OUT: You Can Be A Wesley at ArtBeat

Photos by Dave Barker

Bursting out of the T station last Saturday, a kid in front of me stops dead in his tracks. “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” he says, clearly unprepared for the mob of canvas-waving artists, wheeled-canoe pedalers, lime-rickey vendors, and hula-hooping mimes swarming Davis Square. Welcome to ArtBeat 2009.

The theme of the eighth annual ArtBeat fest is “Somerville of the Future” — which means a way higher robot quotient than usual. In the center plaza, robot sculptor (and member of the chopper gang SCUL) Skunk flaunts an especially impressive bot throng, all built from junk and scrap metal, while his disco-ball-topped tall bike blasts funk from its speakers.

After a lot of gawking, my friend and I tear ourselves away from the droids to catch ArtBeat’s grand finale: a You Can Be a Wesley concert. The band, a pack of recent BU grads, don’t exactly exemplify “futuristic” — their first full-length release, Heard Like Us (which dropped July 20), was recorded on 1960s studio equipment and pressed exclusively on vinyl. But the buzz surrounding them suggests they’re poised to be a Big Deal any day now. That’s future-y, right?

On our way to the Seven Hills Park stage, we pass a black-frocked girl toting a hula hoop. “So many humans!” she exclaims in mock exasperation. Yes, the lawn is littered with ’em — adult humans immobilized by heat and food coma, even as squirrelly mini-humans scamper in the grass. Guitarist/lead vocalist Saara Untracht-Oakner is adjusting her equipment with bare feet. Chill vibes abound.

The MC offers a brief intro/clarification: “The band’s name is not a reference to Star Trek’s Wesley Crusher but to Wesley of The Princess Bride.” Now that we’ve cleared that up, YCBAW launches into “Balloon Head,” and from their first “Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-da-da-daaaah” onward, their much-swooned-over Breeders/Joanna Newsom/Broken Social Scene sound (which, for today, they’ve dubbed “dance lounge”) charms. The hype is well deserved.

About the time YCBAW play their final song, I turn around to see a guy hoisting a chubby-cheeked baby in a Ramones T-shirt. The baby’s clutching a tiny guitar. “One day, you’ll get up there,” dad says. In the Somerville of the Future, perhaps?
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