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Allston music venue to offer a more local lineup

Posted by boston.com  February 7, 2014 01:11 PM

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For many young musicians, basement gigs in Allston offer the first opportunity to play before a crowd. It’s hard to get booked at larger venues as a fledgling band, musicians said, because most of the spaces cater to larger or better-known acts.

But a performance room set to open in a few weeks, called the Allston Rock City Hall (ARCH), could bring locals bands out of crowded apartment basements and into a more professional setting.

“They’ve managed to turn a bunch of wooden planks and cement into something really cool,” said Marc Finn, a Boston University sophomore who drums for the breezy rock band Palm Spring Life. “We’ve had a lot of people closing down house venues and such in the past couple of years, so a bigger venue opening its doors like this is essential.”

ARCH will be housed at Studio 52, a practice space for local bands in Lower Allston located a few short feet from the Massachusetts Turnpike. Right now, bands can rent a practice room by the hour or the month at Studio 52, according to the facility’s website.

“Studio 52 is a great place,” said Ted Chafizadeh, the lead vocalist and songwriter for Palm Spring Life. “It will be cool when it’s formatted as a venue.”

Beyond offering a space to strum and sing, Studio 52 heralds the bands that rent their space. Staff members post information and music samples from all their practicing bands online. And once ARCH opens, Studio 52 staff will book at least one performance every month for a local band, according to the website.

“It’s tough to be a band starting out in Allston,” said Perry Eaton, a music journalist who cofounded the Boston music blog Allston Pudding. “Even the starter venues are starting to go away. It’s great that another smaller venue, one that wants to champion local music, is coming to town.”

Max Rainwater, a senior at Boston University who plays the violin, said he is just starting to inquire about possible basement venues for his band’s first performance outside campus.

“Getting notoriety is like building a fire,” Rainwater said about his new band, Honey Bee Dance Language. “To me, that means you have to deliver good music, first and foremost.”

“If you fail to do that in a performance,” Rainwater added, “you just keep practicing until the damn thing lights.”

Rainwater said his band is in its infancy, and can only get booked in basements or at local “open mic” shows for the time being. He said he eventually hopes to play in a more professional environment.

“We are drooling to play at the Studio 52 space,” he said.

Though the sanitized floors and professional sound equipment at ARCH are enticing, some musicians said there is something special in grungy, crowded basement shows. A number of them even said some of their best shows have taken place underground.

“I really like basement shows because they offer an intimate atmosphere,” Chafizadeh said. “My peers can attend, bring their own beer, and have a good time.”

Matt Gibbs, the bandleader of the gypsy funk group Evolfo Doofeht, said the band’s first shows — and some of their best — took place in Allston basements.

“Hands down my all-time favorite shows have been in unofficial venues,” Gibbs said. “Issues with not being paid aside, it's the best way to really feel the audience's energy.”

Gibbs said basement shows allowed his band to experiment with their sound and perform without added pressure of brining a big crowd to a venue with a cover charge.

“I think it's great that there are ways for bands to cut their teeth in the music scene without having to operate in the competitive Boston and Cambridge venues,” he said.

Jesse Robinson, a guitarist for the folky, jazzy band Frank & Dependent, said he has enjoyed playing at locations around Allston, but that the wild basement shows are “without a doubt the most fun.”

One thing Robinson said – and others echoed— is that Allston is an encouraging music community, no matter the venue.

“It’s really close-knit, and everyone is very supportive of each other’s music,” Robinson said. “I can’t imagine being a part of a music community anywhere else.”

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and the Boston University News Service.

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