The line outside an Allston triple-decker is out the door on a recent Friday night. Inside works Berklee College of Music student Joe, who lives in the building and also runs an underground concert venue called Mt. Greylock out of his two-bedroom apartment.
Charging a $5 entry fee and scrawling Sharpie spaceships on guests’ hands, Joe sits in the entryway of his building, crammed between the door to his unit and the stairs to the others. A Venmo QR code is taped to the table in front of him, and bodies pack through the doorway by the dozen.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m running a pizza shop, just yelling out names,” Joe says as he shouts the Venmo transactions he received and guests file into the venue, the sound of electric guitar, heavy drums, and grungy singing competing with the hallway chatter each time the door opens.
Local concerts like these are one reason Joe and other young people migrate to Boston. In a city with a lackluster nightlife scene that’s financially and logistically inaccessible for many young people, student-run house shows provide a place for twenty-somethings to hang out at a cost far lower than clubs or bars.
“We came to Berklee looking for something like this,” said Joe, who also plays with his roommates in their band, Mt. Greylock. “This is the part of Berklee that Berklee doesn’t promote. You learn how to perform, how to create crowds, how to control crowds, how to network.”
The shows at Mt. Greylock started in the fall of 2021, after Joe and his bandmates moved to their new digs. When things were at their busiest, the crew hosted three or four shows a month — sometimes two in one weekend, Joe said. Now, the group has aged and gone their separate ways, but they still “throw together a ‘bill” every month or so.
Although it’s incredibly popular among young people, Boston’s DIY concert scene is one wary of newcomers. Cryptic Instagram accounts post their playbills without show addresses. Sometimes, a private message yields a mysterious instruction — “walk through the fence gate ... do not walk down the driveway” — while others elicit no response. For many members of Generation Z, it’s the last remaining thing passed through word of mouth.
But after visitors find their way inside, this behind-the-scenes concert crowd is inclusive, curious, and supportive. Already a niche of its own, the DIY concert scene is full of microcosms for just about every artist and genre, from punk to rap to shoegaze.
This late-October show has the first Berklee-only lineup at Mt. Greylock in at least a year, Joe says. The house’s “Halloweekend” shows are always busy, and this one is no exception: Dozens of young people pack into the two-room venue. The living room is unfurnished except for two couches against the walls, facing the area where musicians set up their amps, mics, and instruments.
The house looks like a typical college student’s apartment: lost-and-found street signs and posters adorn the walls, green plastic ivy dangles from the ceiling, and pink and orange lights cast a warm glow over the ever-growing crowd. The music starts with opener Anson Chen Trio, and the crowd gathers just feet away from the musicians, bopping and swaying to alternative rock.
Mt. Greylock is one of dozens of venues in Allston, each with its own regular crowd, music style, and visual aesthetic. In the close-knit community, show-hopping is not uncommon — especially for artists.
After finishing a set with Anson Chen Trio, drummer Sebastian Salazar quickly packed his equipment to play at another venue nearby. The Berklee student said he is used to multi-gig days — last weekend, he started the morning at a church gig and ended backing for a rapper at the Allston-Brighton concert venue, Roadrunner — and the underground scene in Allston gives him plenty of opportunities to get exposure.
Joe said the two years since shows started at Greylock have been mostly smooth sailing. The house shows get loud, but neighbors rarely complain — there’s a sense of camaraderie between this unit and the others in its complex that keeps them all safe from noise complaints or angry knocks.
“Oh, they hear,” Joe said when asked whether his neighbors know the shows are going on. “Most of the time we get shut down or have issues is when the cops are just driving by and they see a [expletive] ton of kids on the street by our house.”
For Will Doley, a Boston University sophomore from Atlanta, Boston’s concert scene is far different from the idea of college he grew up with in the South — in a good way.
“I came to Boston to go to a school where I didn’t have to rush a fraternity,” Doley said while standing with a group of friends outside Mt. Greylock venue in between sets.
And Doley’s not alone. In fact, college students have begun moving to the neighborhood just to be closer to the music, Joe said.
“The word spreads pretty quickly that Allston has a really good scene going on,” he said. “It’s definitely a poppin’ area in Boston in terms of art.”
Cameron Lane, a Berklee student and solo artist who plays many of Boston’s secret venues, said the DIY concert scene has been nothing but kind to her — and the secrecy among the community is what keeps it safe.
“I understand why people want to gatekeep the community to people who you know are going to treat it with love and care,” Lane said. “It’s a beautiful thing, and it’s something we want to protect forever.”