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Boston hardcore music history
The colleges and universities of Greater Boston offered a favorable venue for non-commercial music to be played. Several schools have their own radio stations, such as WBRS, WEEI, WMFO, WERS, WRKO, WMLN, WUMB, WAVM, WMBR, WUML, WHRB, WZBC, and WTBU. The colleges also supplied young patrons for the local nightclubs and bars where local hardcore bands had gigs.
Hardcore quickly usurped the existing "alternative" punk scene, which included bands such as Mission of Burma. This created something of a generation gap conflict that could be seen at such events as Mission of Burma's then-final show, where members of many leading hardcore bands created a near-riot when, due to the hardcore dancing supposedly ruining Burma's swan song, Negative FX's sound was shut down. This militant straight edge group, consisting of many members from such bands as Al Quint of No System, Craig Lewis of Melee, Marcus Benamaitai of BrainXKiller and more of the likewere known as the "Boston Crew". Their hard-line, no tolerance attitudes became a defining characteristic for later bands such as Slapshot, Blood for Blood, Fit for Abuse, and Flaccid. The rough members of the Boston scene were known to find trouble wherever trouble could be found . This led to some shows breaking out into full-scale riots. One show featuring NYC's Bold in the early 90's turned into a blood bath when Al Quint ( suburban Voice fanzine) beat the underage singer Matt into a coma.
Record labels and famous records
Independent record labels like Taang!, Stand Hard Records, Painkiller, X-Claim Records, Modern Method, Bridge 9, 5 Star Entertainment, Franchise Records, Welfare, Hydra Head, Big Wheel, Rock Vegas, Lockin Out, Triple B, Iodine Recordings, and Deathwish Inc. helped to fuel Boston's early punk culture. A highlight of the early New England hardcore era was the This Is Boston, Not L.A. LP, a compilation of local artists. It includes the song of the same name performed by The Freeze, who advised: "if you look the same and you act the same, there's nothing new and you're to blame."
The roots of Boston hardcore lie more deeply in Washington, D.C. hardcore (which included bands such as Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Teen Idles, Government Issue) than Los Angeles hardcore (which included bands such as Black Flag, Bad Religion, the Circle Jerks, and the Germs), although the Los Angeles and Orange County scene influenced all of the early D.C. bands. This may explain why few L.A. bands played in Boston in the early 1980s, a notable exception being Black Flag, who played a show at Paradise Rock Club on Halloween 1981, which was attended by only twelve people, including John Belushi, who had driven up from Martha's Vineyard just to attend.
Taang! Records released and LP called Boston Hardcore 1989–1991 that featured Wrecking Crew, Eye for an Eye, Maelstrom, Crossface, Intent to Injure, Suckerpunch, Said and Done, Sam Black Church, S.T.P. and more.
Moo Cow records released a compilation 7" called Boston Hardcore – In Memory of... that featured Dive, Chilmark, and Intent to Injure. Cover art of Reggie Lewis (RIP) will forever warm hearts.
In 2014 over fifty Boston Hardcore bands and labels, including Bridge 9 and Deathwish Records, brought a lawsuit against show videographer James Garvey, claiming that he had sold bootlegged videos of their sets for over a decade. The case remains unsettled.
As a result of Kenmore Square's now-defunct club The Rathskeller, Captain Nemo's pizza parlor (as well as the Pizza Pad), and its few used record stores, Kenmore became a hangout for skate punks and members of the hardcore scene.
After Boston Red Sox games it was common to see fights break out amongst the punks and the more conservative suburban Red Sox fans, known as "batheads". It is likely that it was at least partially due to this common occurrence that a decision was made by the MBTA to add short spiked fences to the relatively low roofs of the Kenmore T stations, considering how many hardcore kids were apt to spend time sitting atop them and that most Red Sox fans taking public transportation were obliged to appear from below. Mr. Butch was a fixture in this scene, and could often be seen playing air guitar with his dreadlocks swinging. He was a legendary character in Boston hardcore culture.
This neighborhood has changed quite a bit, and the building that held the Rathskeller, Planet Records, and Captain Nemo's along with several other businesses was demolished to make room for the Commonwealth Hotel. Located in the space that once was "The Rat" is now The Foundation Lounge, one of Boston's more upscale and trendy ultra-lounges. With the Rathskeller gone, the scene moved closer to Lansdowne Street, which is a street of clubs and bars on one side, and Fenway Park on the other. The scene made specific moves to Axis and Bill's Bar, two Lansdowne locations that were deemed as "hardcore friendly" by some of the culture. There is controversy over this, as many thought Lansdowne street to be too strict.
Likewise, Avalon and Axis were demolished in the fall of 2007 to make room for a larger venue that would be aimed towards more mainstream national acts. Since then several bands who are larger in the scene have been playing The Roxy on Tremont Street in the Boston Theater District, forcing hardcore acts to find better DIY venues to play.
Suburban towns of Massachusetts including, but not limited to Brockton, Concord, North Reading, Fitchburg, Franklin, Holliston, Hopedale, Hopkinton, Milford, and Worcester also hosted their own music scenes. Led by such noteworthy bands as The Trust, Inflatable Children, Overcast, Kingpin, Corrin, Tapes Don't Skip, Fall From Grace, Punch the Klown, Syndicate, Over and Out and The Almighty Arise. These bands were following in the footsteps of predecessors Eye for an Eye, Wrecking Crew, S.T.P. and Said and Done. The east coast as a whole was developing a new sound combining elements of bands like Gorilla Biscuits and Youth of Today (both out of New Haven, Connecticut) with metal (Slayer, Deicide, Accused) and putting a new spin on the scene which was branching out with scenes that started out in Boston, NYC (Agnostic Front, Madball (band), Judge), New Haven (Gorilla Biscuits, Youth of Today, Forced Reality, Hatebreed) and R.I. Then each city reached out to their suburbs. Members of these bands have gone on to other endeavors including Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage, Headrush, Diecast, Medium Regular, World War, and Mistle Thrush.
- Harvard Square: The Pit at the Harvard Square subway stop is a longtime punk hangout that was at its prime during the boom of the 1980s street punk scene. More recently shows have been occurring at The Democracy Center on Mt. Auburn Street with such bands as The Boston Strangler, MFP, No Tolerance, The Rival Mob, Beartrap, Our Side, Free Spirit, Clear, Waste Management and Rampage playing select shows at the venue.
- Allston: Great Scott and O'Briens are bars that have shows.
- Central Square: Clubs like The Middle East have hardcore shows occasionally.
- North Shore: Small art centers and bookstores feed this growing scene.
- Cape Cod: Underground warehouse parties were the staple of this dynamic scene, revolving mostly around the band The Freeze.
- Weymouth: Weymouth was heavily involved in the shoemaking industry from the first years of the 18th century right through to 1973, when the Stetson Shoe Company closed its doors. The building is currently being used for medical offices.
The original town hall, which was destroyed by fire in 1914, was replaced in 1928 with a town hall that is a replica of the old Massachusetts State House in Boston. (Another replica of the building can be found at Curry College in Milton.)
Today Weymouth is home to such hardcore acts Siege, Nightstick, The Nothings, Raybeez of Warzone (originally from Rockland), and the picture on the cover of Anal Cunt's record "Everyone Should Be Killed". Locals speculate that Weymouth hardcore is hindered only by the fact that the 222 bus runs both ways.
- Western Mass.: In 1982, Western Massachusetts saw several hardcore bands form, including Deep Wound, The Outpatients, and All White Jury. Most of the early Boston bands played in Western Mass. between 1982 and 1984, including SSD, The F.U.'s, DYS, and Impact Unit. In 2012, bands like Swamps, Revenge, Dick Move, and Hoax have been playing shows throughout Western Massachusetts, at venues like the Waterfront Tavern in Holyoke, MA, and the CCC in Chicopee, Massachusetts.
- Merrimack Valley: Bands such as Guns Up!, Converge, Piebald, Alert, Coverage, Bane, Hammer Bros, Ten Yard Fight, Paisley Kings, Mike Kinlin's Ugly Dog, and Shipwreck A.D. have all come from the Merrimack Valley scene. After years of different venues such as The Red Barn,Exit 23/New Direction and the Haverhill Elks, Anchors Up! was opened at the home of Welfare Records at 58 River St in Haverhill, Massachusetts. In 2015, Anchors Up! closed. The Merrimack Valley scene is still generating new bands such as The Bonus Army, Think Again, Rude Awakening and Powerwolves.
Notable Boston hardcore bands
- 454 Big Block
- Blood for Blood
- Bloodkrow Butcher
- The Boston Strangler
- The Carrier
- Cast Iron Hike
- Chain Rank
- The Combat Zone
- Colin of Arabia
- Cruel Hand Brian's band
- Cut The Shit
- Death Before Dishonor
- Deep Wound
- Down But Not Out
- Driven Drivets
- Eye for an Eye
- The F.U.'s
- The Freeze
- Free Spirit
- Gang Green
- Give Up the Ghost (AN)
- Have Heart
- The Hope Conspiracy
- In My Eyes
- Isolated Youth
- Jerry's Kids
- Lovely Lads
- Mind Eraser
- No System
- No Tolerance
- Negative FX
- Only Living Witness
- Open Up
- The Proletariat
- Reach the Sky
- Right Brigade
- Righteous Jams
- The Rival Mob
- Said and Done
- Sam Black Church
- Shattered Silence
- SS Decontrol
- Step Forward
- Stop and Think
- The Suicide File
- Ten Yard Fight
- Toxic Narcotic
- The Unseen
- Waste Management
- Wrecking Crew
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The following Boston venues have hosted hardcore concerts:
- 1st and 2nd Church - Marlboro Street
- The (Fishtown) Are - [closed]
- Avalon - [closed] Located on Lansdowne Street next to Axis, and was prime location for many bands. It generally served as a night club on weeknights, but on weekends hosted more rock-oriented artists. Became The House of Blues Boston.
- Anchors Up! - [closed] An independent, all ages venue in Haverhill catering mainly to punk and hardcore shows. Located at 58 River St in Haverhill, MA.
- Axis - [closed] A night club that would host the occasional hardcore band.
- Bill's Bar - A bar on Lansdowne Street with cheap beer where bands will sometimes play. It is in contrast to the huge dance clubs that surround it.
- Bloodstains across Somerville - [closed]
- Boiler Room - in the basement of Twin Donuts, Allston
- Brighton Elks - Late 1990s venue in Brighton Center
- Brown Town - [closed] Punk house in Allston with basement shows
- Bunnratty’s/Local 186 - Now The Wonder Bar on Harvard Ave in Allston
- The Butcher Shoppe - [closed] Basement space in Allston
- Cambridge Elks Lodge - A hall which has been known to host some of the greatest hardcore and punk shows in the area. Booking has slowed down substantially (updated Aug. 2011)
- The Channel - [closed] One of Boston's earliest locations that would allow hardcore bands to play. The Club would headline local bands such as Gang Green, Slapshot and The F.U.s as well as out of state bands like Butthole Surfers, Gorilla Biscuits, Pantera, Waltham, Fugazi, Hüsker Dü and The Dead Boys. It was well known for its mosh pit.
- The Club - Central Square, Cambridge.
- Club Lido - One of the larger spots to do all ages shows, Lido has hosted both Edge Day 2009 as well as the recent DYS/Gallery East Reunion in 2010.
- The Cuntree Club [aka The Maxi Pad] - [closed] All-female punk house in Brookline, MA, shows happened most weekends.
- The Democracy Center - Located right outside of Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA. DIY spot that holds shows regularly.
- Feed Your Head - [closed] The basement of this independent bookstore in Salem, Massachusetts is the center of the North Shore punk scene. It opened right before the Artspace closed, and the basement is generally booked about twice a week. Closed late 2007.
- Gallery East - [closed] Art Gallery by day, venue for all-ages shows in the early 1980s, it was demolished during the gentrification of the leather district by South Station.
- Gay Gardens - [closed] infamous for a decade-long stint, with 'Ryan Z' era preceding it. Also known as Greylock. Evicted during Great Boston Police Culture Purge of 2012/13
- Great Scott - Small nightclub that has a few metal and hardcore shows. Usually are 18+.
- Ground Zero - Central Square
- Green Street Station - [closed] Venue in Jamaica Plain was dirty and rickety with cheap beer and great local bands.
- Harpers Ferry - [closed] Current Brighton Music Hall
- The ICC (International Community Church) - [closed] as of spring 2012. Hoping to have shows in the future though.
- Johnny D's
- Karma Club - [closed]
- The Kells Basement - on Brighton Ave in Allston
- Man-Ray - [closed] Central Square
- Media Workshop - [closed]
- The Middle East - Located in Central Square Cambridge they have two venues Middle East upstairs a smaller venue and Middle East Downstairs a larger venue.
- O'Briens Pub
- The Palladium - Worcester, MA
- The Paradise - not to be confused with the gay bar in Central Square (Cambridge), this venue is on Comm. Ave. in Boston, and—like Axis—is also a dance club.
- The Rat - [closed] Located in Kenmore Square. In the basement was a rathskeller bar where the music was loud and the sweating concrete floors were always sticky and smelled of stale beer. The bathrooms were quite often frankly terrifying to those that needed to actually use them for purposes more in-depth than re-applying eyeliner (for perspective, The Rat has most often been compared to CBGBs). Many bands got their start at the Rat and it had one of the best jukeboxes in Boston. If a band did not play there they would wind up there for beers later. The club flooded in 1997 during torrential rains and was closed soon after.
- Red Square/Rockpile - Saugus, MA
- Romans (Tigers Den) - [closed] A bar in Brockton with a second floor with a stage. "so small it's like dancing in a closet"
- The Roxy - Now the Royale
- Scraphouse: April 2007 - July 2007 (aka Cuntree Club) No longer !
- St. Jean's Church -- hosted by Seth Putnam, and the venue itself later made infamous by defrocked priest Paul Shanley.
- The Sun Palace - Current kitchen space in Allston.
- T.T. The Bear's Place
- YWCA - The basement. 1982 Freeze, COC, 6 ft Under. Skinheads showed up and the security detail left.
- X-Haus - Basement on Mission Hill, active 2001-2002. No drugs or drinking was strictly enforced, though residents were not always straight edge.
- QVCC - Greenwood Street, Worcester, MA - Was thought to have been closed, but there recently was a Slapshot show held there in March 2012.
- Blush, Steven (2010). "Boston Not L.A.: The Kids Will Have Their Say". American Hardcore: A Tribal History (2nd ed.). Washington, U.S.: Feral House. pp. 177–192. ISBN 9780922915712.
- Hurchalla, George (2016). "Bend My Ear, Twist My Arm". Going Underground: American Punk 1979–1989 (2nd ed.). California, U.S.: PM Press. ISBN 9781629632421.