[cellars+] Brian S. Ellis talks about Prince Rama's first show and the 2k8 Whitehaus Golden Age

For this week's Cellars By Starlight column, the Phoenix had a radically inspired conversation with Taraka Larson of PRINCE RAMA. We learned about the deep-psych duo's roots in Boston's underground experimental scene circa 2007-2008, particularly in the community surrounding JP art/music collective house venue The Whitehaus.

 >> READ: "Prince Rama rise from Boston's underground" by Liz Pelly

Endlessly intrigued, we wanted to track down someone who was at their first performance ever, so we called up former Whitehaus resident, musician, and poet Brian S. Ellis. (Pictured below; he recently moved to Portland, Oregon.) Ellis told us about Rama's first show, at a Whitehaus hoot in the fall of 2007; he also recalled the vibes of JP's underground house show scene around 2k8, a time that Taraka called "a golden age." Here's the story:

"It was in the fall of 2007… It was just after the first anniversary of the hootenannies. Towards the end of that summer, hoot attendance was going down, and me and the guys we didn’t know why… Then when college started again a ton more people started showing up to the hootenannies again. Me and Adam and Morgan, we forget about college…

Taraka asked to play, and she seemed like the kookiest substitute teacher you’d ever met … with her hair and everything… She played harpsichord and Michael played just a kinda crappy, small Casio. They played, they harmonized and it was interesting…

At the time, Shane Don was on the West Coast. He was actually in Portland when they came. And I was sure that the two of them had sprung out of his music. Shane had been making electronic music in the winter and then folk music in the spring … And it seemed like their music was a merging of everything he liked. It was pretty magical.

I remember we started the hoot at a regular time and then there was a dip in the number of people, and then we got this blast. I later realized that all of these people were SMFA students. It must have been the first time that Shane Butler ever came over too, and all of those guys. I hadn’t met Greg Besun yet, but I’d meet him soon. Because the winter going from 2007 to 2008 was the winter of Winter Camp. Winter Camp was when Greg Besun started having house shows in his place in Inman Square in the winter of 07-08. That was just after Prince Rama played at the Haus for the first time.

Things were happening pretty fast by 2008. Then when Shane got back from the West coast, he started hanging out with Prince Rama all the time. That’s when Truman Peyote started coming around too. We just made our first CD-R sampler that year too.

There were a lot of house shows going on around Boston at the time … a lot of them had to do with “The Folk Revival.” What made the ones at Whitehaus different was, a lot of folk musicians played, and also a lot of boys from Mass Art who were sophomores and they thought they were too cool for life, and they would come over with their little circuit bent toys and make this noise. But everybody was like One or The Other. The kinds of music that was popular at Whitehaus those couple of years was, you either played folk music or you made harsh electronic noise. And Prince Rama just played both. Taraka played the harpsichord for a while and then eventually picked up the guitar. And Michael’s voice is so deep that you don’t even realize that that sound is coming from a person, it sounds like a drum machine droning. I don’t think they even thought about it or did it on purpose. But it was sort of like the perfect melding of what was popular then."


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