Top 10 Things We Saw At The New Folk Americana Roots Hall Of Fame In Boston

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of touring the Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame (FARHOF) in Boston. And what I quickly learned was that this new initiative is not just your run of the mill Hall of Fame.

Stationed inside the Boch Center, which holds the famed Wang Theatre, the FARHOF consists of six exhibits: Arlo Guthrie: Native Son, Cultural Heroes, Boston: A Music Town, Life in Six Strings, The Wang Theatre: A Century of Great Music, and the David Bieber Archives.

The fresh endeavor is just getting started, as they have big plans in place for the next few years to advance their mission, and some innovative curatorial practices in place.

It’s an incredible place – more like a palace – and if you find yourself in Boston, do yourself a favor and check it out.

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Here are the Top 10 most impressive things I saw in the FARHOF.

10. The Lobby

Rarely does a lobby make a list like this, but this one does. CEO Joe Spaulding says the first thing everybody does when they first walk through the doors and into the lobby is look up- and I found out why. It’s a breathtaking sight. The masterfully elegant marble pillars, chandeliers, gold trim, and ceiling art are second to few as far as North American venues go. Walking into the lobby at the Wang Theatre is arresting, and earns a spot on this list.

9. Pete Seeger’s Banjo & Accessories

Arlo Guthrie recently told a hell of a story about Pete Seeger driving on the left side of the road back in the early 60s. The two were on some country roads and Arlo saw a tractor trailer heading their way a few hills over, but being a shy youngster in the presence of a folk hero, he didn’t want to say anything, and also thought maybe he saw the truck. As they barreled closer, Arlo finally spoke up and Seeger ripped it to the right side of the road and said, “I thought we were in England!” Basking in the classic folk legend’s banjo and accessories is a sight to behold, and one of the first things one sees on the tour.

8. Tom Scholz’s Mighty Mouse Gibson Guitar

I’ve admittedly never been a huge Boston (the band) fan, but this particular Gibson Les Paul “Mighty Mouse” guitar was pretty amazing. The coinciding picture of Tom Scholz extolling sparks from it many moons ago adds a whole new dimension to the exhibit along with the other artifacts of that 70s rock era. The guitar was responsible for “More Than a Feeling” and more Boston hits.

7. Boston: A Music Town Exhibit

So the Tom Scholz guitar is part of this exhibit, but what’s cool about this is the regional aspect of it, and also the fact it’s not simply folk, bluegrass, and country-related artists. They dabble in hip hop, classical, and of course rock among other genre-based relics native to the area.

6. The Cultural Heroes Exhibit

The most historically and culturally significant exhibit within the FARHOF, this series borrows the delicate busts of legendary Black artists such as Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Lead Belly, Paul Robeson, Josh White and Marian Anderson. Woody Guthrie makes the cut in this very unique exhibit as well. The busts are quite large and deeply intricate, and walking up face to face with them is jarring. They were sculpted by Nashville artist Alan LeQuire.

5. Life in Six Strings & The Ernie Boch Jr. AI Machine

I’ve seen a reasonable share of rare, autographed, and otherwise historical guitars, and it’s always a treat, but what makes this one extra special is the AI hologram of local collector and namesake to the building, Ernie Boch Jr. The hologram educates exhibit goers on each guitar among other things. Yes, this huge expensive box in the corner of the room plays host to the digital ghost of Boch Jr. who has a lot of interesting things to say. Press down on a button, ask him a question about any of the guitars, and if he understands you, he will answer. It is definitely the future of innovation in archival exhibits.

4. The Autographs on the Backstage Walls

When you take a tour of the Wang Theatre, you don’t just peruse the seating areas and stage itself, which is awesome. No, you get to go deep into the confines and head to the iconic backstage area where you can pick a name, any name, and they’ve likely played there. Whether it be concerts, plays, or other performance art, they’ve seen it all. And on the walls backstage are hundreds if not thousands of signatures of swaths of artists in a rainbow of colors, signings, and drawings from Neil Young, to Tony Bennett, to the Dalai Lama.

3. Arlo’s Letters To Woody

One of the most touching things in all of the exhibits were Arlo Guthrie’s childhood letters to his ailing dad Woody. Some were fairly “normal” in the sense they discussed his day and things he’d done etc., but a select few expressed anguish and sadness of a young boy who simply wanted his dad around. Just observing the details of the letters is quite stirring.

2. The David Bieber Archives

This. This was something wild. While the exhibit was fairly modest but deeply interesting, it was what was behind the exhibit that catapulted the David Bieber Archives into a must-see for anybody who’s into music and pop culture. Bieber has been collecting – everything – for decades, and houses a warehouse space with what’s likely a literal million different artifacts and memorabilia ranging from records, shirts, jackets, buttons, pins, instruments, magazines, trinkets, dolls, masks, signs, Bruce’s Yams, and so much more. You may need to be extra special to get the invite to the compound, though.

1. The Wang Theatre

There’s tons of cool things inside the Boch Center and within the FARHOF, but the humbling experience of walking inside something as beautiful and historical as the Wang Theatre itself has to take the cake. Especially being able to soak it in in near silence, as opposed to a bustling noisy night of a show. This is where the tour is special. The wildly ornate architecture and sky high celings with a globe light meant to look like the moon, it’s a sight to behold. Standing on the stage where many a legend have stood and peering out in the empty seats is a feeling not many are able to have.

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