Local talent, high hopes and a packed crowd of students and community members converged at the Freedom Café on Friday, Feb. 1 for the premiere of WUNH-FM’s new “L.A.M.E.” video series and its corresponding launch party.
Over 70 people in total attended the event, which ran from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and kicked off with several in-town musicians, ranging from students like junior linguistics major Tom Carlson and WUNH Events Manager Rachael Moss on ukulele to bands like Phatt James and headlining act Daylo, who closed out the night’s lineup. Throughout the night, the café and its student volunteers supplied its normal menu during extended operating hours while snacks included crackers, jelly, grapes and cheese.
Following two hours of local performances, a brief series of technical snags did little to stop Moss from presenting the first of several previews of “L.A.M.E.” projected to the slightly-elevated stage in the back of the café’s lounge area. Short for “Local Area Music Experience,” the WUNH video series, according to Moss, focuses on music videos showcasing local bands as they perform live on air in the station’s recording booth. She added that she, working with members of The New Hampshire and a “lone wolf” named Owen Scott on the series, were inspired by shows like “Tiny Desk Concert” on NPR and similar shows.
“…because there is such a local music scene at UNH, we wanted a way to sort of expose it to the public [as] a way to communicate it to the community,” Moss explained. “And so, we’ve been putting together music videos… I wanted to be able to have people know what we are doing before it was over; unfortunately, the majority of us are seniors, so we’re trying to establish a legacy that will continue once were gone.”
While Moss, the event’s organizer, said she expected some attendees at the launch party, she expressed pleasant surprise at the larger-than-anticipated turnout, even when many of them were some of her close friends and cohorts.
“I know a lot of the faces in here, and the fact that I don’t know faces in here is also very inspiring,” Moss told the crowd at the event’s start, “means that the word travelled beyond my own mouth, which is pretty cool.”
Moss’ boss, WUNH General Manager Ariana Lemieux, a senior Russian and international affairs major, told TNH that another source of motivation for the new series came from internal technological upgrades in the form of a new $2,000 mixer purchased by the station to “enhance what we are already doing with bands to allow them to play how they want to play and allow us to really keep up with the times technologically-wise.”
Lemieux also took time during the event to both thank Moss for her new series and overall commitment to the station as events manager and stress the importance of increasing public awareness for local music.
“…unless you know a very select amount of people in the music industry in local areas, it’s very hard to get exposed to really good local artists,” Lemieux said. “So, having events like this and having programs like this, like L.A.M.E. productions, really encourages people to branch out their music tastes and see what’s physically around them and broaden their horizons that way.”
One such local artist is Matt James, a lead member of the band Phatt James who, on top of his group and solo musical ventures, works at the Cooperative Middle School in Stratham, New Hampshire. While part of his love of music stemmed from what he recalls as friendly jealousy of his brother’s guitar skills, his main inspiration for learning music came after he felt successful yet unfulfilled in his studies.
“I was at a Duchess in Connecticut, one of those, you know, fast food joints; and I was there with my mom, and we were having a little chat, and I was in the journalism major… and I was crushing it there; but, I don’t know, something was missing and I felt it.”
His eagerness to explore other professions eventually led him to form his current band, named after him and based on a picture of him from middle school as a “very hefty kid.” By contrast, his current solo project name is “Slim Cut.”
While the band’s sound and styles have changed over the years – ranging from 90s’-inspired grunge to its more recent hip-hop-inspired performances – James emphasized the consistent impact music and chances to perform at events like the L.A.M.E. video launch party have had on his life and motivation to improve himself through music, calling its effects “cathartic.”
“You know how people like you see in interviews where people say, like, ‘music saved me,’ and all that stuff? Like, I always saw that and I always thought of myself like, ‘oh, I’ll never be one of those types of people…’ not in a bad way, just, like, I never thought I’d ever see myself saying ‘music saved me.’ It wasn’t that strong,” James said. “And then, I went through some events in my life that made me really down, you know, and really, really sad and really, just… low.
“Music has just been such a natural thing, it’s just so cathartic for me,” he added, “and it really has saved me these days; it’s made me excited about life.”