A makeshift memorial outside the PHOENIX LANDING in Central Square serves as a reminder that not all club nights end in euphoria. Early on the morning of March 28, Doowensky Nazaire, 22, of Somerville, was shot and killed only a few steps from the well-worn entrance to the club, after a particularly intense night. In accordance with a court-issued gag order, there isn’t much talk around the club about the tragedy. Nonetheless, the 10-year-old venue endures as a unique spot in a city known for its Gaelic gallimaufry: a committed venue for dance night after dance night, in the guise of an irregular Irish bar.
“It’s the music, the promoters, it’s the guys that promote and run the nights,” says DOLORES FERRY, the manager and public face of the Phoenix Landing. “Every night is different, but it’s the electronic music and the promoters that make it work.” At about a quarter to 10 on a Wednesday night, the breaks crowd is filing in, coming from throughout the region to catch an icon of the Breakbeat sound, SIMPLY JEFF. “We get a lot of international DJs,” Ferry says. “And the crowd: all they do is dance!”
Alongside owner KEVIN TREANOR, Ferry manages the nightclub with a passion. Having started as a waitress eight years ago, she has seen just about everything. From the drum ’n’ bass of Thursday’s “Elements” party to live music at the recently hatched “Cambridge Funk and Soul” night, the Landing gives promoters as much room as they can handle. That’s a rarity. “It all starts at the top,” says MIKE WILKINS, one of the founders of the Mission Control bulletin board and an old-school New England danceaholic. “It starts with Kevin. It’s because of him it has this kind of techno reputation. He loves that kind of music and he loves the party atmosphere. You have other venues that try it for a couple of weeks and it’s not their thing, it’s not their music. They don’t care about it. But he’s all about it.”
The staff are devotees of the electronic sound as well. “I started as a fan five years ago, coming to the drum ’n’ bass nights,” says DOUG HENRY, the other face you’ll see if you order a Guinness. “I was coming here for the Thursday nights, and I started to get to know the employees and they gave me a job.” From the lunch regulars to the rugby fiends to the funky house heads, there may be no other place like it. “It really is our Cheers,” says Wilkins. “You come in and you know Dolores, you know the bar staff, you know the doorman. It’s your best friend owns the bar, he plays the music you want to hear, and has the beer on tap you want to drink.”
“It’s the consistency of the nights that come in here, and [the club’s] willingness to embrace electronic music when others do not,” says Janessa Twigg-Smith (a/k/a DJ TRIXIE), another old-school Bostonian who’s come down from Vermont. “I’ve seen the place packed over and over,” says PAT FONTES, owner of the city’s last techno shop, Satellite Records. “The energy, people standing on those little chairs over there,” he says, pointing. “But Dolores, she’s put up with probably the craziest shit in the universe.”
“I like the vibe,” adds Twigg-Smith. “I wasn’t a dance-music fan when I started, but I am now. It’s not the actual spot, it’s what happens in the spot that matters.” Maybe. Chicken or the egg — Phoenix or the flame.
David Day is making a movie about techno; he DJs Friday at Enormous Room.
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