The Pill may have said its farewells, but someone found another bottle and it’s ready to get poppin’.
Back in 1997, DJ Ken and Jen Sullivan decided to throw a new dance party: The Pill. Gathering the best of britpop, indie rock, and guitar-driven music, the two held dance nights at The Upstairs Lounge, a long-since closed dive bar, to spin songs for hopeful expats. Three years later, Michael Marotta moved to Boston and soon befriended the duo, eventually joining their ranks as the third DJ. As the years passed, The Pill moved to the Paradise Lounge, The Milky Way, The Echo Lounge, and, at long last, Great Scott, it’s longtime home until they closed shop in 2013.
“The kids don’t listen to britpop the way they used to, plus we were a little burnt out, so we stopped doing it every Friday night,” explains Marotta. “But we missed it too much, so we had to bring it back. Plus it’s the 20th anniversary of Blur’s Country House and Oasis’ Roll With It, so we used that as an excuse to get the band back together and have another party.”
If you’ve never been, don’t walk into Great Scott expecting towers of vinyl or flashy headphones. The Pill was started by, run by, and curated by music enthusiasts, not aspiring DJs. “We’re not turntablists or anything,” Marotta laughs. “Who gave a shit if we were playing Suede on vinyl? No one cared. We didn’t want songs to skip. However, we did have a tradition where we played The Dandy Warhols’ “Bohemian Like You” and it skipped every time we played it. It became a running gag amongst us that it was bound to skip at one point.”
Don’t fret with your outfit either. The Pill’s crowd couldn’t care less about posture, rank, or clout. “The people who come want to get drunk and dance and listen to ‘Common People’ and ‘Beautiful Ones’, and make out with someone in a corner,” says Marotta. “This is catered to all the people who came out between 1997 and 2013. Now we all have kids and stuff. It’s like an old people’s night out. The night was always for misfits and fuck-ups. It was never meant to be popular. It became popular as indie became a thing with bands like Franz Ferdinand and The Rapture, and my favorite part of it was feeling this sense of community among a group of people who grew up with The Smiths and New Order.”
Even critics who arrive on assignment end up having fun. There’s other dance parties in the city, but no dance night epitomizes the indie dance party of the 2000s so succinctly. That includes a lack of dramatics. “We never had a photographer lurking around,” Marotta says with a laugh. “We weren’t looking to throw that kind of event. These aren’t people who rush to their computer the next morning, like, ‘Look at us from the night before! Look at how cool we were and emaciated!’ What went down at The Pill stayed there… and people appreciate that.”
Getting a chance to relive that night can’t be passed up, although the future may hold more opportunities. “We’re re-energized,” says Marotta, “and I think this may become a yearly thing.”
THE PILL. GREAT SCOTT, 1222 COMMONWEALTH AVE., ALLSTON. 617.566.9014. FRI 8.14 – SAT 8.15. 9PM/21+/$15. GREATSCOTTBOSTON.COM.