Review: Record Hospital Fest at Holden Chapel

Daniel Striped Tiger, photo by Christopher Huang.

Dudes in sleeveless T-shirts who looked as if they’d been bathing in Taco Bell bathrooms for months rolled amps through the quiet, misty Harvard quad to Holden Chapel, where a stately portrait of a shiny-domed professor looked down on a mess of kids flailing around to screamo cadre the Saddest Landscape. The crowd took over on choruses, stealing the mic from the singer as he scrambled around on the ground trying to re-duct-tape the cable back into his guitar. It was Night Two of WHRB’s Record Hospital Fest.

15 MORE PHOTOS: Record Hospital Fest 2009

Tucked away in a dead end of Harvard Yard, Holden Chapel hasn’t actually hosted any chapel activities for decades. Ten years ago, it was refurbished with acoustic paneling and crisp blond woodwork and rechristened as the home of the school’s choral groups and glee clubs — not the likeliest spot for a gang of cutoff-jeaned punks with scuzz mullets to camp out for the day.

Saturday was the aggro night of the fest (Friday was all weirdo odds and ends with Life Partners, Black Clouds, and a reportedly wheelchair-bound Exusamwa), and styles ran from Minor Threat/Bane–style pummel (Dry Hump) to epic quest-metal/hardcore (Iron Hand). Pit lanes opened up like a game of Red Rover, and I retreated to the table that had the open bag of Sun Chips.

WHRB prez Christa Hartsock helmed the soundboard all night, and other station regulars roamed the audience. “I’d be helping more, but I’ve been too busy with this paper on the War of 1812 shaping the US national identity,” offered one. New Hampshire’s Redwing Blackbird, an acoustics-and-upright-bass group, made for a sort of intermission of gentle mountain ballads. Someone’s keys scraped the floor and a “Shhh!” came from the back room, busting up singer Eric Gagne and derailing the song. “That’s really the best shushing I've ever heard at a show,” he said.

I remembered that moment fondly during Providence noise-mongers the Body’s night-ending set, which could have drowned out a space-shuttle liftoff next door. The bass-and-drums duo brought out speaker cabinets the size of a Jeep. It was perhaps the most unholy activity ever housed at Holden; the professor stuck up on the wall, though, seemed far from impressed.

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