Rock photographer Johnny Anguish has spent 15 years in Boston’s clubs, capturing tons of the city’s bands in action (plus some big national acts) and immortalizing some seminal moments in Boston music. A curated selection of those photos is on display through mid-April at Fenway’s Verb Hotel. We tapped Anguish for some details about the exhibit and some thoughts on this town’s changing music scene.
How did you curate the photos for the exhibit? Most of the shows I go to are stacked with Boston bands, so I naturally gravitate toward those shots. This time around I wanted to mix things up a bit, so I included some national acts in the exhibit. I ended up with local favorites hanging side by side with national acts, which makes me really happy.
Who have been some of your favorite bands to shoot over the years? A bunch of my favorites bands to shoot are in this exhibit. Sidewalk Driver and Dirty Bangs are locals that will give any band coming through town a run for their money. The music is great and their shows are captivating, every time. Superchunk is fun because Mac bounces around the stage like someone set off firecrackers in his pants. Imperial State Electric are one of my favorite bands. They’re from Sweden and I never thought they’d tour over here. I was beside myself when they played a handful of shows on the East Coast and I got to photograph their set at the Middle East. Shooting every night of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble is always a blast, even if I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck by the end of the preliminary round.
You’ve been immersed in Boston’s music scene for almost two decades—what have you seen change? Live, original rock ‘n’ roll has always been a tough sell. It’s getting tougher. That doesn’t make it any less worthwhile. It helps to be around like-minded folks who appreciate the sense of community that comes from immersing yourself in a local music scene. It’s like the farm to table movement for rock ‘n’ roll. It takes a bit more effort, but the results are worth it.
I saw more shows at T.T.’s than any other room by a pretty large margin, so that one stung. Part of me wants to sulk and say, “The Boston music scene will never be the same.” That’s true, of course. It will never be the same. It will adapt. It will evolve. It’ll carry on. It always does. I was devastated when the Abbey went under. That place was like a second home to me. Before that it was the Rat. Johnny D’s is right around the corner. Death, taxes and rock club closings. Thankfully, we’ve still got some great places to see shows with the Sinclair, the Lizard, Great Scott and more. Then you’ve got ONCE and other places stepping up to fill the void. It might sting a bit, but we’re going to be all right. At least that’s what I tell myself when I start thinking about this stuff too much. Like right now.