Posted by Graham Simpson on November 22, 2009 at 1:12 pm
If you’re taking “Sound, Noise, and Music” as your Expos class you have learned a little bit about Club Passim and the important role it has played in the history of American music. If not, you may not be aware that one of folk’s most legendary venues is less than 200 yards from the Yard. The club, opened in 1958, was first known as Club 47 and was located at 47 Mt. Auburn St. (currently Daedalus Restaurant). It moved to its current location at 47 Palmer St. in 1963 and eventually changed its name to Club Passim.
In the 1960s, the venue was a starting point for many folk stars including Joan Baez who began playing the club as an unknown seventeen year-old singer. She also convinced relatively unknown Bob Dylan to play shows at the club. Dylan played songs between others’ sets, but never had his own headlining show. Others who played at Club Passim, many of whom had their starts at club, include Muddy Waters, Tom Rush, Jackie Washington, Peter Wolf, Taj Mahal, Patty Larkin, Geoff & Maria Muldaur, Shawn Colvin, Suzanne Vega, Nanci Griffith, and Judy Collins (though not Bruce Springsteen who was refused the opportunity to play at Club Passim).
Though the club rarely attracts artists of that level today, it still offers an opportunity to see some of folk’s greatest acts in an intimate environment. When we say intimate, we mean intimate. The club is a mere 30 feet by 40 feet and seats only 125 concertgoers. Good luck finagling yourself into your chair. You’ll be getting to know your neighbors very well, especially if you choose dining seating.
The seating is a mixture of dining tables of four spread throughout the room, and non-dining seating along the edges and in the back of the room. Dining seating means that you are required to buy at least $5 of Veggie Planet food, the restaurant that shares the space with Club Passim. You’ll want to spend at least $5 here. The vegetarian and vegan pizzas are superb. I ordered one with roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions, rosemary & sage, goat cheese, asiago cheese, spinach, and fried garlic. Yum.
The band we saw, Works Progress Administration (WPA), played a show worthy of the venue. The recently formed folk/bluegrass supergroup is focused around the trio Glen Phillips, the lead singer of Toad the Wet Sprocket, Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek, and Luke Bella who had previously played with the Jerry Douglas Band and Lyle Lovett’s band. Others play on the recently released album, WPA, including Tom Petty’s pianist, Benmont Tench, and members of Elvis Costello and the Imposters. A drummer and bassist joined the aforementioned trio at the Club Passim show. The five put on a great show, mostly playing numbers from the recent album, very grateful for the crowd’s support. Upcoming acts at Club Passim include:
Genres: Folk, Indie-Folk, Folk-Rock, Bluegrass-Folk, Country-Folk, Old Folk, Young Folk, Red Folk, Blue Folk, etc (oh, and some blues)
Typical Ticket Prices: $15-$25