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How a high school student became New England’s go-to source for live shows big and small

Believing every band deserves a chance at an audience, Sean Carlson built his website into an exhaustive list of shows in the region.

Just Another Scene’s Sean Carlson (right) as a teen with Davey Havok, lead singer of California band AFI, at a 2001 concert at Suffolk Downs.

Just Another Scene’s Sean Carlson (right) as a teen with Davey Havok, lead singer of California band AFI, at a 2001 concert at Suffolk Downs.

In 1998, as a freshman at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, I had begged my parents to drive me to see so many bands that I decided to put together a show closer to home. I worked out all the details and got Boston’s Drexel and Kicked in the Head, Worcester’s Argyle Socks, and — all the way from New Jersey — Humble Beginnings to play a ska and punk show in the chapel basement at Merrimack College.

To promote the show, I photocopied fliers at the library and set up a simple website on a popular hosting service. Nearly 200 people turned up, and I donated my profit of $826 to a local anti-poverty program.

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That was the beginning of seven years of daily devotion to my own live music community service project, because after the concert was over, I realized there was no all-encompassing digital “flier” listing shows of various genres happening throughout New England. Sure, newspapers and big weekly magazines covered larger events at established venues, but no one was telling us who was playing at the Hanover VFW or the Grafton Polish Hall. I restructured my website to fill the void, asking whether New England was something special or “just another scene.”

I ran Just Another Scene from my family’s desktop computer each night after I had eaten supper and finished my homework. It grew by word-of-mouth, and soon bands, venues, labels, and fans were e-mailing me updates. Whether a show was at a Lansdowne Street club, in a former warehouse, or on a makeshift stage at a suburban Knights of Columbus Hall, I’d list it. No matter how mainstream or obscure, well versed or unrehearsed, I thought every band deserved a chance to be found. At its peak, the site was receiving 10,000 page views a day, and I started hearing its name on Boston-area radio stations. In 2000, the Boston Phoenix named it “Best Ecumenical Local Rock Site.”

After graduating from college in 2005 I drifted toward other projects, and the site faded away. I moved to Ireland to work on a book about my family’s history. Two years later, while on an island off the coast of Thailand, I met an American woman who had spent her summers in Maine as a teenager. We started talking music, and when I mentioned the site, she smiled, reminiscing how it had helped her make friends and feel connected on her visits. I had the answer to my question: Those days in New England were much more than just another scene.

Sean Carlson grew up in Andover and is now a writer and new media executive in New York. Send comments to magazine@globe.com. Follow us on Twitter @BostonGlobeMag.
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