The beauty of DIY/Punk scenes is that, sometimes, really great things happen at really obscure places. That being said, I’ve seen some of my favorite shows in the Valley at Diamond Junction Bowling Alley in Palmer, MA. The space is set up just behind the lanes, so you can bowl while you listen or enjoy the purity and comfort of a great DIY shows.
I recently spoke to John Boilard, who, along with Michael Switalowski, has been booking shows in Palmer since George W. Bush was President of the United States of America.
You’ve Been Booking Shows in Palmer for more than seven years: what are your best memories of shows that you’ve booked?
Honestly I have pretty fond memories of all the shows, even the ones that maybe didn’t go as planned. All of the friendships that were made is one of the best personal memories. And since we’ve done shows at a handful of different venues I feel like each spot has it’s own special memories associated with them. Atom and His Package at The Old Store was amazing, Friends Forever at the Shed was triumphant, the woods show in 2005 was a really special night, and Mount Eerie at The Shed and the bowling alley are some of my favorite live music moments ever… anyone who was there for that “voice in headphones” jam knows how moving it was — a borderline religious experience. Sometimes it’s easy to forget live music can have that effect on a room full of people. I was a fan of Mount Eerie after that.
I’m not sure what’s changed about DIY shows as a whole… In Palmer it seems there isn’t much of a local crowd that goes to shows these days. Most of the kids in High School aren’t interested, and most of the folks who had been coming since 1998 have moved away or maybe even found new interests. We started doing shows as something to do and so our friends’ bands could have a place to play… there was a need for it, you know? DIY shows in Palmer seem to still have a certain charm to them, most people have fond memories of past shows, but the current audience is mostly from out of town. Heck, there aren’t really even bands from Palmer right now, either. It’s certainly an interesting realization these past few years. Where are all the punkers?
How did booking shows at the bowling alley come about?
Mike still lives in Palmer but I’m out in Boston now. When I went back to school in 2007 I’d been trying to get shows going out here and Mike was always on the lookout for a new space to do shows back home. Around the time of my first show in Boston, Mike noticed the bowling alley was reopening under new management. We’d only done a show or two since 2005 at this point but were still interested if the situation presented itself. I credit Eric Hnatow (Hnatiw, Home Body) for encouraging me to be proactive about doing shows in Boston, which for me, totally lead to setting up frequent shows again. Eric was on his first tour and wanted to play Boston, so we set up a show at Mass Art. The show was a ton of fun and it felt good to be back. I think that show with Eric got Mike psyched again too, and he was in touch with the bowling alley soon after. Mike set up the first show at the alley and asked if I wanted to collaborate on a monthly music series. It’s been an amazing experience ever since!
You do all the artwork for your shows: how important is that to you?
I’d say where the work has taken me is maybe more important than doing our own posters, since we love whenever our friends offer to lend a hand in this department. Doing our own art for the shows grew out of the necessity to promote them. After making flyers for a dozen or so shows I realized I was in love with the process, and was quite fond of design too. Mike’s work has always been an inspiration to me. That guy raised the bar pretty high even with his very first flyers. I feel like it took years to catch up and it’s been nice to feel like we encourage each other to push ourselves a little further with each poster we make. This work is important to me because it’s what led me to / got me into design school as well. Early on we noticed a correlation between the time put into the flyers and any given show’s perceived “legitimacy”, even if it was a DIY event in the middle of a field or in a backyard somewhere. If it’s apparent we’re pumped about the show, other people will get pumped on it too. I think this encouraged us to take promoting these events seriously, while still having fun with it too.
Any dream band you wanted to book but haven’t yet?
Within reason, I don’t think so. We always try to be reasonable about who we ask to play, since bigger bands need more money for playing a show. We’ve been pretty fortunate to have some of the bands we’ve had in town though. It’s a gamble to play a small town at least 30 minutes away from everything. It’s amazing that so many bands have taken the chance on Palmer!
What’s the future for booking shows at Diamond Junction?
I think we’re going to take the Summer off and come back fresh in the Fall. We have a show coming up this Friday and a benefit show for the pan-mass challenge on June 10th before we take a short break. We always have bands in mind for future shows and while we don’t have too much planned out for Fall, I feel like we’ll have all Summer to come up with something fun.