Last days of New Alliance

The nerve center of Boston’s rock scene for the past 19 years is packing up and moving across the river  
By CAMILLE DODERO  |  January 19, 2006

REMAINS OF THE DAY The detritus of the Fenway's New Alliance tells its 19-year story.Wandering around the Fenway’s soon-to-be-demolished RFT building  feels like spelunking through the bowels of Boston’s hard-rock scene. That feeling is especially pronounced in the basement, a labyrinth of recently vacated practice spaces and death-row-style hallways that reeks of stale beer and crushed cigarettes — eau de rock toilette. Brown water stains freckle the walls. Old show fliers are duct-taped to surfaces. Broken amps, split drumsticks, fast-food wrappers are discarded in corners. Even long-time superintendent and default  tour guide Alvan Long notices the space’s uncannily cavernous quality, likening an upright-beer-bottle cluster to "upside-down stalactites" as he comments on the dramatic effect of a "lonely black-and-white Joan Jett poster" that’s still clinging to a practice space shared by the Call Up, Bury the Needle, and the Bismarck.

These are the last days of the "Tire Building," a Boylston Street Boston-rock redoubt that over the past 19 years has housed 30 practice spaces, more than five recording studios, four artist workrooms, and even a few label offices. Boston exports like ’Til Tuesday, Blake Babies, and Powerman 5000 once ran through songs in this cellar. Thurston Moore, Cave In, and Isis have either recorded or had releases mastered here. Weezer once rehearsed in the building for a few days (long enough to draw fan mail), Godsmack laid their multi-platinum breakthrough onto tape here, and Jason Priestley helped bankroll a rock label that’s headquartered upstairs. More important, someone you know has more than likely gotten liquored up in this building — countless artists have come through here in the last two decades.

"It’s like the Middle East [Club] of recording studios," says Kurt Ballou, Converge guitarist and owner of Salem’s GodCity Recording Studio. "The place has a lot to do with how the underground rock scene works in Boston. A lot of people have met each other just from being around. It’s a nexus."

That loose community was threatened last November when the Russo Family Trust, the building’s longstanding owners, notified New Alliance co-founder Long that they’d sold the local-rock nerve center’s grounds. As part of the rapid redevelopment of the Fenway, the building will be replaced by a 14-story development housing condominiums, apartments, office space, and retail. After 19 years in residence, rock and roll will have to vacate the premises in a few months. And since Long is the first to admit that neither New Alliance nor his local label Curve of the Earth have been particularly lucrative — Long’s wife and Curve co-owner Gail Rush points out that Long pumps his earnings back into the studio — he doesn’t have the money to lease another building. For a time, it looked as if New Alliance’s creative nexus would be dismantled.

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Related: The Big Hurt: Enduring the Billboard ‘Active’ chart, No moves required, Top ten Boston CDs, week of May 7, 2006, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Entertainment, Boston, Spelunking,  More more >
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