Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Sound of Our Town

A few months ago, I was at a used bookstore in Hampton, NH, with my mom and my daughters. While the girls looked for books, I perused the music section and came across Brett Milano's The Sound of Our Town: A History of Boston Rock n' Roll. I was familiar with Milano, a freelance music writer who has done reviews for the Boston Globe, Boston Phoenix and Boston Herald over the last few decades; I also see him at a fair amount of shows in town, most recently at the Wild Flag gig at the Paradise.

Knowing him as a seasoned observer and a good writer, and also noting that the book was $8 used, I picked it up and plowed through it over the last week (that's pretty good for me, given all the distractions I have going on at any given time). The book traces Boston's music scene from the 1950s to the present (it was published in 2007), so Milano has a lot of ground to cover in 241 pages. He does a good job of hitting the high points and giving the reader a taste of what was happening in town at a particular time.

I moved to New England in 1983, when a lot of cool shit was going on in town that I was sort of aware of from listening to local radio, but I didn't start going to club shows locally until 1989 or so. My actual first forays were to a grimy little rock club called Grover's, right here in Beverly, seeing bands of local renown like O Positive, Barrence Whitfield and the Savages (Barrence still lives in Beverly and is a cool dude), Tribe, Heretix and Bim Skala Bim. The Rolling Rocks were cheap and it was my first experience of seeing bands up close and in my face, as opposed to the many arena shows I'd attended by that point. Sadly, Grover's went out of business in '90 or '91, reportedly because of unpaid taxes; one day the doors were padlocked shut and that was that. The site of the club now houses a fairly upscale restaurant.

After that, I caught bands at the Salem clubs Bleachers and the Dodge Street Grill, but mainly I started going to Boston clubs like The Channel, the Paradise, the Middle East and Lansdowne Street clubs like Avalon, Axis, Venus De Milo and Bill's Bar. Soon club shows made up the majority of my concertgoing, and they still do. Just last night, I was out late with my good friend Mr. Breitling as we checked out one of his favorite bands, Soccer Mom, as well as AM Stereo and Ho-Ag at the relatively new club Radio in Union Square in Somerville. All three acts were excellent and kicked several kinds of ass, and it was cool to see a wide range of ages in the attendees (albeit the older folks in the crowd were there to see AM Stereo, who have been around since the late '90s). It was hot as balls and loud as hell, which is really what any good rock show should be. Even if the suburban clubs are long gone for the most part, the Boston rock scene continues to churn out excellent bands. And although I'm less able to go out and see them on a regular basis, it's nice to know they're out there.

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