An Inside Look At PLAY IT LOUD! B-Lo Tells All…..

As D-Day for PLAY IT LOUD! fast approaches, SATURDAY NIGHT picks the brain of its creator/chief promoter/head-of-everything, otherwise known as B-Lo. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him for lo these many years now, and this is exactly the type of event that results from the fruits of his labors. A top-notch human being, talented musician, and now, Glastonbury-like festival guru.

As PIL! is certainly the finest gathering of bands in the last several years, we take a look at the inside of the event – from the ideas behind the planning, to B-Lo’s views of how bands were selected, to views on why Liam Gallagher  is villain of the year, das guru spills all…..

playitloud

Saturday Night: So chief, why aren’t you out with David and the lads tonight? (Editor: Dave from Resistance 77. The band had just flown into Boston on the day of the interview for a mini-tour kick-off)

B: I would love to be at TC’s (ed: local Boston tavern) tonight with me Lourde and the Laddies but I had to come home after work and pick up the little ones and whatnot, but it will be fine as I will see them all tomorrow night when Resistance 77 kicks off their US tour in Providence

Saturday: Nice segue but let’s dispense w/pleasantries. You are the brainpower behind PLAY IT LOUD! Why take on something like this? What empty void is it filling for you? I know it’s definitely not being done for monetary gain.

B: That’s a good fucking question. I mean, I’m usually the first one to set something up with Joe Overseas Oi! or whatever band a couple times  a year but this, this is worlds apart. There are two answers really: the waxing philosophical take on things and the practical….

Saturday: I’m digging deep here…..I’d like to hear both

B: So a promoter friend of mine said, after a show I had set up with him and my band, why don’t you do an “oi! fest.” I was like “fuck that, I hate fests,” not to mention, an Oi! (????) fest, c’mon…

Saturday: But let’s stop there a second – what’s your problem with the usual oi! fest these days?

B: It’s been done. It doesn’t need to be done again and it isn’t worth the hassle. And stepping back even further, it’s not so much an “oi! fest” per se, but fests in general have an inate tendency to start out as a good idea and then go down hill really fast. I think people often start with their hearts and minds in the right place but once they start booking bands and ultimately promoting the thing, it starts to slip from their hands and take on a life…a decidedly mediocre and watered down life…all its own.

Saturday: Hang on though, I’d say that arguing this IS an oi! fest would hold up in court, sir.

B: Yes, don’t get me wrong, man. You can call my thing what you want but my point really is that fests in general, across all genres and subgenres, tend to become shitfests

Saturday: Right then…..what makes this different? Please explain.

B: Well, getting back to the practical “what came first” answer…so after dissing the concept altogether, the seed was planted whether i wanted it to be or not. i started thinking well….it could be done. i could resist the temptations that a lot of people give into and ONLY choose the bands i wanted as opposed to saying yes to every tom, dick and punky but the fact is, despite the whole Oi! and street punk thing being extremely splintered right now and, quite frankly, heavilly populated with a lot of crap….there are, after all, a healthy handful of awesome bands…who are either just starting out or still playing after 20 or 30 years. So, shit, why not. Let me see what I can do with this. I mean, I play in two bands who are in said category of rock n roll music…so it can’t be all bad…har har har. So, basically, the very reason(s) I DIDN’T want to do it, became the reason(s) I had to do it. If that makes any sense.

Saturday: And what of band selection? did you go with who you felt was “top tier” all the way? how was the selection process?

B: I sort of felt like there were 2 or maybe 3 types of fans/dudes/bands or whatever in this world of Oi!, punk, non-PC hardcore, etc. One, those that think that whole thing ended 20 years ago when all their “heroes” stopped playing and, subsequently “moved on” or “grew up.”

And then two, those that did everything above but then said, you know what, I still have that punk rock ethos and I still want to play in a band/go to shows but I want to infuse my adult influences and play/listen to music that was rooted in those classics but had some sweet rock influences from everying like G n R to the Boss to Social Distortion to Bob Dylan.

And finally three, those that were starting to age, start families and reluctantly join society like everyone else but these types still listened to the classics but also felt/feel like the whole Oi!/ street punk etc. etc. etc. thing didn’t necesarilly die….that there were SOME newer bands through the years that were still kicking ass, still staying true to their roots but doing it with style, with heart, and with enough genuine integrity to both grow up AND stay true to the tried and true format (give or take a solo, a bridge or a key change) all at the same time.

Point being, I think our group of friends and bands fall into the latter and a lot of that spirit influenced me to choose the bands the way I did. Does that make ANY sense?I know I’m rambling but, honestly, it’s hard to put your finger on it, let alone put it into words

Saturday: Makes sense; the bands involved are definitely quality. That being said, do you think your personality suits YOU for setting something like this up? knowing you, I know you to be the methodical type that goes from point A to point B with a definite plan. covering every nook and cranny. do you feel your personality lends itself to setting up something like this, versus say…someone like myself? Or does it drive you nuts constantly covering and recovering bases etc?

B: Good question, but let me say before I leave it behind, despite attempting to break people and bands down the way I did…this PLAY IT LOUD! thing is for ALL of the above. I’m excited to show the Woodworkers (as I like to call the people who have given up and faded into the woodwork) that shit didn’t die and that you can still have fun despite being jaded and older. I’m excited to show the second category that it’s not all cookie cutter, fresh cut Oi! out there…that there are some reasonable people playing a new take on a classic sound with finesse, class and a certain amount of maturity, and, I suppose I’m just preaching to the converted with the third category,  but anyway, yeah, I’m methodical and whatnot but I think that’s WHY I can make this shit happen.

People are a bunch of pains in the asses. No one gets back to you. Nothing can be done unless you do it yourself (for the most part) and EVERYONE is running around in a million different directions. So, trying to orchestrate all of those moving, apathetic and chaotic parts takes someone with that personality in my humble opinion. I taught for about a year so I know about pushing people to get the best out of themselves. I have two rugrats and I know that people often mean well but they drag their feet if you don’t nip at their heels, so I’m sure I’ve pissed people off along the way but I’ve also been able to get it to this point

Saturday: Right right. I happen to think your pushy ass is probably the only person in the city that could have brought this to fruition, but that’s me. With the inclusion of the kick-off party, this seems much more like a “weekender” or event than just “here’s a day long fest…..was that the intent? More like a gathering of good folks from across the country, hanging out, being entertained all weekend, than just “here’s the bands, now gimmie my money” type thing

B: That’s a good point, as much as I wanted to keep it a little more low key and less corny, flashy and “all live, all nude” (so to speak) than other like events. I also didn’t want it to be some half assed bore of a weekend. And again, i’m not swinging from the nuts nor am I holding back my opinions but there is certainly a place for the “all live, all nude” stuff but I’m trying to offer an alternative. The party is not a new concept but my reasons for doing it were a bit different I think. I wasn’t like, “what else does thing need? ah yes, we must have disc jockeys, that’s the fab thing to do.”

Saturday: It was a natural fit so go with it….

B: Sure sure, but anyway, this was my thought: whenever I do a show, especially with foreign types, there never seems to be time to actually sit down and hang out with these people who traveled so far….its more like, ok get your gear set up and get the show started and everyone’s off to the races. So I thought we needed some kind of get together the day before to give people a second to catch their breath from traveling and maybe have a beer or nine with each other. Then, add water and some sweet vinyl and good friends spinning it and voila.

playit

Saturday: There it is. Let me ask you this: Tommy and the Terrors. Hammer and the Nails. Both bands you are in. What do each of your own personal projects bring to the table, or is it all egomaniacal? “I set it up. My bands WILL play.”

B: Well, did I give you the two answers…the practical and the philisophic (waxing, that is)

Saturday: You did, but you didn’t tell me much about why YOUR own two bands are worthy. Sell me, you contrary turd. Musically, are your two groups interesting enough to justify inclusion?

B: Ah yes…well, honestly, that’s how I am. I would NOT be in a band I didn’t think was top notch. Call it egomaniacal, call it what you want but with a wife and two kids, crazy job and about two hours to devote to practice and shows a week, I’m not about to do it half assed or with some group of dudes who are “trying to find their sound” or some other such nonsense. So, to put it another way, this is the perfect thing for both bands to play.

I think both bands have played a huge variety of shows from playing with emo/indie bands, to metal stuff, to full on hardcore, garage, etc. etc. so, this, for the first time really, is actually our world. as cheesy as that sounds. Many of the dudes in the other bands are friends of ours and I think many of us are likeminded in terms of that theme I keep hitting on of, getting older, moving on, but still hanging out and trying to make some noise for no real pretencious reason other than doing what we know best for the event (in essence, the two shows on saturday, september 26), I wanted a good variety of straight up Oi!, more varied street punk, hardcore, and a few wildcards to keep it interesting.

In other words, if I had a classic rock cover band and Tommy & the Terrors, TATT would be the only band of the two playing this thing. But let’s face it, these two bands aren’t worlds apart to most sets of ears. Sure, to some of us who are focused on nuance and every little influence…of course we’re different; the terrors have more of a 90s melodic, at times anthemic American meets English Oi!/street punk sound with some nice touches of classic 70s punk and glam (ha ha, I was a fan of the band LONG before I joined so I feel ok being that verbose about them/us.)

And then you have the darker, more metallic, largely mid-tempo Hammer and the Nails stuff with nods to Japanese, French and tougher Brit Oi! thrown in a blender with lots of wah wah and cowbell

You know, so long story short, I can easily detach myself from being in the bands and judge the fit on the different but similar sounds they bring to the event. But, really, they were just a footnote to me. I asked about 100 bands to play this thing

Saturday: Word. Well, besides selling the show, sell Boston. What else does the city offer the wayward soul who has chosen to attend this event? Besides The Banshee, “Charming” Bob Belmonte, Irish people and Lakers cards in urinals, that is.

B: Ugh, I don’t back any of the above! But, Boston and New England in general are GREAT at this time of year. sure, the city gets a little crowded with all of the returning students but  weather alone and sheer things to do at this time of year make it more than worth your while

Saturday: Second best city in America, son…

B: Specifically, we were lucky to get the kick off party on 9.25 in ecclectic central square, Cambridge. A great place with a lot of bars and different types of food from middle eastern to Italian to Indian to pizza at Hi Fi! And then, after about a million (hyperbole, gotta love it) different venue and area changes, we finally ended up right in the heart of Boston, near Fenway Park (on a day when the Sox are NOT in town, thank God!!) I’m very happy with the venue and the location as the Baseball Tavern has a lot to offer from a nice room for bands to play, to several different bars downstairs, on the main level and up on the roof deck….

Saturday: I can vouch for the main bar and the downstairs. I had no idea it had a roof deck. Last time I was there, for East End Baddoes, Duffy and I walked through a snowstorm to get there….

B: ….and, in that same area there is no shortage of great restaurants and bars to escape to…namely the Tiki Bar at the Ho Jos right across the street!

Saturday: Yeah, the bar is a definite cool spot. “Fully backed” as the kids are fond of saying.

B: But Boston, “scene”-wise, is also a pretty chill place, believe it or not. I know the reputation says otherwise, but at least in our little microcosm people tend to be unflattered by gang and crew shit and much more focused on drinking, hearing good music and  chatting about clothes and other ridiculous shit…or just completely destroying each others’ character in that true sarcastic, asshole way I know people like you in the Midwest and elsewhere just can’t get enough of.

Saturday: Well to be honest, Brian, (and I looked this up today) Midwestern humor tends to be A) full of being a dick to your friends and B) seems to have produced some of the finer comedic talent in America, Harvard Lampoon notwithstanding……so it’s (“taking the piss” style humor) actually not unique to Boston…..but I digress. A few more questions. However we dance around it, the fact is there will be alot of skinhead types around PIL! Did this or does this present any problems? Or will baggage be left behind and you foresee no issues?

B: Well, Geraldo, I don’t see any more problems from these “SKIN HEDS” than I do with any group of heavilly drinking concert goers altogether in one place

Saturday: C’mon. A Motorhead show is different than PIL! I’m gonna need more here

B: Seriously though, take a hardcore show in Boston. There are just as many fights or problems to worry about. It just comes with the territory. My only hope is that the general spirit of this whole thing will trickle down from the bands who have been the COOLEST GROUP OF HUMAN BEINGS throughout the process of planning this whole thing to the people who will be helping me that day (thanks Sean!!!) to the club itself, there’s a generally good vibe going into it so i just hope its infectious. There WILL be bad apples and that’s why you have a goon squad to rectify and I’m fairly certain I have THEE best goon squad, this side of the CT River

Saturday: Sharpened steel combs and Chinese throwing stars. No trouble or else…’ave some!

B: Here are the keys to something like this: NEVER over-serve. And also, squash little skirmishes WAY before they become full on fights or worse. as I hinted at, the rules of engagement, so to speak, come from top down. If the bands act like dicks and call out the crowd, the crowd will respond and rise to the occasion. if the bands and promoters, etc. make it clear that there is a zero tolerance policy for bullshit, bullshit tends to leave with its tail between its legs. In other words, you fuck with the captain and you get fucked with. You dance with Sir Loin and you’ll get danced on, bitches

Saturday: Right, right. Well, everything sounds ready to roll. Bands are tops, venues booked, and the crowds are coming in. Anything you wanna say to close this mutha out?

B: Well, I don’t want to jump the gun, but I THINK this is only the beginning. I don’t want to count my whatevers before they are born but I talked to everyone from Indecent Exposure to Section 5 to T.H.U.G and Marching Orders from Australia, Haircut from France, Superyob, the Wretched Ones and so on and so on and so on….that I think the momentum may be there for another, even better PIL! V. 2.0 . But, enough on that, the focus is on 9.25 and 9.26 and I just thank the army of people who have helped me make it possible. Not to be overly dramatic but it could have come apart at the seams at a few different key points but i had people along the way who stuck there necks out and helped me make shit happen and keep the train on the tracks. KNOCKING THE FUCK ON WOOD NOW!

Saturday: One more thing before we close. Can I get your thoughts on the awful Oasis split, B-Lo?

B: No, no you may not. I can tell you ANYTHING you want to know about the latest Miley Cyrus single though…

Saturday: Bullshit. It’s Liam’s fault and you know it. OASIS FOR PIL! V.3

B: We’ll see…still working on a Straw Dogs reunion!! But, Sean, thanks for helping me get this all off my chest. I may seem stressed at times but it’s all been a pleasure. Thanks for the convo and keep up the great work with the blog. See you at da bah, guy!

Saturday: Alright. That’s a wrap.

B: (Crew and cast do that relieved clapping thing, hugs ala the end of SNL and lots of big smiles and a few tears)

****Many thanks are owed to B-Lo for organizing this event. Get your asses out of your seats and hit PLAY IT LOUD! No excuses, people.

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