The Providence Journal reports on the discovery of the remains of Steven DiSarro, who disappeared in 1993, his car still parked outside the Channel, the venue he managed.
Chief Wiggum: Italian surname; ended up in Providence...sounds like the work of MS13!
RIP, man. I wasn't old enough to attend shows at The Channel (my experience was the end of The Rat, and the end of the Middle East as an all-ages venue), but its closing was the first in a series which was essentially the collapse in underground music in Boston. The next big domino was The Rat in 1997, and Bunratty's/Local 186. The Middle East had its last all ages show June 1998 (Rancid/Bruisers "secret show"). Smaller venues like the Linwood closed, replaced by Church which has also closed; Baseball Tavern stopped having bands play a few years back. It sounds like The Channel was essentially run into the ground by the mob; what is driving all the other venues into the ground?
It was pretty clear to me that the Channel was a front for something from the get go. I'm surprised it lasted as long as it did. Also, the beer was watered down so much it no longer showed even a hint of carbonation. The booze they poured out of name brand bottles was not always what it claimed to be either.
I think many things contributed to the "fall" of the live music scene in Boston & in other major US cities:
Increase in drinking age from 18 to 21 (can't go to bars to drink & listen)
Walkman / iPods / etc., and downloadable music (listen at home, not at club)
Gentrification (NIMBY neighbors, bars going upscale (more $$))
Bands releasing & selling music online, less need / demand for touring
Core population drop. AKA "the birth dearth" that bottomed out around 1970 meant fewer young people.
These two, at the same time, cut the audience substantially. Most clubs weren't driven by college students alone.
Well, I wouldn't say alcohol was the problem with The Rat. We had more than our share of Meister Brau or Black Label 12 packs in the alley way before/during shows. :) That obviously was a case of the owners not caring to bring the venue up to code, and ultimately selling when the BU/Commonwealth folks came knocking.
Though I do agree with you to the larger point: alcohol complicated things for everyone. All ages shows meant no booze (at least at the Middle East and Rat), which means the shows aren't nearly as profitable because they're not getting an extra $20 (or more) a head on top of that $10 admission, and some of the 21+ crowd will head elsewhere for entertainment. When you do serve booze and it's a 21+ show, you're cutting out sometimes 3/4 of the crowd (depending on the artist). The latter thing causes a cyclical problem: the fewer shows kids can attend = less interest in that scene = potentially fewer future patrons to your venue once they are 21. Maybe that's ultimately why the scene dried up, it was a supply issue and a demand issue, not either or. I would blame the rise of EDM, but there's not really even a reliable venue for that (if it's your thing).
That, and the city cleaning itself up a bit since the 1980s. Prices have gone up tenfold in many of these neighborhoods, and that means when property changes hands that cost gets passed on to the tenants. That played a big factor in the number of cheap venues around the city shuttering. And it's why places like Revolution Rock Bar (which were overpriced homages to the city's rock history, but priced for the yuppie "fidi" set) popped up and ultimately failed.
The decline of the live music scene in Boston predated the the rise of the internet. There was a first wave of club closings that occurred in the late 80s/early 90s when places like Jonathan Swifts, Jack's and Jumping Jack Flash closed.
The drop in the number of young people probably had something to do with it.
I remember reading an article in the Phoenix at the time that put some of the blame on increased drunk-driving enforcement at the time. It was a lot less appealing to drive up to Edible Rex to see some Boston band if you had to stay sober and/or worry about getting arrested on the way home.
In the early 80s, the majority of popular music that young people listened to was played by bands. By the mid-90s, while the Internet still hadn't taken off in any big way, hip-hop, EDM and other club music had started to go more mainstream, so I think that to a lot of kids in college (or just out of it) at the time, "going out to see bands" just wasn't a thing anymore.
I actually found this list of Boston-area clubs in 1990. I'm guessing maybe 10 are still around.
Things I learned today: Publick House used to be (the?) The Tam.
In the 90's, that list brought back a lot of (hazy) memories. Thanks for the find.
That was also the last show for The Bruisers before Al Barr left to front the previously-broken-up DKM. I didn't actually go in, instead of opting for hanging out and drinking Old Thompson out back (because I was poor and spent all my money on cheap whiskey).
Weren't there also a couple of DKM shows in that transition period where an anonymous Dropkick came out and sang in a ski mask? Or am I thinking of another band around that time?
As far as I recall, the last DKM show they played before they "broke up", was February 1998 at the Middle East (with, coincidentally, The Bruisers). I really can't speak to any other shows being played. Perhaps? I don't recall that, though.
Former Channel patron here.
What the Channel had going for it until the early 90s was a good roster of national and international acts passing through, lots of capacity, lots of parking, and not many neighbors to complain.
I am not sure what happened at the end ... in theory live rock got a big boost from the interest in grunge post-1991, and proto-EDM trance/house stuff was starting to get big, too. But maybe the action was more concentrated and interesting in Central, Allston, and Fenway/Kenmore ... in any of those places you could hit a couple of bars or shows in a single night. After seeing a show at The Channel there was nothing else around unless you wanted to hoof it to Chinatown.
There's a good Facebook group dedicated to the Channel, and another one dedicated to The Rat that are worth checking out. I'm sure there are lots of opinions and maybe even some facts that could explain why they declined and eventually failed.
The Globe reports that Steve Flemmi claims that Salleme provided money to pay off city officials to keep the club, The Channel, operating. Who was the city official?
I recall going to a bachelor party after the Channel's brief conversion to a semi-nude strip club. Shady crowd. I think it was around the time this guy went missing. A customer had his wallet taken by a dancer during a private dance. The bouncers strongly "suggested" to let it go. That was the end of that and I think they closed shortly thereafter. I wouldn't be surprised if city officials were bribed to allow the stuff that went on there, especially considering the players involved.
The Channel became Soiree', the gentleman's club referred to. I worked for Steve DiSarro and when Mr. DiSarro bought the Channel it ceased operating as the Channel. Please do some research.
we stood next to the stage, next to an exit. the band came in very late, no layne staley. standing on the side stage we could see everything that was happening onstage. the band got up onstage and were getting into place and adjusting their gear as I was suddenly bumped aside by a couple of roadies who were pretty much carrying lead singer, layne staley, onto the stage. he was completely unconscious. no one in front could see because the curtain was down but standing on the side we saw the whole thing. they were yelling at him and shaking him and somehow got him upright and leaned him against the mic stand. he was whiter than a ghost and swaying. we all thought he was going to fall/die and we weren't going to see a show. suddenly all the guitars came on and there was some feedback and then the opening chords to "dam that river' and mr. staley came alive like he had been hit with 500,000 volts of electricity. it was incredible. he went from being out cold to climbing though the rafters and delivering an amazing performance. in my top 5 shows. link below.
anyway, while this was all going on I saw at least 3 people get completely pummeled by bouncers and literally thrown out the exit door, face first, into a parking lot. I remember thinking I needed to careful about not pissing off those bouncers because they showed no mercy to anyone and I did not want to get knocked out and tossed . someone later told me it was a mafia joint. I guess it was.
I'm not even a fan of Alice in Chains and couldn't tell you a single one of their songs, but that's still a great story!
Gotta say, you come out with some good stories....
Should have been made into a movie as it was the definition of a bucket of blood and the bouncers were wannabee wise guys. Its demise came about when a female Boston police officer was sexually assaulted and the media took a hard look at Boston' s version of the Roadhouse where Patrick Swayze battled the mob.
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