as the former first lady?”
The woman said she wanted to show me something. She spent a while trying to find it. While she searched, I asked what she thought of Trump and was simply told, “I don’t like the two-party system.”
She found what she was looking for and sat next to me. She showed me her screen: “Irrefutable evidence that Michelle Obama is a man.”
“Ah, yes, I heard about that! So what’s the issue? What does this mean?”
“It means we’re being lied to! Many famous people are [transphobic slur] … or clones!” she informed me.
“Wow,” I said, “And what’s the problem with that?”
Taken aback, she moved away from me and said, “Well, I think this conversation is over!”
I was honestly still trying to understand where she was coming from. But she drew the line there. I said, “I’m just trying to get the significance of this.”
“Men are being tricked into lusting after men! Do you think that’s okay?” She gave a self-satisfied nod. “It means we’re being lied to. This is just one example.”
A few minutes later I tried to ask her what she thought of socialism. She said she had things to attend to. She was reading a book titled The Hell Conspiracy.
When she and her friend walked out, I shouted, “I hope you enjoy the Pride parade tomorrow!”
“Oh, I won’t be there!” she said.
I said, “Well, I’m a [transphobic slur] and a Jew, so go fuck yourself!”
She was shocked. “My goodness! There’s no need to swear!”
“There’s no need to spread hate the way you do!” I replied.
(I should make clear: the slur I used is considered offensive and is especially used to target transgender women. Some transgender people have reclaimed the term and use it to refer to themselves. I come out as genderqueer one year ago. But I wouldn’t normally use that word.)
Did I handle that well? I felt sick to my stomach and full of adrenaline. I hope engaging with her and sharing this has some value. It’s not just poor, uneducated white men in red states with hateful views. There’s hate in my hometown. Currently there’s a controversy over an Arlington police officer, Lt. Richard Pedrini, who said ignorant and hateful things in a statewide police newsletter. And the only Jewish center in Arlington, the Chabad Center for Jewish Life, was twice targeted by arsonists this year. Thankfully, hundreds of people recently turned out in support.
Some people point out that conspiracy theorists are right about one thing: The public is being lied to. Lots of famous people do terrible things and are not like most of us. They’re just terrifyingly wrong about the details. Maybe if we lived in a world where fewer people were lied to, exploited, and alienated – fewer people would be attracted to such conspiracies?
“I’m really grateful and thankful,” says Marcus Prince, whose performance this week kicks off the 401 Park in the Fenway leg of Berklee College of Music’s free annual Summer in the City concert series. “I don’t take it for granted.”
Prince, a senior at Berklee, played on his steel pan while his friend played the keys beside him. It’s the musician’s third time performing for Summer in the City.
Jonathan Foo, the marketing manager of Berklee Presents who co-organized this concatenation with Michael Borgida, says these summer shows are intended for Berklee students, recent alumni, and faculty to get opportunities to perform at various Boston venues while bringing live music to Boston. This year marks the 14th year of the series and, according to Foo, has more performances and partnerships with venues than ever before. From April to September, there will be a total of 400 performances across over 30 spaces in the Greater Boston area, including new partnerships with the likes of 401 Park in the Fenway, South Boston Maritime Park, and City Winery on the Greenway.
“What’s really cool is that we are diversifying the performances,” Foo says. “We are trying to put together a lot of different styles and genres from jazz to Cuban to folk, bluegrass, and even Chinese fusion. We want the performances to be reflective of the best student performers we have here.”
There are more than 800 performers participating this summer, all of whom will be paid by the venues. Foo says that number doesn’t even include the sound engineers and producers who helped put the concerts together.
Sydney Matlock, Berklee ’18, rocked the Charlestown Navy Yard on Independence Day and has several more concerts throughout the summer. Matlock, a Canadian pop and country singer, performs originals from her debut EP, Lucky Girl, as well as covers.
“I just recently got my green card, so this is my first official Fourth of July, and I feel super blessed to be given this opportunity,” Matlock says.
Matlock says the outings are among her first paid gigs since graduating from Berklee.
“I think this is just so wonderful that they’re giving paid opportunities to students,” she says. “We put in a lot of work, but unfortunately those opportunities don’t come as frequently as we’d like in Boston, so I think this is such a good program to get our names out there and give us exposure.”
The 401 Park series will have concerts on Tuesdays and Thursdays at lunchtime from noon to 1:30 pm. 401 Park planner Molly Kalan, who worked with Berklee on the partnership, says it was their goal to have a range of different musicians that heads in the Fenway area can enjoy during a walk in the new park or during a lunch break.
“We wanted to work with Berklee because we love the Summer in the City series and how it activates all different spaces around Boston,” Kalan says. “We thought, ‘This is a brand-new space. We should bring students from Berklee and other artists to provide both the neighborhood with some entertainment during lunchtime in the summer and be part of the greater network that Berklee is providing for the whole city.’”
The park, which just opened on June 17, will feature R&B jazz folk artist Jackson Lundy on July 23, whose single “Calypso” has surpassed 1 million streams on Spotify and reached number four on the streaming service’s US viral list.
“It happens that a lot of the talented students we have here,” Foo says, “they play all sorts of styles. We just want the series to be reflective of the talent that we have here at Berklee and the caliber.”
Music and arts fest took over Spencer Fairgrounds for trailblazing display of cannabis and community
The grassroots fight for cannabis rights in Massachusetts has been raging for decades, and continues to this day in front of the state’s Cannabis Control Commission. Still, some may have been convinced that the war might well be won after spending time in Spencer at the first annual TerpTown Throwdown last weekend.
Described as the “East Coast’s first cannabis and music festival” by organizer Phil Hardy of the Hardy Consultants, the Throwdown played host to a truly joyous gathering despite temperatures topping nearly 90 degrees by midafternoon. The mercury readings aside, attendees took in super sights and sounds, from musical acts—mostly a blend of rock and reggae—to merch and grub ranging from Thai food to carnival staples. There was seemingly something for everyone, at least everyone in the cannabis community, to enjoy.
As Matt from Assonet described, “This was my first experience at a paid cannabis festival and I can’t say enough about the awesome people, great music, and relaxed vibes. … I’ll be coming back if they host another one.”
Robert Hawco, who co-hosts The Hawco and Carnell Show on the DisruptBoston network that I also work with, broadcast live from the event. “It’s really the best atmosphere I’ve ever been around at this kind of festival,” Hawco said. “A great spot that is far enough from civilization to allow us all the chance to relax while also being close enough for a day trip.”
The expansive Spencer Fair Grounds, hidden in gently rolling hills 10 miles outside of Worcester, proved to be an ideal setting for the large crowd. There was ample room for vendors and attendees alike to spread out and relax in the sunshine, me included.
“I can feel the love and light from everyone,” Hawco added. “That is really special.”
I had the same takeaway—even an afternoon rainstorm couldn’t put a damper on the festivities, as attendees selflessly assisted one another to secure tents and other valuables during the passing downpour.
A thorough but quickly moving security apparatus was in place to ensure attendees were 21-plus, while the small cadre of local police in attendance were mostly hands-off as they strolled the grounds throughout the day. Notably, there were no reported negative interactions between police and partygoers.
One interesting aspect of the fully permitted event was the “medicating area,” wherein registered medical cannabis patients were able to consume cannabis after verifying their medical marijuana patient registration with security and obtaining a green wristband (public consumption of recreational cannabis is currently illegal under state law).
For their part, the state’s regulatory body, the aforementioned Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), has been slow to roll out a proposed system for one- and three-day recreational consumption licenses (which would allow events such as the TerpTown Throwdown to facilitate social consumption of recreational cannabis for all attendees). That initiative, having been under consideration for nearly a year, was delayed until the fall of 2019 by a three-two vote at a CCC hearing in late May following the suggestion of Commissioner Kay Doyle. In its stead, medicating areas such as the one provided on Saturday in Spencer may well become the norm under an obscure provision of state law (Chap 94G, Section 13C) that allows consumption of medical cannabis in any location wherein cigarette smoking is permitted.
As such regulatory hurdles make clear, breaking new ground in an industry that is only just beginning to have its time in the sun can be difficult for even the most intelligent and well-intentioned industry insiders. However, considering the recent rapid pace of change in relation to cannabis laws (and the general societal stigma surrounding the plant), the trailblazing tenacity on full display in Spencer may soon come to be the norm in Mass and elsewhere.
“If you want to live a long life, join the Rolling Stones.” Keith Richards said that seventeen years ago, and it’s still as true as ever. Just chew on this tidbit… the Stones have been touring America for twice as long as the members of the star-crossed 27 club were actually alive. They’ve been going so long that it’s a bit crazy to think that Bill Wyman has been out of the band for over a quarter century. Pick your favorite meme!
But there was a dose of reality recently, and this tour was delayed a bit when Mick Jagger needed a surgical procedure to replace a faulty heart valve. It’s hard to believe that only two months out from the surgery, the septuagenarian was sprinting around the gigantic stage, sashaying and shimmying like it was ’72 again. There’s a good reason that House of Love wrote a song that’s the topic of any endless variation of ‘best band ever list’ that Rolling Stone, Mojo, or whatever remaining mainstream music publications may still exist – because both bands made huge shadows over the landscape and have amazingly deep and broad catalogs of work.
And with a discography that contains dozens of well-known songs and a large number of out and out mega hits, how they would approach the set list was a question many had on their minds. Though they have sporadically released studio records of new songs over the last couple of decades, it’s an easy argument to make that 1981’s Tattoo You was the last solid batch of songs they released, and aside from Richards’ “Slipping Away” from Steel Wheels, they wisely focused on their formative decades. I can’t think of another band who could play selections from eleven records (and a couple of stellar non-album singles) and still have a top-to-bottom kickass set list.
The band has seen their share of turmoil, both from a distance and from up close, and they bookended the show remarkably with a version of “Street Fighting Man” that still showed a little fire in its belly, and somewhat epic take on “Gimme Shelter” to start the encore. Taking Merry Clayton’s iconic vocal part, Sasha Allen stood toe to toe with that legendary performance and Mick let her turn it into a bonafide duet as the song progressed. Spellbinding and spine-tingling. (And while we’re talking about backing band members, Jagger goofed when he introduced keyboardist Chuck Leavell as the bass player “Oops, he’s really on accordion” and the blistering sax solo that Karl Densen laid out during “Brown Sugar.”)
The man behind some of the best guitar riffs ever was a little shaky at times, but we’ll give Richards a pass just for being Keef. His song “Before They Make Me Run” is one of his very best, and he greeted the fans with “Good evening Boston, New England, wherever” before his telecaster locked horns with Wood’s telecaster. Wood in particular shined tonight, taking up some of the slack where Keith would drop out, and playing smartly and tightly all night long. Everyone knows that Charlie Watts is the human metronome, and despite his precision he’s not robotic at all, a difficult mix to get right.
Jagger just happens to rhyme with swagger and that can’t be a coincidence. During “Sympathy For The Devil” he looked the part with a red and black sequined jacket and jaunty top hat; during “Midnight Rambler” he laid down some mean harmonica, then did a call and response bit with the crowd while Richards was doing some fingerpicking, plectrum clenched between his teeth. “Miss You” had him playing a Strat and then raising it over his head while he did some hip gyrations. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” featured some of his best singing of the night and ended with him shaking maracas behind Watts. He even took a bit of jab at landlord Kraft’s buddy, when wishing everyone a happy Independence Day and joking that his side would have won had they held on to the airports.
I can’t say that not getting “Monkey Man” in the set wasn’t a tad disappointing, but it’s like quibbling over the fourth or fifth decimal point of a number. These guys are legends for good reason, and while I don’t think they can still claim the mantle of the world’s greatest rock and roll band, they were definitely roaming the world for a long time with that title and it was refreshing to see them still doing as they do, playing music and making everyone in the building happy about that.