Posted in music on October 27, 2010

by Klaus Kinski

Billy Ruane posing w/ Amanda Palmer,
Lamb The Beekeper, Dilly Dilly & Jenna Q in Maine
(more by Bryan Bruchman)
Billy Ruane

In my opinion, being an iconic figure, a staple if you will, of any music scene is definitely a lost art. It takes personality, energy, stamina, and an almost robotic ability to mentally catalogue scores of bands, big and small. It takes having the desire to catch any show spanning every genre on the planet, and not just going to the ones that might have more 'cred' than others. It takes a knack for contributing to the scene and not just being a familiar face. It also requires a lot of respect from fans, bands, and venues. Sadly, Boston lost one such icon with the recent passing of enfant terrible Billy Ruane on October 26th, 2010 at the age of 52. For three decades, Billy was an integral part of Boston's rock scene. And Jazz scene. And cinema scene. He was everywhere and anywhere and had a Christlike ability to make you believe he was 3 places at once on a given night.

One of his most notable contributions to the Boston live music scene was back in 1987. The Middle East in Cambridge had been established as a Lebanese restaurant in 1970, but as it gradually expanded so did its live music offerings. Early on they had Arabic music and belly dancers. The programming then evolved to include Jazz and Blues. Then, in 1987 it hosted its first ever rock show with a solo gig by Roger Miller of Mission of Burma. Later that year, Billy Ruane had booked a birthday party rock show at TT the Bears which is situated just down the street from the Middle East. He overbooked the TTs show and asked the Satar brothers (who ran the Middle East) to house the spillover and allow bands to play there as well. From there, the rest is history and the Middle East is regarded as the best independent live music venue in the Beantown area. On the 20 year anniversary of that fateful evening, Billy is quoted as saying "You remember what happened - I threw a fuckin' party that got too fuckin' big".

Folks are saying it had to do with a heart ailment. So sad. The Boston Phoenix is definitely your source for developing news, eulogies, and other important information. I can say for sure that there will be was a vigil at the Middle East Tonight last night at 11:00pm. RIP Billy.



Comments (14)


The Middle East is a great place (TTs not so much). You can touch the ceiling if you crowd surf in the downstairs! Hometown Throwdowns!

I don't remember if they serve hummus, it's been ten years since I have been there.

Posted by Anonymous | October 27, 2010 3:31 PM

best thing i've read on him:
"it was cool when he came into a room, because then all the sudden 10 or 20 or 200 people stopped being a room full of random people and started being a room full of people that knew billy ruane, and it would kind of bring a whole crowd together while they all watched the same dude have a better time than everyone else combined. his personality was infectious and this really, really sucks."

never met him, always wish i did. can't wait to see some shows in boston this week, i feel like i'll overhear a bunch of awesome stories.

Posted by mike | October 27, 2010 3:51 PM


Posted by Anonymous | October 27, 2010 3:58 PM

@3:31 - they do serve it upstairs. pretty good, too.

Posted by Anonymous | October 27, 2010 4:26 PM

4:26 your hummus knowledge is underwhelming. take it from a middle east born me, if you eat it there too often chances are you would die at 53.

btw BV, still not a word on gregory isaac??

Posted by me | October 27, 2010 4:34 PM

Of course the middle east serves about dropped balls.

Posted by Anonymous | October 27, 2010 4:41 PM

".talk about dropped balls."

I would but I wouldnt want to make the average BV commenter healous.

RIP Billy. You tore up life

Posted by Anonymous | October 27, 2010 4:43 PM

Every town would be so lucky to have a Billy Ruane.

Posted by Anonymous | October 27, 2010 4:44 PM

The vigil was last night, the 26th, the night BIlly died. He was 52, would have been 53 in a few weeks.

If you don't know "Who?" you are all the poorer for it. Billy changed a lot of lives, and he will be deeply missed. Otherwise, "anonymous" poster, don't be such a disrespectful fuck.

Posted by Larkin Vonalt | October 27, 2010 4:47 PM

Hey Larkin (and everyone else)

Profuse apologies for screwing up his age and not realizing the vigil was last night. That was stupid.

Be well

Posted by Klaus Kinski | October 27, 2010 4:56 PM

Here is another good quote - "Billy Ruane was the single greatest music catalyst I’ve ever encountered. He transcended the definitions of “fan” and “promoter” to become a kind of living embodiment of the transforming experience of music, and he made a deep impression on everybody who ever met him." - Steve Albini

Posted by Anonymous | October 27, 2010 5:38 PM

No one who met Billy forgot him. And he was a true fan of the arts in the best sense.

Posted by JT | October 28, 2010 12:08 AM

You must be crazier than either I am or he was if you think there is not going to be anything for Billy's birthday. Just keep checking the boards for info it's going to be happening someplace.

Posted by Richard Bond | October 31, 2010 10:58 PM

Billy was a good dude. I could never understand why he was so nice to my half assed bands.

Something definitional about Billy was that out he was kind of out there in his own head most of the time. He was going somewhere, on his way to do something, just back from somewhere, needed to do some unspecified bit of business. Didn't really connect emotionally, like there was a piece of glass between him and the world.

Anyway, a super decent guy.

Posted by Lucas Gonze | July 18, 2012 8:56 PM

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