UPDATE May 6, 11:56 a.m. ET: Oak Hill Properties LLC, the building owners of the 1222 Comm. Ave. property that houses Great Scott, tells Vanyaland that after months of correspondence (including requests to change its business model and sound-proof the venue to combat frequent noise complaints by neighbors), the company had recently made a long-term lease offer to Great Scott owner Frank Strenk. However, Strenk “rejected it and made the decision to close due to the economic circumstances caused by the government shutdown.” Through a lawyer, Oak Hill also revealed that Great Scott was a “month-to-month” tenant without a written lease for several years, but offered Strenk an opportunity to “negotiate a multi-year lease as recently as May 3.” That offer was turned down by Strenk, citing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and inability to house live music and events for an indefinite period of time.
Allston music venue Great Scott will not re-open after the coronavirus pandemic passes and live music returns to the city, according to its longtime general manager.
The rock club, located at 1222 Commonwealth Ave. on the corner of Harvard Avenue, temporarily closed in March in conjunction with stay-at-home orders from the state. After several weeks of dormancy, the venue was informed by its building landlords that its lease would not be renewed.
“It is with a heavy heart today that I announce that Great Scott will not re-open,” manager Tim Philbin writes on Facebook. “For 44 years Great Scott has provided entertainment and more than a few beverages to a loyal group of customers. From its inception in 1976 as a local bar featuring blues and folk performers to the 1980s and 1990s as a beloved college dive featuring cover bands and DJ nights, to the 2000s and its emergence as one of the best live music venues in the city, Great Scott has meant many things to many people.”
Philbin adds: “Through it all we’ve aspired to be a good neighbor to our community and a friend to all who walk through our doors. There is a sign that still hangs in the venue from the establishment that Great Scott replaced. The name of which was Brandy’s. That sign reads ‘Where Incredible Friendships Begin’. I’m glad we never took it down because it explains Great Scott better than I ever could. Take care of yourselves and each other.”
With its wood-paneled bars and planks and checkerboard linoleum floor, the decidedly old-school Great Scott was a relic of a Boston’s fading dive bar circuit, but also a thriving hotbed for live music and dance parties.
Hosting countless performers over the past decades, Great Scott became a fixture in the local music scene after Carl Lavin took over booking the 240-person capacity venue in the early 2000s. Booked by Lavin as part of Bowery Boston over the past decade, it was a launching pad for new bands on the local scene, like Passion Pit, Speedy Ortiz, and Pile, and national acts playing Boston before they blew up, like MGMT, Grimes, and Editors.
It was the longtime home to indie dance party the pill (disclaimer: this writer was involved with that), all-inclusive dance night Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and weekly Boston comedy showcase The Gas. The March 20 edition of The Gas was the last event held at Great Scott.
Great Scott was named the 8th greatest American music venue by Consequence of Sound in 2016, which wrote: “For all of Boston’s cliched drunken swagger and collegiate crowds, no place makes the most of alcohol and youth quite like Great Scott… Shows are earplug-worthy loud, but the sound crew prevents highs from getting drowned out. Shows run late, but it’s right next to public transportation. …Great Scott offers the intimacy of your favorite college venue without the crummy conditions that keep you from returning as an adult.”
The closing of Great Scott is a devastating blow to the city’s music scene, and the city of Boston in general.