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Punk’s Dead, but Music Still Lives in Kenmore Square

Foundation Lounge hosts three cover bands

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The Richard James Band, whose influences include Elton John and Pink Floyd, is one of the groups playing tonight at the Hotel Commonwealth’s Foundation Lounge.

Hard as it is to believe these days, Kenmore Square was once Boston’s alternative nightlife hub. Amid plenty of bars and late night eateries, one scene reigned: the Rat.  

Seedy, loud, no holds barred, the Rat (shortened and toughened from the Rathskeller) was the city’s premier rock and punk venue, credited with helping launch the careers of the likes of J. Geils, the Ramones, R.E.M., and the Police. When it closed in November 1997, punk presence in Kenmore vanished, gradually replaced by upscale restaurants and bars that are more trendy and respectable, but not livelier.

Presiding over the evolving nature of Kenmore Square is the mainstay Hotel Commonwealth. So it is fitting that the hotel’s bar, the Foundation Lounge, should try to blend the energy and music of those Ratty times into today’s sophisticated surroundings. 

Tonight, the Foundation has lined up three bands to play an array of cover tunes, not strong on punk but returning to songs first performed during Kenmore’s music heyday.

The Trim, Von Clauss and Friends, and the Richard James Band point to influences as diverse as the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Black Crowes, Billy Joel, and Elton John — with some Pink Floyd and Allman Brothers thrown in for good measure. And if a cut or two from Joey Ramone or Peter Wolf were to show up in the mix, that would be a nice tip of the cap to the neighborhood’s history.

The music begins at 9 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, June 23, at the Foundation Lounge in the Hotel Commonwealth, 500 Commonwealth Ave., Kenmore Square. There is no cover charge. For more information, call 617-859-9900. To get there on the MBTA, take the B line or 57 bus to Kenmore Square.     

Edward A. Brown can be reached at ebrown@bu.edu.

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