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The 'Throwdown'? No. Bosstones? Who knows?

It's that most wonderful time of the year: sleigh bells ringing, snowflakes glistening, mall merchants clamoring for your dollars. But a longtime Boston rock 'n' roll Christmas tradition (nine years) will not take place: the Mighty Mighty Bosstones' annual "Hometown Throwdown," a series of six gigs in a small club. And the eight Bosstones themselves are scattered to the winds, with no plans to record or tour. On the group's website, they call it a "hiatus."

 

Is it the end of the Boston band? The end of an era?

"It's not black and white," lead singer Dicky Barrett says of the group's situation and the rumors that the members have called it quits. "The way I look at it is: We were Bosstones before it was even a musical idea -- it could have been the Bosstones Sub Shop -- and it's something that we will be for the rest of our lives.

"There's no real beginning and no real ending," Barrett says. "I hope it lives in my heart forever. On my gravestone, it will say `Bosstone.' But at this point, having been a Bosstone for close to 20 years, it's time to look around and see if there's anything else."

Right now, Barrett is the announcer for "Jimmy Kimmel Live," which follows "Nightline" on ABC. Kimmel tapped him for the gig this summer; he's been doing it for about two months. Barrett says he likes the show, gets treated well, and enjoys working a one-hour shift and living in a hotel where he gets his meals delivered by room service. Plus, he says, "I get to wear my awesome collection of suits. If I was going to be roofing houses again, I'd look real silly."

Barrett also plays a homophobic cop in an as-yet-untitled film starring John Goodman that will screen at next year's Sundance Film Festival. Further, he recorded a song for a compilation album called "Punk Rock Karaoke."

The other Bosstones have pursued different things: Bassist Joe Gittleman is recording the second album with his punk-rock band Avoid One Thing; drummer Joe Sirois just got off a European tour with Frank Black; saxophonist Tim Burton and his family moved to Los Angeles, and he played on Cypress Hill's upcoming album; saxophonist Roman Fleysher is taking classes in Florida with the intention of getting a professional pilot's license; trombonist Chris Rhodes played with Less Than Jake on some West Coast dates; dancer Ben Carr and his wife, Laura, just had a baby boy; guitarist Lawrence Katz is doing session work for a variety of bands in Los Angeles and working with Barrett on an album that will be a radical departure from the Bosstones' ska-punk sound.

The album, Barrett says, will be "more somber, darker."

"Weird record," he adds. "Like Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits, that's where I'm setting the bar at."

The Bosstones, who formed in 1985, first recorded on the feisty local indie label Taang! and later moved to the major label Mercury, on which they had the million-selling "Let's Face It" album in 1997 and its hit single "The Impression That I Get." For their latest, last year's "A Jackknife to a Swan," they recorded for their own label, Side One Dummy. Over the years, they built a devoted cult audience, both locally and internationally, with their mix of ska and punk and a reputation for playing frenetic live sets that mixed aggression and warmth. Whenever the Bosstones took the stage, it seemed that they could flick a switch and the pep-rally-type music and the madness kicked in.

The "Hometown Throwdowns," Barrett says, were "the cherry on the cake . . . more than a concert, a feeling." And it may still happen -- possibly next summer.

For now, Barrett will work and live in Los Angeles, just a few blocks from the studio where the Kimmel show is broadcast. He says LA residents look at him strangely because, unlike most showbiz people there, he walks to work rather than taking a limo. But he misses Boston, even the snow, because "I miss what it's supposed to look like at Christmas. And miss people talking to your face, instead of looking over your shoulder because someone more important might come up."

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