If nothing else, LDW is a culmination of Sisto’s innovative history of events and pet projects. It’s got the thrown-together feel of a house party, sure, but it also has the careful polish a proud artist gives his work before placing it on a gallery wall. In fact, Sisto’s concern with presentation borders on obsessive — a cause for suspicion among the more cynical. Promo materials reliably look good, demonstrating an unabashed affection for particular fonts, edgy design schemes, and often iffy legibility. The visual aspect of his projects has conveyed the feel of, pardon the term, branding. “People identified with punk from the beginning because everything associated with it looked good. On the complete other extreme, it’s the same with Nike. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.”
Dan Shea, another local impresario who’s had a long history booking underground and club shows of his own, looks to Sisto as the ultimate promoter and party thrower: “He’s been the embodiment of interesting progressive DIY for a long time in this city, an inspiration and presenter of fun times with few rivals.”
Shea points to the growing dance scene as a major development during his time in Boston. “I don’t think rock is dying at all, but there has been an expansion of options that people — especially young people — have for getting into music and finding a community through that music that still rejects mainstream culture.”
These increasing options have a lot to do with the rapid-fire development of laptop mixing programs like Ableton Live and the spread of DJ mixes across blogs and Facebook, but they also have to do with a subtle shift in rock shows toward electronic music with dance roots. Nate Donmoyer, who DJs with the Basstown collective as Etan, got into DJing during the time he spent manning the boards at his band’s shows, and he would still rather rock a house show than a proper dance club. “All those swank ‘classy’ clubs with the super-cool DJ booths are lame. You feel like if you break a sweat or loosen up your collared shirt in one of those places, you’ll be kicked out. In a grimy rock club, there’s more of a feeling anything goes. Which is closer to the ultimate show — a basement party.”
As for Sisto, dude is psyched about Boston’s prospects right now, despite preparing for his Big Move. “I feel lucky to have started when lots of live guitar stuff was big, when labels like Troubleman and Three One G were huge, and to see things move from that to kids wanting to set up more DJ nights and house shows — and have fun.”
Is there anyone interested in taking up this odd role — part booker, part “idea man,” part scene cheerleader — that Sisto has carved out while hoisting himself toward the coils as a promotional guinea pig over the last few years? Shea certainly seems poised in a prime spot, though he’s never really operated as a second banana or a competitor to Sisto. It does seem that the communal approach Sisto has taken will have a lasting influence. Most of the DJs involved in LDW are attest to that: Hearthrob and Gross Anatomy have launched popular nights of their own, and by nature they function as creative Petri dishes for all sorts of guest DJs. Left-of-center art-rock shows, moreover, continue to pop up at venues (and non-venues) all over town, despite Sisto’s year-long gig booking at the (not yet defunct) Milky Way.