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Quincy roadhouse rocks on out - Yard Rock Closes

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    Quincy roadhouse rocks on out By Daniel Gewertz Tuesday, December 30, 2003 The phrase ``last call has rarely meant so much. The old saloon was so packed,
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      Quincy roadhouse rocks on out
      By Daniel Gewertz
      Tuesday, December 30, 2003

      The phrase ``last call'' has rarely meant so much.

      The old saloon was so packed, patrons could barely maneuver
      their way to the bar, yet a few determined dancers, mostly 30-
      something gals in spandex tops and jeans, still found spots to
      wiggle and boogie in place. Well-dressed, white-haired gentlemen and
      hefty, leather-jacketed motorcycle dudes brushed together, their
      toes tapping to a bluesy version of the Joe Cocker/Dave Mason
      classic, ``Feelin' Alright.'' Like some classic roadhouse night out
      of 1959, cigarette smoke nearly choked the air.

      Though the overt mood was happy and well-oiled at Quincy's
      Yardrock Blues Club on Sunday night, a lot of the regular denizens
      of this beloved club were also, to quote the chorus of Mason's song,
      ``not feeling too good'' themselves.

      cw-3This was the last night in the club's lengthy history: a
      music venue since 1989, a neighborhood bar known as Joe's Pub before
      that, and, originally, a lunch room for Quincy shipyard workers. It
      opened nearly 50 years ago, by the father of current owner Joe
      Hajjar.

      Said 15-year patron Joanne Cullen of Braintree, ``It is so
      sad, and I'm in such a good mood. I'm feeling fine, and I could
      break down and cry.''

      ``This place going is such a travesty,'' said Bob ``Satch''
      Romano, musician and South Shore bar owner.

      The Yardrock was the Boston-area's last full-time blues club,
      but, according to many, also the region's last real, authentic
      roadhouse.

      Ask a half-dozen Yardrock denizens what made it special, and
      they all give the same response: community. If they had been
      coached, they could not have been more uniform in their assessment
      of this smoke-infested, no-frills roadhouse.

      ``It's like a family. I'm at home. It's like my living room,''
      said Cullen. ``Strangers talk to each other here. It's not like
      Boston, it's almost a Southern-style friendliness. And the music is
      as good as anything in Boston.''

      It was fitting that the Steve Murphy Band, an eclectic,
      polyrhythmic outfit, play the last chords in this crusty old club,
      for Murphy has been the man most responsible for the club's 14-year
      history with the blues. In 1989, Murphy played a benefit show at
      Joe's Pub, and then began a regular schedule of blues-based nights.
      His band name, the Yardrockers, became the inspiration for the bar's
      new name. At first it was, for fun, the Yard Rock Cafe. But lawyers
      from the Hard Rock Cafe forced the name change to the Yardrock Blues
      Club.

      ``Joe always treats the bands well, and it was a very relaxed,
      musician-friendly space, a place to play music from the heart,''
      Murphy said between sets on Sunday night. ``The audiences were
      knowledgeable. And when we led an open blues jam, you never knew
      what to expect.''

      Murphy's Sunday shows usually attracted only 40 or 50 people.
      This time, there were three times that. Lennie Kosonan, a trumpeter
      from Pembroke who has jammed with Murphy, said the charm of the jams
      was that ``you never knew who you'd end up playing with.''

      Susan Tedeschi started at the Yardrock, playing Thursdays and
      begging owner Hajjar for a weekend night. Such stars as Duke
      Robillard, Roomful of Blues and Debbie Davies played the room, but
      the mainstays were from the local scene.

      Why is the club closing? Not because of bad business. The
      Yardrock had, in fact, been planning an expansion, but the costs to
      do so kept rising. (A sprinkler system is now among the costs of
      opening a renovated club.) Ultimately, landlord problems sealed the
      Yardrock's fate. Hajjar is looking for a new space.

      As one of Murphy's sophisticated, Latin-flavored solos reached
      its buoyant climax, the crowd cheered. ``I hope another Yardrock
      comes down the pike. This is the last of the real ones,'' said
      musician Robbie Phillips of Cambridge.
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