Friday, February 24, 2006

-The Allston Beat-

I have the pleasure to announce that Boston's premier hip, free newspaper, the Dig, has decided to carry an article I wrote about the Allston-Brighton neighborhood and its cultural decline since the 90s. The editors edited it a bit and took out my rantings against the realty companies in the area as well as my own descrption of the ska scene that Allston was famous for in the 90s. Below I have reproduced the original article in all its unedited glory. Below that is a link to the article as it appears in the Dig.


When I was a boy growing up in the metroBoston area, the lure of the city and its many happening neighborhoods attracted some interest. Harvard Square was a well known hang out for out of town youth who wanted to get away from the drabness of the suburbs and see something, anything out of the ordinary. The freaks and pit rats attracted many but there were also alot of great used records stores to browse. While Revolution Books is both a brilliant throw back, decent bookstore and a nod to the People’s Republic of Cambridge. But by far the neighborhood to held the most sway with metro youth was Allston. During the mid 90s there was a thriving ska and punk scene there. Of the many bands that came out what was known as the Allston Beat(1), the Allstonians epitomized the homegrown energy that scene produced.

Given that I now reside in Allston, I’ve listened to a few songs by The Allstonians and compared them with contemporary, post-ska Allston. In the appropriately titled ‘Allston Beat’, singer Nigel tells the story of a student coed who is distracted by the parties in Allston. “Came to school to study hard/ Now she's distracted by the parties down in her backyard/ She never wanted to, but now she's moved right in/ And now she knows exactly what's been happening” Note the strange emphasis on moving in. He then goes on to describe a typical Allstonian: “His brain is shaved, Doc Martin kickers on his feet/ He couldn't live anywhere else in town/ Without a dirty look or nasty word from someone trying to put him down.” While I can’t speak for Allston ten years ago, this certainly isn’t the case now. Most of the residents are students from primarily BU and BC, so if we want to get into fashion terms we have alot of white hats, jock types, more Gap than Doc Marten. An iPod is an accessory for both sexes. Generally, the Allston students typify the new yindie or yupster trend. Young and hip, but professional, too square for the tattoos and tight pants of the scenesters, too uptight for the relaxed fit and of the B-Boys and bedside DJs. Though Re:Generation, a throw back to the scene of the 90s, attracts punkers with its shows and cheap and varied selection of records, they are not a common sight.

In ‘Brighton Memories’, Nigel muses “Brighton memories never change from year to year/ So I'll never have to look to find a home.” Again, a reference to the ubiquity of housing. What gives? Allston has mainly two things, alot of cheap housing for students and various immigrant communities and places that sell cheap housing to the previously mentioned groups. Cruise the job listings in Allston and one will get the impression that real estate is the only job in town. Anybody who has ever lived in Allston can attest to the fact that they are constantly bombarded with realtors wanting to show your place to wide eyed college kids impressed by all the stories they’ve heard about the notorious neighborhood. But what is so great about Allston? The punk and ska scene that attracted so many of us in our youth has been dead for years. Where are “all the things you can do and all the freaks you can meet” that the Allstonians sang about? Okay, so the ninja cup guy and the King are still keeping it real for all us on Harvard ave. but is that it? A host of greasy spoons is good for the munchies, but come on! The lights may be on all night in All-Bright but no one’s home. If you are a student who is ready for that big step of calling themselves upwardly mobile(cringe) or just like mozzarella sticks a little too much then by all means move there. But if you want to live in a cool neighborhood stick with Mission Hill.

(1) which musically was a cross between the 2Tone bands of England in the early 80s and the newer third wave of ska which was Popier though there was the occasional band which would infuse ska with hardcore punk which always showed the most originality. While the 2Tone scene across the pond was often about racial unity and antifascism, the third wave scene of which the Allston phenomenon belonged, was much more apolitical and demographically white. The third wave was also more mainstream and easily susceptible to being corporatized. Though despite pop bands like No Doubt and Catch 22 maintaining some chart presence alot of the bands that the local scenes produced stayed truer to the roots of rocksteady and bluebeat.


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