R.I.P. TT’s: A post-mortem on Boston’s most poorly-lit venue


July marked the end of the road for Cambridge’s storied TT the Bear’s place, but not before a special series of farewell shows and events. I missed most of the headline-generators, including surprise gigs from The Pixies and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, but I figured I owed it to myself and the dingy bar where I’d first cut my teeth with music photography to see at least one last show. 

July 21’s bill, which included Lemonheads frontman Evan Dando and Boston mainstay Thalia Zedek seemed like the right call. Zedek’s set was a typically powerful showing backed by her top-notch band, and capped off with an appearance from fellow Boston music veteran Chris Brokaw. The former Come bandmates ripped through “Hurricane” from 1996’s Near Life Experience and all was briefly right with the world.


Naturally though, TT’s had to get in one last laugh when it came to shooting the show. The spot has always had a bad rep among music photographers for its weirdly uneven spotlight placement, and tonight was no different. One last contrasty batch of post-processing annoyance for old time’s sake. The effect is especially pronounced when an artist is playing a light-colored guitar, which those chest-pointed spotlights tend to blow out under any otherwise-reasonable exposure settings. Annoying as it often was though, I still have many a fond memory of shooting at TT’s. The first show I ever officially shot for a publication was at that very spot – Spencer Krug’s Moonface project, almost exactly 3 years prior to the last gig I would see there. I reviewed the show for Allston Pudding and while I can’t find the original post, my few salvageable shots (and I use the term loosely) still exist. A T3i and a kit lens were not built for that room.

A year later, I shot one of the best shows I’ve ever seen at TT’s, though the images don’t fully do it justice. Deafheaven were fresh off the release of their soon-to-be breakthrough Sunbather, and they absolutely leveled the place. It was the night before the 4th of July and it had to be 110 degrees inside. Beer was spilled on one of my (borrowed) cameras and I headbanged the glasses off of my face on several occasions. It blew my mind and was weirdly sort of a gateway show to me taking extreme metal more seriously. I checked out Emperor because of Dan Tracy’s shirt.


Of course, the band requested that the venue’s barely-existent lights be dimmed even further, leaving me and my 50mm prime little to work with on a photographic level. The show was way too good for me to be annoyed about it, but it did teach me a lesson about being prepared. I bought an off-camera flash by the end of the summer.


I’d found myself spending less time at TT’s in the past year or 2. Their bookings were on the decline and fewer and fewer acts on their calendar caught my eye (or anyone else’s, it seems). The announcement of the club’s demise didn’t come as any particular shock. TT’s wasn’t the best venue around for a variety of reasons, but like any other performance space for a frequent concert-goer, it was the site of plenty of great memories. In some sense, I’ll miss the place. And I’ll always have something to remember it by: I bought one of those god-forsaken spotlights at their closing sale.


Check out more photos from July 21st show, including Zedek, Dando, The Dazies and Willy Mason, below:

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