Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Music: The Wrens

Last weekend, I saw The Wrens at the legendary indie rock venue The Middle East, in Cambridge, MA. I was in Boston for a conference, and stayed in a hotel in Cambridge--mostly because I nearly always prefer to lodge away from conference territory. There's just something to be said for being able walk through the lobby in sweaty yoga pants or eating a banana or some other vaguely unprofessional-appearing activity and knowing there's minimal risk of running into an acquaintance.

A couple of train things: Boston is rotten with fancy universities, which must explain the astounding number of ads for medical research participants. These are usually posted in the "T" and open their pitches with rather personal questions. "Are you shy?" "Do you have irritable bowel syndrome?" My favorite went something like this: "Do you sometimes mistake noises for voices? Are you antisocial and have few or no friends? If so, and you are a male between 18-65...(etc.)" I wondered who would step up for that one. Also while on the train, we passed a HUGE crowd outside of Northeastern University. It was the Coakley Senate race rally, featuring a very special guest, Barack Obama. A man with a classic Southie accent pointed at a line winding down two city blocks. "They ahhnt gonna get in. It's already ovah capacity!" Unfortunately, Coakley was the one actually representing the Democratic ticket, and we know how that went.

I would like to pretend to be cool enough to have known about The Wrens for...oh, at least six years, since the release of their last album, The Meadowlands (2003). Honestly, I didn't hear about them until very recently, and attended the show on the recommendation of a friend. Founded by four Jersey boys back in 1989, the band was stalled early by label troubles and endless A&R nitpicking. The Wrens are now middle-aged and have day jobs (I've been told that one of them is a sales rep for Pfizer), and appear to be thriving in this new world of indie marketing and social media. Saturday's show was consistent with their reputation for intense live performances, with the audience joining them on stage for the final encore.

The following is fan video, accompanying "She Sends Kisses," from The Meadowlands album. Charles Bissell's lyrics, about the girl who sends mixed messages, are great.

The show ended well after midnight. It was then that I discovered that the trains, unlike in Chicago, do not run all night. Hailing a cab proved futile, so I started to walk back to my hotel, located just south of the MIT campus. It was cold, and the streets of Cambridge were nearly empty. In the darkness, three men were struggling to carry something round and about three feet wide. A tabletop? That seemed an odd errand early on a winter morning. When I was a little closer, I could see that it was actually some sort of complicated puzzle or structure made out of interlocking pieces of brown cardboard. I instantly thought "MIT," but perhaps I'm giving Harvard geeks short shrift. I still wonder why they had to smuggle it across campus at nearly 2 am.

The Wrens Bio (official site) [Link]

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