blue laws & outlaws

“The whole idea is to throw an outrageous party in an unlikely, illegal location. The perfect outlaw party ends in a near-bust by the police, who ideally arrive to break things up just as the liquor runs out.

Everything is portable. And unlike most other club activities, an outlaw party starts promptly. It`s a sort of insta-party. The sound system, the boxes of booze and the partygoers all arrive at the same time.

Marla Donato, Chicago Tribune, 1990

Bring YOU OHM records flyer

Memories of Blue Laws, Tea Dances, River Raves, and Other Nightlife Interventions in Boston

Blue Laws and Outlaws is an archive of the underground gathering spaces, music venues, and nightlife events that are unique to the Boston area due to its restrictive entertainment and liquor laws and licenses. This archive started in 2021 during the Coronavirus pandemic and seeks insight into the following questions: What drives us to party and gather together, in spite of the legal and physical risks to ourselves? What forces are at play that keep us from doing so, and how have others historically addressed these problems?

This archive currently houses historical flyers and newspaper artifacts but will expand to music, video, and oral history recordings. Additional material about blue laws, Boston’s nightlife history, and additional readings are provided at the resources link. The current time period that is represented is the late 20th and early 21st century, when several more of the blue laws were on the books, however the future of this collection is time-agnostic. Finally, if you have an “only in Boston nightlife” memory to share, please reach out

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Acute Interventions

From tea dances to basement concerts to loft raves, social and cultural interventions in nightlife and entertainment in the post-Combat Zone eras.

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Workarounds

A trove of legal and legal-adjacent loopholes such as the Combat Zone, members only after-hours venues, speakeasies, and restaurant nightclubs.

A collection

Solaris: black flyer with light blue full moon in background and cityscape in foreground at bottom right corner

Antagonist Forces

Examining Massachusetts’s and Boston’s liquor and entertainment laws, as well as the social and economic forces that are distinct to the area and define parts of its culture.

Rise, September

Rise was a members-only after-hours club venue which skirted the blue laws by not serving alcohol and requiring that patrons become members. Guests were allowed

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Black and White photo from NASA of the control room, used by Mission Control as the main identity image

Mission Control, January 1995

Mission Control was a dial-in line that was updated with information about local area raves, parties, and club nights. Mike Wilkins, the creative force behind Mission Control (also known as MisCon) would receive information from organizers and record a script similar to the ones shown here.

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blast march 1997 paradise boston ma

Blast, March 1997

The Paradise was a bar and lounge mainly used for live music acts. Wednesday night events were not uncommon for electronic music acts at venues

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