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New England Popfest 97 reviews
POPFEST 97 1/2

"Can I rest now?": a Popfest 97 1/2 review
Jen Towers

Hello, all...

It was a wonderful weekend in Cambridge, MA...not much sleep had by many..(.especially for a few of our more adventuresome listees who slept on the grass at Walden Pond!) but the Popfest was successful and that's the only thing that counts.

I'd like to pass along my thanks to everyone who came to the shows...scanning over the sign-in sheets, aside from Massachusetts folks, we had visitors from Connecticut, Rhode Island, various parts of New York, Arkansas, Michigan, West Virginia, Georgia, Washington DC, New Jersey, Ohio, New Hampshire, two different parts of Germany, and Sweden.

I'd also like to give a big shout out to my boyz, Ad Boc, Min Liu, Matt Neimark, and Peter Green who graciously (ahem) tolerated FERVOR while we worked on this project.

Just as many kudos to Chris "Jigsaw", Andrea "Grimsey", Matt "Le Grande Magistery", Susan "Warped Reality", the "Kindercore" crowd, and everyone else who sold their wares and made it a very complete "fest" in the true sense of the word.

Although, many of the band members are not on this list, I have to give them all a very loud and excited round of applause once again, because I don't think there was one missed note on either night.

Here are my biased comments for Saturday (which sold out, by the way...)

It was my first time seeing the Poconos. I was sooooo impressed with Mike & Tami's set--you could barely tell they were nervous. Dave Auchenbach said it best when he said that Mike Appelstein is just as deserving of the stage and applause than anybody else, given his love of the music and all that he's taught people about it through his writing, etc. Now it's his turn, along with Tami and Kardym, to get some of the praise back. Oh,.I particularly love that song about the lodge.

Flora Street did a wonderful job, despite the fact that their monitors weren't working, they didn't have their regular bassist (although, they had Frank Mullin from the Godrays/Purple Ivy Shadows...), and it was their last show and they were a bit emotional about it.

Jumprope---always entertaining---had the crowd bopping their heads...which is a *big* accomplishment in Boston.

Permafrost were interesting. Their very rockin' set was incredibly energized and entertaining...although their music isn't really my cup o' wild cherry pepsi. They also had *great* merchandise (stickers, handi-wipes and tea) to give away.

Honeybunch....oh my. They made it all worth the months of work. I *really* like the addition of Lisa on keyboards....and the new songs are soooo incredible. (Go see the Honeybunch/Push Kings show at The Call in Providence, RI on May, 11th)

The Push Kings just keep drawing the crowds...but, who's surprised?? Their set was one of the best I've seen them do...but *why* won't they play "Just Because You're Famous"? It's my favorite " new" song by them.

And for Sunday...

I have to admit that the most pleasant of surprises (for me) was Ribbon Candy. They were great!!! A threesome, they played some of the most poppiest songs of both nights and played them extremely well. "The biggest fan of Billy Bragg" song has been in my head since then and I can't stop listening to their cassette.

Names for Pebbles the best way possible. They were wearing fancy duds, too. I had never seen them before and was pleased with their use of the farfisa. Go see them when you can!

Hushpad.....sigh....sparkle....sniffle...shine. Enough said.

Musical Chairs!!!!!!!!! This was the band that drew me out of my dazed exhaustion and got me dancing!!!! Peter Handorf was right...I can't believe it took three years for them to play a Popfest. But, selfishly, I'm glad we were responsible for it!!! They sounded incredible...and I wanted to kiss Ian for choosing to play "Going Crazy."

My Favorite are deserving of all the praise they are getting. For me, it used to be that they were "the band that opened up for Holiday and the Push Kings"...but now I would definitely go see them independently. They just keep getting better and better...and it's worth it just to hear "Calling All Party Crashers." Andrea has an incredible voice.

Jason Morphew...a lot of people were skeptical of Jason before the show...or maybe it was just curiosity. "Who's Jason Morphew?" was a question I heard over and over for the last couple of weeks...and I didn't really know until last night. He's a man with a guitar and great song-writing talent. It seemed that he was not what most people expected...very twangy, almost country sound...but unlike many, did not think he was out of place at the Popfest. He has a CD coming out very soon...with backing instrumentation by Holiday and a few duets with Claudia Gonson (from the Mag. Fields and Honeybunch).

So that was it. It all went as smoothly as can be expected...and I had so much fun meeting new listee friends...and dancing around with my old ones.

To those of you that missed it...Chicago is next. I'll be saving my pennies from now til then.

jen towers

Boston Popfest - Night #2

Thanks a ton to everyone who came to the second night of Popfest '97 1/2 at The Middle East.

Attending listies expressed that they really liked the "vibe" of night #2 - less crowded (of course, it was Sunday), and a working cassette machine for my background mix tape (which three different people requested to purchase from me) surely aided this impression - from the pop-eyed excitement that newcomers Ribbon Candy generated (I think they sold every tape in the box they brought with them within about a minute after their set) - to the sense of intimacy and immediacy created by Hushpad as the whole audience sat cross-legged on the floor in rapt attention, bathed in the sound and hanging on every note and word - to My Favorite later inciting everyone to cut loose with "some disco dancing, because that's what popfest is all about" and generally promoting a party atmosphere (and sounding the best I've ever heard them). The variety made it seem like a week of different shows in one night, each set with its own distinct memory.

Thanks to all who played and attended, sold stuff and bought stuff, to Min and Peter for helping with the booking, to Matt for the trying negotiations with the naysaying booker at the Middle East, and to Jen and Lance for seeing to a million little details.

There are only about a dozen Popfest '97 1/2 t-shirts left (L and XL sizes, maroon on white, 100% cotton) for $8 plus $1 postage in the USA. E-mail Jen at to ask about or order one.

See you all soon at Skippyfest Chicago,


Subject: The Poconos' popfest diary
My recollection of events:

9 am: It is the fourth or so day that I haven't gotten enough sleep. I walk over to Enterprise Rent-A-Car in the pouring rain and pick up our transportation for the weekend, a red (not white for a change!) midsize Olds Activa. I drive over to the apartment; Tami and I pack our guitars and clothing, pick up Callie six blocks away, and head toward New England.

11:20 am: A quick pitstop in New Haven, CT to pick up Steve Burt. He's standing on the corner with an umbrella in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. We would've come directly to his door if he wanted to.

3:30 pm: It takes longer than we expect to get to Boston due to a combination of pouring rain and a couple of rest-stop layovers. We get slightly lost finding the Cambridge Susse Chalet, but finally locate it on Route 2 near the Alewife T station. Since we are so late, the cadre of New Yorkers also staying at the hotel (Maura, Andrea Goldstein, Jill, etc.) have already headed back into the city. We figure maybe we'll run into them before the show, but we never do.

4:30-7:00 pm: Twisted Village Records and an extended coffee break at some dessert place in Harvard Square with our friend Jordan (he and Steve went to high school together; they are both hypersmart and both talk very fast). I am fairly nervous with anticipation this whole time, moreso as the popfest actually approaches. It will be only our second proper club show, and the first with stuff like soundchecks and a sizable audience.

7:00 pm: Arrive at the Middle East. We are among the first to show up; the Push Kings are sitting around the bar. For those of you who continue to deride them as people, let it be known that the Push Kings were nothing but cordial and friendly to us all weekend (yes, even Matt Fishbeck, who helped me find my backpack with my patch cords and delay pedal). We meet up with Jon Chaikin, who's helping us with soundcheck and so forth, and wait around while the PKs soundcheck. Then we soundcheck, and it isn't as scary as I figure it'll be. Afterwards, I run into Jackie Bascom, who I haven't seen in more than two years. She's flown in from Buffalo to see the show and her old friends.

8:45 pm: Tami and I play, charging through our nine-song set in a little under 25 minutes. We don't make too many mistakes, and people seem to like us. (Note to Jen T: that song was called "Mount Airy Lodge," glad you liked it. And Kardyhm didn't actually play with us that night, though she was in the audience.) Tami and I summarily declare this our favorite Poconos show to date as soon as we get offstage. I order a beer and chat with some friends from Boston and Connecticut that I don't see often enough.

I feels so, so strange after our set. I mean, actually playing the Middle East, perhaps my favorite club in the Northeast now that Maxwell's has changed management, with Honeybunch and ex-members of Small Factory? All my life I've wanted to form a band, but could never find anyone who wanted to. Goodbye fourth wall.

9:15: Flora Street seem a little darker and slower since the last time I saw them (their one NY show, opening up for Sleater-Kinney). I really like their set, which at its best contains echoes of the Nonpareils. It's Dave and Patti's last set as Flora Street, but Dave says they will continue under a different name, perhaps with more instrument and songwriting switching.

9:45: Jumprope plays their usual spirited, tuneful set. It's beginning to get very hot and humid in the Middle East upstairs room, and Callie and I keep stepping in and out during their set and Permafrost's (a band that doesn't really do much for me with their rockstar moves and all).

11:30: Ah, Honeybunch, a perennial favorite. Tonight they are playing with a keyboard, which fills out their sound nicely. As usual, I stand in the front row, smiling throughout the whole set, smitten with this band and their songs.

12:00: The Push Kings close out the show. Their CD has its moments but isn't something I listen to very often, and (face it!) their live show has its cheesy elements, especially when Finn grabs the mike and strikes poses. I don't know, I guess I wish they were more self-effacing sometimes. (But as I said, I will NOT CAST ASPERSIONS ABOUT THE BAND MEMBERS AS PEOPLE. THEY WERE PERFECTLY CIVIL.) But they are a fun way to end the night, and I find myself actually getting into them in places.

1:00 am: It takes literally an hour for everyone to get together and figure out post-show activities. Some of us want to head back to the hotel and get some sleep; others want to go get food or go to a bar. The bulk of us finally decide to head to the Susse Chalet. Tami, Andrea, Steve, Callie and I go to sleep. In the other room, several people decide to head out to a 7-11 for food and drink; they end up getting hopelessly lost in the greater Boston area and don't return to their room 'til 7 am.

8:15am: Jill knocks on our door for Andrea; they head to Dollar-A-Pound at the Garment District. I am temporarily disappointed that no one told me about it, but then look on the bright side: I can stay in bed for awhile longer.

11:00 am: Showers, packing up, checking out, and back in the car toward Cambridge. We eat brunch at Cafe Soho and spend the day wandering around the city. There is the requisite record shopping at In Your Ear, Pipeline and Newbury Comics. Callie heads to the Wordsworth children's book store for awhile while Tami and I browse through Newbury's oft-surprising 7" section. My find of the day is a Melons' 7" for 99 cents. We introduce Tami to Smarties, an excellent British candy similar to M&Ms but way, way better. Later in the day we meet up with Jordan again, and he and Steve give us a detailed tour of the Harvard campus. By late afternoon we are all tired from all the walking, but it's a good, satisfying sort of tired.

7:00 pm: Back to the Middle East for dinner and the second half of the popfest. Sloan Johnston meets up with us for falafel, and one by one the show's organizers and participants show up through the door. The plan is to stay for the first four bands and hit the road in time for work and to return the rental car. Tonight's show is far less hectic than Saturday's; much of the NY crew has already left for home.

8:30 pm: Ribbon Candy strike me as a spirited but kinda ordinary band.

9:10 pm: Names for Pebbles hit an excellent Boyracer/Weddoes-styled pop buzz. I enjoy their concise set thoroughly.

9:50: Hushpad is just Matt pouring his heart out onstage. It's a fairly stark, solitary, lonely set, one that I appreciate very much. Especially liked that "Goodbye Virginia" song.

10:30: Our popfest experience ends in a smiley way with Connecticut perennials Musical Chairs, a band that doesn't play out or record enough. It's always an event to see them play, in other words, and they were especially good tonight. Ian has added a second guitarist to his lineup which fills their sound out nicely.

11:10: Some of us want to stay for My Favorite (including Callie, who'd been talking librarian shoptalk with Andrea), but we're all getting tired and need to hit the road. By 11:30, we say our goodbyes and find our way to the Mass Pike.

2:00 am: I apparently sleep through Tami almost running off the road. We drop Steve off in New Haven and I take over the wheel for the final stretch. After a quick gas/Coke stop at a rest stop, we're off.

4:00 am: The late evening seems so incredibly peaceful; the sky is still a couple of hours from brightening. Callie and I talk while Tami and Kardyhm sleep in the back seat. We drop Kardyhm off in Hastings-on-Hudson.

4:30 pm: Down the Saw Mill Parkway which turns into the Henry Hudson Parkway. Through the Holland Tunnel. Over the bridge, a left onto 14th St., a right onto Garden Street. We are home. We drop Callie off, find a parking space for the car and go to sleep.

7:45 am: I wake up to return the car. My entire body feels weighed down from exhaustion. Work isn't even an option by this point, so I call in sick, return the car and sleep all day.

xo Mike,
thanking the popfest organizers for having us and still reeling from such an amazing weekend.

Subject: thank you boston!
From: "Maura A. Smale"


v well, as far as reminiscing and stuff goes for the wondrous popfest '97.5, i think that many people have already and will soon say it all better than me. but i did want to say that it was a lovely wonderful time, and i'm sad that i had to be a grownup and not stay for sunday, and i really enjoyed playing the with 8 zillion people in our room in the hotel on saturday night and getting next to no sleep and having the giggles for nearly 24 hours straight--it sll made me feel so fun and young again at a time when i normally feel so old and worn out...and the bands were great and the people were great and you're all so great!

a big ol' shoutout to you bostonites for a job tremendously well done: jen towers, ad boc, lance romanoff, min liu, matt neimark, and whomever else i've forgotten in my tiredness after work now...y'all fucking rule! :)


maura, hoping she can make it to chicago...

Subject: Le Grand Boston (Recollections)

dear list
(and a few other lucky souls),

the boston popfest most definitely rocked
(maybe even a bit too much for my more highly refined tastes).
and now, in no particular order
(aside from this one)
highlights for me were the push kings
(seeing dave daley dancing with delight),
shedding tears during hushpad
(i swear it was because i was tired),
the billy bragg song by ribbon candy
(ian from musical chairs will be putting it out as a single),
a cranberry juice nightcap at international house of pancakes
(you all know how to sing happy birthday, but can you rap it?),
selling enough le grand merchandise to pay for the trip
(actually coming out with a profit of exactly one dollar),
trading the promise of a mix tape for a 'gritty kitty' single
(it's on a label called kindercore and it's amazing),
walking from grimsey records to the cabot street theater
(seeing le grand david and his own spectacular magic show),
getting lost somewhere between cambridge and the morning
(running far too many red lights and dealing with roundabouts),
falling into a pile of clothes for sale for a dollar per pound
(2.2 lbs = 2 sporty shirts + 1 pair of shorts + 1 soft sweater),
talking with andrew park about our decadent past in nyc
(i now sit here in the midst of michigan, planning a return),
and those who did and those who did not requite
(and those who still might)*
(and so many kisses),

matthew jacobson
(by appointment of le grand magistery)

Subject: Boston 'fest
From: Duchess

Oh, and I wanted to thank everyone for making my first Popfest so memorable! It felt too good to hang with people that actually knew what you were talking about when you mentioned a particular band. Ad: You're real cool for letting Mick and I stay with you. (I'm sure you're still recovering from the 'Talk-Your-Ear-Off' syndrome that Mick seems to leave with people. :) Oh, and Briana loves the tape! Thanks again!

The bands were great! The best shows that I've ever seen! (Of course, being from West Virginia there's not much that compares. Before this, I've been stuck seeing just local ska and pop-punk.) Anyway, I was really impressed. Honeybunch was so great! Hushpad made me swoon and the Push Kings rocked! (Ps. I thought Matt Fishbeck was so cool! He happened to have stood right in front of me during the My Favorite show. I couldn't get over how cute he was!)

Anyway, thanks again everybody! It rocked my socks!

Subject: Boston popfest

Aaaaahhh, what a lovely weekend. A plethora of wonderful bands, new fantastic friends, and I finally kinda know my way around Cambridge. Thank you thank you thank you to all you hard working popkids for making such a lovely event possible.

High point of the weekend: having Testcard sit on my lap during Honeybunch. What utter bliss! I am positively reeling, my dear!

Second runner up: the look on Khardhym's sleepy face when Chris Jigsaw and I woke her up at Walden Pond Sunday afternoon. When she fell asleep in the backseat at Porter Square, I don't think she expected to wake up there.

Thanks so much to all the wonderful bands that played. The Musical Chairs were the best I've ever seen them (lovely having Scott Nielson play trumpet a bit. I'm a sucker for a trumpet. And doesn't he look like Hugh Grant?) Honeybunch Honeybunch Honeybunch!!!! The Poconos were even more fantastic than I had anticipated. And I must inform you all that I am now Hushpad's biggest fan. Gosh, I so thoroughly enjoyed the whole show on both nights.

So, for the next idea, inspired by the Poconos and verbalized by Khardhym, I believe, wouldn't it be lovely to have an indiepop retreat in the sticks? how about a show of hands for a popfest '98 in a lodge in the Poconos? Barbecue, mosquitos, and fine music for all!


Subject: Boston Popfest Recollections
From: Mick McMick

Hiya Listees,

I was privy to an excellent duet of shows this weekend in Boston. Of course you've all heard about it. I just wanted to let everyone know yet ANOTHER opinion on some of the bands...

First night: I just love seeing Jumprope & the Push Kings! The Push Kings played a great set. I think their performance of "Macy, Macy" almost matched the first time that I heard it at the NY popfest, but with all that buildup as Brian & Peter made the announcement it was the single of the year, I don't they could quite match that time. Anyway, this time around, I wanted them to play a few more new songs than they did, but they still covered all the bases pretty well. I hope they play "Waiting for Nina," someday, while I'm there. Jumprope was great, too. I really can't wait for the new single to come out, they just keep churning out great songs. I just wish some more people would have danced during their set!

Other great things about saturday night included Honeybunch, who were fabuluous, and I'd only heard one song so I didn't know what to expect. The Poconos were very pleasant, and I enjoyed seeing them a lot. I tended to like the drum-guitar songs more than the bass-guitar ones, but I think it's a matter of personal preference.

The Second Night: all I can say is Ribboncandy!! They were SO great. I couldn't believe they were first, and so good. They were energetic, semi-punky (yet without snotty vocals) and as catchy as various diseases. All that, and the bass player jumped up and down a lot!!! I'd have to say that I prefer "Marzipan," to the Billy Bragg song, but every song was good, every one. Hushpad were wonderful as well. I can't really say anything that would do the performance justice. It was great, let me just say that. I'm usually one who likes a fuller sound, and I didn't even notice that there was only one guitar and one small voice.

I think that the sound guy on Sunday had some difficulties. I was really excited to see Musical Chairs, but the sound levels kinda ruined my enjoyment. The vocals were buried throughout most of the set. When instrumentation changes occurred (when one of the guitarists sat out, or when the bassist played trumpet) the songs delighted me to no end. I still liked the set, but the levels were bad, and they didn't move much on stage, just kinda played. My Favorite seemed to have some level problems also. The keyboard was really difficult to make out, even when the level was boosted. Again, they were enjoyable, but I guess I was so impressed with Ribboncandy at the beginning that I couldn't look at the rest of the bands without thinking how much more I liked Ribboncandy. I guess getting a really great opener could have been a bad thing

Overall, thanks for everyone I talked to for putting up with my incessant babbling. I had lots of fun and (of course) spent way too much money! I'm starting to remember to turn around when people ask for Mick, not Brian =)

Last updated: 11-May-1997 © 1994-2024 TweeNet Creative Commons License