ManRay, a beloved 19+ nightclub located in Cambridge’s Central Square, is open to the public after an 18-year shutdown. Its new location at 40 Prospect Street is open every Wednesday through Saturday.
The official reopening on Jan. 18 took a lot of time and hard work, said DJ Chris Ewen, who started working at ManRay in 1986. Ewen said the process was prolonged because of the pandemic, supply-related issues, and gutting and redesigning the new space from scratch.
“It’s been a long process,” said Ewen. “But it’s something we never really wanted to give up on at all. We just thought it was too important.”
During its run from 1983 to 2005, ManRay became a place for experimental music, the LGBTQ+ community, as well as goth, fetish and punk subcultures, according to an article from Boston.com.
Inspired by American artist Man Ray, the club seeks to be a mystery, according to its website.
“[ManRay] is a legendary spot where the surreal becomes real, and the experimental is embraced,” says its website. “[It is] a hub of the alternative where creativity and community thrive.”
ManRay used to be located on Brookline Street, where it was close to Harvard, MIT and BU, attracting college students across Boston who found a community for an array of identities and interests, said Shawn Driscoll, author of “We are But Your Children,” a book about the history of ManRay.
It was 1992, and at the age of 19, Driscoll became a regular at ManRay.
“It was one of those things that changed my life forever,” he said.
“I had felt like I had found my place, I felt like I had found where I could be myself, and try new iterations of myself, and that’s a great feeling,” Driscoll said.
Stefanie Miller, another longtime attendee, said ManRay “felt like a home” after she started regularly attending in 1999.
“You didn’t have to worry about a lot when you were there,” said Miller. “It was a lot more of a community than a nightclub.”
Driscoll said the new ManRay is “very much in the aesthetic” of what it was like before it closed.
“[Nightclubs] can be sort of dark and foreboding,” Driscoll said. “ManRay was a place that you felt safe. I know that’s a weird word to use with a nightclub, but ManRay was a safe spot for many people.”
Since its reopening, ManRay still attracts people of all ages and backgrounds, just like it did before it closed.
“It was really exciting to have something like that come back, and hopefully be very similar to what it was before, in the community aspect,” said Miller. “The feeling that it is some place you want to be and are meant to be.”
Ewen also hopes this feeling perseveres in its new iteration. However, he also has the hope that it can continue to evolve.
“I don’t want ManRay to be a nostalgia trip, although that will certainly be a part of what we are,” said Ewen. “But that doesn’t mean we have to exist as something trapped in amber.”
Ewen said hiring new DJs and setting up a revolving set for certain nights of the week will attract a younger audience.
The current schedule, which can be found on ManRay’s website, features four nights with specific themes and genres. Wednesdays are for goth music and culture, Thursdays are dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community, Fridays are intense and industrial and Saturdays feature Chris Ewen’s set “Heroes,” dedicated to new wave and post-punk.
But regardless of what night you attend, you can get a little bit of everything each night.
“Those nights play a certain type of music, but there’s a certain aesthetic to ManRay that you can find in all of those nights,” Driscoll said.
On the Wednesday it officially opened, Driscoll returned to his roots.
“It was just such a wonderful night,” Driscoll said. “I had to catch my breath several times just realizing I’m back at ManRay. It’s not the old ManRay, but it’s still ManRay in a new spot.”
Amazing article! I’ll be sure to check it out!