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The Underground
Cynthia Sley (front) and Pat Place of Bush Tetras at The Underground, 1981.
Address 1110 Commonwealth Avenue, Allston
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Type Music venue
Genre(s) Punk rock, Alternative Rock,Garage Rock, Rock and Roll, New Wave
Opened February 16, 1980
Closed June 14, 1981

The Underground was a music club located in the Allston neighborhood of Boston that featured local, national and international acts performing independent and post-punk music. Although the club hosted an impressive list of emerging acts, including Mission of Burma, The Cure and New Order, its lifespan was short, from February 1980 until June 1981.[1]

Jim Coffman, a Boston University dropout waiting tables at the nearby restaurant Our House, started the club after convincing boss Henry Vara to back him in the vacant space at 1110 Commonwealth Avenue, one-time home of such other music clubs as Brandy's II and Sweet Virginia's.[2] An L-shaped basement space that fit only 225 patrons and had no sign outside, The Underground was no one's idea of a perfect space for a music club (in fact, it did not even have a conventional backstage, causing bands to often merely slump in a corner of the stage, rather than actually exiting it, before "returning" for encores). But its misfit shape seemed to fit the misfit, uncommercial music it soon featured seven nights a week. As Doug Simmons wrote in his 1981 Boston Phoenix postmortem for the club, The Underground's opening launched "the city's most far-ranging search for underground talent," adding that "never had so many bands traveled so far to play in front of so few for so little."[3]

The Underground quickly assumed a niche in the Boston music scene (as quickly as the 10-foot-long tropical wall mural it inherited became papered-over with a collage of about 500 local gig flyers)[4] Less testosterone-fueled than The Rat, less fashion-conscious than Spit and less mainstream than The Paradise—three of the city's other major clubs at the time—The Underground provided support for an eclectic mix of Boston bands: among others, the teen rock of Boys Life and The Outlets, the punk-funk of the Suade Cowboys and Prince Charles and the City Beat Band, the new wave of Peter Dayton and The Neats and, most of all, the art-rock of Mission of Burma (whom Coffman would later manage), Bound 'n' Gagged and Someone and the Somebodies.[5] The artsy, idiosyncratic stable of Propeller Records, a creative collective that was another short-lived Boston post-punk endeavor, came almost entirely from bands who developed their styles and musical abilities at The Underground, including People in Stores, Wild Stares, CCCPTV and Dangerous Birds. Propeller's Michael Cudahy would later recall the club as "the only venue in town that would book that type of music."[6]

In addition to nurturing homegrown talent, The Underground booked an eclectic stream of adventurous bands from across the U.S. and abroad. In addition to The Cure and New Order (while still a trio) making their Boston debuts there, other out-of-towners headlining the club included such American indie acts as The Bongos, Lydia Lunch & 8-Eyes Spy, Shrapnel, Bush Tetras, Los Microwaves, The dB's, The Suburbs and Pylon. Brian Brain, Delta 5, Bauhaus, Au Pairs, Blurt, A Certain Ratio and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark were among the British acts to play there, as did Canada's DOA and Northern Ireland's Protex.[7]

Although accounts vary on the specific reasons for the club's demise, all cite ongoing tension between the club, whose lease had an option through 1990, and Boston University, which had purchased the building housing The Underground shortly before it opened and turned the above-ground floors into a dormitory. Landlord-tenant squabbles ensued, with BU mounting legal challenges to the lease and making several buyout offers. The owner accepted BU's buyout offer in May 1981, leaving The Neats to play The Underground's final night on June 14, 1981.[8] The crowd in attendance pulled down the drop ceiling, punched through walls and flooded the bathrooms.[9] After The Underground closed, BU turned the basement into a laundromat.[10]

Notable acts[edit]

List compiled from references below and vintage newspaper ads and gig flyers.


  1. ^ Simmons, Doug, "Cellars by Starlight: Notes from the Underground," The Boston Phoenix, June 23, 1981.
  2. ^ Simmons, Doug, Boston Phoenix, 1981; Morse, Steve, "Nightlife: Come as You Are," The Boston Globe, Calendar p. 1, March 13, 1980.
  3. ^ Simmons, Boston Phoenix, 1981.
  4. ^ Gogel, Gary and Jari Georgia, "A Brief History of The Underground: Old Dive's Tales." Boston Rock, March 1990.
  5. ^ Simmons, Boston Phoenix, 1981.
  6. ^ Pappalardo, Anthony, "Michael Cudahy Talks About the Best Label from Boston You've Never Heard Of." Accessed February 12, 2013.
  7. ^ Simmons, Boston Phoenix, 1981.
  8. ^ Simmons, Boston Phoenix, 1981.
  9. ^ Gogel and Georgia, Boston Rock.
  10. ^ Simmons, Doug. "Notes from the Underground: The Neats." The Boston Phoenix, Section Three p.1, September 6, 1983.

External Links[edit]

The Underground in Boston on Facebook

Video: The Cure, "Fire in Cairo," April 20, 1980.

Video: Mission of Burma, "OK/No Way," April 20, 1980.