Omnivore: It's a Chain. Get Over It

By Matthew Reed Baker | Boston Magazine |

Long, long ago—Okay, 1992—The first-ever House of Blues opened in a little blue house, aptly enough, off Harvard Square. From the start it was roundly praised for its cozy atmosphere, and so was duly mourned when it closed in 2003. And yet when the same club returned this February with vast new digs on Lansdowne and a vastly changed image—a slick Hollywood-based franchise, a rock-and-roll Starbucks—Bronx cheers rippled through Hub hipsterdom.

Such revulsion is Boston snobbery in its most classical form: Despite its hometown origins, we balk at patronizing a chain that’s opened brassy behemoths in such déclassé towns as Vegas and Myrtle Beach. As the summer music season winds to a close, though, there’s reason for House of Blues critics to change their tune.

Yes, the 2,500-person space lacks the neighborhood feel of its predecessor and can’t match the intimacy of the legendary Avalon, which it replaced. But better sound, clearer sightlines, and easier beer access? We’ll take that action. The club also provides more room for both moshers and those who steer clear of such chaos. Most important, it’s drawn a stellar roster of alt-rock gods like TV on the Radio, Animal Collective, and PJ Harvey.

Music fans seeking sweaty authenticity can still hang out at the Paradise, T.T.’s, and the Middle East. It’s just that the House of Blues—corporate slickness be damned—deserves its place alongside them in our pantheon of cool local venues.

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