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Awesome Day Fest shows off Boston’s indie-rock talent pool

Musicians participating in the Awesome Day Fest include (from left) Andrew Doherty, Drew Indingaro, Jesse Sherman (co-organizer), Robby Roadsteamer, Doug Sherman, Jim Healey, Dave Jarvis, Johnny Northup, Dan Gondaliers, Cameron Keiber (co-organizer), and Jaime Devine. Katherine Taylor for The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance

Like most stories, this one begins with a birth. About six years ago, the members of Boston band Tired Old Bones were set to take a hiatus when singer Bridget Nault was pregnant. Realizing that they’d have to miss out on the shows they’d booked that summer, drummer Jesse Sherman thought they should hustle to get them all in at once. “Instead of canceling the shows, we decided to try to condense everything all summer into one day,” he says. The result — part baby shower, part barbecue, and part super-size rock show at O’Briens Pub in Allston — kicked off what’s since become an annual tradition, Awesome Day Fest.

While Awesome Day Fest, which returns May 29 and 30, didn’t take on its only slightly exaggerated name until three years ago, one thing has remained the same throughout its run: It’s an opportunity to pack as much of the local rock scene as possible into one afternoon. As the event has grown bigger and more ambitious, it’s spread beyond the confines of O’Briens, and now includes performances at Great Scott, the Model Cafe, and Wonder Bar, with an additional slate of shows Friday night.


Much of that growth, Sherman says, came from enlisting the aid of Cameron Keiber, of record label Midriff Recordings and Boston bands the Beatings and Eldridge Rodriguez — the latter of whom will perform this year.

“A couple years ago, Cameron was like, ‘Man I’d love to be part of this,’ ” Sherman recalls. “I said, I’d love to help. He was like, ‘Dude, we gotta make this 10 times as big!’ ”

That impulse has certainly paid off, with around 25 acts set to perform this time, including recent Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble winners Zip-Tie Handcuffs, electro-pop favorites Freezepop, ’80s-evoking dance-rockers Party Bois, the rootsy Cask Mouse, and sludgy veterans Kudgel, to name only a few.


“This is bigger than anything we’ve ever done,” Sherman says. “This year is a lot more cohesive. We got bigger venues, bigger bands. People believe in it enough that we’ve got sponsors; people are like, we’ll put our name on it and help out.”

Credit that to the strong community ties of the Allston rock world, Keiber says. “All these bands have done their time in Allston, and kind of get and appreciate that it’s a nurturing scene to the rock and noise community,” he says.

His plans for the future are even grander. He hopes to incorporate locally made movies or a gallery showing into the program.

“We want to make it a destination weekend where people are like, there’s something happening in Allston this weekend. We want to bring people from out of town here to spend money, just kind of boosting the profile of Allston. We want people to think of Allston as the Massachusetts Riviera — or the Aspen of the East, as I call it.

“Our whole point is to kind of treat the local talent with the respect I think they deserve,” he continues. “It may not appeal to people who don’t know the scene, but if they go out and see what’s happening with these bands — they’re all doing something vital and relevant to music today — I think they’d be pretty won over. It’s a pretty deep talent pool.”

Among that group are noisy, anthemic trio Zip-Tie Handcuffs. “It’s full of many diverse and excellent bands, and great people who are passionate and care a great deal about local music,” the band’s Matt Ford says of the festival. “The crowds are bound to be amazing, bands will play their hearts out, and we’re stoked to be part of it.”


“Festivals like this show that this city truly supports all music, and we are excited to be a part of it,” adds Ed Llerena of Cask Mouse.

While the festival focuses on louder rock, a singer-songwriter stage featuring Sarah Borges, Ryan Lee Crosby, and Dan Nicklin will show off the quieter side of local talent. It’s a great excuse to see as many local bands as possible all at once, Crosby says.

“I’m excited to see some performers I’ve always known about but haven’t caught before, and to catch up with great local acts I haven’t seen play in a while” Crosby goes on, mentioning Borges and Greg Lyon, Eldridge Rodriguez, Guillermo Sexo, and Vic Firecracker. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg . . . it’s going to be awesome.”

Sherman says he’s inspired by the smorgasbord-like approach of the Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble. “I always dig how you can see four different bands, throw it against the wall, and everyone gets together whether it’s your thing or not,” he says. “But that only happens once a year. I love that vibe about Boston, I like the idea of breaking genre barriers, just having a party.”


Bonus track 

As if there weren’t enough going on already next weekend with Awesome Day Fest, Grass Stains: Ringer Park offers even more local music to keep the streets of Allston reverberating. The daytime concert, presented by the folks behind the Boston Hassle arts and music website and their BRAIN Arts Organization, is the first in a series of outdoor concerts around Boston this summer. The two stages in Ringer Park — one electric, one acoustic — will feature Bathaus, Bent Shapes, Milo Jones, Anjimile, and a half-dozen more. The show is free and open to all ages on May 30, noon-6 p.m. For more information, go to


Various Allston venues, May 29-30

Tickets: $12, multi-venue pass $20.

Luke O’Neil can be reached at lukeoneil47@gmail