Residency: Emily Reo – Week 4

Read Emily Reo’s fourth and final week as April’s Artist Resident.

Emily Reo Residency Art

Residency is a four-part weekly journal entry brought to you by one of our favorite artists every month.

In her fourth and final week as April’s Artist Resident, Boston’s Emily Reo explores Boston’s thriving DIY and DIT communities.


Hello dear friends! It is with great sadness that I present to you the last piece of my residency, but I want to thank the Portals crew for allowing me into their web-home, and I’m entirely confident May’s contributor will be a riveting human who likely rambles much less than April’s. It was tough to choose one final community to share with you, but before I leave it felt most appropriate to introduce where I’m living—the one-of-a-kind city of Boston.

My decision to move to Boston was made spontaneously. We were both extremely tired of living in Brooklyn, and were offered a sublet within Allstons’ Dreamhaus right around the time Noah was finishing grad school. Dreamhaus was at the time already one of our favorite spaces in Boston. More specifically, it’s a home that holds shows, meetings, potlucks and other events providing a safe space for positive collaboration. Before moving in, I had played and witnessed some of the most enjoyable events of my life here, and having an opportunity to lend a hand in the making of a space like this (and living with Liz Pelly and Ali Carter) was a no-brainer. We moved in January, and our sublet has since become a permanent residency.

Boston appealed to all of the senses, regardless of the awesome home where we’d be living. It’s a beautiful and clean city, empowered by an eclectic and progressive youth culture. Many towns within Boston (such as Allston and Jamaica Plain) have impressive thriving arts communities, a large portion of which are rooted primarily out of living spaces that open themselves up to the public. A downside is that being home to dozens of colleges, Boston’s bar scene dominates most establishments, making all ages creative spaces extremely hard to come by. In response, a number of homes have become safe havens for the community. Spaces such as The Whitehaus, The Butcher Shoppe and Gay Gardens provided local folks with the opportunity to witness all kinds of experimentation within the arts, as well as an opportunity for collaboration and learning. But the Boston house scene is quickly being destroyed by Boston Police, who seem unable to establish a difference between a basement show and a frat party. Unfortunately the three aforementioned spaces, once staples within Boston’s music and art scenes, were all shut down in the midst of events by raids of cops. Undercovers posing as showgoers adopted names like Joe Sly and Donna Giordano, messaging most local spaces hosting shows feigning interest in upcoming events with an intent of preventing the growth of Boston’s DIY+DIT culture. Dreamhaus received messages from both of these knuckleheads.

Although the “misunderstanding” between police and show hosts is extremely unfortunate, there are a number of public establishments in Boston that have been open to their communities by allowing the residents and organizers of these former house spaces to relocate and continue their explorations. Aviary Gallery in Jamaica Plain has hosted numerous events for spaces that could no longer open up themselves. They’ve become the home to a weekly event called Sound Electronics presented by Jimmy Hughes, a former resident of The Whitehaus and the co-brains behind late cassette label Breakfast of Champs, alongside Caleb Johannes and Jake Yuhas.

Sidenote: following Breakfast of Champs, Jake has built a mind-blowing studio with his bandmate Miles Coe and roommate Andrew Sardinha. The studio, called The Treehouse, is a haven where the team of philanthropic audiophiles help friends record who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to work in a studio. In the post—B.O.C. days, Caleb has become a founding member of DITEC, our friends from Week 2.

A brand new space filling more of Jamaica Plain’s music needs is Deep Thoughts, a record store that will be holding frequent shows. Their upcoming events showcase a myriad of local talent such as Caustic Rainbow, Olden Yolk and even a birthday celebration for Brooklyn-via-Boston hometown hero Frank Hurricane (of Hurricanes of Love & Gangsta Love). Another very special record store is Weirdo Records, which ran out of an apartment for three years before moving to a tiny storefront in Cambridge. They utilize the space they have by inviting local bands to play in-stores, while being home to one of the widest and most carefully selected record collections, with arguably the most knowledgeable staff around.

Before it was no longer able to hold shows itself, Lorem Ipsum Books in Inman Square occasionally hosted touring bands playing house shows that had been shut down by cops. Although it can no longer provide a space for musicians, Lorem Ipsum offers a great deal more than an impressive collection of books. The basement is a zinester’s heaven, with components of various High Five Magazine issues in the making scattered about. Lorem Ipsum is also home to the Papercut Zine Library, a lending library with a huge collection of handmade goodness, run entirely by a collective of volunteers. Within Lorem Ipsum, Papercut Zine Library is able to host zine making workshops and other events inspiring community members of all ages to spend more time reading and making awesome things.

In Harvard Square lives one of the few buildings not owned by Harvard, The Democracy Center. The Democracy Center is home to numerous non-profits, local organizations and events with the hopes of creating a stronger community through the responsible utilization of their non-commercial and affordable space. Another inspiring organization based out of a handful of hosting locations is Corvid College. Corvid is a free school, giving everyone not only a source of knowledge but the opportunity to teach a course that you can design. Through Corvid, learning is no longer a privilege, and passion and creativity is brought back to the classroom through the open utilization of volunteers as teachers. Currently, Dreamhaus is home to a weekly Corvid course titled Theories of Astrology, taught by the brilliant Chris Lee.

In addition to some of the most diverse and interesting public spaces, Boston is also home to a myriad of incredible collectives and organizations. One extremely special collective called Bodies of Water have been putting on all ages DIY shows for over a decade, helping to promote all types of music throughout every part of the city. B.O.W. teams up with their web zine, The Boston Hassle, to become an unstoppable online resource for finding creative events. The Hassle is written by both musicians and writers living in the Boston area, inviting anyone interested to collaborate. In addition to B.O.W., The Hassle is supported by the Boston Counter Cultural Compass, a beautiful printed newsletter that gets distributed all around town monthly. The CCC is a physical display of the time and care put into curating a DIY calendar, with multiple music and art events listed for each night and detailed descriptions of every artist provided. The CCC was created, produced and distributed by B.O.W., The Whitehaus, a team of volunteers, and local hero Sam Potrykus, who is single-handedly responsible for many of the shows touring bands are able to play in Boston.

Allston Pudding is a website that aids in the promotion of artists from and visiting Boston, to create supportive and enjoyable experiences. Allston Pudding exchanges URL for IRL by uniting the community through hosting shows and crafting mixtapes, particularly this impressive 130-track Marathon Relief mix with all proceeds going directly to the victims injured in the recent tragedy. Another pal doing-it-himself around Allston is Mike Caulo, a.k.a. Sippy Cup Everything. Sippy Cup Everything books and promotes awesome shows for local and touring artists. He’s also been known to take rad bands on tour from time to time. Mike “Cool Guy” Caulo, as I like to call him (starting now).

And while we’re on the topic of great organizations, it would be wrong not to mention the fallen but missed Boston Phoenix. There are no other printed news publications like the Phoenix, and without the all-encompassing news coverage available weekly for free we’ve felt a huge void. It also staffed three of my favorite Bostonians, Liz Pelly (journalist and roommate extraordinaire), Charlotte Zoller (photo princess) and Faye Orlove (Lisa Simpson). During her time with the Phoenix, Liz crafted this incredibly thorough guide to everything awesome in Boston, to be handed out at SXSW as a tool for touring bands to use in the future. This physical and now downloadable zine is far more informative than I could ever hope to be through this piece, carefully crafted from years of experience and involvement in the local stratosphere (and highly recommended if you plan on visiting or playing a show here). And because she’s an unstoppable source of great ideas, Liz has teamed up with Faye to begin growing something powerful and unprecedented in the absence of the Phoenix—The Media!

Through this abundance of creativity and collaboration, some extremely unique events have formed in Boston. In addition to Sound Electronics, the Whitehaus crew have spawned various celebrations such as Cheap Seats and Weirdstock. Cheap Seats is a showcase of a number of performance artists within rapid succession, each having 5 minutes to exhibit their art. Weirdstock is an annually recurring multiple-day festival reincarnated differently each time, most recently taking place in a YMCA gymnasium showcasing close to 50 bands, the majority being from Massachusetts. Allston DIY Fest is a free, outdoor, all ages community fest taking place for one day each summer. It’s planning is open and collectively crafted by whoever would like to be involved, with the purpose of showcasing music, art, skillshares and activism in a sober and safe environment. Around the same time as Allston DIY Fest, Smash It Dead Fest was born. Held in the aforementioned Democracy Center, Smash It Dead aims to spread awareness of sexual assault while acting as a benefit for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. It utilizes punk music and workshops as tools for communicating these issues within the Boston community. Additionally, Somerville is home to a number of fests, such as Honk! Festival and Somerville Open Studios. Honk! is a collection of marching bands from around the country coming together to play in honor of peace and in opposition of oppression, aspiring to overcome the social boundaries between genre, performer and audience. They also hold parades during the Fest, including one between Davis Square and Harvard Square, with the purpose of “Reclaiming the street for Horns, Bikes and Feet”. With 37 bands participating, it was the largest parade of the Festival. Finally, Somerville Open Studios will be celebrating it’s 15th year this May, with over 400 artists participating in one of the country’s largest Open Studios celebration. Although S.O.S. provides a yearly smorgasbord of events within the art community, it itself remains a non-profit organization.

I’ve only been in Boston a few months, but already I’m blown away by the amount of support and kindness this unique community has shown. Everyone has been welcoming and inclusive, and I’m so excited to have the opportunity to work on the next FMLY Fest with these folks. The dates have been chosen, and within the next month we’ll be holding open meetings, locking down spaces and collaborating with artists, creators, thinkers and do-ers all around the city to bring you a much anticipated *official* announcement!

I’d also like to take this time to reach out to anyone and everyone who’s proud of their community and ask that you get in touch with me. I’m incredibly inspired by all of the microcosms of creativity that exist all over, and I want to learn about yours! I’ll be planning a tour later this year, and one of my favorite parts of not having to deal with a middleman booking agent that takes money from struggling artists is the sweet freedom I have to explore. I would love to come to your town, play a show at your favorite space, and meet good folks that hopefully one day I’ll be able to return the favor for in mine.

Let’s be friends!

Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4

  • Andrew

    Thanks! I am moving to Providence in June, and reading this is so much anticipation of good things.