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By : Rory Lambert-Wright

6 min read

Bring earplugs. I haven’t gotten tinnitus yet, but I do have a vision of myself in like two decades waking up to put in my hearing aid twenty minutes after the phone alarm starts blaring through a maxed out Bluetooth speaker, putting my fingers to my temples to stop the ringing in my skull, and thinking “damn those parties were worth it though”.

Artists are industrious and adaptable. Where there is a lack of space, talent, or any particular sound, there is a place for someone to fill in the gaps. Such is the case for the house music scene in Boston, which is carried by a core of dedicated collectives, underground venues, and DJ’s. The impetus for its development is similar to that of the conditions that led to the creation of House music.

House itself started with Black DJ’s residing at queer clubs in Chicago and Detroit spinning breakdowns from Disco and Funk tracks- genres that were waning due to deteriorating economic conditions and their association with Blackness which drew the ire of many in the post-civil rights era. House and electronic music flourished, but like any music that breaks mainstream popularity, new acts with large followings coalesced around the money (which is a wealthier, whiter consumer audience). Now, people associate the steady tempo of house and the culture surrounding it with eurobeats and big festivals out west. What I’ve seen in Boston in the past year looks more like what I imagine the intimate, joyful dance music culture at the genre’s roots felt like.

I asked Justin Tu (AKA Replicator), organizer and DJ with the local electronic dance collective Pole Position about the condition of house shows when he became involved with the scene after college in early 2020. “You mean house shows? Or like, house shows?”. The clarification being necessary speaks to how heavily Boston’s music scene relies on informal venues- apartments, basements, parks, warehouses, and a variety of secret spaces that accommodate the needs of artists and Music enthusiasts. Pole Position began two years ago with a Sunday night slot at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge (still going today!), and immediately gathered a following, bringing in prominent east coast DJ’s like Amal and artists from Black Rave Culture. Any type of house or rave adjacent are featured- you like DJing hard, loud, and fast? They got you. Branches of the EDM tree like happy hardcore, hardstyle, techno, Jungle house, tribal house and footwork are all featured here.

The scene is small, and Pole Position and the acts they feature frequently overlap with other electronic movements. Vertebrae USA, Black Rave culture, Boudoir, and Infraboston host excellent shows with local artists and popular out of town acts that draw even more fans to the growing scene. It’s also notable that Queer people of color are once again defining the moment, from top-floor apartment shows to weekly concert series. DJ Dragon, Chelita, and Twinkmother are essential parts of the house community, taking up a big chunk of the roster for local venues and underground events. Chelita, a member of “Clear the Floor”, an electronic collective with an emphasis on queer and BIPOC DJ’s, says that the scene is getting to the point where there’s distinctive sound coming from the city, defined by the integration of afrobeats, reggaeton, and dancehall into sets thanks to the demographic makeup of Boston’s youth and their music. “I can talk to you about plenty of artists who mix that kinda thing” Chelita said, “but our goal is always to play you something you’ve never heard before”. There was always electronic music in Boston, but the innovation and dedication of the current movement are helping to shape an identity for what Boston House and dance shows are, and making the music blossom.

—Rory Lambert-Wright

Originally published in-print in Boston Compass Newspaper #149 August 2022


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