Five in The Fenway: Jake Brennan on His Top Shows in the Neighborhood
If you’re into the Boston music scene, then you know Jake Brennan. And If you don’t, tune in for a brief musical education. He was frontman of the Cast Iron Hike and The Confidence Men. He’s a past winner of the WBCN Rock & Roll Rumble. He’s a producer and performer with local gem, Bodega Girls and he’s the co-owner and producer of the Boston Music Awards. A tireless music maker and appreciator, Jake has been show-going for over 20 years, paying close attention to the sounds that make up our city. Here he offers up his top 5 favorite shows in Fenway history.
1. Swiz | The Rat | January 28th, 1990
This was probably my third or fourth Boston Hardcore matinee and my first at The Rat. The scene outside The Rat on Comm Ave. was unlike anything I’d seen before. Tons of kids hanging out in freezing weather talking smack, making the scene, sizing each other up and basically doing what kids do—but these kids looked like me and my friends. Whoaaaaa…Flat-tops, camo cut offs, flight jackets, champion hoodies, black adidas, and everyone talking about Public Enemy. I remember Choke from Slap Shot on the pay phone. THE PAY PHONE? Talking like a regular person? WTF? And then The Rat’s inimitable doorman, Mitch, who with his tracheotomy and three-piece suit reminded me of well…nothing I had ever seen before. Also this is probably my earliest recollection of Mr. Butch. I had found my people in Kenmore Square and DC’s Swiz were my out-of-town pied pipers. Who were these guys? High as hell hardcore energy, great vocals, and a rock ‘n’ roll heart that as an AC/DC chronic, I could totally bite down on. This show, like most hardcore matinees in the basement of The Rat, was a packed fire trap. There were so many sweaty bodies slamming against each other that you could literally see the condensation in the musty downstairs air. The band was totally vibing off of the reception Boston was giving them. I remember Swiz guitarist, Jason Farrell playing an old beat up Gibson SG (Angus Young, much?) with only one pickup and a broken strap that I don’t believe he ever fixed. He just kept rocking with the guitar pressed to his body, no strap, and unbound by the energy in the room. It was effing awesome. Afterward I walked out into Kenmore Square with my shirt off, soaked in sweat, in the middle of January. I got the worst cold of my life, but it was worth it. I would see and play many more memorable shows at The Rat throughout the 90s, but none as memorable as this one.
2. Ten Yard Fight | Bane | In My Eyes | Karma Club | October 17th, 1999
First off, I didn’t actually see this show but I did, however, run into Sweet Pete (frontman of In My Eyes) outside of the show on my way to the Red Sox/Yankees ALCS game that afternoon. Even though I didn’t attend this show, it is worth mentioning because it would go on to spawn National Edge Day, the long-running official holiday founded by a bunch of Boston Hardcore straight-edge kids. Additionally, the confluence of this show and this Red Sox series would give birth to the Yankees Suck t-shirt phenom, also started by some of those same hardcore kids in Kenmore Square. I was friends with most of these bands. Ten Yard Fight was started by some of my roommates in our Brighton kitchen and would eventually fracture into In My Eyes. Catching up with them that afternoon outside Fenway Park, I had no idea that I would be reading about this day in ESPN’s Grantland 15 years later. I did have a hunch, however that Bret Saberhagen would blow it for the Sox.
3. Scissorfight | The Linwood | November 10, 2001
“Weed, guns, and axes / We don’t pay our taxes
Because we don’t exist / On no government list”
—Scissorfight’s “Granite State Destroyer” from their album, New Hampshire
I don’t remember much from this show other than too much tequila and an after party with Scissorfight’s guitar player, running around wearing nothing but saran wrap. Good times.
4. Gillian Welch | Avalon | November 8th, 2003
I remember walking into Avalon while Gillian Welch and David Rawlings were already a song or two into their set and something about the music that they were making made this club, that I’d been in too many times to count, unrecognizable. They blew the place open with their simplicity, big and spare sound, harmonies, no-wave trad guitar playing and mesmerizing performance. The next time I would set foot in Avalon, it would be for the Boston Music Awards a year later and it felt like an entirely different place. Like, did the Gillian Welch show even happen? I still wasn’t convinced until I looked up the date a moment ago. Transformative.
5. Paul McCartney | MGMT | Fenway Park | August 5th, 2009
My favorite McCartney record is RAM, which is probably his least popular. I knew I’d be lucky if I heard one song from this record going in. I wanted the hits. I wanted the big, dumb, rock show and boy did I get it. Sir Paul, who was like 142 years old at the time, belting hits over the Green Monster like he was Moonshot Manny on HGH. I loved every minute of it. Our friends and Fenway Recordings management mates, MGMT opened the show. It was weird, but felt like another win.
These days, Jake heads up the music services agency, THUNDERS & WATT where he helps bands create content utilizing brand resources.
You can follow Jake here: