BOSTON. When Axionix Properties bought the office building known as One Hancock Place here last year, they planned a roof-to-basement upgrade that would ensure the address retained its first-class rating for years to come. “We owed it to the tenants, but more importantly to ourselves,” says Regional Vice President Rick Smasto. “If we want to continue to charge sky-high rents we’ve got to deliver a lot of cheap intangibles in addition to basics like heat and air conditioning.”
And so a series of live musical performances dubbed “Summer Fun!” was planned for the pedestrian plaza leading to the refurbished entrance, with a rotating cast of female singer-songwriters drawn from local music schools. “These kids are desperate for the exposure, so you can get them cheap,” Smasto says as he watches Heather Unrike adjust a microphone before she begins her set.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the feel-good outcome that the new landlord anticipated; with current vocal styles trending towards hostility and depression among young women, the public relations benefits of free music haven’t materialized, and instead office workers in the building are staying away in droves, leaving the plaza populated by winos sleeping off hangovers.
Unrike is typical of the negative vibe produced by local musicians who take their lead from today’s crop of popular female singers, who seem interested in romance only as a source of bitter post-mortems over loves gone wrong.
Today I saw you, Harold, Unrike begins,
walking along with that bitch, Carol.
You seemed to look so pleased,
I hope you catch her disease.
Smasto glances nervously at the lawn chairs that have been set up for the lunchtime crowd to use as overflow seating for an upscale restaurant on the ground floor, and notices that the looks on some patrons’ faces reveal emotions ranging from distaste to annoyance. “Geez, that chick needs to get an attitude adjustment,” says Mike Oliverio, a broker with SunStates Investments on the 8th floor. “Feel free to get a life,” he says as he checks his phone, then crosses the street to Della Famina, an Italian restaurant whose only music is piped-in middle-of-the-road fare.
Next up is Chloe Festrunk, a Berklee School of Music student who hopes to follow in the footsteps of the many other musicians who have used their education at the Back Bay institution as a launching pad for successful careers.
You didn’t take your toothbrush when you left, she sings.
It’s in good shape, it’s hardly been used.
Maybe that explains the awful smell of your breath,
It still holds some tuna salad that you chewed.
“Wasn’t that great!” Smasto says unconvincingly as the willowy singer finishes to awkward silence from the few passers-by who were caught in traffic while she sang. “Why don’t we give, uh, Chloe a big round of applause!” he says to a few stragglers who are caught awkwardly mid-stride between the building and portable speakers, too late to scurry away in unseemly haste.
“Was that concert free?” asks Vince Pagliardi, an accountant at a firm across the street.
“You bet,” Smasto says. “Just one of the many benefits of renting space at One Hancock Place. If you’d like, I can send you brochure.”
“No thanks,” the CPA says. “I’d rather pay for something good.”