UPDATE March 16: This series has been postponed to curb the spread of coronavirus. “For everyone’s safety, ONCE is currently closed and will be rescheduling at least the first few MAS shows,” JJ Gonson tells Vanyaland. “They will be evaluating the safety of holding shows after March, based on CDC advice.”
Mondays in Somerville are about to get a whole lot louder.
Once Somerville, the Highland Avenue venue known for both its ballroom space and upstairs taco- and drink-slinging lounge, has announced a free show series called the Mutual Admiration Society.
Aimed at getting more Boston-area talent in front of captive audiences, the weekly series is a partnership with Newbury Comics that’s centered around a mission statement of “locals supporting locals.”
The premise is simple and largely collaborative: For every show, ONCE selects a local artist they admire, who in turn chooses two lesser-known acts to join them for one bill. The series launches on Monday, March 16 with “Jill McCracken presents Buckets and Tgonz,” followed by additional showcases every Monday. Each show runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the lounge, appealing to folks with earlier bedtimes, with tacos served from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
ONCE Somerville owner JJ Gonson first pitched the series earlier this winter when she was looking for a way to revive the lounge’s taco Mondays. Inspired by a “local music Monday” series that she experienced at Portland venue La Luna when living in Oregon, Gonson adapted the concept to ONCE and the Boston scene.
“It’s hard for us to book only local shows, because if we can book the ballroom with a promoter, there is less risk involved so it’s safer for us as an independent space,” explains Bridget Duggan, booking manager at ONCE. “Those bigger shows make it possible to do the other ones. But we have this awesome lounge and we freakin’ love local live music in it and we know there needs to be more spaces for that music to happen, so we feel like it’s our responsibility as a community space to make sure that happens! It’s the most lovely thing because the presenters get to think of who they’ve seen that they like and they want to help grow (versus who’s going to have the biggest draw).”
In order to keep the series free for all guests, bands who are “presenting” each evening have agreed to strongly promote the shows through their social media channels. The media partnership with Newbury Comics, of course, also helps to boost visibility.
“We wanted the series to be free from its inception,” Duggan adds. “We didn’t want to have any barrier to entry for all to enjoy new local music. We want these shows to create a sense of community, collaboration and celebration in the lounge.”
“With this extra media reach we hope that a lot of people will hear about this awesome opportunity to get turned on to new, local music and while we do not expect to make money on this series, we do hope that the costs will be covered by bar sales,” adds Gonson.
After the first show on March 16, shows that have already been announced include: “Carissa Johnson presents Nathan Dies and Emmet Patton,” “Walter Ticket & the Army of Broken Toys present Muzzins and Genie Santiago,” “Newbury Comics presents LDER, Pronzy, Ra low, and Rilla Force,” and “Raavi & the Houseplants present Lily Graves and Heater.”
“We are super fortunate to be in a place where there is a lot of support for music and the arts so they are really good here,” Gonson notes. “I think we can’t stop often enough to appreciate that. I love our scene, it is fantastic. But that means that there are a lot of unknown bands who need the opportunity not only to play out, but to be heard by audiences.”
View the first flyer for the Mutual Admiration Society below.