Last Call For Zuzu’s Cavalcade Of Garage Rock Ruffians—Night Of The Living Deadhead
Monday is most people’s least favorite day of the week, what with returning to work and leaving behind the dream that the weekend could continue forever. Curiously it has also grown to be one of the most consistent nights of curated music in the Boston area—Cambridge serving as the epicenter of the phenomenon.
Charlie’s Kitchen in Harvard Square has long hosted Monday shows, which are often very loud and raucous affairs—befitting of the burger and beer vibes. Cool local bookers Fast Apple are currently making it happen over there. “The Series” is a Monday night staple at Weirdo Records on Mass. Ave. If you can fit in the tiny store you’re liable to hear any and every kind of sound that can be made under our sun.
Over at Central Square’s ZuZu Bar we arrive at our final stop on the Monday music magic express, and we arrive just as this particular Monday night story is concluding. Nov. 25 will be the last in ZuZu’s current series, a long running cavalcade of garage rock ruffians and other various pop smugglers who have been drawn as if by a magnet, from all over New England and far beyond, to this tiny bar. They have come to share their lovingly conjured latest batch of songs, they have come to dance around and constructively bash their guitars, and they have come to know that Mondays at ZuZu are comfortable and free.
Mondays here have been known as “Night of the Living Deadhead” for 4+ years, though the night’s curator, John Allen, had been consistently booking the night for a year before he christened it.
“I was asked to give the night a name so it wouldn't be a boring 'Monday night live music' tag,” Allen says via e-mail. “It was casually said at a buddy brunch. ... Niani (Zuzu’s head bartender) was baking up a feast and had zombie flicks on. In a stoney haze and a fit of laughter, I picked the name.”
John Allen is a fan of a good time, a fact which I can personally substantiate having played in a band with him—until we kicked him out. His current musical projects—Fedavees and Headband—can exude a similar getting out of your own head kind of vibe, so it is no wonder that his weekly Monday bills would do the same. Headband, long standing indie rock specialists (who no joke just seem to get better and better as they go on, as if crafted from some Pavement grape variety of wine) added Allen well into their run, though that’s at least 5 years ago now. While Fedavees is Allen’s lost in the haze psych-pop songwriting project alongside his brother Tommy (of Drug Rug) and friend Noah (operator of the Primordial Sounds label).
Some 5 years ago, as ZuZu made plans to leave live music behind in favor of a DJ only schedule, Allen took action. “I knew that Zuzu was a cool place to see live music and felt there was something special going on,” he says. “I couldn't believe this was going to end. I think it was then the seed was planted for me to bring live music back and make it as special as I could.”
Allen is right in his assessment of ZuZu, the tiny, youngest member of the Middle East family of bars and venues found on Mass. Ave. It provides an intimacy and feeling lacking in most legitimate performance spaces. “Joe (Marrett- my right hand man on Mondays) has referred to the night as ‘a house show with a bar.’ I think that's pretty close,” says Allen.
Couple this ambiance with a longtime member of the music community who is open to new sounds—Johnny seems to love a band’s ability to tweak known rock formulas just the right amount—and all of a sudden you have something quite special. “Night of the Living Deadhead“ is one of a handful of live music nights at bars and other venues in the Boston area that has found kinship with the area’s underground and DIY music and art communities. The comfortable nature of the night, and the fact that it is always free are two major reasons for this. Another is that it has always been fresh, shining a spotlight on new and simply stellar locals while also serving as a landing pad for touring acts from all over North America and beyond. Standing out in Allen’s mind were Pants Yell!’s last show; New Zealand’s Renderers; and local luminaries like outsider musician BJ Snowden (whom you may have seen on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and “Daily Show”) and Portland, Maine’s most crucial indie rock pop-smiths Metal Feathers.
“Renderers … They played as though they were the headliner even though there was one band after them,” he says. “CreaturoS, had almost no time left to play and the Renderers left the non-stage in shambles—even disassembling and stacking the drums. CreaturoS still went on and made the best of it. Still killed it, that's what those dudes do.”
“I tried my best to book what I thought was tasteful and interesting but also diverse,” adds Allen. “I dug that the surprise band or act that would just hop on a bill (would) kill it. The shows are small and the audience is usually very supportive. It never feels like background music.”
So how will Allen send off his beloved Monday series? By playing of course, and in two bands no less. Playing drums in Headband and singing and playing guitar in Fedavees. Joining them to close out Night of the Living Deadhead will be Worcester’s remembered psychedelic son, Bobb Trimble and his band Flying Spiders, a man who in the 80s literally threw away a pressing of one of his albums in the trash (only to have it released 25 years later to critical acclaim). And it is all free on Nov.25, a Monday (of course).
What may the future hold for this maker of magic Mondays? Well, Allen is booking nights at Inman Square’s Lilypad for now, but has plans to take it easy. “I think I need to take a break from booking. I'm very thankful to everybody that has supported the night—the artists and musicians … and the drunks—you all rule!”
Dan Shea, a longtime local music booker, is co-founder of the music and arts organization Boston Hassle and the art and events newspaper Boston Compass.
This article was originally published on November 22, 2013.
This program aired on November 22, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.