The Middle East Celebrates 20
MY FAVORITE ROCK STARS: Thalia Zedeck celebrated Middle East 's 20th birthday with Billy
Ruane, Joseph Sater, the Helms, and more.
“You remember what happened — I threw a fuckin’ party that got too fuckin’ big.” Thus spoke Billy Ruane at the Middle East last Saturday night, explaining how one of the area’s most beloved rock clubs was born. It was exactly two decades ago when scenester extraordinaire Ruane threw himself a 30th-birthday bash at T.T. the Bear’s Place, booked too many bands, and got the family-run Lebanese restaurant next door to pick up the slack. He was back to throw an anniversary party upstairs last weekend, once again booking about as much music as a small club could handle.
Did anyone expect 20 years ago that the humble restaurant would become a rock hot spot? “That was my fear,” co-owner Joseph Sater joked on Saturday. In fact, there was a cozy family vibe about the sold-out event, which brought back a couple of generations of Mid East regulars. That extended to the performers, the line-up including newish acts Helms and Hellelujah the Hills alongside long-time Ruane favorites like Thalia Zedek (who added guitarist Chris Brokaw to her solo band, thereby reuniting Come) and Reid Paley. Now based in NYC, ex-Five leader Paley sang in a pirate’s bellow and delivered theatrical, dark-humored songs.
The night was also a benefit for well-liked musician Stephen Fredette, who survived heart surgery a few years back and is now battling lymphoma. Fredette was present for Saturday’s show, flanked by friends he’s played with in Pony, Thing from Venus, and Scruffy the Cat. (Scruffy drummer Randall Gibson opened the night with Eric Martin & the Illyrians.) A few attendees also waxed nostalgic about the days when the Mid East was a low-fi, one-room operation. “Remember when Billy used to make people shut up when he was enjoying the band?” asked WAAF’s Carmelita, who was an early club employee. “I used to work the bar — but it wasn’t a bar yet, I just worked a stack of boxes with drinks on them. There wasn’t ever a sense that this place could turn into anything. We just loved it for what it was.”
: Live Reviews
, Thalia Zedek, Chris Brokaw, Billy Ruane, More