Date published: September 20, 2010
The Nighttime is the Right Time
Boston’s best bets for living it up after dark
by Josh B. Wardrop
Anyone addicted to the 1960s-set television drama "Mad Men" knows that America used to be a place of three-martini lunches, raging chauvinism, and, above all, lots and lots of cigarette smoking.While most of us have managed to make do just fine without these particular trappings of post-war American culture, one thing the America of 50 years ago had that we wouldn't mind seeing more of these days is the nearly forgotten social club.These hotbeds of camaraderie were popular spots for conversation and cocktails (if you fulfilled the proper qualifications to join, that is) and offered a little respite away from the rest of the world.That's the vibe—minus those old-school exclusionary tactics, of course— that local nightlife/culinary impresarios The Lyons Group were shooting for with the brand-new Back Bay Social Club (867 Boylston St., 617-247-3200).The red leather booths, dark mahogany bars and pressed tin ceilings create a feel of traditional Americana, while the menu of creative and delicious American cuisine (served 'til 1:30 a.m.) and updates of classic cocktails (like the HarveyWallbanger Variation and the Club High Ball) ensure that "membership" in this Club clearly has its privileges for fans of Boston nightlife.
There's nothing worse than being stuck in a bad dance club—the rude 'tude from the bouncers, the floors sticky with beer, the never-ending techno that seems to have been mathematically constructed to crush the very will from your soul. Luckily,when the venerable Roxy club complex metamorphosed into Royale earlier this year, the new owners kept theTremont Street venue's biggest assets— a cool, old building with classy striking architectural features like a grand staircase— and subtracted the unimaginative dance nights in favor of attracting top local and national DJs.They also made the smart move of partnering with renowned NewYork promotersThe Bowery Presents to make Royale the site of some of Boston's hottest indie shows, including upcoming visits from Teenage Fanclub (September 25), Ra Ra Riot (October 1),M.I.A. (October 4 & 5) and Deerhunter (October 16),which has helped make Royale the Hub's hottest spot for everyone from hip-hop fans to hipsters.
Now, on the face of it, spending a night in Boston doing something as mundane as taking in a flick at the local cinema doesn't seem very exciting or memorable—after all, you can check out the latest Saw sequel anywhere, right? Absolutely—so skip the traditional megaplex and take advantage of some of the area's very cool independent theaters and the special screenings and repertory series they offer.TheMuseumof Fine Arts demonstrates that it's not just about paintings and sculptures, but also celluloid masterpieces, screening classic works like Funny Face starring Audrey Hepburn (October 5 & 9) and Antonioni's Blow-Up (October 12 & 15) as part of its Fashion on Film series, offered in conjunction with Boston FashionWeek (see story, page 6). On September 29 at 7 p.m., the Harvard FilmArchive unspools an undisputed American film classic that consistently takes the #1 spot on film critics best-of-all-time lists—OrsonWelles' Citizen Kane—for free.And if you're a night owl, there's no better place to indulge your movie jones than at Brookline's Coolidge Corner Theatre,where midnight movies draw raucous, fun-loving crowds almost every weekend. Upcoming flicks include everybody's favorite '80s teen drama, The Breakfast Club (September 24 & 25), the heart-stopping horror and snarky laughs ofWes Craven's slasher smash Scream (October 1 & 2) and, for true fans of the kind of legendarily bad films that midnight screenings were made for, actor/director TommyWiseau's cult classic, The Room (October 16).
The nationwide success of Boston's newest piano bar,Howl at the Moon seems to be based on a clear mathematical principle: if x is good (in the case of Howl at theMoon, the variable x represents a charismatic, high-energy, talented piano player/vocalist performing onstage) then 2x (the presence of two charismatic, high-energy, talented piano player/vocalists performing onstage concurrently)must, logically, be twice as good.Whether the folks behind this raucous, good-time concept are full-on scientific eggheads or just entertainment geniuses, the result is hard to arguewith.The nightclub chain—also known for its larger-than-life, sharable bucket-sized cocktails—boasts 14 locations, and has already become a popular spot here in the Hub for partyingwith friends, taking out that bachelor or bachelorette for their last night of freedomand even family reunions (if this doesn't loosen up crusty Uncle Earl, nothing will).
Or, if you're the type who'd prefer to be playing rather than watching, there's no better place to pick up a 7–10 split while enjoying a Cosmopolitan than at Kings in the Back Bay, where you and your crew can engage in 10-pin bowling in a glam atmosphere, sip cocktails at the bar or in the DeVille Lounge or shoot pool in the billiards room.
Over the summer, the streets of Allston were a bit quieter than usual—and it's not just because the college students of Boston University and Boston College were home on break. For the first time in its 33-year history, venerable rock club The Paradise—a venue that's seen everything from injury-inducing stage-diving by ex-New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe in 1993 to some of the earliest Boston shows by groups like AC/DC,The Police and U2—was dark for three months, while the club underwent a period of renovation and reconstruction.
Changes to the club—one of the last remaining venues from Boston's '70s heyday as a rock 'n' roll nirvana—include the moving of the Paradise's stage, the removal of a bar to offer more floor space and better sightlines and an upgraded sound system.The newly revamped club opened to the public September 1, and this fall the club is set to welcome acts like James (September 25), Built to Spill (September 30 & October 1), Fountains ofWayne (October 8) and the Dead Kennedys (October 13,which should have Commonwealth Avenue rocking once more.