By A.J. Wachtel
Oct. 31 will mark the closing of one of the iconic nightclubs in New England history. Located in Allston, Harper's Ferry will end its run after almost 40 years. Originally called Riley's, the club changed its name in the late 1970s when owners Ed Connolly and Charlie Abel ushered in a new era of entertainment by bringing the best musicians in the area to perform at the club located on Brighton Avenue near the corner of Harvard Avenue. And when legendary entrepreneur Mickey O'Halloran was hired to book the club in the mid-80s, he brought the weekly blues jams that the venue became known for.
For many decades, New England's best and not-so-best performers flocked to Harper's to be seen and heard, and to promote themselves to growing numbers of fans who started packing the place to see the shows. National acts followed and the nightclub’s legend grew. There have been so many phenomenal performances they can’t all be listed here- but seeing Bo Diddley, James Montgomery and Johnny Winter, Al Kooper, Country Joe (and the Fish) and the remaining members of Canned Heat there come to mind as timeless and top notch performances.
For all local bars, summertime is the slowest time of the year for customers, and when Harper's fell two months behind in their rent their landlord went on the warpath. Smaller things like not sweeping the parking lot only aggravated the property owners.
In October, the landlord photographed everything and stated "everything on the property belongs to them and the only things that can be taken are the stools," according to an employee.
But after Halloween, with the club closed, the lawyers will sort all the legal issues out and the same source tells me "it’s not a done deal." Until the issues are resolved, the bar license is up in the air and nothing will happen. After that, we can only hope that Harper's Ferry will be able to relocate and continue to be an important venue in the local music world.
Just last week, Live Nation announced plans to take over and re-name the venue as Brighton Music Hall, and will allow the 340 person room to be the venue for new bands breaking into the local scene: the groups will initially gig here and then move on to Live Nation's larger clubs. Don Law's Opera House Ventures will handle the booking and the new space will open around New Years Eve.