First a bar, then film, then Lilypad looks to grow Lilypads around the world
Lilypad is small, but owner Gill Aharon said the Inman Square music club and gallery is looking forward to a big — and hopefully global — future.
Saved from foreclosure proceedings by Aharon in 2002, the historic space (part of Cambridge’s oldest functioning wooden commercial structure) that once hosted the Zeitgeist Gallery has become a bastion of avant-garde jazz, indie rock and traditional music. It houses yoga some mornings, martial arts on Sundays and Tango on Tuesdays.
While still tweaking the model, Aharon wants to see it work around the world.
“The future of the Lilypad would be to open more Lilypads,” he said. He hopes to expand nationally before creating a “global community” between the States, Canada and South America.
First, Aharon said he will continue to expand and improve the Lilypad within the confines of its own art-laden walls. Two months ago the Lilypad added a bar and to celebrate will hold a “Bar” Mitzvah at 7 p.m. Nov. 9.
Aharon, who once looked at launching an online record label to release recordings of Lilypad performances, said he also hopes to incorporate films and film events into Lilypad’s agenda. “We’re looking for a curator for local filmmakers who would be interested in putting on a film event,” he said.
“It’s a mixture of things here,” said Aharon, 44, but he sees a common theme. “All of these things require the discipline of practice. I want to help people do that because I think that’s what makes people happy.”
Aharon moved to Boston in 1993 — three years after graduating from Duke University with a degree in mechanical engineering — to pursue jazz piano at the Berklee College of Music. Upon arriving, however, he found disappointment in the setup of local music venues.
“I kind of knew within the first couple years of moving to Boston that I wanted to create a spot where the acoustics were good,” Aharon said.
While searching for a performance space, Aharon began studying under famed jazz pianist Charlie Banacos. Banacos, who had stopped performing early in his career, furthered Aharon’s interest in opening a venue.
“I told Charlie that I wanted to eventually have a venue that he would be comfortable playing at,” Aharon said. “I wanted to make a place where he would want to come.”
Aharon joined forces with the Zeitgeist Gallery after a debilitating fire forced the art gallery to relocate. Together, Zeitgeist and Aharon held five piano festival fundraisers beginning in the summer of 2002. By March 2006, however, Zeitgeist Gallery had moved — first elsewhere in Cambridge, then to Somerville, then to Lowell, with business partner Rob Chalfen spinning off to run Outpost 186 at 186 Hampshire St. — leaving behind the newly independent “Lilypad.”
Since then, the Lilypad has held hundreds of musical events and hosted jazz musicians such as John Medeski, Dan Blake and The Fringe. Like the Fringe, Aharon’s own band, the Gill Aharon Trio, plays at the Lilypad weekly.
The Lilypad, 1353 Cambridge St., Inman Square, requires a cover charge of $10 for most events and welcomes all ages.