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Boston-Born: How a City Shapes Music

By Jacob R. Jimenez, Crimson Staff Writer

Boston is the kind of big-name city that attracts musicians from all over the world. With hundreds of musicians coming through on tours of hundreds of other cities, it can be easy to lose sight of Boston’s original music scene. This week, I spoke with the Boston-born band Juice about the impact of place on their music and how Boston has impacted their musical journeys. I spoke with Christian Rose, Ben Stevens, Daniel Moss, and Rami El-Abidin, but Kamau Burton, Michael Ricciardulli, and Miles Clyatt can also be seen on tour with the band.

Juice unofficially formed in 2014 as a group of seven undergraduate students at Boston College. Violinist and vocalist Christian Rose recounted how the band met through jam sessions, shared dorm hallways, and events around campus. Rose’s story was just like a coming-of-age movie, as the band went from jamming in dorm rooms to winning BC’s Battle of the Bands in their first year together. After their victory, the band began playing shows around the city.

At one of their first performances off campus, Juice opened at the Middle East Upstairs for an indie rock band from Vermont.

“I remember we opened, but we sold way more tickets than the band we opened for,” Rose said. Unlike the Vermont band, Juice had friends and peers in town who had already seen them perform just weeks before. The band told everyone they knew about the show and earned their audience through shameless self-promotion.

That strategy continued to work as they played shows around Boston. The band eventually moved from the Middle East Upstairs to the larger Downstairs venue, and even headlined Brighton Music Hall.

“Before we were even good, we had a lot of people come to our shows,” Rose joked about their early career. He added that despite the strides their band would make in years to come, “It was cool for our peers to see a band of their peers.” Guitarist Daniel Moss corroborated Rose’s sentiments about BC’s students and generalized them to Boston as a whole. “Whether it was because there are a lot of colleges or a lot of young people … I feel like Boston was a city where a lot of people were willing to go out and go to cool music venues,” Moss said.

While many cities have young populations and universities, Boston is unique for its high concentration of music schools. Berklee and the New England Conservatory fill open mic performances and local gigs across Boston’s bars, restaurants, and jazz clubs with exceptional young talent. Juice’s lead singer, Ben Stevens, spoke of collaborations with Berklee students. Access to Berklee studios and music-minded collaborators helped the band lead into their own ambitions as artists. Music education, Stevens said, brought ambitious creatives together.

“It was a small community of music majors that would go study together or do composition or jazz theory or take a class on the Beatles,” said Stevens. Friends made in that small community would help the band incorporate classical and jazz motifs into their pop blend sound, Stevens said.

Juice exemplifies the formative power of the live music scene in Boston. Born right here in the city, the band worked their way through local venues and took advantage of musical connections in the city to achieve rapid success. Their story outlines a venue ladder in the city: from the Middle East’s hierarchy of stages, to House of Blues Foundation Room, and Brighton Music Hall, all the way up to Paradise Rock Club. Collaboration with music students at Berklee highlights the special character of music education and university life Boston can offer.

Even so, Juice bassist Rami El-Abidin said that “we became what we are despite the culture [at BC].” Juice’s evolution was determined by escaping the university bubble, embracing the Boston scene, and ultimately taking their Boston roots on the road. In my next installment, I’ll look into band life on the road, question the influence of live performance on music creation, and continue to search for the significance of place — particularly Boston — in live music culture.

—Staff writer Jacob R. Jimenez can be reached at

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