09/22/16 – the Rockwell

Before the Live from Nowhere debut show started, every scuffling shoe, clicking shutter, sneeze, cough and whisper was heard acutely throughout the Rockwell Theatre which had audience members feeling both apprehensive and attentive.

Live from Nowhere (LFN) is a music video project spearheaded by videographer Emily Graham-Handley and urban explorer / musician Nico Rivers. The premise of the project is to capture musicians performing in unconventional spaces in nature, like abandoned hospitals or rotting railroad tracks.

An avid urban explorer in the Massachusetts area, Rivers is in charge of finding secret abandoned spaces for musicians to perform. In addition to a cool aesthetic for the music videos, these spaces provide musicians and viewers a new perspective on live performance.

Live From Nowhere by Emily Arntsen

Live From Nowhere by Emily Arntsen

While performing at the Rockwell (FKA The Davis Square Theater) in Somerville isn’t quite as unusual as performing in abandoned prisons or long-forgotten cabins where LFN musicians play in the videos, it was a unique experience because of the theater’s intimacy. In a black box theater with a capacity no greater than 200 people, the 30-or-so audience members were seated just feet away from the musicians.

Molly Pinto Madigan opened the show with songs from her latest album, Wildwood Bride, and captivated audience members with her fairy-like charm and folkloric lyrics. Embodying the mermaid spirit she sings about in her song “Siren,” Pinto Madigan filled the theater with her angelic voice. Her romantically dark and narrative lyrics were perfect fodder for daydreaming in the hushed theater.   

Breaking the trance created by Pinto Madigan, singer-songwriter Kate Diaz took the stage, and despite lingering traces of a cold, impressed audience members with her precociously soulful voice (she’s only 20). Singing about the young love and the lock bridge on Massachusetts Ave., Diaz lightened the mood with nostalgic references to areas in Back Bay.

Live From Nowhere by Emily Arntsen

Live From Nowhere by Emily Arntsen

LFN co-founder Nico Rivers performed next with rag-and-bone appeal as he alternated between playing a suitcase-turned-kick-drum, a guitar and a harmonica.

Twin sisters Nina and Laura Ganci of American Echoes performed next. As their name suggests, the sisters echoed each other with overlapping harmonies that created wave-like rhythm in “Even If The Sky Was Green.” Reminiscent of First Aid Kit in both sound and sisterly syncopation, the band performed “Rend” and “Diddle” from their latest EP, Hungry, along with some older and unreleased songs.

Rapper Latrell James completely changed the vibe of the show with his set. Whisking the folding chairs off the floor, audience members made room to stand in a semi-circle around the stage. His magnetic disposition and jazz-infused songs made audience participation easy — people clapped and sang along when prompted by James.

Bent Knee ended the night of live performances with an eight-song set, giving audience members a preview of six unreleased songs: “Terror Bird,” “Land Animal,” “The Well,” “Belly Side Up,” “Holy Ghost” and “Boxes.”

A screening of an unreleased video of Air Traffic Controller performing “Water Falls” in an abandoned seaside hunting lodge wrapped up the show. The eerie, coastal space nicely complemented the aquatic references in the song.

Stylistically, these musicians varied greatly, but the show connected the artists with one beautiful common thread — the celebration of stripped-down live performance. As James said during his set, “What we’re doing here, it’s all about humans, music, nature.”

From Abandoned Hospitals to the Rockwell: Live from Nowhere
Pros
  • Enthusiastic mix of musicians
  • Interesting project back story
  • Premiere showing of new music video
Cons
  • Jarring contrast between musicians
  • Weak audience-musician connection (except for James)
  • Could have expanded more on their experiences with the project
6Overall Score

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