Coming to Gloucester, a new destination for live music
James Sullivan, Boston Globe
November 24, 2023
Gloucester Mayor Greg Verga prepares to cut the ribbon for The Cut, as director of operations Travis Siewers (holding daughter Clementine) and Tom Clark, concert and event manager, look on. MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF
For nearly two decades, the musician Tony Goddess has operated a recording studio and rehearsal spaces in a rabbit warren of underground rooms along Gloucester’s old-fashioned Main Street. Upstairs was a CVS.
The drugstore closed a couple of years ago, leaving a vacant storefront on Main Street. When the building went up for sale, Goddess worried that he might have to find a new home for his business. But the buyer had an idea for a live music venue.
“How often does the new landlord come up and say, ‘I’m so glad all these musicians are here’?” Goddess, formerly of the Boston band Papas Fritas, joked on Monday. He was addressing a large crowd that spilled onto Main Street at the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for The Cut, a new restaurant and performance stage in the old building.
The restaurant opened for business that evening. When the back-room music venue debuts in January, it will host national touring acts with a standing-room capacity of 500, or 300 for seated shows. Granite Cove Equities bought the 22,000-square-foot building for a reported $2.9 million in May 2022, and the ownership team says it has poured $10 million in the renovation.
Tony Goddess, the owner of Bang-a-Song Studios, which is located in the basement of the building that will house The Cut. MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF
“People walk by every day and say, ‘Gloucester needs this,’” Tom Clark, an investor and the designer of the new venue, told the crowd. “I was thinking last night: You don’t really need it. You deserve it.”Clark, who divides his time between his homes in Gloucester and Somerville, is a project manager who has designed hundreds of restaurants and music spaces, including the original House of Blues in Harvard Square.
“I’ve been taking notes for 50 years for this, it feels like,” he said during a walk-through of the new venue before the ribbon cutting.
When the stage opens on Jan. 13, Gloucester will celebrate one of its own: An all-star group will honor Willie Alexander, the dean of Boston rock music, who has made his home in Gloucester for decades. Celebrating his 80th birthday, he looked decades younger at the opening ceremony.
Musician Willie Alexander attends the ribbon cutting for The Cut. A longtime Gloucester resident, Alexander will be honored by an all-star band on Jan. 13, opening night of the music stage. MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF
Mayor Greg Verga, who cut the ribbon, has been eager to see the venue open for more than one reason. An avid music fan who plays the bass, he hosts a local show called “Music with the Mayor,” and his own band, Paulzon Fire, has recorded at Goddess’s studio, Bang-a-Song.
“If you have not been inside, you are going to be extremely surprised,” the mayor told the crowd. The name is a nod to Gloucester’s unique geography. In 1642, the Rev. Richard Blynman built a canal that connected Gloucester Harbor to the Annisquam River, effectively making the tip of Cape Ann an island. Locals call the waterway, which is spanned by a busy drawbridge, “The Cut.”
The low drop ceilings that enclosed the old CVS have been removed, exposing the wood and brick construction of the original building and creating a wide-open feel. The new owners call it “glam industrial.”
A square central bar is surrounded by rows of booth seating; a bullpen area toward the back features pool and foosball tables. Local talent buyer Liam Anastasia-Murphy (who has his own band called the Surnames) will book regional musicians to play Wednesday night sets in the restaurant.
A crowd gathers on Main Street in Gloucester for the ribbon-cutting ceremony for The Cut, which is filling the space formerly occupied by a CVS. MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF
Headliners on the preliminary schedule for the back room include Shemekia Copeland on March 16 and Richard Thompson on April 5. Thompson is a “bucket list” booking, said national talent buyer Randi Millman, who got her start in the early 1990s at TT the Bear’s Place in Cambridge and more recently booked Atwood’s Tavern in Somerville.
Director of operations Travis Siewers said the new venue plans to host all kinds of events, including movie showcases, comedy, private functions, and more. After running Puffy’s Tavern in New York City’s trendy Tribeca neighborhood for years, he and his family relocated to Gloucester, where his wife grew up.
“We have some of the nicest beaches in New England, and one of the oldest art colonies in America,” he said of his adopted hometown, which has been celebrating its quadricentennial this year.
“There used to be dance halls and public houses here,” Siewers added. While Cape Ann has other destination venues — Rockport’s Shalin Liu Performance Center and the Cabot in Beverly — those are seated venues, he said. At The Cut, he wants to see the customers kick up their heels.
Written by James Sullivan who is a Globe correspondent.