Check Out Local Musician: Sierra West

From Horse Farm to Harvard Square: Sierra West’s is Journey to Inspire

Luck Media)

Helping Animals By Day, Inspiring People Through Song By Night…Welcome To The Fascinating World Of Sierra West! The Folk Influenced Pop/Rock Singer Songwriter Is A Veterinary Technician Who Volunteers Her Musical Talent To Support Animal Causes.

We asked Sierra to answer some questions for QWIMB about her thoughts on Boston, Queerness, and Music…our favorite things.

QWIMB QUESTIONARE: 

Did you grow up in the Boston area? (if so where, if not, why come here?)

I grew up in rural CT on a horse farm. I lived in Watertown until I was 8 and moved to Thomaston where I still visit family. I moved to Boston after college because I heard of a historical folk venue called Club 47 (currently Club Passim) where Bob Dylan and Joan Baez started out and I dreamed of doing the same. I wanted to become part of the folk scene and start taking formal lessons (I was self-taught), so between Club Passim and Berklee I thought I couldn’t go wrong!

Do you think there is a strong community of queer women here either performing or supporting a music scene?

I think there is a strong community supporting more liberal artists/slam poets and dj’s. There is a stronger scene for bands than for solo artists, but there are several acoustic musicians working hard to create a stronger community, especially in JP and Somerville.

Are there any artists/performers who have been particularly influential to you?

I am influenced by a wide variety of music…everything from Neil Young to Nine Inch Nails. I grew up listening to James Taylor, Tom Petty, CSN, Steely Dan…any Classic Rock records i could get my hands on. Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin were repeatedly played. My first concert was Little Feat and Melissa Etheridge when I was 4 and I have been particularly influenced by them because of that. I went through stages of listening to U2, REM, & Ani DiFranco in high school and currently listen to The Weepies, Ben Harper, and Patti Griffin. I have to say, of the thousands of artists I have seen and heard, Martin Sexton is my number one all around choice. He has it all…and I aspire for a career much like his.

What has been your experience with the various in venues for music in Boston? Have you played many of them? What was the crowd like?

Sierra WestThe crowds showing up for music venues in Boston are a hit or miss for artists starting out on their own, especially without representation. There is so much music going on all the time that you really have to advance the gigs & do everything you can to promote them on your own. I’ve never performed at Toad (although I’d love to), but it’s a great small place with free music every night.  Most artists looking to book gigs can do so at The All Asia. There is not much of a local draw there, but it is a great way to gain experience. I performed at The Abbey Lounge, Toast (the gay bar in Union Square), and The Sky Bar regularly before they shut down. I’ve performed at The Midway and The Milkyway in JP supporting queer events and loved the crowd there. I’ve performed a lot at The Cantab Lounge, with a great basement band stage called Club Bohemia, again hit or miss for the crowd. I held my first EP release for “Rocks” at The Lizard Lounge, one of the best basement venues – standing room only on a Thursday night. I loved performing there – intimate, funky, and rockin’ at the same time.  I will be holding my EP release for “Hold Your Fire” on August 14th at Club Passim, which is a dream come true. It’s my favorite venue to perform in not only for its history, but for the love of the folk community and the power of a listening room. It’s not just a venue.

Why did you get into playing/performing music? Is there anything specific you would like listeners to hear when they connect with your music?

After my older brother, also a musician, was killed by a hit-and-run drunk driver I bought my first acoustic guitar and started writing privately in my room. Every time I sing it reconnects me with him. It wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I began playing in front of people. My girlfriend at the time was cheating on me with her male best friend. The day before she broke up with me she had insisted she “could never love a man the way she loved a woman”. We made out to The Cure for half an hour in my old Volvo (my brother’s old car). I recorded my first CD “Depleted Oxygen” 3 months later in NYC. It was fuel for a fire that was already there. I hope my listeners hold on to their dreams despite the resistance that arises, that it is possible to get through a struggle despite how different or against the grain it may feel, because life is too short not to.

____________________________________________________

Intrigued Yet? Take a Listen to Some of Her Music:

Sierra was kind enough to allow QWIMB to post a link to her NEW EP, which comes out AUGUST 14.

Hold Your Fire

Also check out her earlier EP, Rocks.

Rocks


See Her Live!

Sierra is promoting her upcoming EP, Hold Your Fire, at Club Passim on August 14. You Don’t want to miss this show.

Get Tickets Here.

Want More Info On Sierra:

Sierra on Myspace

Sierra’s Website

Feature on a Retired Local Band: PornBelt

PornBelt

Pornbelt was an all-female full-frontal assault back in the early 2000s, with members residing in both Boston’s Jamaica Plain and Somerville neighborhoods. Travis, the former drummer, gave me this description of the band dating from their heyday :

Take a listen to some of their songs. Pornbelt will melt your face off and injure your hearing.

  • Babysitter Fucker
  • Gash Rash
  • Clam
  • Cherry Commando

A couple of show reviewer/writer-type dudes had some words to share on Pornbelt:

“Hell spawned and godlike at once…Pummeled the audience with feedback, white noise and a kazoo.  They brought a power to the state that can barely be described.”  Tony Reaves. 11.11.02.  UMO

“This has to be some milestone in evolution, or a sign of the apocalypse. Perhaps the shrillest, most painful and pointless cacophony I’ve ever witness and I’ve seen some real train wrecks. I’m outta here.”  Joe Coughlin, The Noise, Boston Issue 221.May 2002.

 

 

I had some questions for band members about what is was like to be a queer band in Boston in the 2000s, if the bandmembers were all from the city, and what the queer music scene was like at the time the band was performing. Their drummer Travis, was kind enough to answer.

Travis: “This is a really good question.  And honestly, queer was not really a word floating around Boston yet, the way it is today.  There were dyke bands, but not queer bands.  And even though we all were dykes at the time (or bi and trans etc) we were almost more of a feminist band then a queer band.  Most everyone was from the city.  I was a country bumkin from Maine who must moved to Boston and had discover Team Dresch 5 years AFTER they had broken up and I thought they were the greatest thing i’d ever heard (still my most fav band).  I wanted to play dyke punk music and found an ad on Craigslist.  I “audition” for the guitar part at this basement/practice space in Jamaica Plain and joined in. Wtihin a year, we lost the drummer, so I switched to drums and we got a new guitar player.

We were also playing music at a time when many bands were being protested for any affliction with the Michigan Women’s Music Festival.  We played a show once with a few performers who had played there, and subsequently were being protested.  My bandmates reminded me that we bought them hot-coaco cuz it was cold out.  And even though there were trans members in our band, we did not stand behind the protesting of bands.  My girlfriend was in a band at the time (The Kitty Kill – another band you should look up) and they were also protested because they played there.”

 

 

Merry, the lead screamer, also shared some of her experiences in Boston’s queer womens’ music scene and playing with PornBelt.

“PornBelt took on many iterations over the years.I think we can be loosely defined as a gig band between 2001-2003. At that time, the music scene in Boston was fairly segregated. There was the main rock bands of Boston that played shows at places like The Middle East & T.T the Bears, Punk bands playing O’briens or basement shows- of course there were many other types of bands and venues but there was also a strong & prominent  dyke scene in the early aughts. I suppose that’s were PornBelt came in. Our lineup changed over time and we didn’t adhere necessarily to the label of “dyke band” but I think we fit a broader definition of a Queer band-at the core PornBelt had 5 women-lesbian, bi & straight, later we had transgender members. As far as a Queer music scene in Boston, I’m not really aware of any gay male bands that could be considered a counterpart  like a Pansy Division of Boston. There were however many bands that consisted of mostly queer women (and not just folk!)

Our shows were pretty evenly divided between the rock bands that Debbie networked with: Neptune, Young Sexy Assassins, Donna Parker, Japanther, Tunnel of Love and playing shows with dyke/queer bands that the members of PornBelt were fucking, or maybe wanted to fuck: The Kitty Kill, Chelsea on Fire, Secret Cock, Pelvic Circus and Naughty Shirley to name a few. At the time the dyke scene had a very loyal following. The Midway, a bar in Jamaica Plain had a ‘Dyke Night’, and back then Thursday nights were ground zero for Dykes/Queers in the Boston area. Chelsea on Fire were true rock amazons, they were like the Beastie Boys of the dyke scene-I think everyone can agree that they were just in a league of their own- holy shit the pipes on Josie! they were all truly talented,  they had a hardcore dyke following but I think they could hold their own, and did with many other bands. The Kitty Kill also was a great band, they brought a lot of melody and rhythm to their music. I always viewed PornBelt as a novelty band, novelty in the sense that we didn’t fit any particular genre and we definitely were not the kind of band that you would want to blast really loud while zooming down the highway (unless you were perhaps an escaped mental patient with a messiah complex). I like to think our shows were fun and intense -individually the musicians in PornBelt could have been stand out musicians in any other band- but PornBelt was more GWAR meets Smothers Brothers, in my mind- then a true band.

We did have a few stalkers, which I guess does qualify us as a real band.

Debbie was always the driving force in PornBelt. She was the one who got the practice space, networked, made flyers and booked the shows. As for me I was the lead screamer for PornBelt, though when we first formed I was slated to be the bass player. I couldn’t play bass, or any instrument for that matter so I transitioned to the lead screamer and I kinda sucked at that too- for example-the other members had to give me signals when to start ‘singing’, I also needed  to make cheat sheet of lyrics & I generally just winged it with a mic and a pair of well-worn knee pads.

I think towards the end of our time playing together, the last true line up of PornBelt was stellar-

Larissa was sheer force. she is so versatile on bass, shredding and fully engaged, she fucking brought it full on. Larissa also occasionally hopped on the guitar. As a side note, I was out of the Country for about a month and when I came back Larissa bought a van for PornBelt to tour in. The rest of PornBelt tricked out the van, so when I came back I remember being really confused that a van and what turned out to be an ill-fated tour were booked and ready to go.

Travis was our grounded player, he kept the music tight and worked with Larissa to come up with new musical arrangements for the lyrics, he also went between guitar and drums. When we gave each other A-Team characters names, of course Travis was Face because he is dreamy and the lady fans loved him.

Slamber did guitar and drums- (her and Travis would trade off on different songs). Slamber brought raw energy and a provocative appeal that would captivate and engage the audience.

Debbie introduced a lot of unique noise elements to the songs-kazoo, and various mic’d contraptions. Deb also sang what turned out to be some of best songs. Without Deb PornBelt would not have made it past our first basement show. Deb is a true PR machine, she is The Closer.

As for me, when I was in PornBelt I lived in Mission Hill, but I essentially cut my teeth in the Boston Punk scene of the 90’s. I left home fairly early, at 15- so I always felt I essentially spent my teen years growing up behind the Rat, drinking cheap vodka and hanging out in The Pit in Harvard Square. Having come from the Punk scene, labels and  designations were antithetic, that being the whole punk ethos-so it was sort of natural for me to get involved with a variegated music spectrum, though I did take a lot of heat from some punks over my love of Motown, Seals & Crofts, Michael Jackson, Guns n’ Roses-to name a few.  I think because I did not play an instrument my involvement with PornBelt was a bit different from the other band members. I just sort of showed up at gigs, it felt sort of happenstance. But, I loved writing lyrics. It felt great to capture a feeling or experience in a song. It was cathartic and I suppose therapeutic, to unload a torrent of emotion and weird ideas in lyric form. One of our songs was “Baby Sitter Fucker”, the idea for the song came to me when I was dating this guy that I kind of thought was a creep. It was as Oprah would say “An Aha moment”, I remember thinking- this guy, this dude that I am dating-he’s the kind of guy who would volunteer to drive the babysitter home after a date night and make the moves on a young girl, it was also inspired by the various indiscretions of the Kennedy family. The song “Covered Girl” was inspired by an experience with my father’s wife when I was about 12 years old, she told me I need to be demure if I wanted to get a man but that I was too tall anyway and guys don’t like tall girls (I’m 5’8, that’s not even tall). I am a picky eater so I wrote “portion cup” about my O.C.D. need to segment my food.”

-Merry

I would like to thank PornBelt for giving me everything I needed for this article and basically doing all the work for me! If you thirst for more PornBelt, check out their Facebook page.

If you or anyone you know has further information on the queer scene in Boston either past/present/or future, send me a line. Did you go to any of PornBelt’s shows? Tell me about it. Were you at other shows you wanna discuss? Got any pics, stickers, pins, pit-stained t-shirts, memories, or scars you wanna share? Do it. I want it all…give it to me. Please.

(Article by Tina Lafleur)

Spotlight on a Touring Band: Nervous But Excited

A pleasantly aggressive folk duo?? Yes, Please.

Nervous but Excited is a nationally touring folk duo who just happens to be coming to Boston to play Club Passim on November 6. They are a couple of Midwesterners looking to build their Boston fan base. Give em a whirl eh?

Band Bio:

This Michigan-based pleasantly aggressive folk duo is a unique harmony built upon two songwriters singing genuinely crafted stories with three guitars, a mandolin, a banjo, a ukulele, a harmonica, vaguely choreographed dancing and a glockenspiel. Road warriors to the core since 2005, their endless passion has landed them on stages with folks like Ani Difranco, Iron and Wine and Utah Phillips. Their live show will bounce you through a variety of emotions, always keeping you guessing which is next. You might cry, you’ll definitely laugh, and they hope you’ll leave feeling that your heart has grown just a little larger.

Take a look at a couple of their videos and see what you think:

Upcoming Show Info:

Nervous but Excited & The Michael J Epstein Memorial Library

  • Sunday, November 6, 2011, 8PM
  • Club Passim, 47 Palmer St.
  • Cambridge

Tickets $10

Can’t make the show and/or wanna learn more?

Go to the Nervous but Excited website.

Uh Huh Her Back Again

Uh Huh Her came back to Boston on Saturday as a stop on their nationwide tour. They played the Brighton Music Hall (formerly Harper’s Ferry), which has been featuring some great shows lately, i.e. Wild Flag in March. This is a welcome change from the old club that featured college-themed reggae cover bands and hip-hop for suburbanites. Whoever is doing the booking over there has done nothing but make me happy since the change over.

Uh Huh Her features former Boston resident Camila Grey, a former Berklee student, and Leisha Hailey. Grey was a member of the band Mellowdrone and recently toured with Adam Lambert as a member of his backing band. Hailey was a member of the 90s group The Murmurs and its later reincarnation, Gush. They were joined on stage by a backing drummer and guitarist.

Most people are familiar with UHH’s first record Common Reaction, which was released in 2008. At that time, the band was caught up in a whirlwind of attention stemming from Hailey’s fame as a cast member of Showtime’s the L Word. The record is quite good, but sounds very produced. It has the big sound of a traditional electro-pop record and features a combination of darkness and catchy riffs. The musical talents of the duo were often overshadowed by the excitement of  Hailey’s “celesbian” status. There are so few well-known out women that this fact is understandable, but it can be distracting and may be frustrating for the band. While this is true, they have never been anything but patient and accommodating to their many fans, which tells me they have hearts of gold, honestly. They even met with fans after the show to say hi and give autographs.

That said, the new EP they are touring with, Black and Blue, is a strong departure from the polished and pop-friendly first record. It is reminiscent of the concept albums bands were putting out in the 70s. For those too young to know, concept albums are usually guitar-fueled epics with lots of solos and rocking out. What is awesome about this is that so few women (I can’t name any) are responsible for such albums. Women are so often making records dominated by their vocal abilities and not their ability to rock out on guitar and keys. UHH certainly has vocal abilities and they utilize them, but there is something truly empowering about watching women rock out on stage. The EP somehow manages to be accessible to fans interested in more traditional arrangements and those folks (o.k. me) who wish to play air guitar in our bedroom mirrors.

Check out Uh Huh Her’s website to get the EP. A full-length should be released sometime soon with all new material.

Speaking of women who rock, I hope everyone who went to the show saw the opening band, Diamonds Under Fire.

Straightforward rock n’ roll with just enough attitude. They were so awesome I didn’t care that the drummer kept talking about Philly while he was playing in Boston. There hasn’t been enough women in rock since the 90s riot grrl scene and Diamonds Under Fire is a welcome departure from the polished, pop-rock we’ve been subjected to for too long.

Find out more at their website.

Spectra Events Has Cool Stuff Coming Up

Thursday May 5, 2011

Spectra Events’ THE BASEMENT Live Music Series is proud to host London Bridgez, national touring spoken-word artist, for a special preview of her summer tour, featuring a LIVE Funk Band and roster of talented local artists.

The writer and performer London Bridgez pushes the expectations of spoken word. “London” is her name. “Bridgez” represents what she does. She builds bridges between poetry and music. London couples her captivating poetry delivery with a live band experience (poetry vocals +keys+ sax+ guitar and drums). London is a self proclaimed Afro Punk Poet & Soul Word Artist.

London Bridgez+Spoken word+Music= Live Art Experience

Opening for London Bridgez is local brownboi hiphop MC, Micah Domingo!

Micah – Brown Boi MC

As an emcee hailing from Boston, Micah attempts to capture raw emotions through lyrics that cut the skin and peel back all the layers, to reveal the blood and guts of what it means to be human. As a transman, he brings his struggle into the hip hop arena, displaying a unique perspective on everything from infatuation, to political revolution.

Visit his Myspace page HERE

Buy your tickets HERE

  • Doors open at 7:00PM | Show begins at 8PM
  • Featuring London Bridgez Funk Band, Micah Domingo, and others
  • This show is for everyone ages 19+
  • Tickets are $12 Advances / $15 at the Door
  • Group discounts available! Contact Spectra Events for more info

This Description from Event Brite

Also upcoming is:

May 25

Renaissance: Women in Jazz, Funk, Soul, and RnB 90s Dance Party

at Church in Boston

Buy tickets HERE

Linda Perry's Deep Dark Robot Comes to Boston

Linda Perry and Tony Tornay’s Deep Dark Robot played Great Scott in Boston on Tuesday 3/29. The band is certainly a departure from Perry’s early work with 4 Non-Blondes (thank God). Their sound is pretty straight up rock n’ roll, rather similar to the UK’s Little Fish or Juliette and the Licks. The show was high energy despite Perry’s confession that she had just got up from a nap before playing. Her stage presence is unmatchable and Tornay (also of Fatso Jetson) tore it up on drums. Both perfomers greeted the eager crowd after the show in a display of humble appreciation for their fans. The verdict: go to deepdarkrobot.com and find out where to see them next. In the meantime, buy the record. You won’t hear another like it anytime soon.