By: Nick Mathews (Umass Amherst)
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The term music venue is often associated with vast arenas, massive stage shows, and expensive tickets and, hey, if you are going to see Lady Gaga or some other superstar you are obviously going to pay top dollar and have to bring binoculars. This isn’t the way music was supposed to be seen. Now, rarely does Hollywood actually get it right, but that scene in 10 Things I Hate About You, the one with the shitty lesbian band playing overly loud music in a cramped room, represents the way you should be absorbing your music.
Now, there are countless rock clubs throughout Boston, New York, LA, Nashville, Austin, wherever you intend to do your rocking. With this in mind, I’ll focus on the one that I call home. Boston, MA. To be honest, Boston actually has a pretty shitty music scene when you consider the noise to single ratio. What I mean by this is that no matter how many awesome rock/pop/live hip hop/whatever bands there are, they will always be canceled out by an exponentially larger presence of metal-c0re, hard-core, death-punk, crunk-punk-proto-death-evil-core… you get the picture. My golden rule for judging unsigned talent is this: Each hyphen used to describe your bands genre instantly subtracts two letter grades. A ska band, tempting, a ska-core band, not so much. With this in mind, this guide is created to help you navigate your way through the scum of the Boston music scene to eventually end up in a cheap dive-bar getting eye-fucked by some indie chick way too hot for you.
5. The Middle East (Up and Down)
The Middle East is like the gateway drug to the local music scene. Most of the bands suck, and the beer is usually pretty shitty. That being said, any Boston band you’ve ever heard of (from the past 15 years) probably did the fan-base grind here. Dropkick Murphy’s? Yup! Mighty Mighty Bosstones? Si, Senor! Even some of the guys from Boys Like Girls and The Click Five have frequented this venue. I saw Dick Dale here a few summers ago and it was awesome. This is definitely the place to start your foray into good local bands.
4. TT the Bear’s Place
Right next to the Middle East is a legitimate hole-in-the-wall, TT’s. Easier to book than the Middle East means there are even more shitty bands. Again, selectivity is key here. Go online, listen to the bands playing, and find one you like… if you can. To be honest, the only reason this place makes the list (and above the Middle East) is because it has a cheaper cover and a, no-wait-two, pool tables.
3. The Lizard Lounge
Finally, we get to a venue that actually deserves to be on this list. The Lizard Lounge is everything you want in a local music venue. They’re selective enough that there aren’t any truly shitty bands, just a few that might not line up with your genre expectations. The beer is affordable, cold, and awesome. The sound is great and the sound guy usually isn’t a dick. Yeah, there are a fuckload of indie pricks, which isn’t my thing, but might be yours. I will argue, though, that the atmosphere outweighs the douchieness of the people.
2. Johnny D’s (in Somerville)
Yeah, this place is in Somerville. You can yell at me saying “You SAID BOSTON!?!” at which point I’ll laugh at you and point out that the Middle East, The Lizard Lounge, and TT’s are all in Cambridge, so technically there hasn’t been a single Boston venue to make the list. Anyways, Johnny D’s is straight up blues. Cool blues. Emotional blues. Rocking blues. Do you not like blues? Sucks, bro. This place goes so high on the list because it has sick food and consistency. All of the bands that play here deserve to play here. They should be making a lot more money than they actually are, and they’d be just as stoked if you bought them a shot as they would if you bought their CD.
1. The Paradise Rock Club
Holy shit! This place is actually in Boston… and it rocks. The Paradise is where you go when you want to see a nationally recognized band in the awesome club setting. This is the mecca of live music in Boston. The hardcore bands think its a joke, so you know its going to be awesome. I’m looking at the list of up-and-coming shows right now and I see Fountains of Wayne, Soulive, and Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies. There is no loss here. Tickets run more expensive than the other clubs, but cheaper than the bigger venues, and you pay for the atmosphere. There are like 5 bars in the building, and a separate lounge if you want to get away from the loud music and pound some shots. It’s also in a sick location, right on Comm Ave near BU territory (Go Terriers?). The way to do it is to find a show you’d want to go to, then hightail it out of there just in time to hit up a frat party… walking distance away!
That’s it. In closing, most local music sucks. This is a good thing, it makes finding a really good Local band all the more rewarding. Plus, drinking makes everything better, just ask Edgar Allen Poe!