Home Iconic bar Confusion in Cantab as relations break down, including a musical partnership that began in 1978

Confusion in Cantab as relations break down, including a musical partnership that began in 1978


Club Bohemia before its first show on December 11, the day the Cantab reopens. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The performance space on the ground floor of the Cantab Lounge, known for 17 years as Club Bohemia, is now the Cantab Underground. The confusion and battle behind it represents another bump in the difficult race the bar has had back to life at 738 Massachusetts Ave.Central Square, during a pandemic – a bar-time business was, by all accounts, brutal.

The cause of the name change is the breakdown of a long-standing partnership between music booker Mickey Bliss and publicist Joe Viglione. Bliss is staying with Cantab while Viglione is gone, an ugly divorce that unfolded online as the club and Viglione squabbled over ownership and access to social media.

This followed the Cantab’s supposed permanent closure after the coronavirus shuttered indoor entertainment in 2020 and, under new owner Tim Dibble, a difficult and costly renovation after decades in which the club saw little interview. This caused repeated false starts in relaunch dates; when the doors finally reopened on December 15, they closed for a week almost immediately after exposure to Covid.

With Viglione gone, publicity for the club remains a tangle. Since Saturday, there is still no website; there is a Viglione Facebook page that is closed (cantablounge) and another managed by the club (lecantablounge), as well as a third with a single Viglione post from 2010 that has several years of comments; there is a Bohemian Club Page on Facebook which belongs to Viglione and no longer has anything to do with Cantab, and a Cantab Underground Page without content. A Instagram account managed by the club has 16 posts in the last 73 days. There’s even a Viglione-run webpage called Rock n Roll Central that adds to the confusion with its URL: clubbohemianews.blogspot.com.

Talking to Viglione and some members of the Cantab team, including Bliss, it sounds like missteps resulting from a good start: Dibble brought back everyone associated with the old Cantab, but found that it didn’t. was not feasible under current conditions. Viglione was going to be fired – he says “fired” – to possibly be reintroduced when economic conditions improve. It didn’t go well.

The rift began on January 7, when Viglione, 67, said he was “working to do all publicity for both clubs” and was approached and asked for access to all publicity. “They intended to take everything apart and fire me,” Viglione said. (In Bliss’ account on Saturday, bar manager Kylie Connors asked for access “to clean up a few things Joe was doing that were a little dated.”) This led to angry messages online and lawyers. ‘ letters, including one addressed to Viglione dated January 21 demanding that he redress the social media situation before Cantab “pursues its legal rights and remedies to protect its goodwill and reputation”.

A review in a bar, not a club

Joe Viglione, Mickey Bliss and Bliss’ daughter Nicole Anzuoni in September 2016. (Photo: Joe Viglione)

The Cantab ad complication had a simple beginning.

“I don’t like social media,” said Bliss, 70, who has sported a familiar haircut since the Beatles arrived during the 1964 British invasion that made him iconic over the years. especially when paired with a pair of mod sunglasses.

Before social media, Bliss didn’t like computers. He started Cafe Bohemia in 1993 at Kirkland Cafe, a club in 425 Washington Street, Somerville. It was the same year that the World Wide Web began its takeover of the Internet. Bliss hired Viglione, a friend since 1978 when Viglione booked Bliss’ band to play at Cantone’s in Boston, to do the publicity he didn’t want to do; when it came time to have a web presence, Viglione took care of creating it. When the Kirkland closed in May 2007, the drummer of a band called The Chicken Slacks — Cantab’s Thursday night band all those years later — suggested moving to the Cantab, Viglione said. Club Bohemia has been downstairs ever since, although at the time it looked like the Cantab wouldn’t reopen, Bliss and Viglione considered moving it to the Wonderland Ballroom in Revere, Viglione said.

“It’s not a physical club. It’s a review that can be in clubs – we happen to have only been to two clubs for 29 years. But the Kirkland didn’t own it, and the Cantab didn’t own it, and Fitzy knew it,” Viglione said, referring to Cantab owner before Dibble, Richard “Fitzy” Fitzgerald.

Viglione’s work expanded into Fitzgerald’s Crystal Lunch business and his Cantab after Club Bohemia moved in – not unlike how Bliss began to book the upstairs stage as well as his revue upstairs. ground floor. But Crystal Lunch never owned Club Bohemia, and when Dibble’s Dancing in the Dark bought the Cantab, the downstairs space’s longtime identity wasn’t in the deal.

Complicated relationships…

On the ground floor of the Cantab Lounge are memorabilia from 17 years of hosting Club Bohemia. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Club Bohemia is owned by Bliss; its online presence belongs to Viglione.

Yet, in the way Bliss thinks of Cantab, “We work for them. They have a right to the image they want to convey and we have to do what they want. So let’s find out what they want to do, and we can figure it out,” Bliss recalled, telling Viglione.

For a time, Viglione and a Cantab employee posted dueling messages on Cantab’s Facebook page, which always existed alongside the Club Bohemia page, even though Viglione was handling both.

The Cantab page that was closed on Facebook was that of Viglione; the new facebook page launched on January 10 under Connors’ control, saying it was “under new management”.

And the name at the bottom has changed. “It’s the Cantab Underground because I was relentless and refused to let them rob Club Bohemia,” Viglione said on January 20. “They completely destroyed my work. This [Facebook] the page was so powerful. It’s one of the reasons we sold out shows.

… in complicated times

Mickey Bliss adjusts sound equipment on December 11 before a show at Club Bohemia – now the Cantab Underground. (Photo: Marc Levy)

There are more reasons for some chaos in bookings and shows not selling out, including a stricter Covid policy that followed the infection of around five Cantab employees in December, when the omicron variant easily transmissible was already common. The law allows people to be unmasked indoors when eating or drinking, although Viglione also said he stayed away after the bar reopened when he saw a problem with it. other law enforcement: “The club wants you to wear a mask, but there was all this dancing without a mask,” he said. A vaccine requirement for artists has since led to some bands turning down gigs, while Bliss said others were saying no out of caution, telling him “we’ll wait until April to see what happens.” Another strict policy regarding the collection of W-9 forms for tax purposes has irked some band members who expect to make just a few dollars from a show.

“They don’t want to play, those who play can’t really shoot well, and people don’t want to go out,” Bliss said. “You have to remember that the business was dying even before the pandemic.”

Bliss and Viglione are in a similar position, both music fans and musicians who have spent decades working for the love of live rock and the bands they promote – and who are now approaching the same goal of decreasing opposite sides of the false Cantab stone walls.

Viglione said on Saturday he was upset that Bliss chose Cantab, which was “taking away Club Bohemia”, over a 44-year friendship. “We never had a fight, and that friendship is over. I don’t know what happened,” Viglione said. “He stabbed me in the back”

Bliss wishes Viglione had let the Cantab take control. “I just want to do whatever I can to make myself useful at Cantab, so when my bands aren’t drawing they might ignore it for a week or two until I can find a band that comes along and does. “Bliss said. “At this point in my life, I really wanted to retire. I could stay home and watch TV with my wife, play guitar and study philosophy. But I wanted to help get Cantab started and make sure the bands always had a place to play.


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