Thursday, July 18, 2024

Bella’s Bartok at The Rockwell in Somerville’s Davis Square on Friday. (Photo: Michael Gutierrez)

This one’s for the physical media crowd.

Better yet, this one is for any music lover who wants to make good on a New Year’s resolution to ease off the throttle of their streaming habit and buy more physical media. Streaming platforms exploit musicians. Until that changes, vote with your heart, mind and wallet by getting more CDs, tapes and vinyl into your music rotation.

You don’t need to wait for Record Store Day (4/20, dude!) to make good on your resolution.

You don’t need to wait for Small Business Saturday (first Saturday after Thanksgiving) to drop dollars at local music shops.

You can take off tomorrow for our trademarked, copyrighted, all rights reserved “Totally Excellent Mid-January Cambridge Day-Approved Record Store Walk & You Better Dress Warm,” if you like. Improve your cardio and lose weight in the process – which, presumably, is a New Year’s resolution that people still make, because Planet Fitness pays to festoon Times Square in purple and yellow each and every New Year’s Eve.

Have we listed every shop in Cambridge and Somerville where you can buy music? Of course not! But we offer a few highlights that are in walkable distance of each other. Even so, you might need to break the sojourn into two days if you want to hit both the Cambridge and Somerville legs of the walk. Or take a bike!

If you’ve got the appetite to tackle the route in a single day, consider the game plan below. A Google Map of the shop locations will help.

Cheapo Records
538 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square, Cambridge
Start at Cheapo Records in Central Square. Easy to get to by mass transportation. Plenty of food and beverage opportunities around. Plenty of meeting spots if you’re taking off with a group. Yes, your instincts might tell you to flock first to other parts of this itinerary with a higher density of record shops. Ignore your instincts! You want to save the biggest cluster of shops for the end of day so you’re lugging less purchases along the way.

Vinyl Index
1 Bow Market Way No. 25, Union Square, Somerville
Stereo Jack’s Records
736 Broadway, Ball Square, Somerville
Take your loop through Somerville, starting with Vinyl Index and finishing with Stereo Jack’s Records. This is the longest hump of the route, topping off at two and a half miles. Relax, you’ll be fine. A human being in average health walks a comfortable mile in 30 minutes. Take your time; enjoy the sights, sounds and smells along the way. Reward yourself with a fancy highball at Vinyl Index (yes, it serves drinks). Don’t miss the strange and wonderful Mushroom Shop about halfway between the two record stores.

Big Dig Records
2325 Massachusetts Ave., North Cambridge
We’re looping back into Cambridge to Big Dig Records, less than a mile from Stereo Jack’s. This is the second-to-last stop on the route before you hit a trio of shops in Harvard Square, so if you’ve been holding back to keep your load light, let it rip. There’s only one and a half miles to go. Big Dig specializes in rare and out-of-print titles. Maybe you’ll find a vinyl unicorn in the stacks?

Planet Records
144 Mount Auburn St., Harvard Square, Cambridge
Armageddon Shop
12 Eliot St. B, Harvard Square, Cambridge
Newbury Comics
The Garage, 36 John F. Kennedy St., Harvard Square, Cambridge
Last stop, fire all your cannons. If you see something you like and can spare the coin, grab it. Planet Records has been doing it the right way since 1983. Armageddon Shop is a relative newcomer, specializing in all music underground and indie. Newbury Comics needs no introduction – it’s the starting point for many lifelong love affairs with music in New England. Although some locations of the chain feature more manga comics than music these days, you’ll still find plenty of classic titles.whitespace

You did it! The “Totally Excellent Mid-January Cambridge Day Approved Record Store Walk & You Better Dress Warm” is completed in around 5 miles. Hit the T, grab an Über or bike home and drop off the records. Then take a quick disco nap, reboot and hit the following shows. You didn’t think your day was done, did you?

Friday: Class President, Glad Valley, Remy, Karson (The Jungle, Somerville)

“Rocky Pop from MA”? So says the Instagram bio for Class President. Is this band not from Lowell anymore? Spindle City! Birthplace of Jack Kerouac! Say it ain’t so! Like the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said: “Everything flows and nothing abides.” Wherever Class President is from and wherever they go, you’ll find crackerjack rock with irrepressible pop progressions. In other words, rocky pop. Their new EP “Good Thinking.” is a banger. Mill City mourns …

Saturday: Marcy the Baptist, Father Hotep, Pain Chain, :MOUSEKID: (The Democracy Center, Cambridge)

A while back we mourned the loss of Tasty Burger (and Charlie’s Kitchen) as landing spots for DIY shows in Harvard Square. And here was The Democracy Center staring us in the face the whole time. The community space has hosted more than 450 shows since 2005. Add another to the list this Saturday when a glitchy four-stack of electro artists rolls up to do their thing. You won’t find any frosty IPAs served at this dry venue, but those are hardly an endangered species in the Square of the Crimson Empire.

Jan. 11-14: Boston Celtic Music Festival (Cambridge and Somerville)

BCMFest for short. Club Passim, Crystal Ballroom, The Burren (of course!) and The Rockwell host a four-day celebration of the music, song and dance from Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton, Quebecois and other Celtic communities. It’s the 21st edition of the festival, so they’ve got this thing down to a science. The bigger-name events will sell out early, so hop on it. Pro tip: You can avoid service fees on tickets for Ceilidh, Dayfest and Le Vent du Nord by buying in person at the Somerville Theatre box office. That’s what the BCMFest Facebook page says – don’t blame us if it’s not true!


Checking in on the live show beat, two accordions planted their gypsy punk flags at The Rockwell on Friday. The squeezebox bonanza came courtesy of opener Your Friends In Hell and headliner Bella’s Bartok.

Excluding Veterans Day parades, when is the last time you saw two Stomach Steinways live? The melodeon hasn’t gotten much play since the guitar, rock ’n’ roll and peeing in your poodle skirt at the sight of Elvis took off in the middle of the 20th century.

Don’t tell the sub-sub-genre of gypsy punk. Bands such as Gogol Bordello have toured the world on a sound that mixes frenetic Old World folk rhythms and a punk ethos into a danceable stew. Amherst’s Bella’s Bartok picked up the baton and brought it to Davis Square, playing songs off their latest LP “Apocalypse Wow!” for an unforgettable performance. A real crowd mover. Another gem presented by Once.

Long live the groanbox!

Michael Gutierrez is an author, educator, activist and editor-in-chief at Hump Day News