Two years ago, the Phoenix asked me to write a weekly column about Boston’s growing electronic music and DJ scene. Having moved here just before the year 2000, I was fortunate enough to see the community come into its own. Now, as I write my last column from a music studio overlooking the hubbub of San Francisco’s Polk Village, I can say the Basstown scene is a force to be reckoned with. Before the turn of the millennium, Boston electronic music was practically non-existent. Yes, there were strands that touched far beyond the Hub. FRED GIANNELLI and his experiments in early acid and industrial music; ARMAND VAN HELDEN’s brief but influential time at the Loft; the hip-hop of EDO G and DJ PREMIERE; TOM MELLO and his well-known warehouse extravaganzas.
But for the most part, there was no tradition of non-rock musicmaking for Boston transplants to sink their feet into. It’s amazing what has changed. Boston’s transitional student population makes such traditions necessary. Without Aerosmith or Jonathan Richman, for instance, new Bostonians would not know they could rock and succeed. But as the music scene at large fractured, bedroom producers could become famous, DJs could become superstars, and kids with laptops could get signed off a remix. Boston adapted in kind.
The first story was one “Up All Day” (né “Circuits”) never really told, that of electronic-music experimentalist Keith Fullerton Whitman (a/k/a HRVATSKI), who brought cutting-edge experimental electronics to the indie-rock masses. To this day, people all over the world still align Boston with the elusive Somerville laptop experimenter. Whitman blew up around the same time as MR. LIF, who typified a city known for its intellect with his own far-ranging thoughts and brain-blowing lyrics. The release of Lif’s Enters the Colossus EP was a turning point in the local hip-hop mentality.
On the techno tip, the new millennium brought UNLOCKEDGROOVE, a collective of MIT kids who loved sturdy dance music and a good party. The Unlockedgroove mentality persists at places like the Phoenix Landing on Wednesdays, on thousands of vinyl slabs around the world, and in the local empire of DJ ALAN MANZI. One change brought on by the naughties was the acceptance of DJ culture and dance music — hip-hop MCs are now powerful record executives, and French house duos sell out arenas. Once again, college town Boston has adapted — turntables are a familiar sight on rock-club stages, and you can’t go far without a flyer for the latest LEEDZ EDUTAINMENT show being dropped into your hand.
One thing that has not changed, however, is the attitude that prohibits dance parties for college kids. The recent show of maturity within Boston’s hip-hop scene (see the recent U.N.I.T.Y. festival) and the success of HEARTHROB, PAPER, and THUNDERDOME (at some of which this writer used to DJ) represent an invitation for venue owners, government officials, and the community at large to reconsider the situation.
Over two years of columns, there are many I have left out and many I probably wrote too much about. If you feel left out, I encourage you to inform the media about your event, and try to do it more than a week in advance. Many times I wrote columns simply because the subject was persistent — persistence always pays.
But this is the final edition of “Up All Day.” The Phoenix will, of course, continue to cover the electronic and DJ scene. It will have no choice: you have established yourself. You are the tradition. Turn the tradition into legacy . . . oh, and Fred Gianelli just re-released his hugely influential Acid Didj music for the digital age. Head to Beatport.com and pick it up, won’t you?