Bluegrass Tuesdays return to The Cantab in Boston

Boston’s bluegrass community was seriously disheartened last summer when news broke that The Cantab Lounge, actually located in the adjacent city of Cambridge, was to be sold. For years the club was given over to Bluegrass Tuesdays every week, where fans could always hear some solid music, and pickers at every level could come out to jam.

The club – more of a dive bar – succumbed to the COVID-19 shutdowns of 2020 when owner Richard “Fitzy” Fitzgerald saw no alternative but to close up shop and hope that new owners might be interested in reviving it at some point. Their entire draw is live music, and once that was prohibited, his entire source of income was eliminated.

But during the summer of 2021, a new owner emerged in the person of Tim Dibble, a partner in a local private equity firm, who has reopened The Cantab as a live performance venue. He has made major improvements to the facility, including replacing the floors and renovating the bathrooms, but not so much so as to lose the dive bar charm of The Cantab. They expect to reopen sometime around Thanksgiving.

And now comes news that Bluegrass Tuesdays will return starting in December, under the direction of Boston native Tony Watt, guitarist with Alan Bibey & Grasstowne, and a popular local instructor for bluegrass musicians. 

Tony offered up a preview of what to expect at the first edition on December 7.

“As in the past, Bluegrass Tuesdays at the Cantab will consist of three different groups playing music upstairs, as well as all-night jamming downstairs. For our Grand Reopening Party, we are very excited to welcome a band formed just for this auspicious occasion, The Cantab Bluegrass All-Stars.

The All-Stars are made up of some of the best-known and most-talented bluegrass musicians in the area:

Greg Liszt on banjo from Crooked Still, Bruce Springsteen
Laura Orshaw on fiddle from The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys
Ben Pearce on mandolin from Outlier Instrument Workshop
Frank Drake on bass from The Bag Boys, Saturday Burren Jam
And a very special guest on guitar and vocals”

A new web site for Bluegrass Tuesdays is up now online, where you can sign up for their email list, and contact them if your band would like to play one week.

Watt also shared this thumbnail history of bluegrass at The Cantab.

In 2017, the Cantab Lounge was named one of America’s 15 Best Dive Bars. Located in multi-ethnic, multi-generation Central Square in Cambridge, MA, it was also named one of the 50 Best Small Music Venues In America. Bluegrass Tuesdays at the Cantab Lounge began in September of 1993 and has grown to host regional and national artists on stage, and serve as a weekly gathering place for the local bluegrass community. For 27 years, Tuesday Night Bluegrass at the Cantab Lounge was hosted by folk icon Geoff Bartley, who was honored on February 13, 2004 when the City of Cambridge proclaimed it to be ‘Geoff Bartley Day.’

Geoff welcomed nationally-known bluegrass artists to The Cantab stage such as Dale Ann Bradley, Tony Trischka, Darol Anger, Jim Hurst & Missy Raines, David Grier, Chris Jones, Molly Tuttle, and the late James King. Bluegrass Tuesdays has also been a place where many bluegrass musicians have ‘cut their teeth,’ including members of The Infamous Stringdusters, Crooked Still, Della Mae, The Gibson Brothers, The Steep Canyon Rangers, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Mile Twelve, The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, and Alan Bibey & Grasstowne.

Wonderful news for grassers in the region. Here’s hoping that Bluegrass Tuesdays will last another 27 years and more!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.