Gabriel Birnbaum’s Field Trip, in Boston Phoenix, 6.28.08

Posted on July 28, 2008


WALK ‘N’ ROLL: Ambling bands go on a field trip

photo by Peter Smith
[photo of Hello Shark on the second leg of the Field Trip, by Pete Smith]

This past Saturday afternoon, Gabe Birnbaum – wearing ratty jeans and T-shirt, a guitar slung over his shoulder – stood beside a posterboard sign taped onto an old mic stand reading “Field Trip,” talking into a cellphone, giving last-minute directions to performers and potential audience members. It was the second installment of his bi-monthly series of guerrilla acoustic shows (location: anywhere he wants, today beginning in a Central Square alley).

“Follow me,” he said, and off we went, crossing Mass Ave like a group of old ladies trailing a parasol down the Freedom Trail. The first set – by Birnbaum’s own Boy Without God project – took place up on top of the Franklin Street parking garage. A business-casual guy walked across the lot, hopped into his car, and drove away mid song, but he was karmically countered by the lady rocking back and forth with a swaddled baby in her arms to a Leonard Cohen cover. Leaving the garage, we walked over railroad tracks (baby stroller in tow) and sat down on some mossy gravel close by the steaming cooling tank near Metropolitan Storage. Hello Shark’s Linc Halloran looked a tad uncomfortable, facing directly into the low sun as he sang wilting Daniel Johnston ditties. “Dude, do you want to borrow my sunglasses?” asked a kid in the crowd. Halloran shyly accepted. “I’m, like, Joe Cool now.” A girl pulled out some markers and sketched his shoe in a notepad.

The group, about 35 pairs of cutoff shorts strong now, headed over the Mass Ave bridge, happily clogging joggers’ routes, the performers carrying their guitars and trying not to feel like camp counselors. The teeny Christine Hayward tangled herself up on a playground ladder on the Esplanade, strumming a ukulele. Two kids with tiger-face paint climbed around the show like sprites.

Mike Fiore finished the night on a dock in front of a picture-perfect sunset as waves lapped on the river bank (sounds that bands sample to give their recordings gravitas) and a lone gondola floated past packing a couple of applauding passengers. You know how in those Disney movies all the woodland creatures suddenly come out to sing along? It was like that.

[Originally Appeared in The Boston Phoenix 6.26.08]