“Joe Strummer” Oct. 20, 1998, photo by Jay Hale
When Jay Hale moved to Boston for college in 1995, he didn’t know a soul, but he did know going to shows around the city would keep him out of trouble. Armed with his tiny Kodak Star 735 point and shoot film camera, he attended his first gig, The Upper Crust at Local 186, shortly after move-in day on September 9. There, he bumped into Tim “Johnny Vegas” Burton, sax player for one of his favorite bands, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Burton bought him a Sprite, and Hale jogged home from Allston with a roll of film and a pocket full of stories. The following March, covering the first night of Rancid’s two night sold-out And Out Come the Wolves tour at Avalon, he learned that he could mooch his way into concerts by becoming a student journalist and he turned his moribund college newspaper into what one of the former editors called “a glorified punk zine.” Under his leadership, the Suffolk Journal won numerous accolades, including The Rolling Stone College Journalism Award for Feature Writing, when Hale interviewed old acquaintance Burton about the Bosstones’ upcoming fourth annual Hometown Throwdown at the Middle East.
While shooting The Ramones at Lollapalooza 1996, a friendly photographer from The Boston Globe showed him how to properly load film into his father’s Vietnam-era Kodak, allowing him to upgrade his gear and up his game. After following around The Bosstones for the better part of the year on their Let’s Face It U.S. tour, one day Burton signaled him from the stage to meet him after the show. Burton was interested in launching his own glossy punk rock and ska lifestyle magazine and wanted Hale to serve as photo editor. The two collaborated on six issues of the underground hit RUDE: International, until the Bosstones’ hectic touring schedule made printing the magazine on a regular basis nearly impossible. Hale then decided to go solo and published his own all-glossy magazine, Fat City. Building on the foundation that made RUDE great, Fat City was more than the next logical step, it became a trend-setting publication in the punk scene that spawned numerous imitators.
Today, he continues to photograph the bands he loves, mostly at The Middle East. Next time you’re at a punk show Downstairs, look to the ramp at stage right. See a guy in a green Red Sox hat leaning against a pole with a camera around his neck, swing by and say hello.
Jay Hale lives in Littleton, Mass., with his wife, Erin and infant son, Ryan; a garage full of magazine back issues; and a guest room full of thousands of 4×6 photos.
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