Boston is famous for being a university city, but also for its long history and current day status as a technology center. However, The Hub also has a vibrant podcast scene. At last count, at least 120 podcasts are created locally. Production is happening throughout the city; at radio stations, in professional and amateur audio studios and in the private homes (and closets!) of producers.
One piece of good news for the audio-storytelling community: the PRX Podcast Garage has reopened after a long COVID-19-induced hiatus, offering not only a professional level recording space, classroom and event space, but a community of like-minded producers. Hub & Spoke, a collective of “audio producing essayists” was founded in Boston before expanding around the US.
Searching for new local listens? Check out some highlights from the Boston podcasting scene.
Last Seen is an investigation into one of history’s most valuable, (and confounding) art heists. In 1990, 13 valuable pieces of artwork, including three works by Dutch painter Rembrandt, were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. More than 30 years later, the artworks have never been recovered. No one has been charged with the crime. Producers Kelly Horan, Stephen Kurkjian and Jack Rodolico investigate what happened on the night of March 18, 1990, when thieves dressed like police officers strolled into the museum, tied up the guards on duty, and took well over an hour selecting paintings and other works to steal. Last Seen searches for answers to this ongoing mystery. Along the way, the creators interview surviving characters including the investigator, a convicted art thief and one of the guards on duty on the night of the crime. Season 2, launching in February, shifts to telling a variety of stories about “surprising people, places and things that have all gone missing”. https://www.wbur.org/podcasts/lastseen
Forever is a Long Time
In this series, newly-married producer and musician Ian Coss delves into his family history — of divorce. In five episodes, Ian interviews his aunts, uncles, grandmother and parents to uncover the secrets of failed marriages, and in hopes of avoiding the same pitfalls with his. The songs are all composed and performed by Coss, too. Don’t miss the unforgettable episode with his 90-year-old grandmother who got a Mexican divorce in the 1960s. Take a listen at https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/forever-is-a-long-time/id1570813696
Mr. 80 Percent
When Mark Shanahan, an entertainment and pop culture reporter, was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he approached his disease with his typical journalist prowess, not only candidly describing his own painful experience fearing death or at least impotency, but intertwining it with the experiences of other patients, doctors, partners and advocates who have been affected by the disease. Prostate cancer is a medical condition that affects one in eight men and kills 30,000 annually in the United States alone. Yet this common ailment still remains a mystery for many men and the women who love them. Shanahan says that his favorite podcasts tend to be about stories and issues that are generally overlooked, “so I figured sharing my experience with this disease, in all its hilarious, absurd, and painful detail, might be interesting.” In this series, Shanahan unveils the uncomfortable truth about this disease in a riveting, binge-worthy (and sometimes cringe-worthy) podcast series. Find out more about the series here: https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/special-reports/prostate-cancer/
You might think you know Boston history from school or from trips to the Tea Party Ship or by walking the Freedom Trail. But Hub History offers a window into a different kind of history not taught in school. Take for example, the story of Emma Snodgrass who in 1852 was arrested in Boston for wearing pants. She went on to become a notorious crossdresser who frequented male-only locales and “talked horse.” Local tour guides (and podcast hosts) Nikki Stewart and Jake Sconyers delve into fascinating and sometimes unsettling stories such as when Boston-area Puritans were dispatched to Hawaii or the when the FBI found a Nazi group headquartered at Boston’s Copley Plaza Hotel. http://www.hubhistory.com/
The Lonely Palette
Tamar Tamar Avishai, producer of “The Lonely Palette” interviewing a guest at The MFA in Boston. Painting is Blanco y Verde (#1) (1962) by Carmen Herrera in the second. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
It turns out that I’m not the only one who likes to visit with John Singer Sargent’s 1882 portrait of the Boit sisters. In this series, producer Tamar Avishai tells the behind-the-scenes stories about works from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. You will never look at that painting the same way again after hearing how the talented young Sargent both borrowed and broke from traditional portrait painting to produce what, at the time, was a groundbreaking work and today is one of the most popular paintings in the museum’s vast collection. More than 50 episodes are available at http://www.thelonelypalette.com or where you listen to podcasts.
Aaron Hernandez was the Patriots’ starting tight end until he was arrested and charged and imprisoned on murder charges. The series describes the rise and fall of an untamable young football star. Hosted by Bob Hohler, sports investigative and enterprise reporter for The Boston Globe.
The series can be heard at: https://wondery.com/shows/gladiator
Strides Forward, The Road to Boston
Producer Cherie Louise Turner running in Ireland. Photo by Alain Levek
Sports series profiling nine international female marathon runners, describing their lives and training leading up to the Boston Marathon. The 125-year-old race is one of the world’s most challenging, competitive and storied marathons. It’s also one of the toughest to qualify for and toughest to run. Produced and hosted by audio producer, writer and editor Cherie Louise Turner, herself a self-described life-long athlete who participated in this year’s marathon. The Road to Boston is available here http://stridesforwardpodcast.com/ or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Above the Basement
Winner of the 2020 Boston Music awards, Above the Basement is a series of casual, candid interviews with Boston area music producers and musicians. Host Chuck Clough does an exceptional job introducing us to a wide array of local musicians from Boston-born, Zimbabwean-raised Jazz musician U-Meleni Mhlaba-Adebo to neuroscientist-musician Linnea Herzog. https://abovethebasement.com/
Interested in starting your own podcasts?
Boston is a great place to start podcasting. If you are looking for help with recording your own podcast, check out The Somerville Media Center (https://www.somervillemedia.org/bfr-podcast-network) and The Podcast Garage in Allston (currently closed due to COVID-19 until further notice). Also, the podcast collective Hub & Spoke started out in Boston. Seasoned and aspiring podcasters might also want to join Sonic Soiree, a network of area producers who organize meetups, share job postings, trade tech support and listen to and critique one another’s work-in-progress.
More Boston podcasts? Did we miss someone? Know of another podcast that should be on this list? Please let us know! Send an email to [email protected]