Run by the Bowery Boston managament group (which also presides over Royale, Great Scott, and Cambridge's TT The Bear's), The Sinclair sits in the heart of Cambridge's Harvard Square, only a few blocks away from the MBTA Red Line station of the same name. As part of a christmas gift, I got my girlfriend tickets to go see La Dispute and the Menzingers here last Friday.
The club opened up for concerts in mid-December, and has brought in a variety of different acts in its first month and a half of business. January sees the opening of a second-floor restaurant, which will soon be expanding to late-night and lunch offerings.
We arrived a little late and got in just as doors opened, so I didn't get a chance to actually sit down in the restaurant or order anything, but the full menu and beer/wine list is available here. Prices seem pretty similar to other pub/tavern-type places in the area, and the full bar extends out to the concert area, though most people I saw were drinking cans of PBR or Narragansett ($4 each). Your bar selections are either behind the standing section, near the merch tables and bathrooms, or one in the standing area, under the left balcony.
The venue itself consists of a tiled floor, a little mezzanine level with tables, and two side balconies, which both also offered a few tables. Coat check is available, though it wasn't open for this show. Most people just tossed their coats on to the stage, or on the railings around the speakers. It definitely seemed a little bit too nice and too clean for seeing this lineup, but also remember that the place is practically brand new. They've also been booking a wide variety of bands. Sinclair staff are from my experience pretty friendly and helpful, and all three bands on the lineup also mentioned how they enjoyed the staff compared to other Boston-area clubs (*cough*House of Blues). I also really enjoyed the choice of Motown being played between sets. Strange touch, but nice. Stranger is how high the stage is, compared to say, the Middle East's downstairs venue, or the old Harper's Ferry in Allston (now d/b/a Brighton Music Hall).
Sound quality overall? I had a little bit of an issue, mostly because we were standing off to the side of the stage, and were stood next to a speaker that was hooked up to the center mic, which to me overpowered everything else, including the other mics. Made the Menzingers set a little weird to listen to, with two singers. Otherwise, no real problems. Just try and stand closer to center when you're there.
Overall, the Sinclair is a pretty cool place to see a show. The location in the Harvard Square neighborhood is great, with a variety of pre and post-show food/drink options within a few minutes' walk, not to mention the one right on site. The fact that it's within a minute or two walking of the MBTA station is great as well. Its' newness lacks the grit and grime (and some may say character) of other clubs in the area, but that'll come with time. The major plus? Most shows are pretty inexpensive. I think I paid $16 with Ticketmaster fees, but you can avoid those by going directly to the box office. I noticed one of my favorite bands, Fu Manchu, will be there later in the year, and I really can't say no for $13. My one gripe is that the bathrooms are sort of just jammed into a corner, and are a little on the small side. If it's a well attended show, you might be waiting a while to piss out that $4 tallboy.
And we can't forget the show. Defeater's Derek Archambault opened up with his side project, Alcoa. They played a somewhat refreshing take on country rock, spearheaded by a fantastic pedal steel player. The Menzingers put on a super-high energy set, while La Dispute seemed to take 4-5 songs to find their stride. Thankfully, the crowd made up for their lack of enthusiasm until things got going mid-set. Plus, it was one of those rare nights where across the river in Boston, Shawn Thornton found the net.
(sinclaircambridge.com, 52 Church St., Cambridge, MA. All venue pictures courtesy Michelle McGrady Photography)