A flip through the pages that cover the last decade or so in the annals of Boston punk history reveals a scene very much at a crossroads. Coupled with the slow burnout of the street punk and ska-core flames that lit much of the fuse for the previous decade, the increasing impact of gentrification in some of the grittier, working-class areas of the city (perhaps best typified by the closure of the legendary Rathskellar club, aka “The Rat”, in the Kenmore Square neighborhood to make way for a high-end hotel and the ongoing Boston University sprawl) created a veritable power vacuum in the scene.
As a direct result of that power vacuum, you haven’t been paying attention to what’s been going on in Boston for the last decade. Shame on you. Boston is back, in a major way.
While the 2014 Boston punk scene may not necessarily be aligned with the rough-and-tumble, blue collar days of yore, what does carry over is the spirit of camaraderie. Boston has always been a scene that looks out for each other, and the current scene is no different. The sounds are more diverse than ever before: traditional street punk and hardcore blend with throwback pop-punk and the ever-emerging Tiny Engines Records sound. Nick Gold, who waves the Boston punk flag high at the Run Don’t Walk blog, notes that “the punk scene (in Boston) is small, tight-knit, and has a family atmosphere because simply, we take care of our own.”
Sal Medrano, most recently of the band Rebuilder, echoes Gold’s sentiment: “Through all of this mess, we haven’t given up. When a venue or basement gets shut down, we always find a way to keep it alive. We have an extreme amount of loyalty to one another. If you look at Dropkick Murphys and Bosstones, both took out small local bands on national tours when they reached national level. Still to this day both bands host week-long events at house of blues once a year in which the line up has local Boston acts. Both these bands don’t have to do that but it’s helping to pass the torch. Eventually someone will have to fill their shoes.”
Case in point: The recent passing of two Boston firefighters while in the line of duty cast a pall over the city. Inspired by the events, Mark Lind (Ducky Boys/The Warning Shots) and scene vet Josh Smith sprung into action and organized a benefit show on short notice. The goal was to raise $10,000 for the firefighters’ memorial fund. Bands like Street Dogs, Lenny Lashley’s Gang of One, Ducky Boys, The Welch Boys and a reunited-for-the-first-time-in-a-decade Avoid One Thing volunteered their services, and bands like Bouncing Souls and the Dropkick Murphys and Rancid and Paul Westerberg contributed items to the affiliated raffle. The cause was so successful that a second night was added, and close to $40,000 has already been raised before the raffle even starts. That’s Boston punk.
No post on the Boston scene would be complete without a nod to the old guard that are still out there kicking ass and taking names. A sincere debt of gratitude is owed to bands like the Bosstones and the Dropkicks and Slapshot and Street Dogs and Lenny Lashley’s Gang of One and Continental and Ducky Boys and Transit and Jonathan Richman and Ramallah who have kept the fires burning. Were it not for that top tier of bands giving a shit about holding the door open for then next act through, this scene would have asphyxiated many years ago. But what follows is an homage to those aforementioned shoe-fillers. The scene probably wouldn’t be what it is now without guys like Ryan Agate and Clay Fernald and venues like O’Brien’s Pub and Great Scott and the legendary Middle East.
Head below to check out our playlist of the ten up-and-coming Boston area bands that make this scene the best damn one to be a part of.
1. Rebuilder – “Headrush”
2. Yale, MA – “Danger City, Population ME”
3. Great Lakes USA – “I Sold My Liver Down The River”
4. Penalty Kill – “No One Gets Hurt”
5. The Young Leaves – “Alive and Well”
6. Save Ends – “A Life They Wrote”
7. Barroom Heroes – “Shit Out Of Luck”
8. The Hotelier – “The Scope of All This Rebuilding”
9. The Yellow Stitches – “Queen City Eve”
10. Burning Streets – “Quiet House”