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Friends of rocker Justine Covault offer a fitting farewell

Justine Covault, 59, died in June.Duncan Wilder Johnson

Boston rock musician and record label owner Justine Covault was adamant that if anything ever happened to her, she wouldn’t want to be remembered with a somber funeral. “She’d want people to have a big party,” says her daughter Haley Wood.

The need to honor that wish came sooner than anyone anticipated. Covault died suddenly in June at the age of 59 from cardiovascular disease, just days after her band Justine and the Unclean released a new album, “The Signal Light.” Wood is honoring her mother with a blowout rock show at the Crystal Ballroom on Friday.

Although Covault had been in bands when she was younger, she had a burst of creative energy when she reached middle age. Both the Unclean and her other band, Justine’s Black Threads, became favorites of the Boston rock scene. In 2020, Covault founded Red on Red Records, which quickly established a roster of 25 bands. Its output ranged from surging rockers Chelsea Curve to Boston legend Robin Lane.

Justine Covault fronted the bands Justine and the Unclean and Justine's Black Threads.Richard Cramer

“She was really interested in helping other bands and in building a sense of community, especially when it came to promoting older musicians and female musicians,” says Wood.


Thanks to Covault’s tenacity, Boston bands signed to Red on Red got international airplay and new performing opportunities. “She really kicked a lot of ass in a short amount of time,” says David Minehan, a cornerstone of Boston rock who frequently recorded Red on Red releases at his Wooly Mammoth studio. “The music business usually offers big promises and little follow-through, but she always did what she said she would do, and she was fun and tough. She was all about empowerment. She gave people a home to be seen and heard, and to hear other people, and she raised the bar. She was a red-haired dynamo.”


Despite her demanding day job at the New England Journal of Medicine, “her energy level and her commitment to the rock ‘n’ roll scene in Boston was off the charts,” says “Bootleg” Dan Anklin, who helped Red on Red with distribution and booking. “People keep asking me how the Boston music scene is doing since the loss of this major force.”

Bootleg Dan and the International Pop Overthrow series are mounting another tribute concert Nov. 17 at the Square Root in Roslindale.

When she made her own music, Covault “had a really unique voice — I used to call it the squeaky frog,” laughs Minehan. “It was totally hers. And she could really write a song that hit all the right emotions and say exactly what she needed to say.”

Friday’s concert will be a family affair with Wood’s band The Croaks, a reunion of her father Crispin Wood’s Boston punk band The Bags, and sets from Covault’s bands the Black Threads, Quest for Tuna, and the Unclean. Minehan will appear as a wacky alter ego named Dink Pickerman.

“I know we are going to try to make Justine laugh up there, and I think the other bands may be doing the same,” says Minehan. “Justine would say, ‘Get the [expletive] over it and suck it up.’ ”

Noah Schaffer can be reached at


At the Crystal Ballroom at Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville. Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. Tickets $20 (advance), $22 (day of show).