“I met so many amazing people working at T.T.’s that will stay with me forever,” says owner Bonney Bouley. “I wish it could go on forever.”
It’s been 31 years since Bouley began booking rock shows at T.T. the Bear’s Place at the suggestion of the failed restaurant’s co-founding partner Miles Cares’ daughter, who was dating the drummer for the Outlets. Countless bands have graced the stage of the Central Square club since that opening night with the Outlets, from other local rockers to rising national acts, including Jane’s Addiction, Franz Ferdinand, the Black Keys, Indigo Girls, the Strokes, Letters to Cleo, the Hold Steady, the National and the Decemberists.
Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction
But now, with Bouley declining new lease terms with the owners of the Middle East, who bought the building housing both clubs, T.T.’s will close July 25 after a weeklong farewell blowout. Among the artists set to perform are the Neighborhoods, Evan Dando, Orbit, Willy Mason, the Thalia Zedek Band, Ad Frank & the Fast Easy Women, the Dogmatics, Mary Lou Lord, Bleu, Emergency Music, Parlour Bells, the Lights Out and—on the final night—O Positive and Scruffy the Cat.
The Improper asked several people associated with the club and the local rock scene for some thoughts on T.T.’s closing—and their favorite nights at the cozy music institution named after a teddy-bear hamster called Tough Teddy.
Chris Colbourn, bassist/singer for Buffalo Tom and music booking agent with Concerted Efforts
“Like the eccentric uncle who has a bit too much to drink at family weddings, T.T.’s is all wrong—on paper. It has an awkward stage location and some unfortunate clanking sounds leaking from the Middle East’s downstairs room during the quiet parts.… [But] I liked the nook between the PA and stage on the far side of the room, where you could get a small sliver view of a band playing close up and sweating, amps crackling, drinks spilling on sneakers. Security never tapped you on the shoulder and told you to move on.”
Randi Millman, booking agent for T.T. the Bear’s Place from 1996 to 2011, now booking music at Atwood’s Tavern
“There have been a few magical moments, when it seems like everyone is riding the same wave of excitement and the knowledge that they are witnessing something very special…. Arcade Fire had a lot of members, so they were as squeezed onto the stage as the audience was [on the floor]. It seemed like everyone already knew every word to every song. It was completely apparent that band was going to blow up.”
David Bieber, pop culture archivist and curator of the Verb Hotel
“Moments will live in my skull long after the paw sign comes down and the pre-fab condos sprout up.… This lasting memory followed a scorching set from Roky Erickson, accompanied by Okkervil River. The poignancy of watching their post-show regimen, the weary monotony of the hands-on load-out, from the stage to the U-Haul parked on Brookline Street. After all the years of Texas psychobilly and nuggets of madness and drama, here was the evening-ending reward: Roky and River were still their own road crew.”
Anngelle Wood, host of WZLX-FM’s Boston Emissions and organizer of the Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble
“The 2013 Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble was special, given the events of the marathon. Glenn Yoder and the Western States led their semifinals set with ‘Row’ in honor of what had turned the city upside down just days earlier, and at that moment all hell was breaking loose just a few blocks away at MIT. The night went on, our phones began to go crazy, helicopters clamored overhead. We were to stay inside the club, glued to the TV news coverage. Surreal for sure, but we felt strangely safe among friends at T.T.’s that night.”
Mark Kates, founder and CEO of Fenway Recordings and manager of Mission of Burma
“There has always been a friendly face there, usually seen upon arrival, and that is all too rare in the world of rock clubs. For those of us who spend far too much time in music venues, a smile can go a long way. It is sad to see it go, and yet 31 years is an unbelievable run for a rock club. There aren’t many on earth that have lasted that long. T.T.’s is a reminder of the era of Boston rock that inspired me to make a career in the music business back in the early ’80s, and we are in serious need of that kind of energy.”
Dave Herlihy, frontman for O Positive, entertainment attorney and Northeastern professor
“It was a place where we got better and had amazing shows and met friends and bands that were contemporaries of ours like Three Colors and Scruffy the Cat… We did a show with Throwing Muses once that was amazing. I think had a flu or something, so I started hallucinating. I wasn’t feeling well, but when you’re sick like that, my voice was more gravelly or Tom Waits-y than usual. But it was still raw and authentic and emotional. I wasn’t feeling 100 percent but went through to another dimension. I remember doing a show with the Pixies, and they actually opened up for us, which was kind of crazy… I saw the Smashing Pumpkins there, which was insane. It was a super-hot night, I think in July, when Gish came out, and it was like a slave ship in there. The air conditioning wasn’t working, it was packed, and people were outside. But it was incredible.”
Thalia Zedek, singer/guitarist for Thalia Zedek Band and Come
“PJ Harvey played there right after Dry came out, and it might have even been her first show in the U.S. She was very shy and austere back then, and I remember being struck by how small she looked, all dressed in a black leotard with her huge hollow-body electric guitar.… Part of what made T.T.’s such an incredible place was that it was run and managed all by women. There were men that worked there, but it was run by women, primarily Bonney and Jeanne [Connolly]. The other part was their genuine love for the Boston music scene.”
Jodi Goodman, talent buyer for T.T.’s from 1987 to 1996, now president of Live Nation Northern California
“T.T.’s may have had the smallest stage, but it definitely had the biggest heart. When bands walked through that door, they were family.”