Ma! I play music now!: All Together Now #7 at Midway Cafe

All Together Now, an inclusive, multidisciplinary series that has created an artistic community within Boston, made its second to last stop at the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain for its seventh installment. Organizer Anna Rae outdid herself again. The Midway was packed with eager attendees excited to watch performer and all-around funny guy Tom Bianchi, drag performer and poet Wo Chan, indie band Field Day, and The Grownup Noise’s vocalist Paul Hansen accompanied by dancer Amy Cook. It was another early show, but a welcome afternoon break away from the soggy weather outside.  

You may have seen Tom Bianchi in the subways of Boston, or perhaps in the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, so it’s only natural he popped into All Together Now’s seventh show. His sharp humor combined with a natural entertainer’s demeanor made for an amusing opening intro. Bianchi’s beat-up bass has seen some better days, but his cheery disposition doesn’t seem to notice. He jokes with the audience, referencing his MBTA gigs, and raises a beer to a happy Saturday playing music.

“This song’s about walking home drunk,” Bianchi quips. His deadpan humor keeps the audience giggling through the whole set as he talks about phone calls with his mother and what jokes got him in trouble in the subway.  

After a brief set change, Wo Chan, also known as Pearl Harbor, walks onstage holding an American passport, a bouquet of flowers, and a luggage case. They hold the passport high, lip syncing with the song. Abruptly, they drop the passport and violently smash the flowers into the amp, sending petals flying into an unsuspecting audience. Chan opens the luggage, making a slow, deliberate act of removing their outfit to reveal a nude bodysuit. Chan pulls out a penis mask from the case and drops to the floor of the Midway, dancing and twirling in the floral graveyard. When the cheering subsides, Chan collects their things.

Anna Rae takes the stage again, praising Wo Chan, and tells the Midway about Chan’s latest interview in local blog, Qwear (read the whole thing here!). Next up, The Grownup Noise vocalist and guitarist Paul Hansen, accompanied by modern dancer Amy Cook, create a soft, personal story, strung together by piano notes, Cook’s elegant extensions, and amp cords. Indie band The Grownup Noise are no strangers to All Together Now; they performed last year at the Lilypad with the whole gang. But tonight is a special collaboration.

Every keyboard stroke resonates as Cook seems to interpret Hansen’s lyrics and mood. She takes a glass of wine from the audience and weaves her way around the stage, answering Hansen’s music with her own body language. There’s admiration in her eyes. At one point, the two performers are literally tied together with a guitar cord.

To wrap up their set–and unwrap each other–Hansen starts to play a more energetic song and Cook disappears into the Midway crowd to select a handful of strangers. She arranges them onstage and quickly teaches them dance moves. Some of the audience even begins to dance along, picking up bits and pieces from Cook, who faces the stage. Hansen and Cook leave the Midway in high spirits as everyone mingles and talks, preparing for Chan’s second performance of the day.

 

This time, Chan wears a plaid, country-style blazer and pants and holds a suitcase, ready for a trip. They pretend to pick up bread crumbs off the floor, inching towards a loaf of bread wrapped in cloth. Inside the loaf, they remove a crumpled family photo, holding it against their chest. They have a captivating way of storytelling that leaves the audience in suspense and wonderment. It’s pretty obvious at this point that Chan believes your origin does not dictate who you are. To celebrate this discovery, Chan reveals a large sheet cake and presents it to a member of the audience. As people chow down, the stage resets for the final act: Field Day.

Indie pop band Field Day round out the evening with their brand of alternative tunes. They’re practically a family onstage, all smiles and jokes. Guitarists Joan Anderman and Dan Zedek trade off singing songs. The crew just released a new EP titled Go No Go, along with three accompanying music videos. They play quite a few songs off the new EP, pouring their energy into every note. Their upbeat demeanor and banter seems to put everyone in the Midway in a stellar mood.

And just like that, the second to last All Together Now comes to a close. There’s one more chance to catch the magic that is All Together Now. The final event will be at Inner Sanctum in Roxbury on November 4, and will feature another exceptional lineup of poetry, rap, acrobatics, and more. Tickets are available online here, so get them while they last!

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