“Michael was such a good kid! I remember one time we all piled into that van he had and went to see the Joe Perry Project at The Channel rock club in Boston. It looked like a Cheech and Chong movie when we all pratically fell out of the van in the parking lot! Kids! We were all crazy back then!”
That van was quite a site. The paint was peeling off and the body was covered in rust. Exhaust fumes rose through tiny holes in the floor and into the back. It probably wasn’t good for his asthma.
But that van shuttled kids to a lot of shows at The Channel, which used to stand at 25 Necco St. in Boston. It’s where I first saw live Rock ‘n Roll and I would go on to spend a good chunk of the late 1980s there, usually with Sean Marley, Dan Waters and an assortment of others.
Bands I saw there included Gang Green, The Neighborhoods, Kix, King Diamond, Flotsam and Jetsam, Extreme, The Circle Jerks, Slapshot and The Ramones.
The place had a bar called The Cage for the obvious reason that it was caged in. I couldn’t go in there for the first few years because I was under 21. There were a lot of 18-plus shows there, but I did manage to sneak into one 21-and-over show, which was The Ramones. I skipped the senior prom for that, and never regretted my choice. I couldn’t find a date for the prom, anyway.
They used to have Sunday afternoon shows that I loved going to because they were more lightly attended. It was also typically when the more obscure bands got to play, though one of those shows was The Neighborhoods, which Dan took me to see. Before that day, I had never heard of them. It wasn’t the type of band Sean was inclined to go see, because his tastes by that point were veering off to industrial metal, which wasn’t popular yet.
Dan shared his passion for that stuff, but he also had a deeper appreciation for the more melodic, pop-driven bands.
I spent a lot of angry nights heading to The Channel. I had a chip on my shoulder the size of Texas and I could slip through the front door, become invisible and shake my fist all night to whatever band was playing until I was exhausted and felt like I’d been kicked in the gut. Once I reached that state, I would feel better. That kind of pain is perfect for pushing the anger out a young kid’s pores.
Since my brother was five years older, I didn’t get to go to any shows in that van. But like him, I would shuttle a car full of friends to The Channel in a beat-to-hell, putrid green 1983 Ford LTD station wagon I bought from my aunt after I got my driver’s license. The radio didn’t work so I kept a portable radio in the front seat; one of those big cassette players we used to call ghetto blasters. That car also made a lot of packed runs to the Worcester Centrum to see the bigger bands, including four Metallica shows in 1989 alone, during that band’s “And Justice for All” tour.
But the trips to The Channel were always a lot more fun. They were short runs from Revere, which meant less opportunity for the car to break down en route.
In the worst of times, those were some of the best of times.