We all know Boston is a city of young residents. Why don’t we have the spaces to represent that?
Most major cities have numerous all-ages venues, buildings or spaces where people of any age can attend a concert. There’s no 18+ or 21+ note on the door that prohibits a younger generation from seeing a band they love. While we do have several places within Boston and Cambridge that allow younger people to see concerts—Elk’s Lodge, YMCA, and Democracy Center, to name a few—they rarely boast a concert listing or social media presence on par with even the most discreet well-run venue.
Why do venues even have age limits to begin with? For most, it’s a matter of income and, in turn, surviving. Most venues make the majority of their money off of alcohol sales. When a band is in full swing, more people buy drinks. When a show is dragging on or there’re nonstop awkward silences, people drink faster. Alcohol is a business full of big bucks. The same holds true in a music venue setting. By changing the percentage of those within a venue who can drink, the place guarantees themselves a steady night of profit, regardless of ticket sales.
Numerous organizations have tried to change this lack of all-ages spaces within Boston, but it usually turns into a small event space that bookers forget about and, in turn, acts forget about. Other times, that all-ages space can’t afford to run on its own, so it turns into a multifunctional space that hosts art shows, guest lectures, and more, diminishing its label as a “venue” and instead becoming a general “space” where musicians can play, once again leading to fewer concerts there. But now, after some hard word and rallying, local non-profit Boston Hassle is looking to change that.
BRAIN Arts is a 501(c)(3) local arts and music organization composed of nearly 200 volunteers, all of whom strive to uphold our city’s independent music, art, and film community. They hold meetings to grow our community. They host shows as Boston Hassle. They print publications like the Boston Compass. Naturally, the next step in their plan to help Boston’s music scene grow is to start a new all-ages venue… and they’re a couple grand away from reaching their goal. They created a fundraiser to build a space that’s “an all ages performance venue and creative community center that will seek to especially amplify the experimental and marginalized voices of Boston’s artistic communities.”
On April 30, the Boston Hassle Space Fundraiser officially ended with $21,885 made out of its $25,000 goal. You can still head over to their website to donate in order to get this all-ages venue built—and there’re plenty of reasons to do so. Most obvious is that earlier exposure to the arts begets more individuals creating that art. Then, of course, there’s the soul-crushing real estate market of the Boston area and how hard it is to meet safety requirements because of that. But for BRAIN Arts co-founder Dan Shea, it runs deeper than that. “Personally, it’s important to me because I grew up at a time when there was still an abundance of legal aboveground venues offering all-ages shows with a regularity that fostered a huge community; that has since disappeared,” he says. “There are obviously still all-ages live music communities that exist and that always will, but most of these communities lack any kind of centralized venue that serves them and fosters their existence.”
If you’re curious about the nitty-gritty details, don’t worry—so are we. The BRAIN Arts non-profit and its volunteers will run the space alongside whoever is responsible for the night’s event. The space will offer some part-time sound and doorperson jobs immediately, but will otherwise be completely volunteer run. As it taps into new revenue streams or secure grants, other jobs will be created. And, of course, any bands interested in performing there can email the venue directly on the new site it will create upon the venue’s completion.
If that sounds too dreamy to be real, it’s time to shake that feeling off. Shea and the rest of the BRAIN Arts group are serious about this project, which is all the more reason to help make it happen. “Our space will offer a place where not only our experimental and underground programming will be housed, but also the experimental and underground programming of numerous other organizations and individuals that represent different marginalized groups and push boundaries through their programming. We hope to regularly work with and include events organized by Riot Darlings, Illegally Blind, Codex Obscurum, Non-Event, Open Sound, Wanderlust, Lysten, Eye Design, Audrey Mardavich, Feminist Fiber Art, Deep Shred, Closet Case, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Rob Crean, Will Mayo, Miserable Events, Moon Villain, KLYAM, Ignore Rock N Roll Heroes, Bummer City, Angela Sawyer, Brain Solvent Propaganda, Grayskull Booking, college radio stations, local blogs, and others working outside the box in art, music, and performance,” he says. “In other words, we care what we’re putting in our venue.”
Boston Hassle’s new venue won’t just be a part of the community. It will give back to the community. Whatever neighborhood it physically winds up in will be given free use of the space several times a month, in a direct effort to be inclusive of whatever cultural activities and communities it finds itself in the midst of. “For the larger, less geographically focused communities of underground, experimental, and marginalized artists?” adds Shea. “To them, we will offer representation, support, and accessibility through our booking approach, the support of our non-profit and its volunteers, and the affordability of booking our room.”
Skip your morning Dunkin order or that last-minute dessert purchase at 7-11. Instead, put that money into the future all-ages space Boston Hassle is preparing. You, and the rest of the community, will certainly get more than your money’s worth.
BOSTON HASSLE SPACE FUNDRAISER. BOSTONHASSLE.COM/SUPPORT