After knocking around in other Lakes Region groups, they began playing and writing material together and appearing where they could.
However, finding gigs closer to home can be a challenge. One multi-band show fell through when the venue’s board of directors attached an expensive rider to the deal. Steve Fisher, a former charter schoolteacher, was behind the failed show. For a while, he provided that outlet, booking shows in the basement of a Tilton fitness club, but that ended in July 2010.
This weekend, Fisher’s “vision” is reborn, when the Artemis Performance Center opens in Franklin. The Artemis will host music, art shows and theater in the second floor of a rehabilitated mill building.
“The space is very versatile; it can be converted to any type of show,” said Fisher, who is the owner and director of the new center.
A portable band stage can be converted into a ramp for fashion events or removed entirely to provide extra capacity.
This is great news for East is East, who headline the five-band opening-night show to celebrate their just-released CD on the Boston independent label F Nice Records. Made at Rocking Horse Studios with producer Joey Pierog, Provenance is a unique blend of often surprising elements, like a grunge-y, thumping bass line meeting a talk box guitar on “100 Mile Miss,” and the twitchy tempo changes that introduce “Serotonin.”
The group includes Alex Vaughn on drums, bass player Andy Mallett and guitarists Jonas Sabatini and Abe Hughes. All four sing, which is evident on “The Masquerade Will End,” soaring with arena rock intensity, and “Blinded,” another highlight of the 10-track album that also illustrates an important creative debt, according to one member. “Muse is one band that we all love, and the sound we were originally going for when we started,” Hughes said recently. “We just sort of went from there.”
The bands playing at the Artemis opening are something of a fraternity, Hughes said: “We’re all tied into the same places and do the same shows together.” Two of them, Forging Reverie and Might, join East Is East the next day at Manchester’s Jam Factory, a room that’s proven very friendly to original local music.
“We started playing there on Halloween of last year when they did their first full rock show, and it went really well,” Hughes said. Unlike other clubs, bands aren’t required to meet any sales quotas at the Jam Factory. “So it’s very easy to get a following in the Manchester area without having to worry about selling tickets or making sure that the booking company running the show is getting their piece of the pie. Generally, people show up and it’s really nice.”
East is East is also doing a good job of making its own luck. Later this month, the band will play Meadowbrook’s second stage, opening for indie darlings Bright Eyes and the Mountain Goats, something they did a few years back for Offspring and Sum 41.
“I think we impressed some of the people over there,” said Hughes, adding that getting on the bill wasn’t as hard as it appears. “A lot of people don’t realize it, but if you actually go and contact people, it’s pretty easy to get in on gigs like that … bring your press kit and prove that you’re a worthwhile commodity.”
Hughes said the band hopes to use the new album as a calling card to get them better gigs farther from home in places like Boston and New York City. More far-flung shows, he said, “make it that much harder to buy gas. We need to be able to make it work — that’s what we hope this CD does for us.”
Most of the tracks on Provenance were done at home with Garage Band and other computer tools, but Hughes believes the polish provided in the studio really improved them.
“We didn’t feel like the early versions encapsulated our live sound [and] we wanted something that represented ourselves better,” he said.
“It’s the first project that we’ve ever done and seen through to the end, and we’re really proud of the product.”