The Rathskeller

The Rathskeller (known as The Rat for short) was a legendary[1][2][3] live music venue in Boston that was open from 1974 to 1997. A dimly lit, gritty establishment, the Rathskeller was considered the "granddaddy" of Boston rock venues.[4][5]

The Rathskeller
"The Rat"
Snowy B&W image of the venue with a woman (Aimee Mann) standing in front
Location528 Commonwealth Avenue Kenmore Square, Boston Coordinates: 42°20′54.97″N 71°5′46″W / 42.3486028°N 71.09611°W / 42.3486028; -71.09611
OwnerJimmy Harold
TypeMusic venue
Genre(s)Punk rock, alternative rock, hardcore punk, garage rock, rock and roll

During its heyday, the Rat hosted such acts as The Cars, The Pixies, Metallica, Powerman 5000, Dead Kennedys, The Ramones, Talking Heads, R.E.M., The Motels, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, The Queers, The Police, Soundgarden, The Doppler Effect and This Side Up. From 1980 to 1987, The Hoodoo BBQ—which Esquire called one of the "100 Best Restaurants in America"—was located at The Rat.[6]

In the 1960s it had been a restaurant and bar catering to college students. At the time, it offered live music in a back room, featuring local bands such as The Remains (who opened for The Beatles on their final tour), The Lost (with future Boston punk legend Willie "Loco" Alexander) and The Mods (whose drummer Harry Sandler went on to play with "Boston Sound" hitmakers Orpheus). The Remains were so popular in 1965 that the owner of the Rathskeller was forced to open up the basement for the first time to the overflow crowds that the Remains attracted. 1960s-style live music was phased out at some point, and the Rathskeller reverted to a simple restaurant until 1974.[7]

Aimee Mann playing with her band the Young Snakes at The Rat, 1981
Aimee Mann playing with her band the Young Snakes at the Rathskeller in 1981. —photo by David Henry.

Upon reopening to music, the Rat promoted itself as the "Locus of Boston Rock and Roll,".[8] While the club is often noted for the artists who performed there before their commercial breakthroughs it was distinguished by the local bands and scenes it helped to develop. In 1976, the album Live at The Rat was released; it documented the music of the time as well as the importance of the club in the development of Boston rock and roll.[9] The WBCN Rock & Roll Rumble was held at the Rathskeller for its first three years and was originally referred to as "The Rumble at the Rat."[10]

The Rat was also considered important for its contribution to the Hardcore movement. In a 2010 interview, Ken Casey of the Dropkick Murphys said: "(The Rat) afforded us the opportunity to have a place to play and develop our fan base, and it was just amazing to us. And the reason I credit it with all of our success, was this is how we started to tour. The hardcore punk scene in the mid-’90s was huge in Boston."[1]

References to the Rat's cultural impact can be found in the book All Souls, The Sound of Our Town, the film All Ages: The Boston Hardcore Film,[11] and in both Guitar Hero II and Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s.

The Rathskeller closed in November 1997, and was torn down in October 2000 to make way for the Hotel Commonwealth,[12] a 148-room luxury hotel of which Boston University is a limited partner.

In 2002, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones released a song on their album A Jackknife to a Swan lamenting the loss of the Rat titled "I Want My City Back."

Notable actsEdit


  1. ^ a b Baker, Matthew Reid (July 2010). "Top of Mind: Ken Casey, Extended Version". Boston Magazine. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  2. ^ Sullivan, Jim (15 November 1997). "Kenmore Square's fabled Rat to close this weekend". The Boston Globe. p. C.5.
  3. ^ Quint, Al. "Suburban Voice On The Rat". Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  4. ^ "Culture Brats, Bars of Our Youth". Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  5. ^ "Time Magazine via Boston Groupie News". Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  6. ^ "Boston Phoenix On The Rat". Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  7. ^ March 2015
  8. ^ "The Changing Face of Kenmore Square, BU Today". Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  9. ^ "Live At The Rat at All Music". Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  10. ^ Sabulis, Thomas (6 July 1979). "Winner is Neighborhoods in the Battle of the Bands". The Boston Globe. p. 28.
  11. ^ "Boston Hardcore at IMDB". Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  12. ^ "Hotel Commonwealth, News". Retrieved 3 February 2013.

External linksEdit