Allston music scene faces uncertain future

Paradise Rock Club on Commonwealth Avenue has been closed since the start of the pandemic. Photo by Aileen Tran/BU News Service

By Aileen Tran
Boston University News Service

BOSTON — The closure of Great Scott last May signaled the decline of the independent music scene in Allston. This follows a trend of other Boston-area nightclubs and music venues closing due to the pandemic.

Venues like Brighton Music Hall and Great Scott are destination businesses that draw people from places all over the country, not just the Greater Boston area. With venues having no definite plans for reopening, Allston’s future remains uncertain.

Alex Cornacchini, executive director of the non-profit organization Allston Village Main Streets, expressed his concern for other small businesses impacted by the closure of music venues.

“If somebody goes to a show at Great Scott, they’ll inevitably spend money at a restaurant, or they’ll see another store,” Cornacchini said. “These institutions are destinations for potential customers for most of our other small businesses.”

The economy isn’t the only thing that’s taken a hit. Musicians are also feeling the impact.

In the past, Allston was an attraction for small artists who were touring and wanting to grow their fan base. Now that touring has become obsolete, many artists are trying to come up with new ways of attracting listeners.

Jimmy Conroy, a band member of Another Hospital, has been playing live streams in an attempt to grow their fanbase. They still believe touring in venues is crucial to developing a following.

“It’s hard to get people to take a chance on [a band] that they don’t know at all,” Conroy said. “There’s not really an alternative that exists right now for getting awareness.”

The Allston music scene is also known for its house shows, which are popular among many independent artists who can’t afford to book music venues.

Before the pandemic, Aidan McCall, a band member of the Allston-based band We Became Whales, would host and perform shows in his basement. He believes Allston’s nightlife was special due to several reasons, including the large community of musicians and many college students looking for something fun to do on a Saturday night.

As restrictions are lifted, venues like Great Scott and Paradise Rock Club may still have trouble reopening. McCall believes house shows will step up to the needs of Allston musicians and host live music.

McCall is optimistic about the future, though. With the ongoing vaccine distribution and COVID-19 cases showing a downward trend in Boston, he’s welcoming the possibility of hosting a few shows this summer.

“We can only hope the bigger venues survive,” McCall said. “But, there will always be a basement to go wild in.”

Aileen Tran is a Boston University journalism student reporting as part of a collaboration between the Belmont-Citizen Herald, The Watertown Tab and the Boston University News Service. Boston University Professor Tina Martin oversees the program, collaborating with Senior Multimedia Journalist Joanna Tzouvelis.

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