A plan to demolish The Middle East in Cambridge is in the works, so we’re looking back at the legendary music venue.
The first report we saw came via Cambridge Day last Friday. Given the nature of the holiday weekend, other news outlets are reporting on the story this week. And it’s a big story! The Middle East opened in Central Square in Cambridge over 50 years ago, in 1970. At first, The Middle East was just a quiet restaurant featuring Lebanese fare. The only musical entertainment? The occasional belly dancer. That all changed in the 1980s.
Local music promoter Billy Ruane–a legend in his own right–was throwing a birthday bash next door to The Middle East at T.T. The Bear’s Place. He convinced Middle East’s owners to let his party spill into their restaurant, complete with the musical entertainment he’d booked. From that moment on, there was no looking back. Throughout the ’80s, into the ’90s and beyond, The Middle East Upstairs, The Middle East Downstairs, The Corner, and Zuzu became the preeminent live music destinations in Cambridge.
The Middle East in Cambridge: 7 Top Shows
Now, the Central Square landmark is set for a date with the wrecking ball. This comes as no surprise: the club’s owners, even before purchasing the property outright in 2014, have tinkered with the idea of building up and developing on top of the buildings. They even listed the property in early 2020, but there were no buyers. Now, according to the Cambridge Day piece, the plan is to demolish the entire complex and build anew. The new build would include a boutique hotel and multiple entertainment venues. But plans are still foggy; it remains to be seen what the final product will include.
So while we wait, I’ll take you through a half-dozen Middle East shows that are legendary (to me).