Boston Bands

Please bear with me as I finally update this page after... oh, about eight years! At the time I just focused on a few of my fave Boston-based bands, though now only one of the four is still around (Cul de Sac). The Boston music scene is extremely vibrant, though truth be told, I'm so busy with work and my new life on the North Shore now, I don't have a heck of a lot of time to hit the clubs and check people out as I'd like to. I'll attempt to keep some sort of partial listing of current bands & artists up here. But in the meantime, if you're in a band, or if you love a band, please let me know and I'll feature them. Thanks!

For now, here's a few sites I found; I'll have a proper listing up here soon. And be sure to check the Phoenix for upcoming shows.

My Original Faves (back in 1999)

Cul de SacCul de Sac -Psychedelic, electronic, mid-70's German-progressive, folky, Middle Eastern space music. Recordings include ECIM (Northeastern Records), China Gate (Thirsty Ear), The Epiphany of Glenn Jones, w/John Fahey (Thirsty Ear, 1997), I Don't Want To Go To Bed (Thirsty Ear, 1997), Crashes to Light, Minutes to Its Fall (Thirsty Ear, 1999), Immortality Lessons (Strange Attractors, 2002), and most recently Death of the Sun (Strange Attractors, 2003). Once in a while, they'll play at one of the clubs, sometimes backing up some extremely cool band that blows into town (such as Plastic People of the Universe, from Czechoslovakia). Go to their web site for more info.

Reeves GabrelsReeves Gabrels - Reeves has been in such legendary Boston bands as The Dark, Too Happy, Bentmen, Modern Farmer and the sorely missed The Atom Said. And some great non-local bands, like Tin Machine. Oh yeah, and he played with David Bowie for a while. He put out a CD with David Tronzo called "Night In Amnesia" (Upstart, 1995), and a few solo recordings — "The Sacred Squall of Now" (Upstart, 1995) and "Ulysses (Della Notte)" (E-Magine Records, 2000). He has since moved to L.A., and plays in clubs over there now.

The MoorsThe Moors - The Moors are Sharynne MacLeod NicMhacha (vocals and assorted wind and percussive instruments) and Scott Dakota (guitar). Sharynne has Irish and Scottish heritage, and is a devoted researcher and teacher of ancient lore, myths and traditions, and the Gaelic language (in which she sings many of their original and traditional songs). Scott (who has Native American ancestry) studies (among other things) Shamanism and sound healing principles. These are influences they bring to their ethereal, deeply emotional music. You can also visit their MySpace page.

MorphineMorphine - Bluesy, jazzy, wickedly soulful, they went on to major international success with their recordings on Rykodisc and Dreamworks. Through it all, they remained faithful to their hometown fans, playing at the Central Square World's Fair, as well as yearly 2-night stands at the Middle East Cafe. Sadly, on July 3, 1999, singer/bassist/poet Mark Sandman passed to the other side — a terrible shock to the Boston music community. Many people have shared their memories of Mark, and there was a beautiful memorial concert in the street outside the Middle East, which will be a yearly event. My fondest memory is seeing Morphine — for the first time — at the tiny, seedy Causeway.

Boston Area Clubs

This section will be updated soon. I promise!

The Burren

Considering how many bands there are in the Boston area, there really aren't enough places for people to play, and most are strictly rock clubs, with a narrow definition of what type of music they'll present. Having said that, below are a few of the notable ones, something for (almost) everybody, including my personal faves.

The Middle East Cafe - 472/480 Mass. Ave. (Central Square), Cambridge, MA (617) 864-EAST. Simply put: The Middle East is the best place to see bands (well, there's also the Somerville Theatre, but they're not a club). See the Middle East listing under Restaurants.

The Burren - 247 Elm St. (Davis Square), Somerville, MA (617) 776-6896. A nice, cozy club — a great place to hear Celtic music. They have both smaller ensembles playing informally in the front room, plus larger shows in the back room. They also serve Irish food, including weekend Irish brunches. Best Place To Kick Back With A Guinness.

Johnny D's - 17 Holland St. (Davis Square), Somerville, MA (617) 776-2004; concert line: (617) 776-9667. A great place to see bands; cozy and intimate with good sound. With their roadhouse atmosphere, they tend to specialize in country and rootsy acts, but also book artists that don't fall into the narrow "rock" genre (jazz, blues, folk, rock, and internatonal). See their listing under Restaurants.

T.T. The Bear's Place - 10 Brookline St. (Central Square), Cambridge, MA (617) 492-BEAR. Another good place to see bands. A bit on the grungy side, but hey — that's cool, right? Also, they're just around the corner from the Middle East Cafe. If you stand between the two clubs, you can hear two or three bands playing at the same time. And if Man Ray has something going on across the street, you can hear four.

Man Ray - 21 Brookline St. (Central Square), Cambridge, MA (617) 864-0400. "Catering to a variety of alternative cultures." Gothic, industrial, S&M, fetish nights, etc.

Club Passim - 47 Palmer St. (Harvard Square), Cambridge, MA (617) 492-7679. On the site of the legendary Club 47, Passim is reknowned for its dedication to folk music of all kinds. It's a small, cozy, intimate venue with a coffeehouse feel. Note: No alcohol served! (but they do have food and non-alcoholic drinks).

For complete club listings (as well as other doings around town), check out The Boston Phoenix! This weekly publication comes out on Thursdays, and can be found (for sale) in all places that carry newspapers, or FREE at all college student centers.

College Radio

Victor Robert Venckus

Due to the large number of colleges in the area, there is a vibrant college radio community. Most station organize their music formatting into 'blocks' of different styles; WMFO (Tufts University) is the only station that is truly freeform (which means you could theoretically be listening to country one minute, hardcore the next. Perhaps the best of the bunch is WZBC, broadcast from Boston College. They have a strong commitment to the local bands around town, and regularly promote their shows.Support College Radio!

WZBC-FM - (90.3 FM) Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA. Studio line: (617) 552-4686. Home of the "Expanding Awareness/Lucid Sounds Programme", which broadcasts every Saturday from 7:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. During the week, they play indie rock in the daytime. They're now broadcasting "Democracy Now," an excellent news programme from the Pacifica organization. This airs at 12:00 noon daily. In the evening, they have an hour of specialty programming such as jazz and ska, which is followed by NCP (No Commercial Potential) through the night. NCP can be just about anything, depending upon the dj, from space music and electronics to hip-hop and rap. On the weekends, there's Expanding Awareness/Lucid Sounds (New Age & interviews), Sounds of Dissent, Sunday Morning Country, and other specialty shows.Check out their site!. Also visit ZBC Online.

WMBR-FM - (88.1 FM) MIT, Cambridge, MA. Studio line: (617) 253-8810. College rock during the week (beginning with "The Early Riser's Club" and "Breakfast of Champions"), with specialty programming in the evening and on weekends. They have a 60's show called "Lost & Found," presenting a variety of music from the 60's and 70's.

WMFO-FM - (95.1 FM) Tufts University, Medford, MA. Studio line: (617) 627-3800. WMFO has freeform programming, possibly the only station in town which does so. Which means, you can expect just about anything.

WERS-FM - (88.9 FM) Emerson College, Boston, MA. Studio line: (617) 931-1072. Block programming, including "The Coffeehouse" (folk) and "Gyroscope" (world music). Their complete programming schedule is available.

WHRB-FM - (95.3 FM) Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Studio line: (617) 495-4818. Block programming (a good part classical), with specialty shows on the weekends. One long-running show is the Saturday morning "Hillbilly At Harvard", hosted by Cousin Lynn (Lynn Joiner, President of the highly esteemed local label Northeastern Records (see below). WHRB also has their infamous "Orgies", when they have long features on specific musicians. For more info, go to their web site.

WBRS-FM - (100.1 FM) Brandeis University, Waltham, MA. Studio line: (781) 736-5BRS. Block programming.

WUMB-FM - (91.9 FM) University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA. Studio line: (800) 573-2100 (Toll Free in New England) or (617) 287-6919. The country's foremost radio station for folk and acoustic music, airing fifteen hours each day. The station also provides a mix of jazz and R&B for urban audiences each night, and traditional folk, reggae, celtic and world music on the weekends. They also have live studio performances, as well as public affairs and news programs.

Independent Record Companies

Record Company Logos

It's getting harder and harder for indie labels to fight the major label conglomerates (however, those smaller labels that can position themselves to ride the wave of the electronically-delivered music of the future will have the ultimate advantage...). For the time being, there are still a few indie labels in the Boston area which have — if not a lot of money — then at least a lot of heart.

GM Recordings - Newton, MA (617) 332-6398. Classical and Jazz label owned by composer, conductor, musician and educator Gunther Schuller. Some of the artists on the label include Gunther himself, his sons George and Ed (who are jazz musicians, and members of the band Orange Then Blue), classical pianist Russell Sherman, The New York New Music Ensemble, Marimolin, and local jazz pianist Tim Ray.

Northeastern Records - Framingham, MA. Small but ambitious label run by Lynn Joiner (who also hosts a weekly country radio programme, Hillbilly At Harvard). Originally an all-classical label and previously owned by Northeastern University, since Lynn took it over, they've put out a cornucopia of great music, including albums from country favorites John Lincoln Wright and Barry & Holly Tashian, world music groups Andanzas and Shirim, classical artists Virginia Eskin and The Boston Chamber Music Society, and one of my personal favorites, the not easily defined Cul de Sac. No longer in existence, but I'm leaving this up since I used to work there and have very fond memories.

Rounder Records - Cambridge, MA 1-800-ROUNDER (1-800-768-6337). Specializing in country, bluegrass, folk and 'rootsy' music, they moved quickly into the big leagues with their hugely successful Alison Krauss record (Now That I've Found You: A Collection - 1995, which was RIAA certified Double Platinum), but remain indie to this day.

Rykodisc - They've obviously come a long way from their days in a small office on Pickering Wharf in Salem, Mass., but I still love them. Their early exploits included re-releasing David Bowie and Frank Zappa catalogs, as well as recordings by 3 Mustaphas 3, the Residents, Big Star, Hamza El Din, Bernie Kraus, and The Atmosphere Collection.Go visit them.

Record Stores

This section will be updated soon as well!

Disc Diggers

Boston is a fabulous place for record stores. There are a few which specialize in certain genres; others have a wide variety of just about everything. Most of the following are known for their used recordings; a few are specialty shops catering to specific tastes. I don't bother with the larger chains (which are rapidly disappearing anyway). As of this major site update in December 2006, there have been some sad disappearances which are worthy of remembrance: Disc Diggers, Record Hog, and soon-to-be-leaving, the Boston In Your Ear store (though their Harvard Square store will remain).

Cheapo Records (all styles) 645 Massachusetts Ave. (Central Square), Cambridge, MA (617) 354-4455. They specialize in used records and cutouts, oldies, and special orders.

Diskovery (all styles) 113 Brighton Ave., Brighton, MA (617) 787-2640. A big mess of used books, used records, used casettes and CDs. You might be able to find a real gem there, if you don't easily get claustrophobic and aren't allergic to dust.

In Your Ear (all styles) 957 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA (617) 787-9755. Specializes in experimental music, indie labels and local 45s. Both used and new recordings. They also carry music related magazines (including more obscure underground ones).

Looney Tunes (all styles) 1106 Boylston Ave., Boston, MA (617) 247-2238; 1001 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA (617) 876-5624. Used and new recordings; rarer items can be expensive here, though.

Mars (all styles) 1270 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA (617) 547-2007. Mostly used recordings; records and CDs. Specializes in 60's & Prog. Rock.

Newbury Comics (all styles) 36 JFK St. (The Garage, Harvard Square), Cambridge, MA (617) 491-0337; 332 Newbury St., Boston, MA (617) 236-4930. New recordings only (mostly CDs). A good place for alternative and indie bands; rock, pop, independent and import CDs. They also sell comic books, t-shirts, posters, music magazines, and lava lamps.

Nuggets (all styles) 486 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA (617) 536-0679. Used recordings only; CDs, LPs and cassettes. Thousands of hard to find recordings. Video rentals featuring a huge selection of cult films.

Pipeline Records (all styles) 1110 Massachusetts Ave. (Harvard Square), Cambridge, MA (617) 661-6369. Used and new recordings; CDs and LPs. Specializes in 60's reissues and cult videos.

Planet Records (all styles) 54-B JFK St. (Harvard Square), Cambridge, MA (617) 492-0693. Originally started out as all CDs; recently started reintroducing LPs since their Kenmore Square store burnt down.

Sandy's Music (folk, acoustic) 896-A Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA (617) 491-2812. They cater to the folk and acoustic crowd; been around forever. They also sell musical instruments and supplies.

Second Coming (mostly rock) 1105 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA (617) 576-6400. Specializes in "live recordings" (nod, nod — wink, wink). CDs and LPs.

Stereo Jack's (all styles) 1686 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA (617) 497-9447. Used and new recordings; CDs and LPs. Specializes in Jazz LPs.

Twisted Village (all styles) 12 Eliot St. (Harvard Square), Cambridge, MA (617) 354-6898. Used and new recordings; CDs and LPs. Specializes in very rare and expensive psychedelic, Prog. rock, and obscure and experimental music.