By Rebecca Dignum
When you think of local music scenes, Fitchburg isn’t a town that comes to mind. But with homegrown artists and a growing number of venues, Fitchburg is working to change that. In a state known for its pride in local music, Fitchburg is trying to make its mark among prominent towns like Amherst, Northampton, and Alston.
One burgeoning musician is Joe Aidonidis, A Fitchburg University Alum who is currently playing in two bands, Magic Island and Little Brother. Aidonidis said, “I’ve been in Little Brother for the past year and a half. It’s a hugely fun experimental pop project. We have a lot of fun with it. I recently joined Magic Island a few months ago, sitting in on keys and backup vocals. It’s a group of very ambitious and talented people. I’m very happy to be part of it.”
Aidonidis played with Magic Island at local venues such as the Revival Gallery on Saturday, saying, “There must have been a hundred people that crowded into the gallery and over followed onto the sidewalk to view and hear local art. I was happy to see that people came out and that it was such a success. I kept hearing everyone say it was a great thing for Fitchburg as if it was out of the usual.” Aidonidis said he believes that the Revival Gallery, located on Main Street, is making a big impact in town. “I feel it’s attracting some of the most talented people in Fitchburg as well as a genuinely interested young crowd.”
Alex Cohen, a Fitchburg University student and long time musician has his band, The Alex J. Cohen Project, which consists of himself. Cohen did have three other people in his band, but he said, “we all wanted to play different types of music, [but] we remain friends.” Cohen describes his music as “alternative-contemporary-folk with an energetic performance.” He also plays in another band called A Fathom Farewell, which features post-hardcore music with him doing vocals and writing lyrics.
Cohen is a fan of the university’s support for musicians through the Open Mic Nights. While it may not seem like much to most, the Open Mics held by the school give the students an opportunity to develop as musicians and performers. He says, “It all started with the Open Mics, Open Mics gave me the confidence to perform in front of people that I needed in order to do it for a living.”
Aidonidis shared a different perspective on the support for local music by the university. “Fitchburg State wasn’t exactly a place that supported music. I did meet a lot of people who were like minded and supported my projects.” Fitchburg State University does provide students with the opportunity to play, but the school could be doing more to promote the local arts. Aidonidis believes that the school can do more for the local arts with more ambition. Joe said, ”the school can pay $30,000 to corporate-sponsored artist that puts on a good light show, but at the end of the day that’s looking past the homegrown art that’s right here. After all, a college should be a place that incubates it’s own ideas and art. We don’t have to import our art and we certainly don’t have to waste our money on some flat-brim-hat-wearing flavor of the week.”
Cohen has also found that Fitchburg provides an “environment where there [are] bars and pubs that book live music.” Bars such as Destare have been booking more live music acts, but unfortunately many musicians look for venues outside of town. Cohen ultimately plays more venues outside of Fitchburg: venues like the Worcester Palladium, The Middle, Tammany Hall in Worcester, and the Hard Rock Boston. Like Cohen, Aidonidis and Magic Island are finding venues outside of Fitchburg. “I recall playing in Amherst at a house called ‘Dad City’. We played to a ranch house brimming with people until the cops showed up. Magic Island has some great shows lined up including the Iron Horse in Northampton on Oct. 24 and the MiddleEast in Boston on Nov. 19.” With most local Musicians looking to other towns and cities for support and venues to play it’s hard to see how the music scene is growing in Fitchburg. Every new event or venue looking for local musicians and actually having the local musicians to play at these venues, gives Fitchburg a culture that enhances the town itself.
You can listen to Cohen’s music on his Facebook page “The Alex J. Cohen Project” and A Fathom Farewell will be coming out with an EP soon. Magic Island’s music can be found on their Facebook page, which is also available for purchase.