Home Iconic bar A tour of Boston Punk’s past and present

A tour of Boston Punk’s past and present


When a city is nicknamed “Rat City”, you hope it’s for a good reason. Allston, Massachusetts is that town, so named for its place in Boston’s punk rock history. Ride the Green Line T and watch the herds of students boarding; Both Boston University and Boston College have stops on the line. These younger crowds have historically kept alive the punk scene that exploded just a few stops away in Kenmore Square.

Kenmore Square is a fascinating mix of sports and music. The Green Monster at Fenway has seen iconic Kenmore punk venues open and close over the past few decades. In the 1980s and 1990s, Lansdowne Street was the place to be. The Fenway location of House of Blues, which opened in 2009, stands at the original location of the Spit Club, one of Boston’s first punk clubs. Patrick Lyons, the man behind the club and so many other iconic Boston music venues, wanted to come up with the crudest name he could think of a club. The club lived up to its name: The Boston Herald described it as “a decadent lair of iniquity.“Revelers could expect a wild night at the Spit, whether it was a “mat drink” (so named by bartender and Human Sexual Response singer Dini Lamot because it was a combination of liquors that had spilled on the bar mats) or dance to bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Lizzie Borden & the Axes.

Directly opposite was The Ratskeller, nicknamed “The Rat”. The name tells what to expect when you enter: “Ratskeller” refers to a restaurant in the basement. Musicians love punk icons The Dropkick Murphys are talking with love to play in space. Punk rock fans of all ages could stop in for a matinee or for the three-day Punk Rock Olympics; the loud evening shows were for over 18s only. In a delicious and surprising twist, you might also get Hoodoo BBQ Grill, which was on the first floor of the Rat. Unfortunately, The Rat met the same fate as Spit, closing in 1997 to make way for the Hotel Commonwealth.

Rat City still has a few fan-favorite locations. Along Commonwealth Avenue, a black-and-white marquee stands out among cafes and vintage stores. Welcome to the heavenly rock club. It was started in 1977 after several unsuccessful attempts at the same place. He has seen a number of musical legends, by Aerosmith to Blondie grace her stage. Today, you can see pop punk bands like Mayday Parade or alternative mainstays like Barns Courtney perform there. Part of what makes Paradise Rock Club so wonderful is the space. It has the makings of a big punk venue with its black walls, no windows and a wide open floor. The other element that makes the place unmissable is its size. Fewer than 1,000 spectators can enter the space, giving the space an electric power. The stage is only a few meters above the ground. The entire space is reserved for standing room. When the lights come on on the performers, half the crowd is captured in the glow. Unlike other larger venues, where ticket prices can easily soar into the triple digits, The Paradise offers general admission between $25 and $40.

Walk further down Commonwealth Avenue and you’ll come across Brighton Music Hall. Time Out Boston notes that this space is often overlooked next to paradise. But the history of space occupies an important place. Before Brighton Music Hall it was Harper’s Ferry. First opened in 1970, Harper’s Ferry became a haven for bands after The Rat closed. The Dropkick Murphys have graced the stage as well as bands like Fall Out Boy. But on Halloween 2010, Harper’s Ferry would have also closes its doors. Citizens Bank, owner of Brighton Music Hall, opened the hall a few months later.

If you fancy seeing even more, you can hop across the river to Cambridge, MA to see artists in the Middle East. Located in the central square, the Middle East announces itself from the street with its bright yellow lettering and electric purple background as well as a beautiful mural that stretches along the wall. It is a space that wears several hats: it is a restaurant as well as a place with several different spaces to attend a show. The largest space, called Downstairs, can accommodate just under 600 people, providing an intimate spectacle for punk and rock fans. One of its smaller spaces, Sonia, also pays homage to beloved nightclub Manray, through his Manray nights. You can wear a leather corset or a pair of ripped fishnets and play new wave and punk. Just remember the rule“Just make sure you don’t wear anything even vaguely reminiscent of ‘prepdom'” and have fun.