Alt-Nation: Celebrating the Season with Music

Dead Kennedys San Francisco 1981_Photo By-F-Stop Fitzgerald (1)Spirit of ‘77 Photography Exhibit

This winter, Pop Emporium Providence will be hosting a photography exhibit called Out of Control: The Spirit of 77, which showcases work capturing the essence of the punk movement. To make the whole thing extra-special, Pop owner Darren Hill is throwing a few pretty epic shows. The first is X’s John Doe. After fronting the iconic L.A. punk band, Doe has reinvented himself in recent years in the roots/alt-country vein with positive results. The other is Paul D. Hudson, better known as Bad Brains’ H.R. (Human Rights), known equally for rapid-fire hardcore squealing and crooning reggae vocals.

The photos are the work of RI-born (and Motif contributor) Richard McCaffrey and f-stop Fitzgerald, both based in the San Francisco area in the late ’70s. Photos are a big part of the mythology of rock ‘n’ roll, and the people behind the camera have a role in its legacy.

I talked to Richard about his career and experiencing the era firsthand.

Jake Bissaro (Motif): What were you interested in first: photography or music?

Richard McCaffrey: I suppose both were interests of mine going back to childhood. The interest in combining them didn’t start until I was 25 or so, when I started an alternative newspaper called The Point here in Rhode Island.

JB: Why the move to San Fran?

RM: The Point didn’t quite make it, and doing it had given me the bug for music photography. I said, “Why not just move to where Rolling Stone is?” and went out there with the intention of becoming a rock photographer.

JB: What drew you to photographing the Punk movement?

RM: It was totally different from what I had been doing previously — photographing the so-called “dinosaur” rock bands like Zeppelin, The Stones and The Dead. The punk scene seemed to come along all of a sudden; you could just tell there was something different happening, a new energy.

JB: I’d imagine the venues were a little different.

RM: Yes, very (laughs). When punk came along, I had worked for the promoter Bill Graham and BAM [Bay Area Music] Magazine as the chief photographer, so I had backstage access to the major clubs and that kind of thing. Trying to capture punk was sort of like going backward for me, because I now was taking pictures at these small, dingy clubs. What they used to call “slam dancing” made things difficult for photography, and there was not exactly a press area.

Around this time, f-stop and I were in the process of putting together a picture book of some sort. We decided it had to be about punk, because it was the thing moving people at the time. The first printing sold out in two weeks.

JB: Can you share any particularly memorable moments?

RM: Going to Mabuhay Gardens and seeing local punk bands like the Dead Kennedys was always an adventure. It was cool to see The Sex Pistols at their last show ever [Winterland Ballroom, 1976]. At the end there was the now-famous moment where Johnny Rotten asks the audience, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” and walks off the stage.

Out of Control: the Spirit of ’77 exhibit runs from Dec 9 – Jan 26, Fri 2 – 6pm, Sat – Sun 1 – 5pm

John Doe takes the stage with support from Tall Teenagers and DJ Hula Bomb on Sat, Dec 9 [sold out], and H.R. on Sat, Dec 16. Both shows start at 7pm.

Alone & Together – A Merry Band of Indie Heavyweights

Alone & Together is an rotating group of songwriters who perform gigs where they play their own or each other’s songs, perform choice covers and generally do whatever they want. Described as a “freewheeling and frequently magical environment,” this incarnation includes Eric D Johnson from The Fruit Bats, Sam Cohen from Yellow Birds, and Elvis Perkins. The rhythm section for this crew seems to be drummer Joe Russo and bassist Josh Kaufman, both known for their work with Bob Weir and other Dead-related projects.

Their performance at The Royal in Boston is one of a three-show run. There is no source material to go off of here, so you have to trust in the strength of these guys’ separate catalogs. YouTube has the collective singing awesome versions of “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’” by the Velvet Underground and Neil Young’s “For The Turnstiles.”

Since we’ve pretty much stopped paying for music, it’s probably depressing for musicians to have to constantly tour to make the bulk of their money. But now that tours don’t have to push album sales, it opens up the opportunity for cool side projects like this, which I would like to see more of.

Alone & Together rolls through The Royale in Boston on Dec 16 at 6:30pm.

Christmas Celtic Sojourn

A Christmas Celtic Sojourn is the live holiday edition of the long-running WGBH radio show of the same name. I’m generally not very festive, but my affinity for Celtic music makes me want to take in the holiday cheer. I look forward to listening to Brian O’Donovan’s smooth brogue on the three-hour Celtic Sojourn radio show every Saturday on WGBH, that is until my wife requests that we turn it off.

The show features fiddling, dancing and general merriment, and is now on its 15th year.

Christmas Celtic Sojourn takes place at The Vets on Dec 20 at 7:30pm. For those in Southeastern Mass., the act is also coming to The Zeiterion on Dec 19.

Holiday Cover Show

I’m told that giving back is an important part of the holiday season, so do so by attending the cover show that Dusk is throwing to benefit the Rhode Island Community Food Bank on Dec 16! The performance will feature some notable cover sets like Devo performed by members of Math the Band and Tapestries, and Superdrag performed by members of Twin Foxes, The Brother Kite and Snowplows.

In something out of my fourth grade fantasy, The Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack will be played in its entirety by Lame Genie. If you require more proof that the RI music scene has everything you need, Lame Genie is a video game music cover band.

The benefit goes down Dec 16 at 7pm at Dusk. 

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