“I hope patrons think that no matter the night the music will be enjoyable.”
DIG: The Plough has been known as many things to many people through the years. Musically, what do you see as its biggest legacy?
PLOUGH MUSIC DIRECTOR JIM SEERY: I see the Plough as a small room that is the perfect size to get something going if you’re a new band. If your band is already established locally then it should be a relatively easy room to fill to capacity. Lots of positive energy in either situation and with the wood walls and high ceiling the room sounds warm and true. As for the legacy, it’s still an ongoing situation but I’d like to think of the place as an inviting and fun atmosphere for both local bands and audiences. They’ve been doing live music to some degree here since the 1970s.
What are some genres of music that have typically worked well in the space? And what have people come to look for in the acts you book?
Most genres of music can work in the room. Something loud like punk or metal is not going to work due to the size of the room and volume. In a loud situation it’s almost impossible for the bartenders to hear patrons ordering drinks, not to mention regular conversation. A loud band, no matter how good they are, can easily clear the room. Also, even though we’re on Mass Ave we are still technically in a neighborhood and I try my best to book things that the neighbors won’t hear out their windows at night. I try my best to make everyone happy by booking the best of what’s available. I hope patrons think that no matter the night the music will be enjoyable. There is a wide range of genres coming through the door. Our online calendar has links to the bands music. I love diversity.
How has your setup and/or operation changed in regard to music since the pandemic? Who were some of the first artists you booked when you were able to finally do that again?
Since we restarted hosting bands back in mid June we have been asking bands and patrons to show proof of vaccination upon entry (and to wear a mask when they are not eating or drinking). Those without proof (either card or pic of card on their phone) are unfortunately denied entrance. We want to keep our environment as safe as possible for everyone. I’d say 95% of people are happy with the new policy. Lots of other places are doing the same thing. Also, we have recently installed new windows front and side of the building that open and close. Letting a little fresh air into the room on a nice day or night is always a good thing. The windows will remain closed for shows however so we’re not potentially blasting out our neighbors. Many bands have helped us get back in action and it wouldn’t be fair to name a few without naming them all. I’m thankful for everyone who has played but I’m also respectful for people who aren’t yet ready.
As far as I can recall, there’s typically no cover at the Plough. Can you explain that philosophy and tell us how that is sustainable?
Our weeknight shows are free/no cover. It’s a good way to get people in the door who would normally not want to pay a $5 cover to see live music. We pay the band a certain percentage of bar sales from 10pm onward. Honestly, it’s never a ton of money but it is something. For the most part we can’t give out guarantees on the weeknights because it’s too risky if it’s slow. At the end of the day this is a business but it needs to work both ways in order to succeed. Friday and Saturday night shows there is a $5 cover and bands keep 100% all of the door money. If it’s packed, they can do well.
Who are some upcoming acts that you have booked that people ought to come check out? Why is the Plough the perfect place to see them?
Our big draw is our small size. Some bands and customers prefer the intimate atmosphere we provide. It’s an honest DIY sound with a small PA system. I recommend all upcoming shows including the Handymen (Oct. 22), the Attractors (Oct. 29), Bad Art Ensemble (Oct. 30), Betwixt (reunion, Nov. 12), and Mosaic Mirrors (Nov. 13). Our weekend afternoon shows are starting back up in November as well. Those shows are free/no cover and all ages.