All Together Now
All Together Now (ATN) is coming to the Lilypad in Cambridge on Saturday, April 29. All Together Now features Boston rock band First Frost, Rap artist Tashawn Taylor, beatboxer Gene Shinozaki and spoken word by Didi Delgado. Artistic director of ATN, Anna Rae, First Frost, and Gene Shinozaki talked with WHRB a bit about the origins of ATN, their involvement in ATN and their music. Check it out below and don’t miss your chance to see ATN April 29!
How did ATN start and what do you see as the purpose of ATN?
Anna Rae: The purpose of All Together Now is threefold: to create immersive and unusual experiences by combining multiple genres in a single show; to create truly diverse events by making space for women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ performers; and to increase collaboration between Boston and NYC artists.
I started the series last year as an experiment, and a reaction to my experiences living and performing in Boston. After 6 years in the Boston art scene I was becoming increasingly aware of how siloed the genres were. There are all these great pockets of music, performance art, experimental film, comedy, dance and so on. But the artists in these scenes don't always interact with each other, or create multidisciplinary shows. I play rock music, which I love, but over time I began to have a hunger to create and experience art with folks from other genres.
At the same time I was both frustrated with the lack of diversity in my own genre, and also becoming aware of how segregated Boston is. Segregation in housing, education, public resources, and so on, contributes to lack of diversity in the arts. But also, when you have a scene like rock that is predominantly white, male, and hetero, it's hard for anyone who is not all those things to not only break in, but feel really comfortable and flourish in that scene.
So in a way, All Together Now was created in reaction to all that. But really, at the heart, All Together Now is not just a reaction, but an emerging vision of the kind of spaces I want to occupy. I want to occupy spaces where everyone who wants to contribute in a healthy way is welcome. I want to occupy art spaces that push the boundaries of what art can do, and where people are more interested in collaboration than in carving out their own little pool of resource or fame. And I wanted to see if other people shared that vision.
What is the process for selecting acts for each show?
Anna Rae: I always have a mental list of artists that I've seen or heard about that I'd like to highlight. I'm usually shuffling those acts around in my head all year long considering how the flow would be affected by different genres or personalities. Once I have an idea of a lineup that would work well, I reach out to venues that could accommodate it. For example, the Lilypad has been really great because they have a great sound system, the ability to project video, and they're also open to moving things around in the space to accommodate the acts. For example, last year the performance artist Crichton Atkinson came down from New York and we used some of the seating to construct a mini stage for her, surrounded by backlights, and with a video projecting on a curtain behind her.
Invariably one or more of the acts I had in mind can't do the specific date for some reason, so I try to nail down a couple of acts, and then I build around that. I also think a lot about the personalities of the artists, and try to construct shows where the artists will have something in common, or where the opportunity to collaborate with each other will allow them to expand outside of their typical genre or following. Connecting people is something I care about deeply, and think about constantly.
First Frost: From what I've seen, Anna Rae is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to supporting the arts and music scene in Boston. We've played a couple of shows, where Anna was present and she shared some photos of us from the last show we played, which I think really solidified our relationship with her. She reached out to us early this year about joining the bill for one of her upcoming installments of All Together Now and we jumped at the chance to play.
How Did First Frost Form?
First Frost: We met on Craigslist. Chris and Mike have played in bands together for years and Lauren and Morgan had been writing music together for quite some time. When we met and played together, everything just clicked. We've been working together for a couple of years, now.
In what ways do you feel you (First Frost) are like-minded musicians? What similar aspects do you all value in your music?
First Frost: We all share convictions about our music. We play with intention and incorporate deep feeling into our music. We seek compositions that are simultaneously simple and complex. Our music tends to be intricately layered, even if we're individually playing just a few notes at a time. We are all open-minded in terms of musical style. If the music speaks to us, we'll play it. We reserve little judgement when writing music together.
Gene, when and why did you start beat boxing?
Gene Shinozaki: I started beatboxing 6 years ago. I wanted to beatbox because it was the most fascinating thing to be able to think of a piece of music, and then conjure it into existence by speaking it. Also, it's incredibly portable.
What do you hope people who attend ATN take away from it?
Anna Rae: I hope people experience something unusual. I hope they feel more awake. I hope they feel more aware of the possibilities when we take risk and connect with each other's humanity. (I'm literally tearing up as I write this.)
I also hope that people who aren't usually represented by the performers on the stage immediately feel that they are welcome, represented, and respected. And I want people who are usually represented on the stage or in the media to feel that they are also welcome. This is something that is coming more into my awareness the longer I organize - when spaces aren't diverse, we all feel unhappy because we all know on a gut level that something isn't right. Of course people with privilege sometimes turn that feeling into a crusade to keep their privilege, and that's dangerous and sad. But lots of other folks with privilege recognize that they don't want to be isolated in spaces constructed just for them. I want to create a space where everyone, regardless of their identity, feel a part of something whole and healthy and exciting.
First Frost: First and foremost, we want people to have a great time. We love music - making it, playing it, listening to it, talking about it - and we are honored to share what we do with willing participants. What's really special about All Together Now is that the program is designed to create space for artists whose voices aren't always sought out and heard. Art, in my opinion, is a great equalizer. It allows you to deeply connect with the humanity and potential in yourself as well as others. When we experience art from people who are different from us that we can relate to, it helps us to appreciate their humanity. Equally important, when we experience art from people who are like ourselves, it helps us to appreciate the humanity in ourselves and to believe in our own potential. You never know when a moment like this is going to happen for someone, so our goal is to be generally awesome as often as possible.
Gene Shinozaki: This is a genre bending show where all the artist bring a completely different aesthetic from one another. I hope the audience sees that art can bring people together no matter what background you belong to.
Anna, you mentioned that ATN came from a buildup of awareness of how separate different genres are and frustration over lack of diversity in rock and in Boston. Was there a particular moment where all this came together and you decided you wanted to create ATN? In general, are there any particular moments that you feel exemplify these frustrations and motivated you to create change?
Anna Rae: I don't think there was a specific moment or event that made me decide to start ATN. In fact, I think a lack of diversity is something that is borne out in a million tiny decisions not to address it, not to challenge it, not to investigate the underpinnings of privilege and oppression. Even though it wasn't a specific day or event, I think the idea for ATN came out of an intersection of two threads of thought - my awareness of how much more could be done with multidisciplinary shows, and how much truly diverse artistic spaces are needed. Actually now that I think about it, that was an important intersection because artistic genres in Boston are still pretty segregated. By opening up the genres that could be included, it became more possible to construct shows that are diverse in terms of gender, race, orientation, socio-economic status, etc.
What do you see as the future of All Together Now?
Anna Rae: I'm not sure. I feel like that's something I'm not supposed to feel or say, but really it's a reflection of a desire to remain flexible about how experiences across genres and identities can be manifested in so many ways. With support from The Boston Foundation, we'll be able to put on 5 shows this year, and move the series around to more neighborhoods so more people find it easy to access. The future of All Together Now is not just about the series. It's also about the connections that artists make and how they leverage those connections. For example, last year one of the NYC acts who came to Boston ended up putting on a show in NYC and recruiting a Boston act who she'd performed with. I love to see those connections grow.
Amanda Glazer is a DJ and Online Content Head for the Record Hospital