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Sarah Rabdau (and 149 other Boston artists) team-up to interpret Beck's new "Song Reader" @ Somerville Theatre - 2/28

Posted by Jonathan Donaldson  February 27, 2013 06:20 PM

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dowepage.jpgPere Ubu's David Thomas once said something about how the Beach Boys' unreleased Smile album was the greatest album of all time because it only existed in the imagination of the listener. Now, that mischivous offspring of the Fluxus movement, Beck Hansen, has one-upped the Beach Boys by releasing an album that actually doesn't exist at all. Released in December of 2012, Beck's Song Reader is the first album to my knowledge to only be released as a book of sheet-music (released by McSweeney's), and the first to not only exist in the imagination's of its listeners, but via the interpretations of its listeners. In addition to the book, Beck also put up the website where fans can download sheet-music and upload their versions. Talk about crowd-sourcing. None of this really comes as a surprise from a guy who sounded so much like Serge Gainsbourg on 2002's Sea Change that he eventually scored the gig of working with Gainsbourg's daughter. To say that he likes to play in the spectrum of interpretation/ pastiche/plagarism/reappropriation would be an understatement, and so sharing that with his fans seems like a natural progression. Tomorrow night, 2/28, at the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square, 150 or so Boston musicians and dancers will come together to interpret the 20-song "album" in a two-hour performance that will be sure to intrigue both Beck fans and non-Beck fans alike. After all, this might turn out to not sound very much like Beck at all. A 50-person choir? Burlesque dancers? Sounds more like the kind of musical hot mess that is built precisely for a one-time only, no holds-barred performance.

Boston artist Sarah Rabdau is one of the many musicians taking part in the project. Her version of "Please Leave a Light on when you Go" has garnered over 2000 hits on Youtube in the lead-up to tomorrow's performance. It's not just you non-believers--Rabdau herself was skeptical of the gimmicky nature of the project when she first became aware of it ("why can't Beck just put out a regular album?" she jokes), but soon came around to the song-book's charms once she became invested in the project. While "Please Leave a Light on" was her first choice of a song to tackle when given the chance, she has since come to develop other favorites along the way.

"There are some songs I never would have imagined Beck putting out on any of his albums," says Rabdau, who considers herself a Beck fan, but not a fanatic. "Some songs are dirty and aggressive in 3/4 time--you could almost picture Tom Waits singing them. But some obviously have Beck's vocal inflections and melodies in the lines."

What perhaps is most outstanding here is that the Boston Song Reader project has gotten a shout out from none other than Beck's official Facebook page. And with 150 artists onboard, it's guaranteed to get 150,000 hits by morning!

Beck's Song Reader w/ Music & Dance - Live @ Somerville Theatre
Thursday, 2/28
8PM, $15-$24

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Jonathan Donaldson is a Boston-based musician, writer, and second-generation music junkie. An Ohio native who moved to Boston in 1998, Jonathan's musical loves include R&B, psych, punk, bubblegum, country, electronic, More »

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