Venue Review: Middle East (Downstairs)

Middle East (Downstairs)

Cambridge, MA

The Middle East is my favorite venue in Boston. The venue held some of the most memorable shows I've been to, including a handful of my first real shows. All types of musicians have played here over the years, making it a Mecca for some music fans.  The venue is also a restaurant (or is it the other way around?) and offers great Middle Eastern cuisine. The establishment, with its separate concert venues, "is the nexus of metro Boston's rock-club scene for local and touring bands", according to Boston Phoenix newspaper.

Located on busy Mass Ave (Massachusetts Avenue for you outsiders), The Middle East is near the Central Square area of Cambridge, a stones throw from the Central Square stop on the Red Line. I'd like to say I have a secret place to park, but in reality it's just the Green Street Garage. Located about two blocks away, the garage offers ample parking for a great, great price. You'll probably pay $13 to park, which for Boston is a great price. If you aren't driving or taking The T, a taxi ride is no problem either as plenty rush up and down the street. Because of its prime location on a corner, the venue is hard to miss. And if you're one of those who needs a landmark, it's across the street from McDonald's (I was kicked out of there once). Location (10) - Accessibility (10)

 Once inside the restaurant you head down a staircase and enter the venue. A wide open floor is in front of you with the stage located against the far wall. On your left is an elevated sitting area if you want to watch the show but avoid the crowd. In reality, it's a well decorated basement, and things can get cozy if there's a big crowd. With a capacity of 575 it can be hard to move around at times so make sure you have your drink and don't need to pee because you won't get your spot back. Crowd capacity (9)

Sound is never really a problem here. Having been around for years, the crew at The Middle East have had time to perfect their craft. If you're up front you'll likely be able to hear the show through the monitors since there isn't a barrier. The thump of the sub-woofers will rattle your bones and sends chills down your spine. But... it is a basement show and the sound can sometimes be affected by that. Sound (9)

Drink selection is no problem here. Two full bars downstairs, one on your right and the other in the elevated seating area. Drinks (10)

Mainly staffed by college-aged students (doors, coat check, etc.) a friendly atmosphere fills the venue. At shows I've attended, security only gets involved if there are aggressive crowdsurfers or fights in the pit. Bands and security don't put up with either and always watch out for the safety of concert-goers. Staff (10) Security (10)

For the most part, the venue is kept clean. But, by the end of the show the bathrooms are always a mess. Cleanliness (7)

 The great reputation of The Middle East draws bands from around the United States, but due to its limited capacity won't always draw the biggest names. The Menzingers have played here a few times but have since moved on to bigger venues in the city. You'll mainly find underground bands looking to make a name for themselves play here with an occasional local act. Expected Shows & Tours (6)

I love this venue. Each and every time I've been has been a blast, and like Jordyn said last week about College Music Hall, the only way to have a bad night is to ruin it yourself. Hot, sweaty, steamy basement shows are something every punk fan needs to experience, and you won't find a better place to get that experience that at The Middle East Downstairs. Overall Experience (10)

Overall Score: 91