The closing of a legendary neighborhood institution after 47 years (2 months, 13 days) seems too big to try to sum up in a lowly article. There’s the importance of this fine club for the many bands that graced its small stage, artists that somehow fell outside of the usual rock fare of most of the other venues around town. These were bands that were rootsy, country, bluegrass, folk, world music, singer-songwriter and others that were ‘none of the above’ (Shirim Klezmer Orchestra, anyone?). Johnny D’s was also extremely important for, ok, I’ll go ahead and say it, the older folks who still love live music, but can’t deal with the bootcamp atmosphere of Boston’s rock clubs. Johnny D’s had a comfortable homey roadhouse feel, with tables where you could enjoy a nice dinner and an intimate musical performance. They had an amazing history of artists, both local luminaries and world-famous names, and they will be greatly missed. However, the stellar send-off for this wonderful venue was done in pure New Orleans style, with fantastic music from local legend Ken Field and his phenomenal Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, the equally stellar Harpageddon and a traditional second line parade around Davis Square.
My personal remembrances of magical evenings at Johnny D’s date back to pre-blog days, when I worked at Northeastern Records. Several of our bands played shows there (Barry and Holly Tashian, John Lincoln Wright, Shirim, the impossible to classify Bud Collins Trio and the equally impossible to classify but definitely not country or bluegrass Cul de Sac, and those were the heady days for me during my brief stint in the music business. Johnny D’s was also where I had the great honor of seeing people like Butch Hancock and the inimitable Townes Van Zandt.
Johnny D’s was also the place where I unwound for a low-key but deeply satisfying evening with a few exceptional cover bands, such as Rust Never Sleeps.
In the absence of this home for rootsy rock, Americana, country, folk and bluegrass, it’s uncertain if any other venue will step up to take its place to welcome those kinds of bands in a smaller setting. Let’s hope so! In the meantime, we’d like to wish owner Carla DeLellis and her loyal staff the very best in their future pursuits. And do check out the official Johnny D’s site, which for now has been left up as a tribute, with much gushing praise and many articles. Share your own memories on their guestbook!