Monday, November 24, 2008

End of a Sloppyass Era


A bar can die but once: all bars owe God a death. Especially the Abbey.
- Shakespeare

Wednesday night, the famed Abbey Lounge will close its doors after a local rock show for the last time. One of the finest dive bars in the Cambridge/Somerville area (in fact, exactly on the Cambridge/Somerville line) will soon close those doors for good - 75 years after they opened.

I didn't get in on the Abbey action until I moved to Boston in 2000. They were 67 years into their groove (rut?) at that point, yet I'm guessing my first impression caught me up pretty quickly. It was still a two-sided bar then - the bar was set in the middle of the building and served two separate rooms. You could pay for the show and go back and forth between both rooms, or you could go into the no-cover bar area and, if you angled for the right spot, see the bands between the opening in the bar where the bartenders served both rooms. Acoustics were not an issue - it was loud and non-exclusive. Friends of mine lived across the street and had semi-residency status. They gave me my first taste of the Abbey one night when we hit the non-cover side to hang with the locals. The memory of that first night at the Abbey would have been completely nondescript, were it not for a minor detail of my exit: as I left the Abbey, I had to jump over two separate sets of barf in order to get out of the bar. There was barf, then there was a small non-barf landing pad, then there was more barf. The options were: a) step in barf (twice); b) remain in the bar until physically thrown over the barfs (gamble on a few levels); c) execute the double-drunk-leap over the barf splatches. I dislike barf, so I choose c. My aim was true and I made it out. But it set the bar(f) on the Abbey Experience for the next eight years - anything short of barf-hopping was a sub-Abbey Abbey night. Since that night, I've seen many raucous bands there, been surprised by the lack of toilet paper in the bathroom on at least one occasion, and one time helped drink a twelve pack at the bar with a friend (who brought the twelve pack (as in, my friend brought a twelve pack to the bar, put it on the bar, and we sat at the bar and drank the twelve pack (while hanging out with the bartender (friends of VTK and said-friend will not find this abnormal)))).

So, yeah, the Abbey. Rock and Roll. Here's some rare footage of The Kinks playing the Abbey back in the 60's:

Oh no, wait, that's the Konks, a local band. I love the part in the video where you just see liquid (read: cheap beer) splashing up across the singer. The Konks will be one of the nine bands there Wednesday night for the "last blast" show.

Parting is such stale beer sorrow
- Shakespeare


Dearest Cupcake said...

Fear not, in Cambridge tradition I am sure it will reopen as a thoroughly sanitized "retro" bar that through expensive interior design attempts to recreate an olde timey feel while charging $8 per drink. B Side Lounge anyone?

Dan said...

Inman Square loves it some retro too, doesn't it. The funny thing is that the Abbey did go through a major renovation a few years ago intended to make it less of a shithole, but it ended up being lipstick on a pig. They even put a swanky wine bar in the space next door.

John said...

I'm pretty sure B-sides is going out of business too. The Abbey was a great place, it will be sorely missed.

Dan said...

The B-side will not be missed. $14 for meatloaf. you must be joking.

John said...

I think I said the Abbey would be missed. I'm not going to miss B-side since my only association with it is that K's uncle got tossed out of there one time which was pretty ridiculous.

Dan said...

I wasn't disagreeing with you. speaking of getting tossed from the B-Side, vtk reader akboognish once got us bounced from there for unapologetically throwing hard boiled egg shells on the floor and trying to argue the legitimacy of his littering with the bouncer, by insisting that it wouldn't be a problem if they were peanut shells and there was really no difference. The bouncer brought him a broom and dustpan and then kicked us all out. classic akboognish.

akboognish said...

Thanks for the shout-out and the accurate telling of that story. One slight addition: we (I) got kicked out only after I refused to sweep up the eggshells myself. It's one thing to tell somebody that they're wrong for dropping the shells on the floor, but it's another to make them clean up their understandable mistake. I haven't been in that place since and am happy to hear it might close.

As for the Abbey, this is definitely tough. My first night there was New Year's Eve (I think--it might have been Christmas Eve for all I remember) in 1998, with the aforementioned neighbors from across the street. The Abbey put out a huge spread of free food (ever the kind hosts) and everybody was very welcoming, if a bit too into overplayed 70's jukebox songs (no, I would not like to hear another Eagles song).

I appreciated the cocktails we'd get there on our way to brunch at the S&S, as disturbed as I was to see other people in there getting their booze on that early. And the few bands I saw there were great, although that scene seems to have taken off after I left town. But in truth it never struck me as something so special that I would regret it's closing. It was a decent dive bar across the street from our friends' place, but not too much more than that for me.

Dan said...

It was nice to know it was there if you needed it though. Is the Can Tab now the last dive bar in the Central/Inman area? Cambridgeport Saloon has been closed for years. I can't think of another one that would qualify as "dive".

Dewy24 said...

Another sign of the decline of Cambridge/Somerville. Soon we'll have to go to Waltham to find a good dive.

joel said...

14.00 dollar meet loaf, what shame Dan.
I think the cap was 10.95 and that should include desert.

Dan said...

word, Joel. I was in a restaurant in JP last weekend and they were trying to charge $16 for a meat loaf entree. That should include desert and a blow job.

joel said...

So much low priced comfort food, bummer!

Miracle of Science is still a nice low cost choice for food but the beer is where they tack on the difference.

Dan said...

well, if you keep it to one pint with dinner, it's still reasonable. but we rarely do that.

The Practical Slacker said...

For the record, the B-Side is not going. It is gone, Daddy, gone. But it's set to reopen in a few months with a more beer-centric approach.

Long live the Abbey. I got an e-mail years ago from akboognish newly relocated to the West coast saying, "If I was in Cambridge, MA tonight, I would go to the Abbey Lounge and see a band called Bishop Allen..." And I dragged my girlfriend there and we had a great time and still love the band.

One of the strangest evenings I had there was a Polkafest that sold Sex Pistols Themed t-shirts. [Nevermind the Pollocks...]

It may be time to start hanging at the VFW occasionally.