Club 808 before the last party
September 28 marked the end of an era in Boston nightlife, but also perhaps a beginning. That Saturday, the 808, a ramshackle, dilapidated loft in Boston’s Chinatown, held its last late-night techno party, having finally been kicked out to make way for the inevitable renovation. Boston has seen this type of cycle before, whether the demolition of the long-running Man Ray club in Central Square or the closing of the Red Light loft so many years ago, but it’s always about what happens afterward. BLEEP a/k/a BRIAN MERZ, is the techno ambassador who hosts ROBOTLOVESONGS, one of the primary functionaries behind the 808. When Circuits caught up to him via phone from his home, he told us, “It was just a fantastically good time. There were no compromises. Everything we did, we did around the music.” 808 parties were invite only; you were e-mailed the directions and address after RSVPing via e-mail. They began at 10 pm and ran till 4 am officially but sometimes later. Sponsored in part by RobotLoveSongs and the MIT-born UNLOCKEDGROOVE techno collective, the 808 had 13 parties in all, and they brought a slice of the international underground to Boston.
“Not everyone who went went for techno,” Merz continues, “or knew everything about the latest release, but they were all people with similar ethics, on how a party is supposed to be done.” To Bleep and the scene, the parties needed to run late, needed to be loud, and needed to be exclusive — that is, filled with people who wanted to be there and wanted to dance to techno, electro, or whatever else was played. His favorite moments were “seeing a whole bunch of people sweating and dancing and staying despite the heat . . . sweat dripping from the ceiling. When JON SCHMIDT and ALAN MANZI or any other DJ found their moment and found their groove and brought everyone along with them . . . at four in the morning, that’s a powerful thing.” Alongside Schmidt, EDDIE ODABACHIAN, HEEMIN YANG, and MIKE UZZI, Merz kept a pretty tight ship there on the eighth floor. The door was always manned, the DJ booth was kept off-limits, and the crowd was kept moving.
“There was room to work,” he points out. “Instead of having a two-hour window where the party could possibly go off, you had a lot more time to work with. And they were all good in their ways.” Bleep and his crew don’t simply rep techno. The 808 hosted a disco party that didn’t go over too well with the electro devotees, but Merz didn’t seem to mind. “One of the key aspects of knowing I’ve done something right is when people leave because they don’t like it. And then some people stay and are incredibly passionate about it.” He cites a disco party he threw with local DJ star JOSEPH COLBOURNE. “It’s a music and culture that’s polarizing. Instead of being inclusive and trying to cater to too many tastes.” But what about the drug culture an after-hours might invite? “That’s nothing at all what it was about, and we had people who thought it was that and we would turn them away. I would say absolutely not. It was a breath of fresh air in electronic-music nightlife. People had said they stopped looking for this stuff in Boston. Nothing gave them what they needed for their techno . . . or whatever we played. A place you could forget about the city around you, you felt like something really special. To me and to a lot of people who came there.”