In a bit of a break from the norm, I’ll spare you the lengthy preamble about the demise of live music in The Time Of Covid. If you’re reading Bad Copy, you know. You get it. You appreciate it. Hell, you probably feel it, especially when you scroll time Timehop or Facebook Memories every morning. If you’ve been going to shows for anything approaching “a long time,” you’ve obviously amassed a lengthy list of once-favorite venues fall by the proverbial wayside. Sometimes it’s because their owners are sketchballs (looking at you, Middle East), sometimes they get turned into luxury hotels (The Rat) or upscale restaurants (The Elvis Room) or parking lots (Tune Inn) or larger, more corporate establishments (any of the myriad places that dotted Boston’s Lansdowne Street in the footprint of what is now House Of Blues).
As we all know, just one of the innumerable disastrous side effects of These Unprecedented Times (Editor’s Note: don’t worry, I hate myself for using that phrase too), has been the shuttering of myriad live music venues of all shapes and sizes. Venues that helped build and foster a scene in their local communities or created a home for a network of touring musicians and their friends and family to revel, if only for a night. Venues that, prior to the middle of March, we didn’t realize we had already seen the inside of for the last time. When all of the dust finally settles, who knows how many more beloved – or maybe not even “beloved” but at least “available” – establishments will have cut off the PA and brought up the houselights for the last time. I never made it to places like Slim’s or Port City Music Hall or the Chameleon Club or Boot & Saddle, but I made it to these places. And while I never thought I’d miss some of them… well, that’s 2020 for ya.
Where: Bull McCabe’s – Somerville, MA
About: Located in Somerville’s Union Square, Bull McCabe’s was a small, neighborhood Irish-style dive with a little performance “stage” shoe-horned in down the end of the bar but just before the bathrooms.
Favorite Memories: Steve Neary from Far From Finished and a couple of the fellas from Burning Streets joining Jared Hart for a rousing rendition of FFF’s “The Bastard’s Way.” Hart might be from the mean streets of Bayonne, New Jersey, but he always was made to feel at home at places like Bull McCabe’s.
Where: Great Scott – Boston, MA
About: I’ll admit it: this one stung. A lot. Great Scott was a staple in Boston since the mid-70s, transforming from a college dive bar to really one of the only places like it in the area. Capacity was around 250 and it still maintained some of that “dive bar” charm (lol at the bathrooms which somehow were essentially right next to the stage and which were somehow meant for three and yet were about a total of ten square feet and that had a loud-ass hand dryer that could VERY EASILY be heard from the stage whenever anyone opened the door…) while hosting premier independent talent across numerous genres basically every night of the week. And yes, I know that it’s essentially opening in the old Pizzeria Regina down the street, but still…
Favorite Memories: Too many to whittle down. Hangs at the Rebuilder record release. Killer Sarah Shook and the Disarmers set. Jon Snodgrass staging a picture with Cory Branan before a Drag The River set. The So So Glos. The Dave Hause/Rocky Votolato/Chris Farren tour. Hause again on the “Kick” tour with Weakened Friends. Being eye-to-eye with Chris Carraba despite him being up the three steps that were in front of you as you walked in the front door).
Where: Maggy’s Lounge – Quincy, MA
About: Maggy’s was a… simple place. From the outside, it was essentially a two-floor house. The kitchen and bar (surprisingly great food, btw) were on the right as you came through the front door, and the “stage,” which was really just a PA set up on the floor, was on the left in what I guess would have been the living room. Definite “biker bar” kind of feel to it in the right light, and saw its fair share of darts tournaments and Grateful Dead cover bands.
Favorite Memories: Interviewing a Ramone in the “green room,” which was a pop-up canopy with a folding table and a couple of coolers set up on the gravel lot out back.
Where: McGreevy’s – Boston, MA
About: Located amidst a row of bar’s and eateries on the Mass Ave end of Boston’s Boylston Street, McGreevy’s was really more “baseball-themed Irish bar” than it was a “venue,” per se. But then again, it was owned by Dropkick Murphys’ Ken Casey and inspired by the mid-00’s success not only of his beloved hometown Boston Red Sox but by his own band’s concurrent success with their reworking of a 100-year old Broadway tune, “Tessie.”
Favorite Memories: Sitting in the basement, in seats that had once been in Fenway Park, interviewing founding Dropkick Murphy’s guitarist Rick Barton about his solo work and about his side project, FM359, and about his opinions on “the house that Tessie built…”
Where: Once Ballroom – Somerville, MA
About: Another one-of-a-kind sort of place, Once Ballroom had the feel of exactly that… a ballroom, where you might hold a 200-person wedding, complete with carpet-and-dance floor and mirrored chandelier. They served dynamite food by day and then basically just pushed the chairs and tables to the wall and hosted rock shows. The lighting was weird (for this by-no-means professional photographer anyway), and the setup made it somehow feel super intimate. Every show I went to there, I remember thinking “this is a weird place to see a show” and every time I left I remember thinking “that was an awesome place to see a show.”
Favorite Memories: Taking my kid to the VIP/Acoustic portion of a Face To Face show. Chatting with Trever and Scott (from F2F) and Jared Hart and my wife in the green room before the Rock & Roll portion of the show. Smoking Popes! Oh…and IT’S WHERE I MET MIKE WATT!!!
Where: Thunder Road – Somerville, MA
About: Boy, just realized Somerville really took a beating, didn’t they? That’s probably because a lot of the venues in Boston proper are of the LiveNation or at least Bowery variety, so they’ll probably be able to hang on a little longer (and have the knowledge and ability to access more Save Our Stages funds). Anyway, another place that doubled as a restaurant, Thunder Road at least had an actual stage. It held probably 200-250 people and the sound was surprisingly good for a venue that was essentially just brick walls and wood floors.
Favorite Memories: Rebuilder and Iron Chic playing a barn-burner. Cory Branan playing solo yet still holding the place in awe. Having a chat with Olga and Diste from Svetlanas that started tense but became super great-natured once they realized that the website that I was writing for had cut ties with the Proud Boy Trumpy that used to host our podcast.