Our original take on visiting Boston’s newest live music hotspot, roadrunner music clubwas that the venue is named after the classic 1970s rock n’ roll song released by the band modern lovers. You don’t see the Natick connection? Here’s the lowdown: The classic track, an ode to Route 128, was written by Natick native Jonathan Richman.
That’s all the encouragement we need to pursue a story. Besides, we wanted to discover the place, which opened in mid-March. So we went for our inaugural visit on Tuesday April 5th to see LCD Soundsystem on their third of four nights at the concert hall. (Coincidentally, they played a song called “Losing My Edge” which includes the line: “All the Modern Lovers tracks”).
Roadrunner is located on Guest Street, about a half hour drive at 6 p.m. on a Tuesday evening from South Natick. We would have taken the commuter train to Boston Landing, which is practically at the front door of the venue, but as usual, the MBTA timetable is pretty useless for events that end a few hours after sunset sunshine – you’re stuck either leaving your event early or investing in an expensive transportation service trip. We have marked good street parking, and there are also a handful of garages nearby. If you haven’t been to this area recently, it has been transformed, with the sparkling New Balance and Warrior Ice Area buildings you can’t miss when traveling the Mass Pike. Roadrunner is right in the middle of it all, with the Rail Stop Restaurant, where we started our evening.
But first, the place.
You can barely tell this is where we entered Guest Street from other than the ‘R’ logos and the line of incoming customers. We arrived early (more on that later) and sailed right in after showing ID and getting our wristbands to prove we were part of the 21+ crowd. After passing the security check, we entered the room. Our vax cards were unverified, and most inside were unmasked.
The place is huge, as you may have heard. Operated by the same Bowery company that runs The Sinclair in Cambridge, Roadrunner has a similar feel in that it’s all about the music. Well, and bars. There are three long bars on the first floor and more on the second floor, including one where you can essentially escape any view of the stage other than what you would see on a CCTV screen.
Roadrunner has 3,500 customers, and about as many were there. The ground level was pretty crowded, although you could air out a bit near the back and edges, or go up to the second level, where we settled. There are a few rows of relatively uncomfortable (think concrete) seating up there for those who prefer not to stand all the time, as well as standing room along the railings. A standing room section is off limits to those who do not upgrade above general admission. It didn’t seem like those who paid for the privilege got as much bang for their buck, beyond the hovering bouncers tasked with keeping the riff raff out of that special space. The view from a single row above is good, especially straight ahead. As proud members of the riff raff, this is where we have staked our place.
Although the venue was largely made up of hard surfaces, the acoustics were clear. It really felt like being in a surround sound theater, and it was quite difficult to converse between songs or during the DJ set before the main act.
LCD audio system, who has remained close to home in New York during the pandemic, has only recently begun to branch out and play elsewhere, including the four shows here and before that, four in Philadelphia. The group, often referred to as dance-punk, has been around for about 20 years. The band, led by vocalist James Murphy, featured eight musicians on stage, with a mess of instruments ranging from bass and electric guitars to keyboards, synths and drums, including bongos. Everyone seemed to get a piece of the drums at some point during the show, and drummer Pat Mahoney held court at the front right of the stage. The band played a loud 18 song set, featuring material from his entire collection, including crowd favorites “Daft Punk is Playing at My House”, “Tribulations”, and “Dance Yrself Clean”. Explosions of light ranging from golds to reds to blues sometimes accentuated the music and other times it was too much.
The only downside to Roadrunner, as with so many concert venues that are just looking to get you there to buy drinks and merchandise, was that it wasn’t clear when the main act would start playing. I’ve been to enough shows locally to realize these things are never accurate, but the tickets said the show started at 8pm and no opening act was listed (I generally think the act main takes place around 9 a.m. if there is an opener). It turned out that a DJ played tracks for nearly 90 minutes. I definitely should have worked harder on social media to get clues about when the real show started, especially since LCD Soundsystem had already played two shows there.
Despite this downside, we’ll be back, as their line-up includes more bands and artists than we can’t wait to see live.
Railway stop restaurant
We enjoyed a pre-concert meal at Railway stop restaurant, a few steps from the place. Like Roadrunner, it’s big and airy.
We ate in the main dining room which was quiet at first but filled up as we ate. As we walked out we could see that the spacious bar seemed to be the busiest place to relax before or after a show.
I started with the clam chowder ($9), which had a touch of smoky bacon. It was flavorful, included a fair amount of clams, and thankfully didn’t include a heavy onion taste (my deal breaker on the clam chowder).
For entrees, I went with a grilled chicken sandwich (minus the buttermilk ranch dressing). No more smoked bacon, so I stocked up for the month there. The sandwich was served on a nicely done toasted brioche bun. It came with a choice of sides and I went with a salad served in a generous portion, with a variety of crisp lettuce.
My wife ordered the apple and walnut salad, tossed with spinach, butternut squash, cranberries, gorgonzola and topped with a slightly acidic apple vinaigrette. The meal checked out the necessary boxes of the night, healthy, fresh and, with the addition of grilled shrimp, filled. The kitchen made sure no wilted spinach leaves crossed the line and the Granny Smith apples were crisp and flavorful. She didn’t leave a bite behind, always a good sign.
How to advertise on Natick Report