When I moved to the Boston area after college, I was skeptical that there was much of a music scene beyond the big name acts that came through the House of Blues. If I wanted to dance somewhere other than a ticketed concert, I would reluctantly head to any number of the stereotypical Boston bro bars and drink in excess to numb the Top 40-induced pain.
With the help of the Together Festival and a few savvy friends, I eventually discovered that Boston does in fact have a thriving scene for alternative electronic music. On any given night, chances are you’ll have your pick of several events if you want to get down to some quality dance music. Not only are reputable artists taking note of the city as a worthwhile tour stop, but Boston also has a bubbling undercurrent of its own notable talent.
Nick Garcia is one local producer who is quickly making a name for himself in the city. He says,
“I think the Boston scene is exploding right now. There are so many crews and producers and nights that sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming. I sense a lot of dedication to the scene here. Everybody who’s in the scene seems to know each other in some way and we’re all in it together. I think we’re all just trying to put Boston on the map as an electronic music destination.”
Garcia began producing six years ago, learning through trial and error by tinkering with software and scouring the literature on audio production. His lifelong interest in music, especially jazz, and his formal music training continues to inform his production today, inspiring an eclectic sound somewhere at the intersection of house, bass, and techno. In the past year he has released his first full-length album, Strength to Leave, produced the score to the Shephard Fairey biopic Obey the Giant, and taught Ableton Live courses at local DJ/production school Mmmmaven.
The ambitious producer is also part of HNDMD (pronounced “handmade”), a local independent record label and electronic music collective, alongside founder Brad Vautour (aka Twistyknobs) and Chris Engel. HNDMD’s artists can be filed under beat music, a genre not often represented in the more popular Boston area dance nights that tend to favor house. It has, however, found a following among local artists who hope to entice more beat music fans.
“The beat scene is definitely the next wave,” says Garcia. “You have guys like JASS who have been doing it for a while, but now you’ve also got a lot of the HNDMD artists, the Zone Defcrew, HEY WTF Records, and the East Meets Beats guys. There’s a ton of beat music in the underground, and I think it’s going to become more and more a part of the music consciousness in Boston as the scene develops.”
HNDMD hopes to bring beat music more to the forefront with its new night HNDMD Presents at Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge, which kicks off this Wednesday with an impressive lineup of seven local artists. Garcia explains that the goal of HNDMD Presents is “to give the next generation of the Boston scene an avenue to showcase their work.” The night will be exclusively live electronic music (save for resident Kidd Drunkadelic who will be DJing between sets), which Garcia says is something of a rarity in Boston. His live set highlighted as DJ Set of the Week, above, features only his own original productions and represents the improvisational approach that he uses when he performs.
Although Boston is small and its nightlife is unfortunately restricted by 2 a.m. closing times, Garcia finds much to be excited about with ample opportunities as both an electronic music fan and a producer.
“I think there’s this pressure for young people in Boston to move on to ‘bigger and better’ things. I don’t really feel that. There’s a lot to be accomplished here, despite the fact that the scene isn’t as big as in somewhere like NY or LA.”
Boston’s limited size – one of its perceived weaknesses – is actually what makes the scene unique. Think Cheers: the alternative electronic music scene is an intimate community of music lovers who all seem to know each other, and for that reason it’s not difficult to make friends and find opportunities.
Garcia has found this atmosphere to be beneficial to his career: “You can go out in Central any night of the week and find something cool to do, and there will likely be people there who can help you further your career if you’re cool and have even a slight idea of what you’re doing. Everyone is down to nurture new talent. It’s all about being involved.”
So put down the Jägerbomb, step away from the Katy Perry, and go hang out with Garcia and his HNDMD crew at Middlesex this Wednesday for a glimpse into the Boston area’s promising local talent.
GO YAMA, TWISTYKNOBS, NICK GARCIA,
STRANGE PROPHECY, PON(D)GIDA,
VICTORY GARDEN, KIDD DRUNKADELIC
315 MASS. AVE.