Nov 9+10
Radical Inclusivity? "That's what artists are."

Sam Potrykus has a lot on his plate. For the co-founder of Boston Hassle, life is "still a daily struggle of going to bed late and getting up early" as he bounces between late night shows and daytimes steering the ship.

Hassle is mostly known as an all-ages show putter-on-er (with cool flyers). But under the same umbrella falls bostonhassle.com (the webzine), Boston Compass (the free monthly newspaper), Black Market (the flea market) and Dorchester Art Project (the gallery/artist space). A 501(3)c called Brain Arts acts as un umbrella. As Chief Hassler Sam Potrykus puts it, "we have a branding identity crisis."

On Nov 9th & 10th, it will all come to a point at HassleFest 10, 2 days of live music, poetry and art. This year's edition is by far the largest yet, with 100+ artists booked into 16 venues - everywhere from indie flagship Once Ballroom to Central Square postage stamp Brookline Lunch.

The headliners reflect the diversity of the programming. The Gories are legendary Detroit garage rockers. Abdu Ali is the latest peacock to flap out of the Baltimore underground, a genre-mashing queer rapper. Lily & Horn Horse are synthy pop experimentalists. Aaron Dillaway is a knob-twiddler/tape looper, formerly with the noise band Wolf Eyes.

The fest is 100% all-ages — which is "pretty much the point," Sam told me. Why? "Because the fucking world is fucked, dude. And it is just a horrible place we live in where the only place to see live music is a place that is restricted by age. It's just wrong. Someone fucked up by excluding people under 21 into these places that are the only places to see live music. That's why we started booking shows, in general."

The Dorchester Art Project, a new venture that brings Team Hassle onto the streets of Dorchester daily, has brought them, via programs they run for teens, into contact with a more diverse group of kids, and that's been influencing their booking. More hip-hop, for one. How does an out-there rapper like Abdu Ali play for teens in Dorchester?

"Of course there are probably Dorchester kids who think Abdu Ali is not cool or queer or something," Sam says. "There are people in every area and group and scene who are not open minded, but that's just not who we're fucking with. We're out there to unite those who have the open minds and are into supporting our queer allies."

Sam draws a comparison between rap and punk - both had macho beginnings but have grown up. "Punk rock used to be about smashing bottles and fucking the world. But it has become about diversity and inclusivity of marginalized groups."

And of rap: "Most of the MCs that I'm encountering are pretty forward thinking. It's all about radical inclusivity. To my mind, artists are the ones who like ... Of course they stand up for transgender rights. Of course they stand up for queer and gay people. You know? That's what artists are. That's what artists have always been. Whether it's punk rock or hip hop, I don't have any interest in working with someone who's not of that mind."

Nate Mclean-Nichols is a 21-year old Dorchester native who helped organize a teen performance at the DAP over the summer. I spoke to him. HassleFest 10 wasn't on his radar, nor was Abdu Ali. But he was enthusiastic about the space. "So many young people are chafing at the bit to perform - but there is hardly any place that is not inside of schools or a community center." Picking DAP was a "no-brainer."

-- chris marstall 9/22/18

posted 8 months ago
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