In early October, the Flywheel venue in Easthampton, Massachusetts, scored a cultural coup of sorts when elusive outsider-musician Jandek played a very rare East Coast show there.
And this fall, the volunteer-run arts collective, located just over the Berkshire hills from Nippertown, has hosted a number of cutting-edge performances, from San Francisco art-rock trio Grass Widow to New Jersey punk band Screaming Females.
Since moving in 2007 from a vacant cabinet store to a larger space in the old town hall building on Main Street, the non-profit venue is looking to provide an alternative to the nearby Iron Horse Entertainment-dominated Northampton music scene.
Local resident and Flywheel booster Thurston Moore screened the long-anticipated DVD release of Sonic Youth’s tour documentary “The Year Punk Broke” – which features the band’s 1991 European tour with Nirvana – at the space for a Flywheel fundraiser in April.
And just a few weeks ago, Moore made the all-ages, low-key room – which serves tea, coffee and snacks but no alcohol – one of the few places this fall where he performed his classic 1995 solo album “Psychic Hearts” in its entirety.
On November 15, the venue hosted Flywheel regulars Big Nils – a pop-punk band featuring Coco Gordon Moore, Thurston’s teenage daughter with Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon – as the opener for two traveling garage-punk bands: Cheap Time and Mannequin Men.
Cheap Time, a trio from Nashville, Tennessee, fronted by prolific garage rocker Jeffrey Novak, didn’t stop once to talk, tune or barely breathe during their headlining set, bashing through one quick, furious and snotty – but relentlessly catchy – tune after another.
Mannequin Men from Chicago – similarly inclined toward memorable, high-energy garage rock but with songs burnished with an occasional melancholic edge – sweatily showcased a handful of tunes from a new self-titled LP, including “Cheryl Tiegs.”
And the young Moore’s outfit Big Nils – a primal-screaming, collective fuck-youing high-school quartet – showed a bunch of promise on a set of rough yet rhythmically dynamic punk tunes about teen angst, bitchy people and herpes.
Review and photographs by Kirsten Ferguson