By Shawnie Brando
September 21, 2021
As I get older and my brain starts to noticeably deteriorate from one too many shots to the head, most figuratively and literally...a cynicism that I've felt my entire life gets harder and harder to fight. The truth is I'm exhausted all of the time. People scare me...politics scare me...I'm beyond sick of people being at each other's throats all the time. To be blunt, it's been a really hard year and there's not much that I find interesting these days... but what makes it so much worse is that I know how wrong it is to think like that. I know that outside of this cloud I live in there are so many amazing things to get involved in that you could never do them all... but the fight to find those things can be exhausting. It's a struggle everyday to find something to care about and it doesn't seem like anyone is offering any help or encouragement most of the time which is why a guy like Mike Bastriache, or Mr B, was so important in my life....in all of our lives.
Mike and I got along famously on all things music. I can't think of anyone else that I've ever trusted more than him when it came to musical affairs. Even bands that I didn't like at first always got a second look when Mike said he dug them because I knew that he could see things about them that I couldn't. He was always looking at the spirit of a band...that nebulous thing that isn't involved with the cold mathematics of music but more with the unexplainable witchcraft a band can exercise on any given night in some fucked up death trap of a basement somewhere ...OR on the biggest stage there ever was. He could spot that spirit from anywhere he was standing and he was always conscious of its presence even when no one else could see it and not only could he spot it...he ran to it. Sought it out. You'd see Mike and his beautiful wife Chris out at gigs that the CIA couldn't find. When bands like (New England)Patriots, Guerilla Toss, Nice Guys, Haag, Bugs and Rats, The Monsieurs, Skimask and DOG were being ignored by the entire punk rock community of Boston..those two, who are considerably older than us, were right in the basement with us...cheering while we were onstage and being incredibly sweet and supportive offstage. Just seeing the two of them joined together at shows...comfortable...happy to be there....involved....really made me feel like what we do with these shows is special and that you don't have to be young and drunk to appreciate it...although Mike would probably tell you that it couldn't hurt.
Evidence of the man's generosity to young musicians goes back decades. Mike recorded some of the most legendary records of all time...records that traveled the world and changed culture...records that created an underground circuit that bands still travel on to this very day and I can only assume that he didn't really get paid much for his contributions. Classic records like "The Kids Will Have Their Say" by SSD as well as their monstrous "Get It Away" record..."This Is Boston Not LA''..."Unsafe At Any Speed"..The Outlets "Best Friends" 7"..."Wolfpack" by DYS(my personal favorite BHC record of all time) and"Yowl'' by Native Tongue, which I'd never heard until recently when Al Quint, creator of Suburban Voice and another lifelong supporter of local bands, slid it my way. Another great fucking record. Thanks Al. All of those records are masterpieces within their respective genres and Mike had a hand in all of them. That really endeared me to him. Not only was he an incredibly intelligent, sweet and funny guy...he also had punk rock credentials to kill for. I'm endlessly impressed by what that scene in the early 80's accomplished. It's really incredible. A scene of basically children putting out their own records....booking their own tours...creating their own dance(for which the world STILL hasn't acknowledged them as it's creators)...and creating something entirely new out of nothing. I used to really love to pick Mike's brains about all that stuff and he was always willing to talk about it. One time he said to me "whatever those bands had....YOU have that! You have all those things that made them great. It's the same thing." It's really one of the better compliments of my life. He didn't seem to draw any distinction between the legends of the past and the kids in the basement and that's really what I loved most about him. In his 60's and still open to the world around him. Still going to basement shows, still traveling the world, still being the best dressed guy in the room every single time and still having no clue how cool he really was....and this is what I mean about cynicism.
During the time I knew him, a time that I now wish wasn't so brief, he showed by example the possibility of blasting heat through the fog of cynicism. He showed that life, love and good times were always there waiting for you...you just have to be open to them...recognize them...and help others recognize them. I already miss him so much. I was really looking forward to seeing Chris and him out at shows again after the nightmare of the past year and a half ended. I thought about them alot during the pandemic and at times was more concerned about their boredom than my own. For the past couple weeks I've been getting pains in my chest everytime i hear a new song I like and I realize I can't email it to him to see what he thinks about it. It's the worst. But like I said...there's so much to do and see out there and because of Mike I'm gonna keep looking for it. My heart is open. Anybody that wants to come kick it with me and talk music...I'm all ears. We all have a void to fill and Mr B would tell you that it's possible. You just have to want it.
Rest in Peace Mr B
The Patron Saint of Your Good Times
Photo by Al Quint