Local indie bands to perform in Brookline concert

Submitted by Chazz Rogers

On Saturday, June 18, the members of the local band Burr, will host a concert for $10 a ticket at Big Bear Lodge in Brookline with a lineup of bands from the southern New Hampshire.

The indie lineup includes Grazen, an act from Hollis performing songs written by frontman Scott Schaeffer; Patrick Evans, a guitarist with a distinct talent for finger-tapping guitar; Split/Halves, a new math rock band from Boston with the upcoming album "Ephemera"; The Fall Is Shorter Than You Think (The Fall Is), an alternative rock trio formed by music students of the University of Massachusetts Lowell who recently released the EP "Feel Something"; and Burr, an indie rock outfit from Brookline and Hollis.

This will be the second concert that Burr has hosted at Big Bear. Last year the band celebrated the release of its EP "Warming of the Days" at the venue. All of these bands are heavily involved in the do-it-yourself music culture that thrives in the area. Patrick Evans books bands with his housemates for a Wilton basement venue known as The Wounded Knee, while the members of The Fall Is all reside at The Tip, a popular Lowell basement operation.

Phil Cambra, frontman of The Fall Is, says, "The best thing about the local music scene is how everyone is so supportive of their friends’ bands."

Cambra couldn’t better describe the nature of this event. Everything seems to have come together, like most of the DIY scene, via local connections and Facebook.

The roots of this event don’t stop in the DIY venue network. The show will feature Hollis Brookline High School alumni Trevor Nierendorf, Andrew Johnson, Ben Cooper, Alec Gervais, Zach Nardone, Chazz Rogers, Scott Schaeffer and Andrew Carr. Vanessa Hale, an HB singer and future music student of Berklee, may make an appearance.

Every person listed has performed with an HBHS music ensemble and has a reputation in the Hollis-Brookline community.

The Big Bear Lodge, a former ski lodge and destination for local bands such as The Slakas, makes a great venue for the bands. Situated just down the road from Burr’s practice space, Big Bear is such a staple part of Brookline’s history that when it opened in 1936, it was merely called "Brookline" (Nelsap.org). Over years of playing host to skiers from all over, its name changed several times but came to be Big Bear Lodge sometime in 1973 with the change of the ski mountain’s name.

Since 1996, it has been operated by Paul Andres and subsequently his organization, the Paul Andres Institute of Art, since 1998.

The house manager, Deb Lefebvre, is enthused by the idea of getting music back to Big Bear.

"It’s just so exciting to have music back at the place," she said with a smile. She says music in the event hall "has been very missed."

Indeed it has. According to Holly Linn, a resident of Brookline since 1994 and lifelong supporter as well as performer of live music, the lodge used to host bands every Friday and Saturday night. Back then, the lodge even possessed licensing to sell liquor and beer and made money as a pub. But around 2008, it became hard to support, and these shows stopped occurring on a weekly basis.

In stepped the DIY scene. While venues such as Big Bear and professional music studios become harder for artists to fund out of their own pockets, the demand for live music and love for friends’ art lives on in musicians, their friends and family, and a good part of the public in general.

Johnson, the well-rehearsed and extremely creative solo artist (known as Vice President), as well as guitarist of Split/Halves, said, "The music scene in New Hampshire and Massachusetts is more vibrant than I had previously thought." He sites establishments like The Riverwalk Cafe in Nashua and Union Coffee in Milford as destinations that foster "not only a stage where playing original music is encouraged, but also a community where local art is valued."

Folks like Cambra and Evans will tell you how much this sort of thing means to them and to a community. Cambra’s home, The Tip, frequently serves as a focal point for patrons of the Umass Lowell scene and Lowell area looking for local bands and music of many varieties. In a trip down to Lowell to see a show where The Fall Is was playing, the reputation of The Tip literally preceded it.

I, stubbornly refusing the aid of a GPS, had gotten myself and Scott Schaeffer (creative force behind Grazen) lost in Lowell. Scott suggested I pull over and he go inside a place called Mill 5 where he knew there would be Wi-Fi so he could look up directions. After a few minutes, he emerged holding a cup of coffee and told me that he had found his way into a coffee place and upon just asking for directions to South Campus, the barista had said something to the effect of, "Oh, you must be looking for The Tip," and gave him specific directions on how to get there.

When I asked him about operating such a space, Cambra said, "As a venue owner, I’ve been blown away by how many people have told me The Tip is their favorite basement in which to see a show."

There is no doubt that such a thriving community exists especially with all the support this event has received. Just last year, there were nearly 70 people in attendance of the Big Bear event where local singer-songwriter Phil Gerekos, referred to as "Phileep," headlined. The bands this year are excited and hope to see even more people this time around.

The proceeds from tickets go toward renting the Big Bear Lodge for the evening and paying for bartending services and sound equipment. Since typically these bands would be caught in the intimate and energetic atmosphere of a home venue, these expenses are a part of the process for the June 18 affair. By attending the show and buying a ticket for just $10, you can support the scene and see some of the extraordinary talent that the people living right around you have to offer.

When you enter these basement venues to see a band play, there is a cool air from the underground location, but a warm feeling of fun-loving and an immediate bond with the crowd. The lighting is often colorful, as these places often opt for the lighting of Christmas tree lights over whatever fluorescent counterpart may typically light the space. Everyone there showed up to see their friends play or because their other friends told them about it. Many people will know the songs, some people won’t, but everyone will enjoy a beautifully intimate encounter with music in its live, raw form. No one will leave without a sincere smile on their face.

Finally, Evans has this to say after nearly a year of booking bands at The Wounded Knee:

"I definitely find the sense of community to be the most important thing. Local scenes should be about being open and interested in hearing what other people have to share and wanting to support those people. We should never be out to try to be better than any other artists, but work together to strengthen the music community and appreciate what each other do.

"Whether you’ve been doing this forever or are just getting into music, a local scene should be inviting and you should never be worried about sharing your music."

About the bands

– Grazen has been a project of Scott Schaeffer’s since early 2015. His lyrics are legitimately charming if not personal and bearing. Shaeffer uses a drum machine as well as various keyboards to create a sound all his own with the help of a lineup of available musicians. Instrumentation ranges from violins and accordions to simple bass and drums.

Grazen is scheduled to release an EP on the internet on July 22, which will be the first release from this project so far.

– Patrick Evans is a skilled guitarist whose sound is defined by finger-tapping math rock licks and chords played on an acoustic guitar which has stood the abuse of all the crazy alternate tunings he uses to coordinate his riffs. Evans is a very outgoing performer despite his nearly completely instrumental act and is quick to fill in if a band cannot make a show at The Wounded Knee, where he practices relentlessly.

Evans cites TTNG and Maps & Atlases as his influence. He says his ambition is to make "Thoughtful and technical music."

– Split/Halves is a band formed much like this event, by connections from different bands and relationships through college and high school. Plainly described as indie rock or somewhat post-Grunge, this band draws influence from bands like Death Cab for Cutie and Weezer. Between the clean guitars and Trevor Nierendorf’s particularly melodic voice, this band delivers a delightful and catchy sound that borders between fun and seriousness.

This band has an EP called "Ephemera" on its way, but has released two singles from it so far.

– The Fall Is Shorter Than You Think has been playing together since September 2014 when the three members met at Umass Lowell’s music sound recording and technology program. Their alternative rock and punk sound makes for an extremely entertaining live performance. They released their EP "Feel Something" on April 20, a fun listen full of accessible vocals and interesting arrangements which are evidently thought-out and well-conceived.

The Fall Is is a band whose cohesiveness in sound is indicative of the amount of time they spend playing together as colleagues.

– Burr – Although all of these bands draw from the talent pool of the Hollis and Brookline area, this is the only band that draws solely from it. Formed in early to mid-2014, this band was originally a small group meant to cover songs for HBHS’s biannual Guitar Night, but in the summer after the end of that school year, they wrote an EP called "Warming of the Days," which was released at Big Bear Lodge last year.

Burr’s sound can be described by the defining characteristics of each member’s role: Highly dynamic and embellished drums, grooving bass lines, an array of whimsical and mood-altering guitar effects, and hauntingly refined vocals. Burr has been writing a lot these past few months and plans to debut a few new songs at this show, their first since February.