As I post this, many of the now former employees of the Boston Phoenix are probably cleaning out their cubicles, offices and lives from the office on 126 Brookline Avenue. It was only about six months ago we said goodbye to WFNX. Now another great loss cements the discomfort of change to our city. It’s hard to imagine Boston without the Phoenix but I guess we’ll have to accept it.
My first experiences with the Phoenix came as a young 19 year old guitarist looking for excitement in the city. What I found was an edgy and provocative newspaper which not only listed an insurmountable buffet of concert listings but also the sleazy adult section. All of which made the allure of the city greater and enhanced the mystery of the unknown. I was drawn to the paper mainly to find a new band but also to educate myself on how to be a part of the scene. I was envious of the bands being covered and I made it a goal to one day be one of those bands. But first I needed a band and the only place in my mind to find one was in the Gigs section of the classifieds.
After months of striking out I finally found what I was looking for. Turns out the band advertising wasn’t exactly looking for a guitarist, they were looking for a keyboardist. Below is the actual ad I answered over twenty years ago in the Summer of 1993.
The band I joined would eventually call itself Delta Clutch. It took some time to get a little buzz going but when we did the coverage started coming from both the Boston and Providence Phoenix’s. We struggled with being categorized as a Boston band or a Providence band but I didn’t care because I was finally in the Phoenix!
Times were good for me musically and got even better personally when I became a courier for the Phoenix in 1998. Talk about a cool job – I got to drive around in a jeep, plastered in numerous and very large Phoenix/FNX stickers, picking up ad copy, checks and delivering the paper to advertisers. Best of all was on Friday’s I delivered bundles to all of the record companies. I’d get free promo CD’s and make connections I never would have made without the job. Or for example meet people like Jeff Marshall who at the time booked Bills Bar and was the owner of Monolyth Records.
In addition to all of the outside connections made, which helped tremendously with my music, it was the inside ones which made the strongest impressions personally. The pay wasn’t great but the perks were. If there was an empty ad spot in the Arts section which would have been taken up with a filler ad, I was offered an ad for my band, free. Just simply being around the paper presented itself with opportunities. Like this little nugget below.
One day I found out that the President of the company, Barry Morris, was a collector of Chelsea Clocks. The same company my father and family owned. I took him on a tour of the factory one day during work. I forget what we traded it for, probably more ad space, but I did happen to get a few extra pairs of Celtics tickets after the tour. I’ll never forget walking by a conference room during a meeting, with Barry sitting at the head of the table, looking up and saying, “Hey, Nate!” with the rest of the group looking around surprised. There were a lot of great people there and it’s also worth mentioning VP Bill Risteen who always had good advice for me. Eventually, after three short but memorable years I cleaned out my cubicle as many have.
Sadly now everyone is for the last time.
I made a lot of friends working there and still to this day keep in touch with some. Before the announcement of the end it was comforting to know that the office and paper were still there to support me and my music. During a recent in studio on FNX with Michael Marotta I ran into Stephen Mindich and Bill Risteen. Michael (a HUGE supporter of Parlour Bells and has been there for us every step of the way) and I joked about how we could swear on the air with the station broadcasting online. Mindich said, in his gravelly tone, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to.” That resonated with me, not just in the profane sense but in a deeper way. Almost like he knew he had the power with the publication and it’s journalists to be the antagonist every week but would rather ride that fine line never showing his hand.
I’ll always be thankful to the Phoenix for their unrivaled support of my music past and present. No one in print matched them in my opinion. The idea of the Phoenix started out in my mind simply as a place to get in touch with a scene, a city, a culture. Turns out my experience changed that idea into something more significant.
Goodbye, Boston Phoenix.