Boston bands step up to the mic for Gang Green’s Chris Doherty
One night last week several former members of the renowned Boston hardcore band Gang Green ripped through a rehearsal of some of their classic high-energy songs for proud lowlifes. They played, among others, “Snob,” “Alcohol,” and “Skate to Hell.”
“Six songs in six minutes,” reports Sean McNally, who was there.
Led by Braintree native Chris Doherty, who was just 15 when the group formed in 1980, Gang Green had quickly cut seven tracks, each one faster and more furious than the last, for the widely influential hardcore compilation “This Is Boston, Not L.A.” After a lineup overhaul, Doherty and Gang Green recorded “Sold Out,” the first single for Boston’s Taang! Records and, in 1986, one of the label’s first and most successful albums, “Another Wasted Night.”
In recent years Doherty has been touring the band in its latest incarnation, featuring recruits from his adopted home in Cincinnati. Last Halloween, just a year after surviving a life-threatening illness, Doherty suffered a massive, debilitating stroke.
Upon hearing the news, McNally (who manages the band Sam Black Church) jumped into action with Alec Peters, a former Gang Green manager and longtime associate of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. They’ve pulled together a robust lineup for a benefit concert on Doherty’s behalf, Friday night at the Paradise. Acts include the Dogmatics, the Lemonheads’ Evan Dando, the F.U.’s, the Outlets, Slapshot, Unnatural Axe, and Tree, among others. Aptly dubbed “Not a Wasted Night,” the benefit will raise money to help defray medical bills for Doherty, who is uninsured.
Richie Parsons of Unnatural Axe spent a good deal of time with Doherty before he moved to Cincinnati, when both were living in Quincy. They’d met in the ’80s, when one of Parsons’s former bandmates joined Gang Green.
“Chris and I became good pals,” says Parsons, who has a new solo album out called “Black-Throated Blue.” “Honestly, there wasn’t anyone he couldn’t be pals with on that scene. He was always out and about, a pretty funny guy.”
Their daughters were close growing up in Quincy.
“Every Fathers Day I get a text or a phone call from him,” Parsons says. “It’s a funny tradition. We can go a year without talking, and then we catch up.”
The bands committed to the benefit represent a healthy cross-section of Boston’s abundant music scene of the ’80s and ’90s. Parsons points out he recently unearthed a flier for a booze cruise that featured his power-pop band, Gang Green, and the “college rock”-ish Neats — three bands “about as different as you can get,” he says.
“We were one of a few who kind of crossed over,” explains Jerry Lehane of the Dogmatics. “We were more rock ’n’ roll, with a little rockabilly tinge.” But they had plenty of attitude, the one common denominator on the scene at the time.
“Everyone partied back then pretty heavy,” says Lehane, who runs his own plumbing company. Gang Green was “one of the few bands that could actually hang with us.”
During one of Gang Green’s habitual hiatuses, Doherty spent a few months in another of Lehane’s bands, the Matweeds.
“He was not a man of many words,” Lehane recalls, “but he was a real loyal, decent kid.” Onstage, Doherty flailed around like AC/DC’s Angus Young, Lehane says with a laugh: “It was good that he went back on tour [with Gang Green]. I don’t think we could have survived that.”
Sadly, Lehane has a long history with benefit shows. In 1986, the Dogmatics hosted a series of them at the Rat after the tragic loss of founding member Paul O’Halloran in a motorcycle wreck.
“This right here is a testament to all the bands sticking together, helping one of their own,” he says of the benefit for Doherty. “I love that.”
Hearing of Doherty’s stroke is another sobering reminder that the bands of Boston’s rock heyday, when the WBCN Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble was as much fun as the Celtics in the playoffs, are long past the indestructible gall of youth.
“You think of your own mortality far too often,” says Parsons.
With so many bands paying tribute, the benefit is set to run from 6:30 p.m. until midnight (doors open at 6). Lehane, for one, has requested that his band play “as early as possible. I want to get home.”
No need to apologize for it, he says: “We’ll put on a better show then, anyway.”
Not a Wasted Night: Benefit for Chris Doherty of Gang Green
Featuring Unnatural Axe, Skate to Hell Band, Slapshot, Outlets, Dogmatics, F.U.’s, Evan Dando, Tree, Springa, White Dynomite, and Worm. Jan. 11 at 6 p.m. At Paradise Rock Club, 967 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. Tickets $25-$75, events.crossroadspresents.com