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Local bands get in on an IPO

Chances are, if you know that the title of the annual "International Pop Overthrow" festival refers to both an album and song by the Chicago power-pop outfit Material Issue, you probably know what the event is all about. Maybe you've even been to one in Los Angeles or New York or Chicago. If so (and even if you've never been), here's the good news: This year, you won't have to travel as nearly as far to get your fix of soaring melodies and sparkling electric guitars.

In addition to its usual LA run every summer, the five-day festival is coming to T.T. the Bear's Place in Cambridge from Nov. 19-23, as part of a staggered-schedule, four-city run along the Eastern Seaboard. Other stops include Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. Organizers say each stop will emphasize local bands which they hand-pick from each city, as well as out-of-towners putting their music in front of new audiences.

"I've always known that Boston had a great scene," says founder David Bash, who inaugurated the event in LA in 1998. "I've had a lot of bands from Boston play the festival in Los Angeles over the years, so it was nice to be able to bring it back out that way rather than have everyone travel to LA."

The Boston-area artists slated to perform run the stylistic gamut of pop, with elaborate orchestral songcraft from Paula Kelley, slanted-and-enchanted smart bombs by Francine, the Cheap Trick-inspired guitar crunch of the Rudds, and go-go shimmy and shake from the Charms. As part of the festivities, which will feature five to eight bands performing half-hour sets each night, there will be an artist showcase called "Label Night" cohosted by the local imprints Sodapop and Q Division on Nov. 21.

When he organized the first festival, Bash says the idea was simple. "I wanted to create a platform for bands from all over the world to come and play in front of people who, I thought, would love what they did. There really was no such festival in existence -- well, there was a festival in LA called Poptopia, which I modeled a lot of the particulars of IPO after -- but it was very LA-centric. What I wanted to do was bring the worldwide pop scene together."

By "pop," Bash doesn't mean the mainstream Britney-Justin-style fodder that usually reigns on the Billboard charts. He means melody-driven rock 'n' roll that places a premium on vocal harmonies, guitar hooks, and memorable choruses. Early practitioners would include artists such as the Beatles (the towering template for everything pop that has come after), Badfinger, the Raspberries, the Nazz, and Big Star. A newer cross section of folks might include Teenage Fanclub, Sloan, Velvet Crush, Weezer, and Fountains of Wayne.

Bash says that the response from bands and audiences was so immediate and enthusiastic that the first IPO lasted 12 days. Now, close to 200 bands from around the world perform at the various IPO installments. Earlier this year, IPO even landed at the Cavern Club in the Beatles' birthplace of Liverpool, "making it truly international," Bash says.

Despite what appears to be growing popularity and highly effective word of mouth, Bash acknowledges the uphill commercial battle facing many of the artists involved. "There's certainly a stigma attached, not just to the phrase `power pop,' but to `pop' in general, and there has been for many years," he says. "A lot of bands don't want that tag because it pigeonholes their sound, but more germane is the feeling in the music industry that power pop is equated with something retro. A lot of labels, if they hear a band described as power pop, assume the band has nothing new to offer and that they're not going to be able to sell their records to the mainstream -- especially to younger people."

But Bash points out that many "modern rock" bands are just as retro-minded and marketed differently. After all, the so-called new-garage movement certainly hasn't hurt artists such as the Strokes or the White Stripes.

The bottom line, Bash says, is: "This music is very vital and timeless, and I don't think it matters what it's called. All that really matters is, what does it sound like? When you strip away the labels, what you're left with are really good bands."

The Rudds
Above: The Rudds will play at 10:30 on Friday, Nov. 21 as part of "International Pop Overthrow"

"International Pop Overthrow"
at T.T. the Bear's Place, 10 Brookline Street, Cambridge

Wednesday, Nov. 19. $8
7:30- Philip Price of the Maggies
8:00- Brian Charles
8:30- Ray Paul
9:00- Kyle Vincent
9:30- Lincoln Conspiracy
10:00- Army of Jasons
10:30- Rocketscience
11:00- The Halogens

Thursday, Nov. 20. $8
8:00- The Trouble Dolls
8:30- Paul Melancon
9:00- The Charms
9:30- Raymond
10:00- Charlie Chesterman and the Legendary Motorbikes
10:30- The Day Jobs
11:00- The Irresponsibles

Friday, Nov. 21. $10
Q Division Records / Sodapop Records Night

8:00- The Suggestions
8:30- The Gladstones
9:00- Lemonpeeler
9:30- Senor Happy
10:00- The Brett Rosenberg Problem
10:30- The Rudds
11:00- Ad Frank and the Fast Easy Women
11:30- Francine

Saturday, Nov. 22. $10
8:00- The Animators
8:30- The Crybabies
9:00- The Spaceshots
9:30- Heavy Stud
10:00- Paula Kelley
10:30- The Flashcubes
11:00- The Pills
11:30- The Brain Surgeons

Sunday, Nov. 23. $8
7:30- Natural Toy
8:00- The Montgomerys
8:30- Cliff Hillis and the Forward Thinkers
9:00- IKE
9:30- The Marlowes
10:00- Fireking
10:30- School for the Dead
11:00- Fooled by April

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