Standing Ground: Despite increasing health issues, Bob Colby continues to promote Boston music
Last month the Boston Globe ran an article about the state of the area’s live music scene, focusing on the closing of several small to mid-sized rooms, like T.T. The Bear’s Place, Church, and Johnny D’s, and the emergence of others, including ONCE at Cuisine En Locale in Somerville. The accompanying photo, which appeared on the newspaper’s front page, was from the final night at T.T.’s back in July, showing Dave Minehan fronting Scruffy The Cat during the venue’s final live performance. Among those in the crowd pressed up to the front of the stage was Bob Colby.
A longtime promoter and supporter of Boston music, up front at shows is Colby’s favorite place to be. But the 63-year-old Watertown resident has been sidelined recently with battles with in his hip and severe arthritis. This Friday, he presents his last show of 2015, a Store 54 gig in Allston with When Particles Collide and Endation, before taking off for the rest of the year. Come 2016, he plans to organize four more shows at Store 54 while planning a move to North Carolina the following year, away from Boston’s harsh winters.
“Over the course of the past couple of months I’ve noticed an increase in leg pain,” Colby tells Vanyaland earlier this week. “It got more constant, so I went to the doctor. It got so bad I actually missed a Quilt show! I tried to walk out of the house and just said ‘no.'”
Colby says the pain in his leg gets worse at night, directly limiting his ability to not just promote and organize shows, but attend them.
“It’s had a very big impact on me,” he adds. “There are venues I can’t go to. I have to make sure there is seating. I can’t go on long walks. I have to make sure the venue is close to the T. Can’t do flyer runs. And standing up in place is sometimes worse than walking.”
That means his favorite spot to experience a show is now out of his reach. “The biggest thing for me is my place at shows has always been front and center,” Colby says. “I can now last maybe two or three songs.”
Colby has presented live music at Store 54 in Allston over the past few years, in addition to organizing shows at Club Bohemia at the Cantab in Cambridge the Rosebud in Somerville, and a medical-expense benefit for Mary Lou Lord at the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain. This Friday, he’s sure to find a proper spot near the front of the stage to watch Endation and When Particles Collide.
“It’s not surprising that he’s still supporting Boston music despite health issues, since it’s something he’s so obviously passionate about,” says Endation drummer Matt Graber. “Working with Bob is great. He’s very professional and he cares deeply about the shows that he puts together. It’s always a nice treat to see him in the audience.”
When Particles Collide singer/guitarist Sasha Alcott says Colby is a rare breed in our scene, and anywhere else, a tireless supporter of independent arts whose interest lie in the right places. “Americans like their rock and roll like they like their veggies: young, crisp and mostly flavorless,” she tells Vanyaland. “So when someone like Bob shows up at a show with his halo of wispy white hair and cutting a figure just on the other side dad bod, standing up at the front of the stage, some people get the wrong idea. For those who don’t know Bob, he can be an easy local Boston rock character to dismiss as a caricature. But Bob tirelessly attends shows for all the reasons we wish every fan showed up.”
And it’s that support that Colby shows that’s vital to bands playing around town.
“Bob personally believes in the transformative power of live performance,” Alcott adds. “Bob has a sense of the history and traditions of Boston music and wants to celebrate the past while at the same time extend the reach of current bands into the future. If you’re lucky enough to have Bob Colby as a fan or promoter and look out into the audience and see his eyes light up with pure joy, see him singing along and raising an arm or two to celebrate the camaraderie only experienced in the dark sweaty caverns of rock clubs, then you will know what rock and roll should look like. Whenever groups of people work hard at an endeavor they often describe certain members of their community as people who ‘just get it.’ These people are motivated by their passions and emotional connection to a pursuit or art form. For independent music in Boston I don’t think there’s anyone who gets it more than Bob. Chris [Viner, of When Particles Collide] and I are lucky to count Bob Colby as a fan, a promoter and most importantly a good friend. Bob adds a heck of a lot of flavor to the scene and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
BOB COLBY PRESENTS WHEN PARTICLES COLLIDE + ENDATION :: Friday, November 6 at Store 54, 16 Harvard Ave. in Allston, MA :: 9 p.m., all ages, $10 suggested donation :: Facebook Event page :: Flyer below by Endation’s Anthony Conley