John McIntyre (a/k/a Johnny Mac) booked his first rock show when he was 13. It was a natural progression for someone who gave himself a Mohawk at age 10, and spent his weekend nights at the Espresso Bar, an all-ages venue in Worcester, at 11 and 12. So in junior high, McIntyre’s dad helped him organize a benefit for a classmate with a failing kidney at Rox’s, a small club in Oxford. There were five bands in the line-up: Critical Condition; Five-Year Sentence; Shed, an outfit from Rhode Island; Sped Farm, a now-defunct punk band who named a song after McIntyre, “Johnny Plaidpants” (yes, he wore plaid pants); and a then-unknown band from Springfield called Staind.
Yup, that Staind. “I get made fun of all the time for even ever having a show with them,” says a slightly chagrined McIntyre, who was spending his Memorial Day in his girlfriend’s Allston living room.
McIntyre’s booking debut wasn’t memorable just because one act on the bill would later end up on TRL, though. The all-ages event, which was shut down halfway through because the bar wasn’t making enough money, taught him that “every [show] has its own little problem.”
“We ended up going to one of the bands’ houses and setting up the show on their porch,” McIntyre recalls, petting his girlfriend’s cat Owen, who is named after Mike Kinsella’s Chicago-based project. “People got arrested because of the noise. But we ended up raising a good amount of money for the girl. It wasn’t much, but I was 13. Having a show that raises $250, $300 — [I] felt like a big shit.”
Nearly eight years later, McIntyre has booked “bazillions” of shows in places like Worcester and Hudson, and averages about two or three per month under the Weakerthans-inspired rubric Retired Explorer. He’s booked bands like Harry and the Potters, the Zambonis (“like Weezer, if they sang only about hockey”), The City on Film (solo project of Braid’s Robert Nanna), and A Wilhelm Scream, who will play a Retired Explorer show next Sunday, June 11, at the Quinsigamond Valley Community Center (QVCC), in Worcester.
He describes his bills as “diverse” — punk, metal, hardcore, indie, acoustic — and gets a childlike thrill from running his own kind of musical-rotisserie league. “I can take all these bands and put them on different shows and be like, ‘Yeah, that’s awesome,’ ” he says.
Most of McIntyre’s shows are in Central Massachusetts, in places like the Roller Kingdom, in Hudson, or QVCC and Ralph’s, both in Worcester. And overall, he adheres to a pretty strict DIY sensibility. “If I had a choice to do a show at the Knights of Columbus or the Palladium, I’d do a show at the Knights of Columbus any day,” he says. A smaller venue where the audience is closer to the band “hits you here,” he says, pounding his heart with his fist. “You see a band right in front of you and put your arm around the lead singer and sing along in the microphone — that’s so much better. No bouncers, no assholes. It’s just personable.”