At JP Music Fest, a rebirth for local musician

August 29, 2014
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In the 1990s, JP musician Chris Toppin co-founded the successful indie rock band Fuzzy. After a decade out of the music scene, Toppin is making a comeback with the band LOVE LOVE, which plays next week’s fourth annual Jamaica Plain Music Festival.

“[Music] is different at this age,” said Toppin in a recent Gazette interview. “It’s less self-indulgent, less self-critical. It’s more community-oriented. I really love connecting with people now. When I was younger, I was afraid to connect with people.”

“Now I can be my goofy self and embrace it,” she said.

Toppin has been in an on-again off-again relationship with music for the last 25 years. In the 1980s, she played bass guitar in the Ex-Girlfriends, opening for such global stars as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Ramones.

In the ’90s, she and fellow JPer Hilken Mancini co-founded the indie rock band Fuzzy, who signed with Atlantic Records, released two albums internationally, and toured extensively with the Lemonheads, Belly and Dinosaur Jr.

Then, Toppin disappeared from the music scene until a few years ago: she took over a decade off to raise children.

Last year, though, she took stock of her 13-year run at a desk job at a nonprofit and decided to leap back into music.

“I felt like, ‘What am I doing?’ I want cohesiveness. I want to use my passion for my own,” she said. “I want to combine everything.”

So she quit the desk job and started teaching voice and music. She told the Gazette she only had the courage to make the switch after volunteering with Girls Rock Camp Boston (GRCB), a JP-based music camp for girls that has expanded to include a three-day intensive for adult women.

“Volunteering for them and being part of the three-day weekend—this amazing weekend, this bubble of love and support—that kind of experience, being part of that, gave me the courage to take the risk and leave my 9-to-5 job and start doing music again,” she said. “The past two years, I’ve had a transformation because of them. I owe them a lot.”

Her daughters, ages 9 and 12, “have seen me blossom and seen me become this incredibly happy person” because of it, she added.

Toppin also found a new music partner in fellow singer-songwriter Jefferson Davis Riordan, and formed LOVE LOVE, which has been playing in the Boston area, including Midway Café residencies and First Thursdays in JP.

Toppin and Riordan knew each other from singing back-up vocals and drumming, respectively, for other people, for five years. Toppin discovered that Riordan wrote and sang when he asked her to sing back up on one of his own songs.

Then Toppin “begged” Riordan to collaborate as a duo.

“I was blown away by his beautiful voice and his songwriting,” she said. “He’d been quietly recording by himself.”

LOVE LOVE was born just last November, and has been performing about twice a month since.

“And now, the JP Music Festival,” she said. “It’s such a big deal for us.”

The Jamaica Plain Music Festival, which features more than 20 musicians or bands who either live or work in JP, will take place at Pinebank Field in Jamaica Pond Park at Perkins Street and the Jamaicaway. The free festival runs from noon to 7 p.m. on Sat., Sept. 6.

The lineup includes: Bed of Coals, Bowleg Bradford, Surf’s Up Spicoli, Hands to the Sky, Old Wave, Hope and Husbands, the Ben Schwender Trio, the Taxonomists, the Old Edison, Looker, LOVE LOVE, Rick Berlin with the Nickel and Dime Band, Morris and the East Coast, the Bethel A.M.E. Praise & Worship Team, Cask Mouse, Radio Volta, Tallahassee, Boston Police Gaelic Column of Pipes & Drums, Blue Gold, Stray Bullets and Streight Agular.

For more information, see the festival’s website at jpmusicfestival.com.

Chris Toppin (left) and Jefferson Davis Riordan of LOVE LOVE. (Courtesy Photo)

Chris Toppin (left) and Jefferson Davis Riordan of LOVE LOVE. (Courtesy Photo)

 

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