Middle East Makeover: Clay Fernald out as general manager, Alex Pickert named Upstairs talent buyer
A few weeks after Jason Trefts of Illegally Blind Presents was released from his position as talent buyer at the Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub, more changes at the Cambridge complex have surfaced.
Clay Fernald, who in recent weeks has joined event marketing company and listings guide Do617 as full-time content manager, has stepped down as the venue’s general manager after several years on the job. He’ll remain at the Middle East in a part-time role, specifically as publicist and social media strategist.
The Middle East’s Upstairs room also has a new talent buyer, filling the spot vacated by Trefts, and it’s Alex Pickert of Coach & Sons Olde Time Family Booking. Pickert, a California native, has performed in various roles at the Middle East over the past few years, from working the door to booking shows as an independent promoter, and is also the drummer for Animal Flag. He studied music business at Berklee College of Music.
“We’re lucky to have young booking talent like Alex, arising from years in the East Bay punk scene, and then adapting to the dog-eat-dog world of being an independent promoter in Boston with his successful Coach & Sons Olde Time Family Booking,” Fernald tells Vanyaland. “To follow the musical chairs, The Middle East booking team is now Alex Pickert in the legendary Middle East Upstairs, Lionel Train remains the downstairs agent and Ned Wellbery (Leedz Edutainment) has hopped in to support the rooms as the booking manager.”
Earlier this month, Trefts said that his sudden departure from the Middle East came after “some fundamental disagreements about shows” with the remaining booking and managerial staff, but Pickert tells Vanyaland he’s ready for the challenge of delivering the right shows to the 190-person-capacity room.
“I am eager and excited to continue making the Middle East Upstairs the coolest place to see live music in Boston/Cambridge,” Pickert tells Vanyaland over the weekend. “I’ve been in Boston for six years and have been coming to and booking the occasional show at the Mid East for all six of those years and have never had a bad time. The local and national talent that has performed in the Upstairs room is unreal. As someone who has been booking shows for years and heavily rooted in the DIY music scene, I intend to keep booking the countless amazing local artists that this city has to offer and continue to prove that The Mid East is the best place to see not just music but quality local music in Boston.”
Pickert says the Middle East is “the most musically diverse venue in the area”, and he plans to keep it that way, offering a stage for musicians of all styles and genres. And his role as an active musician in the Boston music scene will allow him an added perspective of what makes a show work for all involved.
“From rock, pop, indie rock to hip-hop — shout out to Leedz — to metal, to jazz to EDM dance nights to funk and reggae and jam bands and even karaoke nights, every night is different here and that’s special,” he adds. “I intend to keep Mid East cool. That is my one goal: to have something good for everyone. That also includes the musicians. As a musician myself, I know what makes a show good or bad, and as a music fan I know what makes a show good or bad, and as a Middle East staff member I know what makes a show good or bad for the staff… I’m excited to continue to serve this music scene and to do this job to the best of my ability and continue to do what I do best and what I love to do, which is book good gigs.”