the Past Is Yet To Be Written
the Treemausers become the Whitehaus Family Record
In the fall of two thousand and six the members of an arts collective known as the Treemausers began holding performance events in their tiny apartment in Jamaica Plain. Their goal was to create something unlike anything else they could find in Boston; a weekly performance space, open to the public, sustainable and safe, devoid of social competition, and pushing the boundaries of consciousness, experience and thought. The Treemausers spread their ideas around JP by word of mouth and through their popular publication, the Treemausers Gazette. These periodicals caught the attention of several local performers, including; Many Mansions, The Cups, and of course, The Ruinous Gringos of Macchu Piccu. “The Gringos” as they were affectionately called, quickly became the darlings of the Hoots and helped bring people to the Treehaus from across the state, country, and beyond.
Tragically, the Gringos soon broke up. Founding members Buddy Mounds and P. Schekel moved to the west coast. But the rest of the Hoot regulars kept on. Many Mansions, The Cups, Melou, Lindsay Clark, Jake Estner, Morgan Shaker, Debbie and the Bullets, Gregory J. Mullen, Shira Erlichman and Uncle Shoe all became household names. Soon, the Hootenannies could not be contained. The Treemausers found a five story mansion to move into that was recent re-built from a state of dilapidation. The carpenters working on the site had nicknamed it “la casa blanca”, so the Whitehaus was born.
With so many more members joining their roster, the Treemausers dissolved and the Whitehaus Family Record was born. Over the next two years, hundreds of musicians, poets, singers, dancers, actors, and other performers swam through the doors of the Whitehaus. Some became longstanding fixtures of the ‘Haus others simply got their start. Bands like the Kettle Stitches and the Toothaches performed at the Whitehaus and moved on. Bands like Gracious Calamity and Peace, Loving grew out of residents already established. All of the artistic groups associated with the Whitehaus are too numerous to name.
In February of two thousand eight Many Mansions organized a show in the ‘Haus called Psych-Fest and this marked the beginning of the WFR movement away from Hootenannies and toward Happenings. The success of Psych-Fest gave the WFR the impetus to organize their biggest event at that time, Blastfest. Since Blastfest the big moves just kept coming, increased album production, Weird-Fest, signing Truman Peyote, the Out Treasure Hunt, and the Whitehaus Family Win-tour. In the coming years the Family is bound for bigger events, bigger ideas and the wide open arms of the Yes Wave to spread its song.
What is a Hoot?
The word ‘Hoot’ is short for Hootenanny. Webster’s dictionary defines a Hootenanny as an informal performance of folk singers. This definition does not describe the Treemausers’ Hoots precisely. The Hoot, as it has come to mean for the Treemausers, is an open to the public performance space held on friday nights where the Hoot-goers can share and listen.
The Hoot started at 381 Centre Street. On a Saturday in September in 2006 a failed poetry event in an abandoned opera house turned into a living room reading. We ended up having such a good time that night, singing songs and reading poems until late, late at night, we decided to do it again next week. We invited the entire neighborhood. Jamaica Plain responded better than we could have imagined. People were coming back week in and week out.
Soon the apartment was known as the Treehaus. The residents therein were known as Treemausers. A magazine was started to chronicle the lives of the Treemausers. As the Hoots were growing, word spread, people came from out of town just to attend. Friendships, Relationships, and Bands were formed. The Family was getting too big for the apartment. So The Whitehaus was born.
During The Hoots I often make general announcements to let everyone know what’s going on. In these announcements I use the phrase, “This is not a party” which is true at face value, but also in a larger sense. When I think of house parties I’ve gone to in the past, I think of ominous, tense strangers’ buildings, either with pounding music that doesn’t match the mood of the room, or filled with uncomfortable silence. While this does not describe all parties, it does describe many that I have personally experienced. Part of the creation of the Hoot was the solution to a pressing problem the Treemausers felt. We realized that with the Hoots, we could offer an alternative to the community, void of social competition, where you could make new friends, and have a safe space to share with the people you’ve brought along.
One of the ideas that all the Treemausers share is the importance of health. The Hoot is part experiment, testing the idea of nutritious entertainment. We want to have fun and a wild time, but also be personally stimulated. To generate art and media and a social space with a greater yield of creative energy. This is another way that Hoots differ from a party. An intrinsic part of the concept of the party is the necessary foray into danger. Concepts of destruction and violence come into view. These are things that the Hoots are in response to. The Hoots are an expression of freedom, and the responsibility that freedom is built upon.
The purpose of the Hoot is threefold. One is the community open mic. The public house, where people take turns sharing the creative works they would otherwise feel uncomfortable sharing with friends and strangers. Everyone has creativity within them, and when given a chance to freely express it, they will experience emotional health that is often described as spiritual. Another purpose is to build a circle of artists who continually inspire each other, and help each other refine their language. Improving each others ability to communicate and release creative energy into the world. The third purpose is the most lofty, and it is to hunt for the voice of the place we live. The sound of Jamaica Plain, of Boston, the sound of our community. To re-attach ourselves to the land, and re-discover the people all around us.
The Hoot is spontaneous, and its complete definition is deferred. The Hoot surges beyond meaning, because no one will know what it will become. The Hoot is an experiment in the theory that you can push the limits of expression without breaking moral borders. You can have fun, you can have a ‘party’ without the decadence, without the depravity, without competition. We are making a break from the models of waste and arrogance as a part of revelry.
The trick, about love, is that it can be effortless, and if it is, then we have the power to spread it infinitely. Cynicism is too easy of an answer. It’s okay to care. Predatory cycles and binary opposites were for the last two milennia. We are going to see how much we can do for each other. We will be healthy and strong and open to everything. History has only barely begun. There’s nothing left to be afraid of.
Brian Stephen Ellis, July 4th 2007