Bad news, Boston rock 'n' roll fans of a certain age: More than 80 vintage bands either ignored or declined Bob Dubrow's invitation to play his series of concerts celebrating 25 years of Pipeline!, WMBR's weekly live local music showcase. The much better news: More than 80 others — most of them reuniting in one form or another — gladly accepted.
Beginning Friday at Arlington's Regent Theatre, Pipeline! presents a mighty slate covering five decades of Boston rock, comprising 13 shows over five weekends at venues including the Middle East, the Paradise, and Brighton Music Hall. One participant calls the undertaking "Herculean."
Given the show's origin on the MIT campus in 1989, the series is understandably weighted toward the cream of Boston's underground crop from the late '80s and early '90s. The Bags, the Voodoo Dolls, the Cavedogs, and many other onetime Rock 'n' Roll Rumble winners and contenders are scheduled to appear.
But Boston's contributions to rock's various rumblings go all the way back to the music's early years, and the Pipeline! schedule reflects that. Start with the Remains (Sept. 27 at the Regent), who toured with the Beatles, and the Freeborne (Friday at the Regent), who cut a psychedelic classic in 1968, when the two principal songwriters were all of 17 years old.
The series is the work of Dubrow, the veteran 'MBR DJ who hosted Pipeline! from 1993 to 2003. He's not taking a penny, he says. Instead, he's getting paid in "cheap thrills" as some of his favorite bands from past eras agree to reunite.
Besides the flood of nostalgia it's bound to release, the Pipeline! series underscores just how vital a factor Boston's academic institutions have been in perpetuating the city's rich local music scene. In addition to MIT, Emerson College, Boston College, and Tufts, to name a few, have supported local bands for years with their broadcasting.
"College radio in Boston is still the best on the planet," says Dave Herlihy, whose quintessential "college-rock" band, O Positive, reunites for Friday's Regent bill. Before forming his band, Herlihy was a DJ and local music director at BC's WZBC, back in the late '70s.
"I remember listening to Pipeline! and always wanting to be on it," Herlihy says. "When we got on, it was sort of a validation of our place on the scene." Now his band is repaying the favor.
The Freeborne, O Positive, Cordelia's Dad, We Saw the Wolf, String Builders
Regent Theatre, Arlington, Sept. 12
When Nick Carstoiu first learned, about 20 years ago, that his short-lived psychedelic band the Freeborne had earned a cult following for "Peak Impressions," their elaborate, far-out 1968 debut album, "it knocked me for a loop. I hadn't thought of the band in decades." A few years ago the founding members got together for the first time in ages at a hometown gig by their guitarist, Bob Margolin, who'd gone on to a noted career in the blues as "Steady Rollin' " Bob Margolin. The death of drummer Lew Lipson led to a genuine reunion, with the band cutting a new song, "Lew's Blues."
Stranglehold, the Turbines, the Neats' Eric Martin & friends, the Dogmatics,
Baby's Arm, Miranda Warning
Cuisine en Locale, Sept. 13
When the '80s jangle band the Neats reunited for First Night 2009, frontman Eric Martin told the Globe he still cherishes his time as a member of the local music scene. It "really was a great community," he said. "One thing that really distinguished us as a local band was that we lived together early on. It was a Monkees kind of thing."
Nisi Period, Someone & the Somebodies, Pods, Purple Ivy Shadows, Mistle Thrush, Curious Ritual
Cuisine en Locale, Sept. 19
If you're revisiting your old U2 records after the band's surprise album release this week, you may have come across Bono's exhortation to "reach out for Someone and the Somebodies" on the "Live From Boston 1981" release. That was a shout-out to one of the local bands who opened for the 20-year-olds from Dublin during that visit. Someone and the Somebodies won that year's Rumble; bassist Tristram Lozaw went on to become one of Boston's rock-critic mainstays.
The Sheila Divine, Dirt Merchants, the Gravel Pit, Fertile Virgin, Honeybunch, Evol Twin
Cuisine en Locale, Sept. 20
1999 Rumble winners the Sheila Divine represent the "whippersnapper" contingent of the Pipeline! series, having broken up just over a decade ago. Singer Aaron Perrino went on to form another local favorite, Dear Leader, but has reunited his earlier band for occasions such as this.
Dumptruck, Vapors of Morphine, Big Dipper's Bill Goffrier & friends, the Jigsaws, the Barnies
Regent Theatre, Sept. 26
Starting out as a kind of indie garage band, Dumptruck drew some of its biggest acclaim with the Americana-leaning "For the Country" in 1987. A few years later, cofounder Seth Tiven broke up the band and moved to Austin, Texas. "It sounds like it was all premeditated, but really, it never was," he says. In truth, every Dumptruck album was a seat-of-the-pants adventure, with changing styles instigated in part by the band's rotating membership. For this reunion, Dumptruck will feature Brian Dunton and Shawn K. Devlin, who would go on to join Helium with Mary Lou Lord. (Tiven and Lord will also play acoustic sets on Oct. 4 at the Walnut Street Cafe in Lynn.)
The Remains, Cardinal, the Downbeat 5
Regent Theatre, Sept. 27
After the death of Barry and the Remains drummer Chip Damiani earlier this year, the band canceled a reunion gig at Johnny D's. Pipeline!'s Dubrow notes that the Standells recently lost their own drummer, Dick Dodd, who sang lead on "Dirty Water." "It's happening," says Dubrow, who is 57. "That's why we were so eager to get bands from that time."
Anastasia Screamed, the Flies, Bentmen, Men & Volts, the Nervous Eaters, the F.U.'s/Strawdogs
Brighton Music Hall, Sept. 28
In the punk/New Wave world of the late 1970s, the Nervous Eaters should have been a very big deal. As it happened, they were a pretty big deal at the Rat, at least, where they opened for the Cars, the Jam, the Dead Boys, and many more.
Fuzzy, the Blood Oranges, Robin Lane and the Chartbusters, Tacklebox, Lazy Susan, Buttercup
Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge, Oct. 23
Robin Lane and the Chartbusters earned a chunk of MTV's inaugural hour in 1981 with the video for their biggest hit, "When Things Go Wrong." She's been working as an advocate for abuse victims for years, work that she finds far more satisfying than the music business. "When I was younger, I never thought I'd quit," she told the Globe in 2007. "But it can break your heart."
Orangutang, the Clamdiggers, Bulkhead, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Kudgel, Quintaine Americana, Crazy Alice
Middle East Downstairs, Oct. 4
"Rock 'n' roll should be funny and stupid," Nat Freedberg once told Mojo magazine. The longtime frontman of the bewigged gimmick band the Upper Crust (with whom he answers to the stage name Lord Bendover) is regrouping one of his earlier bands, the Clamdiggers — "surf-rock with a nod toward Satanism" — for the Pipeline! celebration.
Heretix, Willie Alexander & the Boom Boom Band, Shake the Faith, Reddy Teddy, Big City Rockers with the Atlantics' Fred Pineau, High Risk Group, the Dents
Paradise Rock Club, Oct. 5
With an early group called Bonjour Aviators, guitarist Fred Pineau opened for Talking Heads and Television. Recruited into the Atlantics, he was instantly thrust into the almost-big-time; their nearest miss was the new wave nugget "Lonelyhearts." These days Pineau revives the Atlantics' finely crafted material as Big City Rockers.
Green Magnet School, Orbit, The Red Telephone, Hullabaloo, Permafrost (Miles Dethmuffen), Unnatural Axe, Luca Brasi
Cuisine en Locale, Oct. 10
Lollapalooza-era rockers Orbit have reunited on occasion in recent years to share bills with the Sheila Divine. Onetime bassist Wally Gagel moved on to LA, where he has done production and studio work for a long list of acts including Muse, the Rolling Stones, and Vampire Weekend.
The Cavedogs, Gigolo Aunts, Flying Nuns, the Rising Storm, Drumming on Glass, the Natives, the Dambuilders' Dave Derby & friends
Cuisine en Locale, Oct. 11
"That was a long, long lifetime ago," says Phil Hurley of his days in the Gigolo Aunts, with whom he moved to Boston just days after he finished high school in 1987. He's since logged time in the music scenes of Seattle, LA, and now Austin, where he's part of the South Austin Moonlighters. "We were kindred spirits with the Cavedogs, the only other band that dared to have a Rickenbacker," Hurley recalls. "I really look back fondly on that era — so many good bands. We ended up taking over the Pixies' rehearsal space. Everything felt possible."
The Gizmos, the Bags, the Voodoo Dolls, Kenny Chambers/Electric Ears (Moving Targets), the Underachievers, Carrie Bradley
Middle East Downstairs, Oct. 12
Like so many of the bands reuniting for the Pipeline! anniversary, the Bags came agonizingly close to grabbing the brass ring. With their wild, woolly sound, they once shared a bill with a likeminded band called Nirvana. But the frustrations of the business eventually got to them. "I always liken it to a merry-go-round," says drummer Crispin Wood. "You reach for the rings as you go around. Eventually, you get tired." These days, the power trio is happy to get back together for the occasional spin: "At this point," he says, "everyone understands what the deal is."