I can’t speak for Homegrown I or II, but the concluding Sunday night of three-day underground music festival Homegrown III slingshotted me backward half a decade or so.
There I was, pinned against a barricade of unrelenting feedback in a spacious, VFW-esque hall. The deafening sound was obscured only slightly by the crowd of about a dozen, comprised mostly of idle band members politely feigning interest while they waited for their set time to arrive. The South End’s Villa Victoria is the kind of venue that makes even the tightest, most polished rock band sound like a Green Line train arriving in an underground station; if you were there looking for anything other than the sheer experience of amateur rock ’n roll, you were sorely out of luck.
In the appropriate context, there is nothing as pure and genuine as a gaggle of inept, blissfully oblivious musicians collectively doubling as an audience in a wooden chamber of ricocheting guitar cacophony and cymbal crashes. The lustrous appeal of adolescent euphoria becomes tarnished, however, when the price tag exceeds $20, the bands are less interested than their audience, and the participants start pretending to have original thoughts -- and worse, start sharing them.
To be fair, not every band was inept, nor was every V-neck-clad festival-goer eager to share his or her uniquely but invariably half-baked opinion on the Occupy movement. Boston-based Quilt stole the night without the fanfare and hazy drivel that bogged other bands throughout the festival’s twilight. The trio drew a comparatively dense and sincerely attentive crowd with their frilly yet curiously spare take on pop. Major Stars took to the floor-level side stage soon after with a moderately interesting classic rock aesthetic that, if nothing else, at least filled the weary theater with energy.
But the festival was doomed for mediocrity the minute the extravagant lineup was finalized. With a bill that included over 70 independent bands (mostly from Boston), diamonds in the rough were few and far between, while lumps of coal seemed to fall from the sky. For every Quilt, there were at least five Kid Romances.
When the latter was about halfway through their agonizing set of “broken and confusedly poppy post punk,” their rhythmically challenged hi-hat and crash cymbal player -- really, that’s all she played -- decided to give a five-minute speech about Occupy. The speech garnered modest cheers until it devolved into a sermon about how “ghosts and spirits and demons” constitute a “pop culture of the ages” that is “bigger than Michael Jackson.” The speech ended when the air finally got too sticky with the crowd’s collective disapproval and the speaker stormed off the stage.
Kid Romance’s unfortunate (albeit self-inflicted) fate is emblematic of the festival’s shortcomings. What it lacked in quality, it tried to make up for in quantity, filler, and gimmicks. It hoped the allure of trendy buzzwords -- I defy anyone to intelligently distinguish “speed sludge punk” from “minimalist country drone” -- would make up for the holes that would inevitably punctuate the 70-band schedule.
It’s a shame, because Boston could use a great concert at which alcohol is not the main focus. Instead, Homegrown III left me wishing like hell the bar was open.
Photos by Courtney Sacco
About Mike -- I am a journalism student at Emerson College getting ready to graduate in December. I've done investigative work for the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and covered beats in Bridgewater and Dorchester, but my passion is music. When I'm not blurring the line between obsession and enjoyment while listening to Pavement or Bruce Springsteen, I'm punching walls over the Celtics. Twitter: @mikeflanagan2.
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