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Boston’s Counterculture, Revisited

Gentrification, urban development and prosperity are often enemies of the underground; this much could be said about Boston, one of the most economically important cities of the eastern United States. Some people may argue that Boston has lost its countercultural edge; however, it is often easier to make such claims in retrospect. A February 2017 feature article published by Boston Magazine retraces the story of Boston’s underground cultural scene of the 20th century and how it seems to be on the upswing once again.

 

The Boston Magazine article by Simon van Zuylen-Wood starts off with a visit to the Boston Hassle, an independent group that helps local artists with their projects in the fields of music, film and visual arts.

 

The Boston Hassle emerged from the ashes of the Boston Phoenix, one of those free weekly alternative newspapers that promote underground scenes across American metro areas. It could be argued that counterculture was easier in the newsprint days; the Hassle has not been able to success of the Phoenix by means of websites and social media. In fact, the Hassle has given up on trying to be a news source for underground scenes and is now focusing on directly promoting artists.

 

In the 20th century, Boston was an underground haven for punk and alternative bands; independent cinema, comics and avant garde writers found the city’s strong academic community very supportive. Boston and Cambridge were home to several music zines, daring stand-up comics such as Denis Leary and breakthrough rock bands such as Morphine and The Pixies.

 

The Boston underground scene seems to have been marginalized by economic strains and prosperity. Countercultures are often in the purview of the working class, which has been largely been driven out of Boston by middle and upper class residents who are mostly interested in riding the wave of prosperity being fueled by professional sports, tech startups and media conglomerates.

 

Simon van Zuylen-Wood believes that the Boston underground scene diminished because many within its circles decided to join their prosperity-chasing counterparts. As such, there may be a renaissance of sorts if the Trump administration manages to bungle the current wave of American economic recovery; should that be case, groups such as the Boston Hassle are standing by.

 

 

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