For the love of speed trials: another dose of Dive Bombs and Dive Bars – heavy metal venue reviews from everywhere across this blasted country. In this installment, Jonah Livingston, Ramming Speed’s blastbeat stopwatch, takes us to Boston, for a review of a venue in his home town.
I must admit – as much as I love Boston, our bar scene blows. We have thousands and thousands of young drinkers looking to get shit-tanked and MORE then enough watering holes, so what’s the problem? Here’s a depressing history lesson for all y’all. In 1984 former Governor Michael Dukakis signed “the happy hour ban”. No drink specials, discounts, or deals of any sort have been allowed on alcohol at MA bars since then. Boston has been getting a bad wrap in the metal press as of late (and rightfully so: http://www.metalsucks.net/2012/06/06/bullet-belt-wearing-metalhead-shuts-down-bostons-subway/#more-94123), but in a music scene where drinking is just as important as bullet belts and moshing, this is just another reason why the Boston basement scene has remained strong while the bar metal crowd has generally been small.
From my point of view, if you want a ferociously drunken show where people aren’t scared of spilling their $6 IPA, go straight to the wilderness of the DIY scene. My go-to spots around town are mostly lofts (like What We Talk About) and basements (or, if you don’t mind a dry venue, the Democracy Center!). If the show’s going to be at a bar in Beantown, for me at least, it better have a great staff and quality PA to justify the room cost and beer prices. That in mind, my bar picks for rock n roll in the area are the venerable Middle East Night Club (where I work – full disclosure) and the cozy Allston venue Great Scott.
Sound: Without a doubt the BIGGEST reason to play at Great Scott (besides location, which is always crucial) is sound. For a smaller sized room (approx. 200 capacity) you’ll get an extremely professional and attentive sound man every night of the week. The stage is fairly small, but a powerful PA has blasted pro-level bands like Municipal Waste, Kylesa, and The Red Chord – all of whom have swung through in the last year or so for rare Boston proper appearances.
Drink Menu: Boston bars rarely offer anything “cheap” (see my happy hour griping up top), but the GS beer menu has everything from your standard PBRs and Narragansetts all the way up to La Fin Du Monde and Left Hand Path’s “Wake Up Dead” Stout. If you see a tall, dark, and handsome gentleman swinging cocktails there’s a good chance it’s local noise promoter Will Mayo and the right kind of winking might convince him to plug in the blender for his patented “Grape Scott”, “Strawberry Funslide”, or “Chilly Mary” (a frozen bloody mary? Fuck it, why not!).
Food: No pub grub here, but Shanghai Gate right next door is some of the best Asian food in the area.
Hospitality: National level touring acts might have drink tickets built into their contracts, but most bands only get $1 off drinks. This is pretty weak, but fairly standard for the area.
Crowd: During the afternoon GS has it’s bar flies, propped up on the dark wooden counter as the days pass by through bud light colored glasses. At night however, things come alive with metal gigs, dance nights and comedy troupes. With the right local openers, touring bands can expect a mishmash of co-eds stumbling in from the boozy college slums of upper and lower Allston. If you’re a touring band just be weary of coming through here with a four band package; without a local opener it can be tough to rouse people from their couches.
Bathroom: I can only speak for the men’s room, but it’s actually not that bad… though I’d definitely hit it early in the evening if you can help it.
Staff: The door staff/bouncers here are all really understanding, chill dudes, and while the club doesn’t love moshing or crowd surfing they are fairly reasonable about enforcement. If you’re cool, they’re cool, and this is very much not the case elsewhere in town. For the rest of the staff on deck – I’ve already spouted my love for the sound guys, and the bartenders have always been friendly and efficient. Tipping well and saying thank you will go a long way.
In closing: If your band is too big for the basement scene or needs a solid sound system to do your riffs justice, this is the best room on our side of the Charles River. I recommend checking out CQ presents (www.cqpresents.com) who book most of the rad metal/hardcore shows for Great Scott and you can always hit up the club direct (http://www.greatscottboston.com/).