You needed a scorecard to keep track of the comings and goings of all the special guests at the final show of the “Farewell Blowout” series at T.T. the Bear’s Place on Saturday, played to a sold-out crowd that sweltered through nearly four hours of music and countless memories.
The postmortems will be coming soon, but Saturday saw one last, live-music explosion at the venerable Cambridge club, spiced by an impassioned speech from owner Bonney Bouley, who steered rock bands through its doors for 31 years.
“The talent that is in this town and comes through this town is unbelievable. . . . It’s been a wonderful journey and I hope to see you down the road,” said a choked-up Bouley, who added she hopes the club “won’t go all corporate now.”
The recent buildup to this finale had been storybook, as many locally-bred, now-national acts from Evan Dando and Mary Lou Lord to the Pixies and Mighty Mighty Bosstones hustled to play one last gig here in recent weeks. But there was never a question that Bouley wanted Scruffy the Cat to be the last band standing on stage. “I liked them from the day I met them,” she said. Scruffy, which used to play the room six times a year during the ’80s, didn’t let her down. Although missing longtime singer Charlie Chesterman, who died of cancer two years ago, the band compensated with the ragged-but-right vocals of guitarist Stephen Fredette. He powered their cowpunk-fueled garage rock with further assistance from guest singers Jerry Lehane of the Dogmatics on the apt “The Good Goodbye,” Brian Charles (twin brother of Scruffy pedal steel player David), Pat McGrath (a great “Swearing Off the Women and Swearing on the Booze”), and, most notably, David Minehan of the Neighborhoods, who simply electrified the room.
Minehan, who had played T.T.’s the night before with the Neighborhoods, belted out Scruffy anthems “Land of a 1,000 Girls,” “40 Days and 40 Nights,” and “Happiness to Go.” He bellowed “Let's wrap this up and kick [butt]” and concluded with a deafening shout of “Goodbye!” that sent the crowd into overdrive.
The night had started in a more reflective manner. Randy Black and the Heathcroppers opened with a hushed cover of Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where the Time Goes.” Black added some fine poetic tunes of his own, while a guest horn section of Mark Chenevert and Roger Miller of Mission of Burma (playing cornet!) fell in movingly behind him. Then local rock dean Willie Alexander popped up to sing his legendary “Mass. Ave.” and a cover of Ben E. King's “Stand by Me.” It had been personally requested by Bouley and came with the revised lyric, “Stand by Me Bonney.” The night’s middle set was by O Positive, which was surprisingly polished given how little they play out these days. Singer Dave Herlihy excelled on the Ray Charles-influenced “In the Light” and a psychedelicized cover of the Left Banke’s hit, “Walk Away Renee.”
This epic T.T’s love-in was filmed by “Boston Rock/Talk” for Xfinity On Demand, so look for that on your local network soon. And what will Bouley do now? “I'm going to take some time off to breathe,” she said.
SCRUFFY THE CAT
With O Positive and Randy Black and the Heathcroppers
At: T.T. the Bear's Place, Saturday
Steve Morse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.