At 1325 Commonwealth Avenue, a group of young, ambitious rock and roll enthusiasts compiled and recorded songs that would later become legendary in the music scene.
On Monday, November 5, those same musicians came back to their Boston roots and put on a free performance for hundreds of thousands of fans.
Aerosmith’s reemergence called for parts of the city to shut down in order to celebrate the bands success and return.
Dot Joyce, spokesperson for Mayor Thomas Menino’s office, said that the city was glad to shut down streets, stall MBTA services, and welcome back a band that was bred in Boston.
“There’s always inconvenience when you do this, but it also creates an excitement for the city that is priceless,” Joyce told the Boston Globe, prior to the performance. “It’s a challenge, but obviously the city is very proud of the boys from Boston.”
However, the Hub is not friendly to all manner of musical inconvenience, and seems to now be hindering new acts looking to make it, mistaking shows in basements and bands practicing for keg parties that need to be quelled.
So how will Boston ever have another Aerosmith to be proud of?
In this city, we love when our bands take off and make national airwaves, bringing focus back to the Boston community and shining a spotlight on how we have fostered local talent and incubated legendary acts.
It shows, too.
Just look at the success and bravado there is for The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Dropkick Murphy’s, two of the more notable groups to come out of our hometown.
But how is that kind of moral support supposed to continue when Boston is allegedly putting an end to house shows and musical get-togethers that the city says constitute raucous behavior?
According to BostInno Channel Partner Allston Pudding, a week ago, two of Allston’s “most beloved [Do It Yourself] music spots got shut down by the city.”
“Every weekend, free musical happenings are getting shut down all over Allston,” wrote Perry Eaton, co-founder of Allston Pudding, arguing that another Aerosmith isn’t likely if the crackdowns continue.
According to Perry, both Gay Garden and Whitehaus Family Records—two popular DIY music spots— were forced to close their doors due to violations.
“[These spaces] make a formidable proving ground for upcoming artists and mecca of underground wisdom and ideologies. These places are part of what make a city famous, what makes a city rock,” the petition said.
Despite some supporters feeling as though the petition wouldn’t do much good in terms of getting the places opened again, underground music enthusiasts still spoke up about the shutdowns.
“There is a disproportionate amount of law enforcement being directed towards the issue of music being played in houses,” said Jonathan Donaldson, about the spaces being closed.
While Eaton said he is excited for Aerosmith to get the “Welcome Home” support that they have, he still thinks police should be less strict about squashing the scene in Allston.
“I’m excited that there is some breathing room available for an event like this to happen. Especially with a home-grown band that has tremendous history there. But if Aerosmith were a no-name punk band starting out today, things would be different,” wrote Eaton.
Residents besides Eaton have also called for more local support for new bands, sneering at the special privileges for Aerosmith.
And Allston Pudding isn’t the only local music gatekeeper that has noticed an uptick in police putting an end to performances in city apartments, while simultaneously being sympathetic.
In a recent online rant, Jeffrey P. Vachon wrote about the “Cops Vs. Culture” problem here in Boston.
“Now, I’m not saying that this isn’t sad for the scene, because it most definitely is. But we’ve all been effectively caught smoking by our mothers and there isn’t a damn thing we can do,” he wrote. “[But] with the latest closings, I think it’s time to retool how we’re doing things.”
Partying VS. Band Gatherings
Of course, there are heavy provisions in place that need to be followed in Boston when it comes to live entertainment to ensure public safety and be fair to surrounding neighbors.
According to the city rules, the Licensing Board and the City Clerk’s Office must grant a license or certificate prior to an event.
“The Licensing Division maintains safety and order throughout the neighborhoods by the licensing of entertainment activities,” according to the city.
There are also noise ordinances that need to be followed in residential areas.
The Boston Municipal Code (chapter 16, section 26) sets the general standard for noise that is unreasonable or excessive; louder than 50 decibels between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., or louder than 70 decibels at all other hours.
But besides the noise ordinance, the permitting rules only apply to commercial venues, spaces and concerts.
According to a spokesman from the Mayor’s office, the Boston Consumer Affairs and Licensing offices don’t deal with private dwellings. That’s a matter for the police to handle, he said.
Times have obviously changed since the 1970’s, when Aerosmith got their start. But even back then, the band most likely lacked a permit to record indoors at 1325 Commonwealth Ave., and now, it seems like city officials—including police— are trying to constrict the rules even further.
Recently, Boston City Council members met to discuss pushing new legislation through City Hall that would cut down on party properties in the Hub, after residents from Allston, the North End, and Mission Hill continuously complained about “problem buildings” that are ignored by allegedly bad landlords.
Since August, city councilors have been crafting a new ordinance which would “put teeth” into current noise violation laws, and lead to heftier fines for both tenants and absentee landlords who don’t comply with multiple police requests to keep rowdy residents from riling up neighbors.
The new law would slap residents with $100 fines at houses where there was excessive partying. Subsequent offenses could be as steep as $300, and would also be tacked onto the owners of the problem property.
“It’s a lot of young professionals and young people that move into neighborhoods and are living in Boston for the first time,” said Councilor Sal LaMattina, at the time of the hearing in October. “I welcome those people, I want them to come to our neighborhoods… But to those moving to the city, the young professionals, we need you to be responsible to the neighbors and neighborhood.”
But one local music enthusiast stood up to Boston’s political force during the hearing and said more often than not, in Allston, they are mistaking band practices for keg parties when they unplug the festivities.
“[Police] should be looking at individual situations and not mistaking that [some residents] are being confused with people who are being respectful of their neighbors,” said Liz Pelly, during the hearing. “A lot of these people are very reasonable.”
Pelly, Assistant Editor of the Boston Phoenix, said “more and more” she has seen police cracking down on musicians and places where music is made.
She said she doesn’t have “keg parties” or “ragers,” but instead is trying to offer alternatives to bars so people have a place to listen to music and hear new bands.
So how can Boston have the best of both worlds? Is there a way to welcome new bands who want to perform in their basements because they don’t have an opportunity to get up on the big stage in the Hub? And can it be done without a lengthy permitting process or violation of city law?
Maybe. But until then, local acts will do what makes rock and roll so appealing—defy authority.
“You will never stop the DIY spirit,” said Vachon, in his blog “Cops Vs. Culture.” “It is inexhaustible, defiant in the face of convention and not exactly the bosom buddy of authority. For every spot that gets closed, another will take its place.”