The Sinclair Celebrates 1,000 Shows

The Cambridge indie rock club is ready for a few thousand more.


Photo by Madeline Bilis

Given the age of the average Cambridge building, any newer buildings can seem like they’ve been there for only moments. And yet the Sinclair, Harvard Square’s premiere indie rock club is now celebrating 1,000 shows.

The big show will be the Living End tonight, but that was as much a matter of chance as Concrete Blondes being the very first show.

While the first show was actually on December 12, 2012 (or 12/12/12), “we were hoping to open Oct. 30 of 2012,” explains Josh Bhatti, who heads up Bowery Presents Boston and has been with the Sinclair from the start. “We had about 20 shows and I think we only had to cancel two shows. Everything else we had another home for.”

Concrete Blondes Sinclair

The very first Sinclair show, with the Concrete Blondes. Photo courtesy the Sinclair

The band rolled with being the inaugural show, but Bhatti admits, “It was such a whirlwind of a day.”

“We were here so early, and then we were sweeping up construction stuff, and then I went to like five different banks to open the bars. It was pretty wild, but it was awesome,” says Allison Finney, the venue manager.


Photo by Madeline Bilis

The club has since become one of the Boston area’s best spots for indie rock, with plenty of up and comers passing through, including British crooner Sam Smith for his first local date. Along the way, they’ve had to deal with the usual band demands, but Bhatti says, “I’ll proudly say we never sent a band away unhappy. And I think that’s always the goal.”

Of course, it helps that the club has the resources of its attached restaurant, which provides some slightly more upscale fare than bands may be used to on the road. But some of them are still interested in fast food.

Finney recalls a recent show where the band requested some chicken nuggets, but they were awfully particular about them.

“50 chicken nuggets, but it had to be specifically McDonalds,” she explains. “They didn’t want the nice stuff.”

Other bands have asked for some more oddball things, like one band that requested a pineapple. And no, they weren’t looking for a fruit salad. It was a prop.

“Just one pineapple, and then a fan stole it at the end of the night,” Finney says.

Both Bhatti and Finney say a particularly memorable week was when they teamed up with Converse for a special series of shows with bands that would normally play larger venues, like the Replacements and Chance the Rapper and Slayer.

“The moment [Slayer] started playing, the crowd went nuts and we had to create a human barricade and Josh got in there with literally our entire staff who wasn’t working, but were at the show. Even one of our bar backs was like, ‘Hey, can I go to the show?’ And I was like, ‘You can be part of the human wall. Get in there,’” reminisces Finney. “That entire week was pretty nuts.”

Bhatti is also fond of their first New Year’s, when the band Deer Tick played. “That was probably the first show that felt like, ‘OK, this is why we’re doing what we did, and this is why we went through all the agony of building this thing out and getting it done, seeing what the room could be.’”

But even 1,000 shows in, Bhatti says it’s still pretty thrilling to work at a rock club. “I’m still discovering new stuff,” he insists. “There’s so much music everywhere now that you don’t get the chance to really listen to everything, and you just find yourself here and completely floored by a performer.”


Photo by Madeline Bilis

$20, the Living End, Wednesday, November 16, 9 p.m., 1,000 shows celebration, 10 p.m., no cover, 52 Church St., Cambridge,