[media stories: 2002: english]
Ptolemaic Terrascope (published by Nick Saloman and edited by Phil McMullen) has long been a leading magazine for the indie psych, folk, and experimental genres. The first Terrastock festival, consisting of artists featured in the Terrascope, was held in Providence, RI in 1997. The festival returned to New England in October for a fifth showcase of many of today's best indie / underground musicians.
I arrived at the Terrastock festival wet and exhausted from lugging more than a hundred pounds of CDs over more than a mile of cobblestones and cracked cement between Central Square in Cambridge and the Hyatt next to the Charles River on Memorial Drive. The venue turned out to be right across the street from Fenway Park, in a row of dance clubs frequented by upscale international students. The surrounding neighborhood was strangely abandoned since nearly all the businesses are only there for baseball fans on game days.
There was something immediately welcoming about this odd setting. Standing in line in the rain, I quickly met some people I knew from e-mail groups. I even sold a few CDs and made a few new friends before entering the club. I didn't pick up on any of the competition, falseness or desperation that I usually encounter at industry festivals and conferences.
Terrastock was held at two adjacent dance clubs: a small dark square room (The Axis) and a larger spacious open oval room (The Avalon). The sound from the small room was dense and direct while the larger room had crisp acoustics following the curves of the walls. Considering the fact that there was a last-minute venue change here from the Middle East in Cambridge, this was a good setting for the festival. It's a testament to the abilities of the organizers that things ran so smoothly in spite of the venue change, horrible traveling weather, and the loss of the big Avalon stage for Sunday (meaning that a second stage in The Axis had to be built overnight). Cheers to Phil, Joe, Steph, Amir, Brendan, Scott and everyone who organized the weekend.
Terrastock is a relatively small gathering but it is the event of the season for several branches of indie music. Most of the fans are world-class music collectors, fiercely supportive of their favorites and hungry to expand their horizons with new discoveries. Many people are also musicians and / or writers or have their own labels, magazines, radio shows, stores, rare music FTP servers, etc. In spite of a bit of post-festival squabbling online, my impression of the Terrastock community was one of a group of genuinely nice, interesting, mutually supportive people, excited to be part of the scene. It was a highlight to finally meet so many e-mail friends face to face, taking away some of the isolation of the digital age.
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Most of the day on Saturday, I was in the big room running the Free City table with my friend Dave Stevens and some help from Jeannette Gustavus from Stickman / Sticksister Records. We had the best seats in the house, up high and directly facing the stage. Trondheim, Norway was well represented at Terrastock 5 by the Dipsomaniacs and Motorpsycho. Seeing the Dipsomaniacs was just about as close to seeing the Beatles or Kinks in the mid sixties as you could get. They played a great cover of The Kinks' "Love Me Till The Sun Shines" (with some self-effacing banter from frontman Øyvind Holm) and offered up some driving versions of new songs and rearrangements of early tracks, ending with a mind-blowing version of "Losing Sleep". Thomas Henriksen played a fantastic Theremin solo and then held the instrument into the crowd for some meaningful audience participation.
Motorpsycho thundered out like Led Zeppelin crashing a recital. Their highly complex, dynamic update of arena prog rock was extremely impressive. They hit on so many satisfying rock memories during a cover of MC5's "Black To Comm" that I wanted to wave my lighter in the air. The flowing but meticulously rehearsed set meandered in a groovy Live At Fillmore East kind of way that got to my '70s soul. A dramatic arrangement of "Fool's Gold" from Blissard provided a moving encore.
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Terrastock left me feeling very positive about the state of independent music. I hope that some of these performances are made available to fans that couldn't be in Boston. In addition to hearing the stellar sets, I met a lot of nice people who do what they do just for the love of music. This was my first Terrastock but I won't miss any others in the future.
For more information, check http://www.terrascope.org/.