Waking up my inner rockstar for the summer

Hello from North Haven!

When my husband (then boyfriend) Bill and I decided to move to North Haven twelve years ago, we were choosing to leave behind the many Boston-based indie rock bands we played in. We met at Great Scott, an Allston venue, when our bands were booked on the same bill. We were bandmates before we were a couple. Between the two of us, we were in two bands together, a glam-rock outfit and a more introverted shoegaze project, and I think I’ve counted a total of seven others, from angry but intricate punk to horror metal to the horn section of a New Orleans-style rock band.

Back in the day, playing farfisa with the Charms. Photo by Steev Ricardo.

We loved playing, we loved watching our friends play, and most evenings we were either in a practice space or a music venue, typically dive bars with terrifying bathrooms and tiny stages. The hot rooms, packed with friends and fans or sparsely populated by a few dubious drinkers, were as much my home as my apartment with the hole in the wall or the work room at Boston University’s COM where I was somehow also getting a master’s in journalism.

As much as we loved the scene, it was exhausting, and when I was invited to apply to the job I hold now at North Haven Community School, we took the opportunity, despite what we were leaving behind. And although we continued to play a few shows here and there in Boston, the logistics necessitated a huge reduction in commitments. We wrote and recorded songs in the spare bedroom of our 10-month rental house, restored a Cordovox keyboard, built a theremin and a vocoder, and realized we really missed being on stage.

And so, that first summer, wondering whether outing ourselves as weirdos would earn us a one-way ticket back to the mainland, we donned leotards and wigs, spray-painted water pistols gold, teetered around on platform heels, and played a set at the island’s music festival LungFest (may its memory be for a blessing) as the LA proto-punk band Zolar X.

Bill and I in tall boots and tight clothes, pretending to be Zolar X.

Luckily for us, people liked it. And ever since then, summer has become a time for us to wiggle into something tight, wobble around in tall boots, and yell into some microphones for a while. We played at LungFest while it was around, and since then the party’s moved to Main Street, where the Rec Council puts on a fabulous street dance. With our island friends, like Jake from the Toughcats, our school guidance counselor, a former oyster diver, and the Reverend, we learn a set of party songs, and rock out.

Covering B52s with friends for the Rec Council’s mostly annual Street Dance.

We’ve found ways to play our own music on island, too. A side effect of a long, quiet winter in our second year on North Haven was that Bill learned how to program beats into a Game Boy, and a chip-hop band was born, with a friend rapping about video games and Lord of the Rings, to name a few nerd-friendly topics, Bill’s beats, and my keyboard and vocal hooks. 8BIT-ches, as we were slightly inappropriately named, even recorded a full length album and an EP, and played a few shows off island. Bill produced my solo album, Almanac, after that, and his compositions have been featured in recitals and as underscoring for a few plays we’ve put on.

Commodore 64 keyboard, homemade vocoder and fake glasses: all necessary accessories for an 8BIT-ches set.

With Jake, we got to play a few of our songs at the North Haven Brewing Company recently. Penrose was there, eating lots of popcorn and carefully putting bandaids on my arm while I played the ukulele.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Penrose stays close during our set at the North Haven Brewing Co. Photo by Dave Macy, used with permission.

She goes to sleep with the sounds of band practice under her room, as we gather our friends together to prepare for the street dance, coming up on August 12. I’m airing out a wig and trying to find the perfect outfit to bridge the gap between Cindy Wilson and Cyndi Lauper. My musical life looks a lot different than it did when I had abundant energy and thought nothing of band practice til 11 and catching the last set at Great Scott, then eating a questionable slice of pizza before staggering home to write a paper. But how lucky am I that every summer, I get to find my inner rockstar and let her be my outer rockstar.


Courtney Naliboff

About Courtney Naliboff

In addition to this blog, I'm a contributing writer to kveller.com, a Jewish parenting site, a blogger and book reviewer for reformjudaism.org, and the author of Salt Water Cure, a column in Working Waterfront. I report news from North Haven for Working Waterfront and Island Journal, and was a speaker at the Maine Conference for Jewish Life in 2015. Follow Frozen Chosen on facebook or visit my Web site for more writing and free music to download!