Thoughts on Development - Boston's New House of Blues


It's been a long time since I was a nightclub guy. But Avalon and its sister club Axis, soon to be flattened (or at least gutted and rebuilt) to make way for a single, totally modern, massive superstructure - the new House of Blues Boston, were at one time home to indie rock acts and visiting bands of some note on tour. How will this change impact those of us who love our live music? What is in store for Boston?

A far cry from the original HOB in Cambridge

A tiny, romantic venue

I will be the first to admit - I hated sharing the Avalon and Axis venues with the clubbers. (Seriously, who wants to attend the early live show of a favorite band - which I often did before the nightclubs opened for the night. You are rushed and your time is numbered with your band. The show you are attending is squeezed in before the floors are swept and the flashing lights are turned on. That's the way it was at times at Axis and Avalon.) This early show/late club setup still exists over at the Roxy where I recently saw indie rock bands "Of Montreal", "The National" and "Cold War Kids" play in the hours before the club opened to its real audience. During such nights we attend our abbreviated shows and are emptied out into the night at approximately the same time that the California 9-5ers are sipping their first post-work cocktails. Shuffling off into the night, we are making way for The Club's "Night Shift" - the profitable two and a half hours of operation when people pay to park and pay too way much to drink in these clubs. Business is business, but it bothers me about the Roxy and it used to trouble me about the Avalon and Axis.

This is, of course, something that none of us will have to think about anymore now that more than half of Landsdowne street will be occupied by a single establishment. While the HOB will pull in talent I would love to see at times (just as it did in its original location in Harvard Square - a building and location I knew wouldn't last the day I saw it... Business is business and this place was tiny,) one has to wonder if it's too bad that the HOB's brand of 24-7 Commercialism (the Anti-"Bill's Bar - the club's small but entirely authentic neighbor) will match only that of Jillian's.

For those of you at home keeping score: I like the fact that HOB will mean more high profile bands, but dislike the fact that there will be fewer opportunities because of it for smaller up-and-coming bands. There are others that were already lamenting this fact last fall when the Avalon and Axis clubs closed for renovations. (Read - Highly Recommended) These renovations were to include a consolidation into a single mega club. So while those renovations never occurred, it seems to me that time marches on and business is business. Whether that's good or that's bad - it's just the way it is.

All this underscores the fact that Boston needs a club the size of the Avalon. This was definitely perceived recently as acts were too big for the Paradise and too small for the Orpheum (which is a theater, after all and even with it's great acoustics - and forced seating kinda stinks. It certainly kills dancing.) I'm not the only one who has recognized this need for a larger live music venue in Boston ... (Read - Recommended).

So this is me - putting out the call: We need a larger music venue in Boston. We'll make it through the summer with all the outdoors venues and locations, but we need something by fall. There is an opportunity here. Just tell that to the new owners of the House of Blues who now face months of construction before they see the smallest return on their investment. I'm sure they will be working overtime anytime now. Business, after all, is business.


Anonymous said…
Oh, what the hell? They're making it a House of Blues? Dude... You've made me so angry today. But thanks for getting the word out. You're right, Boston NEEDS a venue the size of Avalon (though I'm the first to admit I hated shows there). We're losing so many artists as it is, and it's hurting my pocket to have to constantly go to NYC to see any decent shows... We can't compete with them at all.
Anonymous said…
There really won't be any changes when the HOB goes in. Its run by and booked by the same people who booked Avalon and Axis, the same bands that were going to come to Avalon will come to the HOB and it will just allow for more tickets to be sold and the artist/promoter (live nation) to gain more revenue. if the show doesn't sell well the stage is moveable so they can scale it downe to 1500/1000, whatever they want. they may even put a small cap room in there.
Ryan Spaulding said…
Editor's Note: Opening Date for the House of Blues Boston is set for mid-February 2009. Current venue size is approximately 2,400 - 2,500. More when we have it!

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