There is a lot to take in at this year’s Together Festival. From Yasiin Bey (AKA Mos Def), to Noisia to Robert Hood, the festival’s musical lineup has something for everyone and, best of all, ample opportunities for just about anyone to fall in love with something new.
“After seeing the recent boom in festivals (especially electronic) across the States, the decision to take more risks on more underground artists wasn’t an easy one, but it’s a decision we’re proud of,” says Together managing director Alex Maniatis. “For me there’s a feeling of looking at a festival lineup and getting excited to see a name of an artist coming that brings something new or something exciting to the experience. We don’t need another Afrojack concert here. But we’re excited to finally get a Robert Hood.”
While this year’s musical lineup features some of the best underground acts from around the globe, it also showcases local crews, musicians and venues doing what they do year round—throwing great parties. If you’re one of those people who thinks there is nothing cool about Boston nightlife, we encourage you to take the week to explore the scene.
“Each individual night is bringing in something special,” says Together creative director David Day. “”Prism is at Wonder Bar Tuesday, himself back from a European tour. Moldy, credited with bringing dubstep to America by some, is opening for Untold. There is so much talent in this city it feels like it is about to explode.”
With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some of the very best dance parties happening during next week’s fest.
Sunday, May 11
Naturally we’ll begin our tour de dance at Middlesex Lounge for the Together opening party. Last year’s festival was dedicated to disco queen and Boston Native Donna Summer. This year, Together kicks off with a special tribute to the godfather of house music, the late Frankie Knuckles, featuring OG Boston house DJs Bob Diesel, KC Hallet and Randy Deshaies. “I think the energy at the Middlesex will be very high…Frankie was an innovator and we as DJs appreciate that,” says Diesel, a mover and shaker in his own right who’s been bringing house music to Boston for the better part of 25 years. “I’m glad to be a part of this tribute with my brother DJs…and to have Frankie Knuckles’ musical history immortalized here in Boston.”
Monday, May 12
Our Boston dance music odyssey resumes Monday at Gallery, a stylish, totally unfussy monthly dance party at Middlesex Lounge named for Nicky Siano’s storied 70’s New York disco. “It’s a sexy party where beautiful people who appreciate good art and music come to enjoy themselves,” says resident Will Martin, who runs the night along with DJs Brenden Wesley and Matt Gavris. In addition to playing disco, house and techno dance floor bombs to get all those beautiful people shaking off the weekday cobwebs, the Gallery boys regularly collaborate with visual artist Myraha Harmon-Arias to curate an accompanying art show.
“The art differs from party to party, but like the music it focuses on the real, the raw and the perfectly imperfect,” says Martin. Generally Gallery is a free Tuesday night party featuring the residents, but for Together they’ve booked venerated Detroit DJ and producer Scott Grooves for a special Monday night event. “Scott Grooves is one of our favorite underground artists from Detroit before Detroit was a buzzword,” says Wesley. “He’s a true and genuine figure in the world of contemporary American underground dance music and culture.”
Tuesday, May 13
Tuesday would be a good night to don your ’90s best—we’re going to back to Middlesex for Hearthrob. This semi-retired cult favorite returns for Together with special guest, veteran Chicago house DJ and producer Paul Johnson, for what promises to be one of the most riotously good times at this year’s festival. For the uninitiated, Hearthrob was a bi-weekly art and dance party at Middlesex from 2005 to 2008. “We were big on French House, Rappers over Electro, and Hard Dance/Early House with a strong visual aesthetic; dressing up, custom projections, vid-vites and a DVD mixtape,” says Erik Pearson AKA Baltimoroder, who presides over the night along with with @LILINTERNET, Pete Cassin AKA Dev/Null, Morgan Louis and Greg Fournier. “It was curious watching many of these things re-enter public consciousness right after we winded down. Now we get together a few times a year to ruin everyone’s Wednesday morning again just for fun.”
Wednesday, May 14
Wednesday’s schedule offers up several promising dance events in Central Square alone—this is the part of the week when you’d be well advised to begin wearing comfy shoes because some party hopping may occur. At the Phoenix Landing, the Re:Set crew— now Randy Deshaies, Charles Mazzola and Patrick Barry—who’ve been throwing what is simultaneously one of the most world-class and most unassuming parties in Boston every Wednesday for three years and counting, have celebrated Belgian house Producer and DJ Kolombo.
Across the street at Middlesex, the HNDMD collective host enigmatic UK producer Sophie at their HNDMD Presents party. And over at the Middle East Nightclub, Detroit techno legend Robert Hood plays the Together Central Stage with Jackmaster, Doctor Jeep and GYS for what may be the most exciting dance music event at Together this year. It’s a school night so let’s call this party techno 101. No pencil necessary just the aforementioned comfy shoes.
Thursday, May 15
The party doesn’t stop. In fact, we’re heading into the weekend at full speed. Over at the Sinclair, hometown heroes Soul Clap play the Together Harvard Stage with PillowTalk and Tanner Ross. And at Middlesex Lounge for Make It New, residents John Barera and Coracola will open up for Daniel Avery of last year’s genre-defying insta-classic “Drone Logic,” which is the kind of thing the rapidly expanding consciousness of the OS in “Her” would probably dance to if she could. Make It New has been serving up off-menu dance music treats for over ten years. The party has been home to an eclectic set of notable local DJs and Together’s own Alex Maniatis regularly books some of the most cutting-edge electronic musicians from around the world the night. According to Maniatis, if you’ve never been to Make It New, or you haven’t been in a while, “this would be the one to go to… Daniel Avery is an artist that stylistically captures the energy of our party in the best way.”
Friday, May 16
Things get bass-y in the best way Friday. Over at the Middle East, Elements’ Lenore and Fox will play the Together Central Stage with Dutch luminaries Noisia for one of the most hotly anticipated shows of this year’s fest. And downtown we can head into the basement at Good Life—home to several noteworthy monthly dance parties—for Bassic featuring UK producer Untold, who will take us across some seriously engrossing soundscapes with a live set. The Bassic crew have been guardians of authentic dubstep in Boston for seven years and counting (for which they recently received some much-deserved props in Mixmag.) If don’t know Bassic, or you think you hate dubstep, or you’ve never been downstairs at Good Life, or some combination of the above, let’s go!
Saturday, May 17
Saturday we find ourselves back at Good Life for another party that calls the basement home, CreateSpace Collab’s whimsical Sweet Shop. “We pride ourselves on cutting-edge non chin-stroking dance music,” says resident DJ Matt McNeill, who runs the night along with Chad Spinger AKA DJ CS and George Zygouris. “We think of Sweet Shop as an inviting party where people who may not know anything about dance music can enter and have a blast their first time out.” Saturday, for their Together satellite party, they host hot nu-disco producer Moon Boots whose music McNeill helpfully sums up in two words: “party jams.”
Another Good Life basement favorite, Social Studies, which regularly brings a bit of the New York underground dance scene to Boston, has combined forces with local DJ hero Alan Manzi and his Some Like It Hott party to throw a special combo event at Lilypad in Inman Square featuring New York music scene veteran Justin Strauss. “Justin is one hell of a DJ,” says Alfredo Rico-Dimas, who runs Social Studies along with co-founder Brenden Wesley and party curator Gabi Aguilar. “He has an encyclopedic knowledge of music and he’s just back from touring Europe so I know he’s gonna be coming with a lot of new music. “
On top of that, says Rico-Dimas, he’s just the coolest. “He’s the only person I know that was a regular attendant at the Paradise Garage…who was friends with Keith Haring, hung out with the New York Dolls, had a major label record deal at 17 and has remixed Tina Turner and Depeche Mode.” Manzi adds that while Some Like It Hott is normally a locals-only jam, he was happy to make an exception for the venerable Strauss: “we always try to make it about the energy, vibe and music and never about the DJ, so we tend to not book big name artists. But for Together we wanted to get someone we respected, someone who could keep the room grooving while delivering that underground sound. When we found out Justin was available, we knew he would be the perfect fit.”
Sunday, May 18 and Beyond
Our dance party tour will make its last stop on at the Sinclair on Sunday for the Together closing party featuring UK house sensation Julio Bashmore with local DJs Laura DeLuca and Charles Mazzola, but you certainly don’t have to wait until next year to do it again. As Day noted, the talent and energy in our little city abound all year long. It’s just a matter of knowing where to look.