Like all of our city’s independent spaces and house venues, Magnolia Loft is experiencing a Boston tradition: choosing between shutting down or getting shut out.
Back in January of 2015, local harpist, singer, and composer Audrey Harrer was looking for a new practice space. She stumbled into a sun-filled Jamaica Plain studio at 128 Brookside where local artist Elizabeth Slayton, who had painted there for over 20 years, hung floral paintings around the room. When Slayton accepted Harrer’s proposal to host a studio-warming show there, their JP loft saw the first of what would become dozens of community-focused events. Indie band performances, chamber ensemble sets, psychedelic film nights, group improv sessions, Weird Folk fests, and more flooded the loft’s welcoming space. Hence, Magnolia Loft was born.
That all comes to an end this month. The venue’s landlord has asked everyone in the 128 Brookside artist spaces to leave, as he aims to sell the property in a vacant state.
A new Magnolia Loft won’t rise from the ashes, but Harrer, who spent hundreds of hours coordinating events for the local music scene, does plan to bring the venue’s magic into her live set moving forward. That sounds happier in text than in execution. It’s hard letting a communal art space close, especially in a city like Boston where never-ending rent raises make relocating nearly impossible. Given Harrer cared most about creative growth and discovery for both the artists and audiences, as the informality of the setting fosters connections and ideas, it’s hard not to think of all the audiences who had yet to swing by Magnolia Loft—and how much they could benefit from doing so. The events at Magnolia Loft aren’t just set times for artists to go through the motions. They educate, inspire, and enliven.
“There’s so many memories there. The John Cushing Big Band put on a fantastic show a few months ago—they actually released a tape of that performance. The place was packed, and enough people knew the words of his songs to sing along,” says Harrer. “Forró Zabumbeca’s Halloween dance party was pretty epic, too. They played for hours and made sure the whole crowd knew how to dance forró. The costumes were amazing: Vampires, flappers, and Benjamin Franklin all moving to Brazilian rhythms.”
So Harrer is doing what comes naturally: throwing one last party. At 8 pm this Saturday, Magnolia Loft will say farewell with a four-part event. It begins with a concert featuring an opening piece by humorist Jeannie Greeley, new work by Audrey Harrer and friends, and Hub New Music’s performance of “Soul House” by Robert Honstein. The Magnolia Songs Mixtape presentation follows, where guests will receive a free cassette compilation featuring artists who have performed at the loft. Next come micro sets, where artists who signed a spreadsheet in advance will play sets of 10 minute or less. Lastly, it ends with an open session for guests to play music together one last time. The whole evening is free, though donations are accepted to fund a recording session for Hub New Music’s collaborations with Audrey Harrer and Robert Honstein.
If nothing else, that second quarter should pique your interest. The Magnolia Songs Mixtape is limited to 50 copies and can only be received in person (though digital copies can be streamed online at her website or Spotify). Harrer wanted to capture the expansive memories of the venue through a cassette tape, and she does so by showcasing the wide range of Boston’s talent. With recordings from Sam Moss, Sidney Gish, Anjimile, the Solars, Yousif Yaseen, Skinny Bones, Kingsley Flood, the Wrong Shapes, Guillermo Sexo, and more, it’s a stacked listen.
“I wanted it to be as inclusive as possible, so the list of artists is long, and the music diverse,” says Harrer. “It’s been about a month of emailing everyone and getting tracks—some of which were made specifically for this mix! Hearing all the songs together is very interesting, and you can sense connecting strands through the bedroom folk, lo-fi jazz, indie electronic, and experimental pop that somehow make this document a cohesive thing.”
All good things come to an end, but if you’re lucky, you can capture a fraction of their spirit. Harrer is doing exactly that to make sure Magnolia Loft not only gets a proper farewell, but that it gets doled out in equal quantities to benefit the community it was born to uplift.
HUB NEW MUSIC, AUDREY HARRER, JEANNIE GREELEY. SAT 2.24. MAGNOLIA LOFT, 128 BROOKSIDE AVE., FLOOR 3, JAMAICA PLAIN. 8PM/ALL AGES/DONATIONS ACCEPTED. FACEBOOK.COM