The Slaughterhouse Gallery

by Colin Peters (Journalism), published February 14th 2011

photos by Colin Peters (Journalism)

Note: Some names have been changed.

It began in April as an inspired idea in Brooklyn.  It revealed itself in October on Mission Hill:  The Slaughterhouse Gallery.  With opening night performances by Doctor Jeep, Gentlemen Hall and Bad Rabbits, Boston’s newest DIY venue was born.

Conceived by two Northeastern students, the Slaughterhouse Gallery was inspired partly by the thriving music scene in Brooklyn.

“I was on co-op in New York.  I kept thinking of ideas.  What I love about Brooklyn is that there’s such a community there of bands and art in the underground scene.  It’s so cool, everyone works together and supports each other and there’s such a network with bands.”

While Dan was in New York, Mark was in Boston looking for apartments for the fall.  As he tells it, finding the basement that would become the Slaughterhouse was somewhat of a happy accident.

“We got here and saw the basement and thought, ‘We could have a drum set here.’”  Initially, they thought the space was perfect for their own musical equipment, but the idea slowly morphed into a much bigger endeavor.

What they have created since then is quite remarkable. With little actual space (a capacity crowd is around seventy), they have transformed what used to be a sorry basement into a creative and imaginative venue.

The house itself in was built in the 1850s.  The basement’s exposed brick and low hanging ceilings make it perfectly cozy for intimate performances.  An old oil tank in the corner has been painted like a cow and adorned with a bull’s skull.  A dangerous hole in the floor, about a square foot in size, has been ominously lit, filled with bones, covered with Plexiglas and called, ‘The Awful Pit.’  The mishmash of foundation, furnace and housing necessities that sits directly in the middle of the rectangular basement is known as the ‘Chopping Block.’  As for the two mad men behind this operation and their crew of friends running the show?  They’re all butchers – aprons included.

The very first SHG show went surprisingly well, save for three butchers who spent a night in jail.  The show ended just as the police arrived on a noise complaint.  Fortunately, donations from attendees went towards bail.  While this was not the ideal finish for the first show, it certainly didn’t stop Dan and Mark from continuing their plans.

Positive response from the first show — combined with meticulous planning and preparation — led to a successful second show.  Dinosaur Bones and Motel Motel played with a DJ set by White Boy Wasted.  In an attempt to curb police intervention, the show began earlier and the Slaughterhouse team perfected getting people in and out of the house swiftly and discreetly.

The second show also provided a first for the SHG: a crowd that included gray haired fifty-somethings.  If anything, this addition to the audience signaled a small but significant accomplishment for SHG and its founders.  Since the beginning, they made it clear that building community was a driving force behind the venue.  An expanding and diverse audience is the first indication of such progress.

“When you walk into a venue, it’s more of a business transaction. [Here] you feel like it’s something of your own. If they feel like it’s their own, they’re going to feel like it’s a community they have,” Dan explained.

The idea of building community and cooperation with others remains at the forefront of the SHG operation. Dan, Mark and their team are working on hosting other types of performances to develop the space. They’ve discussed hosting art shows, readings, plays, and other activities that could potentially engage a community.

“When you collaborate, in every form of art, everyone just feeds off each other,” Mark said regarding the intended cooperation. In addition to growing as a venue, they’ve also reached out to other Boston area DIY spaces like the Whitehaus Family Record in Jamaica Plain. While they’ve only hosted three shows thus far, they have been impressive and well executed. The second show clearly improved upon the first. The third show was an improvement on the second, and it looks like they’ll only get better.

They have succeeded in creating a collaborative experience that emphasizes live performance. Ambitious as the project may be, it’s a realistic one to those who are behind it. The goal doesn’t seem to be self-promotion, the intent is to come together as a community and share different tastes. With tentative shows lined up for the coming months, the Slaughterhouse Gallery shows no sign of slowing. It’s come a long way from the slow beginnings in April of 2010.

“At first I was kind of down, like, ‘Oh shit, I have to leave New York and go back to Boston where the music scene is just okay,’” Dan admitted. But now, perhaps the music scene is better than “just okay,” or maybe not. Either way, the Slaughterhouse Gallery is now a part of Boston’s music scene; and they’re giving it all they’ve got.

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