If anyone is qualified say that Boston is at risk of becoming a cultural wasteland due to high rents and the yuppie invasion, it’s Dave Tree. As a beloved punk rock frontman, longtime DIY artist, and promoter of innumerable shows on Rugg Road in Allston, among other spots through the years, he has contributed more to the creative scene than most. Plus, c’mon, the guy has a point.
With countless artists and musicians heading for the ’burbs, it only seemed sensible for Tree to move his own operation farther out after he was pushed out of his gallery in Watertown. So when Dave DePree, the owner of the massive Norwood Space Center, presented an opportunity to open an art and performance spot, Tree did what he always does: put his everything into the project.
Collaborating with DePree, his new neighbors at Norwood’s Percival Brewing, and the David Bieber Archives—an incredible collection of rock memorabilia housed in the same building—Tree set up the Launch Pad venue and Long Haul Gallery, and the rest will soon be history. We asked him all about the move and new digs…
You’re not the first person to step outside of the city’s boundaries to do something like this, largely as a result of how hard it is to live as a musician or artist in Boston. Is there a great migration afoot? Where lots of people who would have ordinarily shunned the suburbs are making creative enclaves in new places?
I think there has to be a migration out of Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville areas by artists and musicians in order to survive because of the rents and real estate madness. It’s hard to find a space to work and show work in the city, so in order to keep working we have look for other alternatives.
I grew up bored as hell in Westwood, one town over from Norwood. There was nothing to do and nothing happening, so I started a band and people came out and supported us. The suburbs is a great opportunity for art and music because there is nothing to do, and if you do something there people will be interested and come out.
Your last place was in Watertown. It was smaller, and a different setup, but when you first went there, was it the same kind of feeling—like a new frontier?
Absolutely a new frontier. I had just left behind a sweet underground loft space on Rugg Road (in Allston) so they could tear it down and build condos, to move into a storefront in Watertown. I had to play by the rules, which is a hassle and expensive, but I adapted and ran SweeTree Ink until they sold the building. Now I’m working with people that have a desire to promote art and culture and are giving me a chance to do it.
You’re collaborating with a lot of different people out there on this project—from the archives to the beer. What kind of conversations are you having about getting people to experience these new places, venues, and galleries?
It’s great to work with people on making good things happen, and I am working with some amazing people like Chuck White and David Bieber in the archives, Percival Brewing Co., Dave DePree, and Tricia White all working out of the Norwood Space Center to bring in all the incredible talents that need a space to show their work and perform.
I don’t see you as being a spokesperson for any company, let alone Uber, but do you think modern advances in transportation make something like this all the more feasible?
I don’t have the Uber app, but the 34E MBTA bus has a stop 100 feet away, and if you like trains, the commuter rail has a stop a 15-minute walk away.
What’s your vision for the Launch Pad—five months from now and five years from now?
I hope it has wings and flies. It’s OK to wipe out a few times, but I think it will fly. We all need art and culture, and we need places to do it. We need to be creative and have community, or they will replace us with robots.