The Rat. Besides having the single best name for a nightclub ever—short for The Rathskeller, which no one ever once called it—the cramped and dingy Kenmore Square dungeon known as “The Rat” was Boston’s most celebrated and notorious rock club, in an era when Boston had one of the nation’s great rock scenes. Between 1974 and 1997—from the protean days of punk through its latter-day revival—every band that mattered passed through that scuzzy, smoky basement: The Ramones, the Talking Heads, the Police, R.E.M., Husker Du, and local heroes like the Cars, Mission of Burma, and the Pixies. The club’s former owner recalls to the Boston Globe the subzero February night when Metallica played at the Rat—for six people.
The place was like an even grungier, meaner version of New York’s CBGB, a hot mess of unruly noise and ungainly aromas, where busted toilets were plastered with Agnostic Front stickers. The ceiling was inches above your head, offering hardly any clearance to pogo. I once split my head open on a rusty ceiling pipe while crowdsurfing at a Mighty Mighty Bosstones show. It was the most rock-and-roll thing I’ve ever done, before or since; I wound up staying through the encore, then hopped a bus to Mass General for stitches.
In 2000, three years after its closing, The Rat’s old quarters were replaced by the 148-room Hotel Commonwealth, which today houses two of Boston’s better restaurants, Eastern Standard and Island Creek Oyster Bar. And now, perhaps to address any lingering karmic imbalance, the Hotel Commonwealth has unveiled a specially designed “Rathskeller Suite,” bookable from September, as a high-threadcount tribute to a low-rent icon. (Swank, meet skank.) The 600-square-foot suite will have bathrobes sporting the Rat logo, an entry hall bedecked with graffiti, an iPod full of bands who played the club, and an impressive collection of Rat memorabilia, including Marky Ramone’s autographed drumsticks, a bass guitar from the Dropkick Murphys, and a suitably banged-up vintage keyboard. Plus blackout shades, of course. Late checkout? That’s a given.
Peter Jon Lindberg is Travel + Leisure's editor-at-large