Friends and Family Pay Tribute to Eastie’s Joe Harvard at the Middle East

In the 1980s an East Boston guy had an idea to create a Boston recording studio that would authentically capture the emerging alternative Boston music scene. Fort Apache in Roxbury was born and artists like The Pixies, The Lemonheads, Dinosaur Jr., Morphine, Buffalo Tom, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones were given the freedom to experiment and capture the energy of music without sterilization.

Harvard, an accomplished musician, music producer, artist and all around great soul passed away on Sunday, March 24, after a courageous battle with cancer. He was 60 years old.

On Sunday, friends and family gathered at the Middle East in Cambridge, the spot that launched many local acts that Harvard recorded at his studio, to pay tribute to Harvard.

There was only one way to truly honor a man who loved music and who was to bring the house down with numerous energetic performances by Harvard’s friends and former bandmates over the course of several hours.

“Tonight was just perfect,” said Harvard’s longtime partner Mallory Messara. “I know Joe was there, loving the sh@# out of every moment. Everyone who came, far and wide I can’t thank you enough, as well as everyone who couldn’t come but sent their love. It was truly beautiful for such a beautiful man. A life well lived indeed.”

Harvard, who was born in Jeffries Point as Joe Incagnoli, had been living in Asbury Park, NJ since 2001 where he emerged as a leading force in the town’s art and music scene renaissance.

“What an epic night,” said friend and bandmate Stevan Nix who played at the tribute party. “I was absolutely elated. I made some great new friends and also heard some of the most fantastic stories about Joe Harvard that I can’t believe I didn’t already know. I would love for this to become an annual event. Over the course of the night it became quite obvious that Joe packed way more than a lot of living in his 60 years. I was certainly anticipating a good sized crowd, but I could not believe how many people actually came out to celebrate Joe’s life, what a beautiful thing. Everyone was so great. I’m so glad we were there to represent for Joe and in someway I got to repay a bit of all the things he taught me, playing in this great band with him for the last 10 years. Wow what a night.”

Harvard was diagnosed with Stage 4 liver cancer late last year and documented his daily struggle with the disease through honest, and sometimes heart-wrenching, social media posts.

All the while Harvard remained optimistic and continued his art and music until the end, and telling friends back in Eastie he was fighting the disease like an, “East Boston tornado!”.

Harvard was born and raised in Eastie and attended schools here. In a short YouTube documentary about his life produced by Messara Harvard drove around his old stomping grounds in Jeffries Point, pointed out the bar were he shined shoes while his father held court inside, and visited his childhood home. 

Harvard graduated from Harvard University and the Ivy Leaguer got the ‘Harvard’ nickname while working in a Cambridge record store while attending college.

In 1986, with fellow Ivy Leaguers and friends Sean Slade, Jim Fitting and Paul Kolderie, Harvard founded Fort Apache Studio in Roxbury. 

If you ate, slept and breathed the alternative music scene during that time you knew of and respected Fort Apache for the enormous talent it recorded for over a decade.

Harvard briefly became sole owner, and the studio became very active recording Boston-area indie-rock groups.

“I was honored to be asked to perform as Nico from the Velvet Underground band for Joe Harvard’s Memorial,” said friend Theresia Millasovich. “Joe had a cover band called ‘Velveeta.’ I sang “To All Tomorrow’s Parties”. No rehearsal….just do it….the Joe Harvard way. I love you, Joe.”

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