After hours

By MICHAEL FREEDBERG  |  January 17, 2007

Until very recently, that was just about the whole story. Now, however, you can go to Underbar (at the Roxy, 279 Tremont Street) on Tuesdays; Felt (553 Washington Street) on Sunday (DJ Manolo has a residency there); Umbria (295 Franklin Street) every night; Phoenix Landing (512 Mass Ave in Central Square) for Bump Night on Fridays; the Saint (90 Exeter Street) every night; Toast (70 Union Square in Somerville), where DJ Susan Esthera often spins; and Sanctuary (189 State Street) on the Waterfront, which often has a live “deep house” band — Johnny B’s Tribal Beatz. The Kingston Street area has also become a house-music destination: DJ Wheels spins at District (180 Kingston Street) and Jay Prouty at News (150 Kneeland Street), and XM Radio’s Lars Behrenroth played the Good Life Café (28 Kingston Street) back in October.

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ANTHEM: DJ Craig Mitchell has been known to leave the turntables and sing, “In my house there is no man, no woman, no gay, no straight . . . ”
As clubs featuring house DJs have blossomed, so has the number of Boston DJs and producers. Among the most established: Marko Militano and Tari Litz of Trademarq, two of whose tracks (“Coconut Lamp” and “Orange Juice”) appeared on this year’s Colette and DJ Heather two-CD set on the OM label; Jay Prouty, who spins regularly at Rumor, Venu, and Rise; Michael Laven and his brother David, who moved here from Burlington, Vermont, more than a year ago and who, as Shlavens and D-Lav, DJ here and elsewhere and own the Slanted House and Slanted Black labels, for which they produce their own tracks as well as release the work of other upcoming house teams. Those would include Dave from Dallas, who headlined at Rise last month, and Craig Mitchell, who also moved to Boston from Vermont. Mitchell’s work as DJ, track maker, and singer has gotten him enough attention that he, like Shlavens and D-Lav and Trademarq, wonders whether he can continue to base himself here in Boston. The scene is expanding that fast.

Why is a music that since its inception in the late 1980s was almost exclusively a black, Latino, and gay-male thing crossing over? The Internet has played a large role. House isn’t heard on the radio, but it flourishes on-line. That’s where the DJs — and the fans — buy their tracks. D-Lav: “We listen to every new track posted at www.BeatPort.com in the genres we cover. Right now we have 250 tracks sitting in our cart there.” DJ Roger Sanchez: “I listen to at least a hundred tracks a week. Most sent to me on-line by producers.” So completely does the Internet dominate distribution that even Amazon can’t compete. Sure, the major music sales sites have discs by the two dozen major house DJs — Steve Lawler, Danny Tenaglia, DJ Heather, Martin Solveig, Stéphane Pompougnac, Sanchez himself — as well as the best-known compilations. But the tracks that DJs are likely to play are found at specialist sites like BeatPort. The various house-music and electronica groups at MySpace total more than 90,000 members.

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