Thursday, March 28, 2013

Red Line Scene Feature: Tom Bianchi

Tom Bianchi is a nice guy. Tom Bianchi is a talented guy. And Tom Bianchi is an incredibly busy guy. You may have seen him cracking jokes between performers at the Lizard on Monday, conducting the freight train that is Baker Thomas Band on Toad’s tiny stage, or wearing one of the other 1,000 hats he wears around town. Tom may very well be the epitome of the music on the Red Line (on this side of the river, and only the good kinds of music, of course). Toad, Lizard, The Burren, playing on the platform at a T stop…the list goes on and on of where you could catch him in many forms on any given night of the week. One things for damn sure, we are lucky to have him as a performing musician and advocate for local arts in this town. It’s this very reason, and of course, among many others, that I chose him as my first spotlight artist for the Red Line Roots music blog…


1)      What projects are you currently working on?

TB: I've been working on too much lately.  I just finished up chunk of time that was insane.  I laid down bass on Chris Trapper's new record, I did sound and played bass for "Fiddler's Of Inishbofin," an Irish music/comedy that ran 4 nights at The Burren.  Add on to that all the rehearsals for both of those gigs, my 4 regular nights a week, a couple of extra gigs on the side and for 10 [days] during that stretch I had my kids for winter break.  Honestly… I'm exhausted!

Musically the most fun I have every week is with Baker Thomas Band.  As much fun as I have with the open mic, songwriter series, studio sessions… blah blah blah…. if someone was to give me a giant chunk of money and say, "go make the music you want to make,"  I'd go full force with Baker T.  I've got a great group of musicians who bring the songs to life and trust me to lead them forward into battle… "battle" of course meaning making music.  I couldn't ask for anything more.  It's a blast.

2)      Why do we have the best music scene? (if you don’t think we do, what do you love about the scene here in Boston/Cambridge/Somerville)

TB: The best?  Maybe.  New York is pretty big, and even with just limited experience I'd have to say that Austin lives up to its name of "live music capital of the world," but yes, Boston may be the best.  Surely keeps me busier than I can handle.  We have great venues, small to big.  That's a big part of it.  There's such a history of rock and roll here, and with new venues being opened what seems like every day, I see that history repeating itself.  Brighton Music Hall is still a baby of a club and it's got some serious wings under it.  The Sinclair just opened up in Harvard Square, Paradise is standing strong… those are the big ones, but underneath all of those lies one of the best local scenes out there.  We've got great venues, and some amazing people run them.  I've been lucky enough to work with The Burren for more than 10 years now.  They host my Sunday night series in their back room, as well as irish and americana series 7 days a week in their front room.  The owners Tommy and Louise simply love music and are committed to presenting it.  I'm at Lizard Lounge on Mondays and Toad on Thursdays, two of the best venues in town.   Again, the owners are committed to these venues for the love of the community.  There are so many great small venues that are booking smart and thriving.  Atwoods, Sally O's, Precinct, Bull McCabe's… the list is much longer than that.

There's also a community here like I've never seen.  In the folk scene it's songwriter groups, song swaps, open mics… in the rock scene it's bands and co-bills coming together to make great shows.  I won't say it's the best simply because I don't travel enough to compare… but it's gotta be close.

3)      Favorite OR least favorite/most embarrassing moment on stage from your career?

TB: Well… There was this one time in Arkansas (how's that for an opening line?  Got your attention?) at the Ozark Music festival…  I finished my set and announced proudly, "Thank you!  Now stay tuned for Lori McKenna up next!"  Lori McKenna being a red-haired singer/songwriter from Massachusetts.  Of course… the artist who was "actually" up next was Patty Larkin, another red-haired singer/songwriter who got her start in Massachusetts.  Duh.  I don't know if Patty even heard me, …and I didn't even realize I said it.  Everyone told me afterwards.  I was mortified.  They're both awesome so I guess it's not the worst comparison, but yeah… I said that live on stage.  Talk as much as I do and eventually you're gunna say something stupid I guess.

4)      If you could collaborate with anyone from the area (general New England) who would it be?

TB: Bassists.  Every time I see a bassist who is a peer, or meet a new bassist, at some point in the recording we always say, "We should get together and do an all bass thing."  Everytime.  Matty Giannaros (Ryan Montbleau Band) and I have been casually threatening to do some double bass jamming for ages.  Hell… there are 11 members of the Baker Thomas Band… obviously I'm the only bassist.  I rarely get to jam with bassists.  Good bassists playing together can make some real cool music.  Unfortunately… we all have steady gigs with bands.  We are bassists after all.

5)      3 records that shaped you when you first started playing and 3 records that best represent who you are now/are listening to now?

TB: 3 records from way back when:  I'm going to cheat here.  Arrest me… edit me… do what you must.  I'll justify it!  A "record" today can have 30 songs on it, yes?  I just re-bought The Who's "A Quick One."  The vinyl that I had was 10 songs long.  The itunes crap I just bought had 20!  So…..  Here goes my cheating ass… stop me if you can.

RECORD ONE:  Everything The Police ever did.  (with the one exception of that crappy re-mix of Don't Stand So Close To Me.  That sucked the tiny little coke-balls of the 80's.)
5 studio albums.  I could not possibly differentiate the affect any one of those records had on me.  The raw energy of the early stuff spoke to my teen angst.  The more polished hits of the last record are such great songs with such amazing production.  The Police set new standards for Rock and Roll, traveled the world during a time bands didn't just do that, broke sales records… etc.  They were kings of the world for a brief time.  Their reign was short but it created some amazing music.  Lots of bands influenced me, but The Police are why I picked up an instrument.

RECORD TWO:  The Beatles Red Album and Blue Album.  
Yup, greatest hits records.  Cut me some slack… I was a kid.  They were my introduction to the fab four.  I had obsessed on those albums long before I actually picked up an instrument.  Probably listened to those albums 1000 times before I was 10 years old.  I had just turned 11 when I heard John Lennon was shot dead.  It was a Tuesday morning and John was killed the night before.  My mom let me stay home from school for the hell of it and I was hanging christmas ornaments.  They were playing The Beatles and Lennon stuff all morning on the radio and at first it didn't dawn on me.  Scott Muni was the famous WNEW DJ who had a good relationship with Lennon was on all morning… either that or they were rebroadcasting his announcements from the night before… I don't remember exactly, but I'll never forget learning of the news.  I'm tearing up as I write this.

Honestly?  I think I gave ya all I had to give with one and two.  I don't have a third.  I suppose the third is just about every record my sister had.  Billy Joel's 52nd Street, Queen's The Game, U2's The Unforgettable Fire, The Cars debut album, The Pretenders, Blondie, Joe Jackson…. She didn't have any shitty 80's music… or any shitty music for that matter… only the good stuff.  Thanks Sis!

I'm breakin' the rules again with one answer, everything live, everything in my community.  If I ever spin tunes it's very intentional to the situation.  Party?  Put on a party record.  Cleaning?  Put on up beat stuff.  Chillin'?  Put on chill music.  Simple as that.  I get to hear 24 different acts every Monday night at my open mic.  I catch The Blue Ribbons often at Toad on Tuesdays.  Wednesday nights I go song for song at The Burren with the likes of Ryan Fitzsimmons, Daniel Byrnes, Kara Kulpa, Jake Bush and a ton of other great artists.  Thursday I get to hear my own music through the amazing megaphone of Baker Thomas Band and we often have sit in guests there too.  My wife (Danielle Miraglia) is a pretty consistent guest as well and that is always a good thing.  On any random Friday or Saturday I may get to play the songs of Alan Goodrich and on Sunday I often start my day by going song for song at The Burren with Amy Kucharik and whoever else she may book for the americana table.  Then I close my night by enjoying 2 or more rock solid acts that I've booked for my Sunday songwriter series.  Who has time to listen to records?  I've got my ear to the ground constantly… often 7 nights a week.

6)      Why is creating music important to you?

TB: Because I'm not good at Finance, Law, Medicine, Computer Tech, or rolling burritos for that matter.  (Actually… I am pretty good at rolling burritos, truth be told)
That's actually a good question.  At this point I suppose it's just a huge part of 'what I do,' but why?  Love.  I've always loved it.  Some times I need a reminder.  Thanks for the reminder!

7)      Music you listen to that you otherwise wouldn’t tell your friends about?

TB: I wear it all on my sleeve.  Ask anyone, I really don't shut up about anything.  My friend I'm sure know more about me than they ever asked for.

8)      Aside from music, do you have any other pastimes? What would you want people to know about you aside from your musical endeavors?

TB: Occasionally on a day off one of my favorite things to do is simply walk the city.  It reminds me of the good times of my street performer days when I used to just kill time waiting for a good spot to play.  Haymarket on Friday and Saturday, cheap raw clams on the 1/2 shell, seeing the jugglers, buskers, random live music at Government Center, running into familiar faces randomly…. I love it.  But honestly, other than that?  Any spare time I have I generally spend with my kids if I have them or talking to them on the phone, …and of course on the random night where neither my wife nor I have a gig, "Date Night" is a big favorite ;-)  …but I suppose that isn't exactly a "need to know" situation. 

9)      Anything else you want to plug or we should know?

TB: Sure!
Mondays - Lizard Lounge Open Mic Challenge!
Wednesdays - Exile On Elm Street!  An americana Jam
Thursdays - BAKER THOMAS BAND  Live at TOAD  -
Sundays - The Burren's Back-room Acoustic Music! -

Is that enough?  :-)

For now, Mr. Bianchi, for now...

1 comment:

  1. ALSO Tom Bianchi is one of the best human beings in the Universe.He and his wife spent many hours helping us to endure the passing of our 2 young daughters with San Fillippo. They kept live music in thier souls until the day they passed and continue to help us celebrate them to this day and beyond. We love you ToM Bianchi!!! love paparicci and mamasue