Remember Wallet Girl, a/k/a Keaton Kustler-Klein? She’s the then-14-year-old from Arlington who turned fashioning duct-taped wallets out of Phoenix covers into a part-time job and an excuse to meet Panic! at the Disco? Now you can add Leader of the Masses to her cred sheet.
On June 22, at 12:30 pm, Kustler-Klein, along with about a dozen friends and acquaintances, staked out a spot on City Hall Plaza to protest the Lyons Group’s decision to bulldoze part of Lansdowne Street this summer to make way for a modern entertainment complex. Into the rubble will fall Axis and Avalon, two all-ages music venues that Kustler-Klein, now 15, considers sacred ground. “If it hadn’t been for the Avalon or the Axis . . . like, I wouldn’t be the same person that I am,” Kustler-Klein says solemnly. “I would have never started going to shows.”
The Lyons Group’s proposal to build a $14 million 2500-capacity building, tentatively dubbed the Lansdowne Street Music Hall, quickly soured on Kustler-Klein and her circle. A friend started an online petition (there are currently 741 signatures), but Kustler-Klein explained that she was the one who decided to take their cause “to the streets.” It was her hope that Mayor Menino might listen, even if mega nightclub owner Patrick Lyons didn’t. She didn’t bank on sharing the location of their protest with the rowdy Phantom Gourmet Barbecue Beach Party, however. “I was like, ‘Oh no! Not the Phantom Gourmet!’ ”, Kustler-Klein groans. No matter. A little past schedule (the protest was planned for noon), she and her fellow demonstrators assembled across from the Government Center T stop, toting signs with slogans such as KEEP THE SMALL SCENE ALIVE and AXIS IS THE BEST!
The fact that she was rallying to save a pair of Clear Channel venues that will make room for a bigger, more expensive Clear Channel venue wasn’t lost on Kustler-Klein. Not to mention the fact that many 18+ hipsters would be just as happy to see the clubs razed to the ground. But as a minor, she has three years before she can attend concerts at the Middle East or TT’s.
Sixteen-year-old Brian Sheehan, of Medford, acted as Kustler-Klein’s ad hoc co-leader for the day. “I remember the first time I met Keaton,” he says. “It was almost a year ago. I was at Paramore at the Axis . . . and now she’s my best friend.” Reflecting on the situation at hand, he adds, “No matter what, I’ll always go to Lansdowne Street because it’s, like, my home. But I’d just prefer it to stay the way it is.”
At about 1 pm, two Boston policemen approached the group. Without proper protest permits, they had to leave. Plans quickly formed to ditch City Hall for Faneuil Hall. “And if we get kicked out of there, we’ll probably go to the Common,” Kustler-Klein says. “We’ll parade around Boston. Until someone’s, like, stop it!”