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At Atwood’s, a few more memories to make before last call

The Royer Family Band, mainstays at Atwood's Tavern in Cambridge for many years, play their final Monday night show.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

CAMBRIDGE — Justin Andrukonis arrived at Atwood’s Tavern early enough Monday evening to grab a plum seat at the end of the bar. From his perch, he had a direct line of sight to the stage.

He’s been coming here for years. He knows all the words to the songs the Royer Family Band plays bluegrass-style, every Monday night. An accountant who lives just over the line in Somerville, Andrukonis has at least 100 videos of their performances on his phone. There’s going to be a hole to fill in his weekly schedule when the staff at Atwood’s locks the door for the last time on Friday, he admitted.


“I fell in love with the staff, the band, the atmosphere,” he said.

Atwood's Tavern is closing after 16 years.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Just a few months ago, during a snowstorm, Andrukonis was one of only a couple of customers who showed up. There were fewer folks in the audience than the four members of the band. On this night, he was hemmed in by the shoulder-to-shoulder, standing-room-only crowd, who were on hand to bid farewell to another beloved gathering spot for live music in the Boston area.

On March 1, Atwood’s owners Patrick and Ryan Magee posted a notice on their website explaining that the final day of the month would be their last in business. The brothers began serving beer, burgers, and live music 16 years ago, in a space on Cambridge Street near Inman Square previously occupied by a succession of neighborhood bars.

After the Magees brought in longtime Boston concert booker Randi Millman, the club hosted occasional touring acts — the Waco Brothers, Colter Wall, Dale Watson, the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio. But its bread and butter remained its local scheduling, with regular appearances by Tim Gearan, Vapors of Morphine, and Duke Levine, to name a few.


Patrons stand shoulder to shoulder to converse, drink, and enjoy live music at Atwood's Tavern Monday night.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The Royer Family Band, led by banjoist Eric Royer, has stepped onto the small stage nearly every Monday night since Royer’s daughter, Hazel, was barely big enough to support her upright bass. Now she’s taller than her father and about to graduate from Berklee College of Music.

“I basically grew up here,” Hazel Royer said as she stepped down to take a break with the band Monday. “This was a beautiful thing that I got to be a part of for so long.”

Along one wall, 27-year-old Andy Werchniak chatted with his aunt, Wendy Dodd, who ran Smoken’ Joe’s BBQ & Blues in Brighton for several years. They both love live music. Werchniak, a software programmer, has been coming to Atwood’s on Mondays for a while now — his girlfriend is a server — but this was only the second time he’d shared the experience with his aunt.

“Unfortunately, the second time, it’s closing,” he said.

The Royer Family Band performs their weekly Monday night set at Atwood's Tavern for the last time. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The Magees, who own the building, have not spoken publicly about their decision to close. The announcement on their website suggested that although a successor has not been named, “we are confident that they will provide the neighborhood with the community space it deserves.”

Up near the stage, a toddler in a lumberjack shirt and a tiny fedora gazed past his parents at the crowd as the band — including Tim Kelly on dobro and Sean Staples on guitar — serenaded the room with “I’ve Just Seen the Rock of Ages.”


In a running joke, the band kept up their banter with bartender Liam Davenport. At one point Davenport jumped onstage to pay tribute to his Monday night companions.

“I didn’t know anything about bluegrass when they started,” he joked, “and now I know less.”

Will Hall brought a group of friends who crowded around a high top near the corner of the stage. He’s been dating Hazel Royer, he said, holding up a camera he was using to document the show.

Hall wasn’t a bluegrass fan until he met Hazel, he said.

“I’m a metalhead. My favorite bluegrass is the band that covers Motorhead.”

He lamented the “impersonal” nature of the new, much larger venues that have been opening around the city while neighborhood fixtures such as Great Scott, ONCE Somerville, and now Atwood’s fall by the wayside.

“The ability to share music like that really only happens in a place like this,” he said. Here, he said, “you can have a conversation with anybody.”

Back at the bar, Justin Andrukonis compared the closing of another club to those two familiar inevitables, death and taxes. Asked whether he’s already thinking about a new place to claim his seat at the bar, he looked toward the band.

“Wherever they go,” he said, “I’ll probably go.”

James Sullivan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.