Located in the heart of Back Bay, The Red Room at Cafe 939 is Berklee’s state-of-the-art all-ages venue. Embracing nearly all styles of music, from rock, jazz, folk, and world music to bluegrass, hip-hop, avant-garde, and more, the Red Room at Cafe 939 is a 200-capacity club dedicated to showcasing, developing, and supporting music and performance. Bathed in a red glow and hidden in an otherwise residential looking building on Boylston, gives the venue an almost secretive, “I am in on something special no one else knows about” feeling to the shows there. Holly McGarry (guitar, banjo, and vocals for the band Honeysuckle) gives us the low down on the venue…
The “Vibe”. What to expect: The vibe is very clean and professional. It’s perfect for what it is at its core, a venue for students in the music business program at Berklee College of Music to get real world practice in on a smaller scale. They have great lights and a great sound system, both of which are mostly operated by very competent and eager student sound people (a nice change from some of the more jaded sound people you meet out there on the bar music venue circuit). The audience can vary a lot which is cool as well depending on the act. There are many shows populated primarily by students but there seem to also be many dominated by other generations as well.
The Artists. Who you’ll see?: It’s hard to know what national acts to expect there. Given that it’s attached in a large way to Berklee there are many international artists that perform, as well as a wide range of genres represented like rock, metal, jazz, electronic, etc.. I would say that the majority of bands are likely Indie Rock, especially student bands, but in any given month they do a good job of keeping some variety.
The Grub/Drinks. What to eat and drink? They don’t have food or booze at Café 939. It’s an all ages venue and given the student run nature I don’t think they have the capacity or interest to ever add either to the mix. As an audience member I do sometimes miss being able to get a drink or snack but as a performer in a lot of ways I love that it is an alcohol free place to play. There can be a good/fun element to playing to people who have ‘had a couple’ and are ‘loosened up’ but I like the idea that at 939 you’re not being employed just to sell drinks, people are there to see you, listen to you and there’s nothing motivating the venue other than that. When I was still underage there was almost nothing that frustrated me more than hearing, “you guys sounded great and brought in some people but they just didn’t drink enough,” when trying to re-book at places.
How do I play here? Booking tips for artists: Booking at 939 can be difficult depending on your popularity and visibility around Boston. For us as a very low level band we had to play around a lot to gain visibility and get to know some of the acts that played there/people who were involved at the venue in order to play there more regularly. As a student it’s easy to email but not easy to get a response back but I still think it’s worth the effort to keep reaching out until something connects.
Holly McGarry is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist in the Boston based progressive folk trio ‘Honeysuckle’. She is also a graduate of the Berklee College of music and a performer deeply engrained in the folk/roots music community around Boston and New England. 2015 was a big year for the band with a performance at the Newport Folk Festival, 2 Boston Music Award nominations and we here at Red Line Roots named them our Favorite Find for 2015. The band is currently working on a new full length album slated for release spring 2016. Check them out on their website at http://www.honeysuckleband.com/home.html and give them a like on their Facebook page while you are at it.