The concert venues around Berklee make for an exciting time as a musician in Boston. Visit these venues for the ultimate entertainment experience!
Much like the Orpheum Theatre, the Wang Theatre is a gorgeously decorated Opera house that’s been repurposed for all kinds of music, be it Classical, Jazz, Rock, Hip Hop, and Broadway musicals. The audiences are quite polite, and there’s a healthy space between the performers and the crowd. The prices on beer and snacks are a bit ridiculous, but it’s a rock and roll venue, so this is to be expected.
Its acoustics are also quite nice for either acoustic or electric performances. I was lucky enough to be entertained there by famed progressive rock band King Crimson, who with three drummers really rocked the house down. It is among the better venues by Berklee.
The Orpheum Theatre
Of all the concert venues within Boston, the Orpheum is perhaps the most worth visiting. It historically was the home of the Boston Symphony until they relocated to their present location Massachusetts and Huntington Avenue. Much like the Wang Theatre, the Orpheum exhibits features of classical opera houses in that it is flawlessly garnished in gold filigree, robust neoclassical busts of Roman and Greek deities, and magnificent renderings of scenes from ancient mythology. The venue itself has worn down a bit, with lots of gum on the seats and numerous baby boomers who smoke reefer in the bathrooms and in the hall itself. In the 1960s, the Orpheum tipped its hat to the new generation and became a celebrated venue in Boston for Rock and Roll.
It does have some acoustic problems in that it was originally designed for acoustic instruments, and has been repurposed entirely for electric instruments and drum sets that result in a storm of loud noise if not managed properly. In my time living in the city, I was lucky enough to see Nick Mason from Pink Floyd, Steve Winwood from Spencer Davis, and the Canadian comedy extravaganza, Trailer Park Boys. The prices for beer and snacks here are among the cheapest, and the security is lax. Its audiences are usually burned out boomers, who, as mentioned before, engage in all kinds of acts of deviousness that likely in the 60s and 70s would have made them some real bad eggs, but could hardly get a rise out of anyone this day and age. If anything, all their antics result in is annoying the much younger staff who likely find the music outdated and milquetoast.
The TD Garden is among the odder concert venues in Boston in that it is actually a sports stadium, so it generally plays host to superstar acts who are used to selling out shows of 20,000 and up. It’s status as an athletic venue, however, makes for not the best show acoustically speaking. It’s often quite boomy in there, making the lyrics difficult to hear. Most of the big acts have pretty on-point sound teams to prevent disaster, but at times it doesn’t help. The drinks and snacks here are likely the cheapest of all the aforementioned venues, but only offers snacks you would eat at a basketball game.
The security is very uptight, and unsmiling, giving one the impression that one is on something of a musical packinghouse just trying to have as many fat asses in chairs as possible. I’ve been lucky enough to see acts such as Roger Waters of Pink Floyd (a mind-blowing show), Stevie Nicks (who I met afterward), and The Pretenders–who all put on fantastic shows.
Paradise Rock Club
Paradise Rock Club is the smallest of venues but has more modern and popular acts than the aforementioned venues. There’s very little sitting room here, so if you want to get a seat, it’s imperative you go early. It is likely the best designed for music, and the acts are playing to a crowd of around 900, so it gives a nice intimacy for the acts that perform there. The drinks at the Paradise Rock Club has the best-priced drinks of all the mentioned concert venues on this list. Unlike the other venues, the Paradise Rock Club offers no snacks, only liquids here.
The security is pretty lax, but woe to whoever decides to stand on the yellow ‘Do Not Stand Here’ line, they are very aggressive with keeping up to code with the fire marshal. It is a rather small venue, so if you want a good spot, you’ve got to be there early otherwise you’ll be standing in a spot with a poor view. I’ve been lucky enough to see Thundercat, Hiatus Kaiyote, and Of Montreal there, and each put on a magnificent performance.
House Of Blues
Likely the most corporate of all the concert venues in Boston, and with some of the most impressive acts, the House of Blues by Fenway Park has some kind of magnificent event, every single day, catering to all kinds of music-lovers. There are a few stages within the venue itself, its main stage, and the Foundation Room. The Foundation Room is a great place for Berklee students to get a gig, or to try to get into gigging in Boston. They pay really well, but woe unto whoever performs there without reading the contract (trust me, I found out the hard way)! The drink and snack prices are total robbery, as in the umbrella check that costs $2, but it’s a great place to be entertained.
As a warning, don’t bring any kind of backpack, they won’t let you in and the security will lie and tell you there are other locations in the area that will hold your backpack to make you buzz off. I’ve been lucky enough to see such great acts such as Flying Lotus, The Alabama Shakes, and Snarky Puppy, all fine live acts hardly worth sneezing at.
Are there other concert venues around Berklee you thought I missed? Let me know down in the comments section!
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John D. Short is a Bassist, and Songwriter/Composer from Tyler, Texas. He is the administrator of Philtrum Publishing Federation, a great lover of conspiracy theories, history and irony. He's a graduate of Berklee College of Music's Jazz Composition Program.