How do you describe a city like Boston? I remember meeting famous/infamous rock photographer Ross Halfin a couple years back in LA. I mentioned where I was from, and he snorted derisively.
He does that a lot. And then he told me that Boston was just like London, “only more boring”. I’ve never been to London so who knows if he’s right, but I’ll tell you this much: that’s kind of a sock in the teeth. I mean, this is is where the goddamn American revolution started. I’m pretty sure we chased all the London out of us a couple hundred years back with musket balls.
Boston is a scrappy place, really. All the movies they make here about Irish-Catholics named Sully beating the shit out of each other, that’s all true. There’s a lot of boozing and fighting in the streets. But it’s also got some of the most prestigious colleges in the world (Harvard and MIT, both in Cambridge, directly across the river, but close enough), and it’s one of the most politically progressive states (next to neighbouring Vermont, who are crazy-liberal, but also stoned to the tits constantly) in the country. That kind of atmosphere is always good for art and music, and both thrive here. A good portion of the population is college students, so there’s always been a vibrant music scene, one that changes radically with each new group of young free thinkers who roll through, form bands, graduate, break up the bands, and split to become stock brokers or whatever, leaving a gap that the new crop of freshman are happy to fill.
Aside from classical, choral, and opera – which we still have plenty of, if that’s your bag – Boston’s first real breakthrough scene was during the 60s folk revival, which spawned future mega-stars like James Taylor, Joan Baez, and Bonnie Raitt. Which is fine, but the truth is, this is a rock’n’roll town. Always has been. Arena rock would be lost without Boston. The band, I mean. Which came from the town it’s named after. Boston’s most famous rock n’ roll export, Aerosmith, is the closest America’s ever come to our very own Rolling Stones. We gave the world high-grade new wave (The Cars), the architects of the entire 90s alt-rock loud-quiet-loud aesthetic (The Pixies), industrial murder-rock (Rob Zombie), bar-brawling Celtic punk (Dropkick Murphys) and the loudest ska band in the world (Mighty Mighty Bosstones). Sure, Godsmack is our fault, and yeah, we did have murderous punk gangs roaming the streets for a while back there, but overall, when it comes to rock’n’roll, Boston gets the job done. Here’s proof.