Boston’s live music scene is struggling to survive as venue after venue shuts down after more than one year without revenue amid the pandemic, but a Pembroke hotspot is keeping the groove alive and offering a note of hope for the future.
“The silver lining with coronavirus is that we were able to take a step back and think about the future,” said Soundcheck Studios co-owner Andrew Herman, as the Plymouth-based Quadrafunk warmed up in the background on Saturday.
Soundcheck Studios, started by Herman, his twin brother Eric and their childhood best friend David Zuckerman in 2018, pivoted as the pandemic struck last year.
Then a recording studio tucked away in a business park just off of Route 3, at first they worked with bands to put up live streams, but Zuckerman said it wasn’t long before “stream fatigue” set in and it was clear that wasn’t going to pay the bills.
At least eight independent venues in the Boston area have shut down since the pandemic struck one year ago, drawing questions about the future of the live music industry. One of those clubs will see a resurrection of sorts at Soundcheck.
For its second summer season amid the pandemic, Soundcheck will host an outdoor music program complete with a festival-style stage and as much capacity as the state will allow — which is 150 people for now.
Thunder Road owner Charlie Abel partnered with the Zuckerman and Herman brothers when he was forced to close his six-year-old club in Somerville’s Union Square last August. Rather than give up on his dream, he went into business with Soundcheck — bringing a piece of Thunder Road with him.
The shuttered venue’s 27-foot bar is the centerpiece of a new indoor concert space that will eventually be able to host 250 people once regulations allow. It also offers a “bit of nostalgia” for the venues lost, said Abel, a Boston-area music mogul who helped found Allston’s now-closed Harper’s Ferry nightclub.
Zuckerman said there’s “a lot of pent-up demand” for music with 13 of the 15 concerts booked so far selling out within minutes.
For the indoor venues that are left, it’s unclear when they’ll be able to host live shows again. A ban on indoor music lifted earlier this month but singing is still disallowed.
LiveNation said while it’s an “encouraging” step, the massive music-booking platform said it won’t be booking shows at venues like the Xfinity Center, Big Night Live and other larger venues until “regular capacity” returns. Stadiums are limited to 12% capacity. Nightclubs are still shut down.
For now, it seems live music appears limited to outdoor venues.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra plans to reopen Tanglewood in Lenox — the orchestra’s longtime summer home — in July with an abbreviated six-week musical program.