Lose yourself to dance… again.
Together Festival is gearing up for its first fall edition. For those who have yet to be initiated through the communal sweat of a blissed-out dance floor, the electronic and dance music festival plucks the best artists from Boston and beyond to keep people grooving for a week straight. Everything kicks off this Sunday, Sept 23, and runs through the following Sunday, Sept 30. Festival passes can be purchased for $175, though attendees can pay about $20 to attend individual events instead of the entire festival. That said, we highly recommend attending at least one event each night of the festival, as there’s plenty to revel in and discover at each show—even if you’re completely unfamiliar with the electronic scene.
The reason Together feels so magical is because it spreads the festival sets across smaller venues in the city. The result lets you experience intimate shows instead of oversold fields riddled with drugs. Wanna see the Black Madonna, Honey Dijon, and Kon at Allston hideout Zone 3? You can. Do you dream of watching Sophie and Doss perform on a boat? That’s a thing you can do. Still kicking yourself for missing Jon Hopkins at the Sinclair a few years ago? You have another chance to. This year’s schedule places fabulous artists—Aurora Halal, Jay Tripwire, DJ Pierre, Derrick Carter, Denis Sulta, Life on Planets—in these nontraditional spaces and venues that prioritize acoustics.
To give you an insider look into the best tips and overlooked parts of the festival, we asked several of the local acts to prime you on what to expect at this year’s event. From set changeups to must-see namedrops, their suggestions are worth cutting out to keep in your pocket all week long.
BAMBOOZLE (AKA ELI FROM SOUL CLAP)
WHO IS HE: Boston residents should know Soul Clap well, as they grace the city with a dash of funk month after month. So it’s no surprise that Soul Clap’s own Eli, better known as Bamboozle, has made a name for himself spinning funk, disco, hip-hop, and reggae 45s that he mixes together effortlessly.
THE LOWDOWN: Catch him at the Sinclair on Sept 24 along with Midnight Magic and Underground System. This year he’s playing as part of the Soul Clap Records Revue tour. “I play all 45s, warm up at the beginning, and then play in between the bands,” he says. “If we’re lucky, there will be a dance party at the end too. Each year we try to bring something a little different to the festival, and this year is extra special!”
VENUE VERDICT: “This is our third year at Sinclair,” he says. “It’s great for live shows. Good sound and just the right size.”
TRYNA PEEP: “I’m most excited to see all my friends! But I’ve heard Denis Sulta is an excellent DJ. Definitely looking forward to seeing him.”
ADVICE FOR FIRST TIMERS: “Try to check out all the smaller venues and local DJs for the real experience. Together is a great time to celebrate everything that the Boston and Cambridge dance music scene has to offer.”
WHO IS SHE: New England’s drum & bass scene has a little unsung hero who goes by the name Lenore. She’s been DJing since the early ’90s, her seamless mixing style of which has earned her respect across the scene, and co-founded Elements, a DnB night known around the world that welcomes guest DJs and more.
THE LOWDOWN: Catch her at Middlesex Lounge on Sept 23 opening the first night of the festival. The twist? That her DnB trademark will be swapped out for house, techno, and disco edits. “It’s gonna be an all-vinyl set,” she says. “I have a house and techno record collection spanning back to the early ’90s; it’s the sound that drew me to electronic music originally and continues to be a source of inspiration.”
VENUE VERDICT: “I have never performed at Middlesex before, but I would say my favorite things about Middlesex are the layout of the booth with space for gear and records, and the really cool staff.”
TRYNA PEEP: “Firstly, I am thrilled to be opening for Floorplan and to see their performance,” she says. “Robert Hood is a name that got the reverential treatment during my early days of hanging out in record stores, and everyone in that close-knit scene was quite taken with Underground Resistance and the artists behind it. I feel like that sound helped shape Boston and its overall penchant for dark and edgy vibes. Over 20 years later, for him to continue to draw inspiration and innovate, making some of the best techno that comes out, is just really intense. And he’ll be performing with his daughter as Floorplan, so it will be exciting to experience the dynamic they have with each other and the dance floor!”
“Dieselboy is on the toplist, too, and not just because I’m partial to elements. He’s another long-standing legend, a very early master who didn’t get “comfortable”—he continues to fine-tune his craft decades into being a most sought-after DnB DJ in the country. Every set he performs is somehow technically more advanced than the last, and he is an OG rocking four decks. My advice for that show is to take some time out to watch him. Otherwise you might miss what’s going into it because it sounds so seamless. Others I am equally excited to catch are DJ Pierre and that Black Madonna with Honey Dijon show.”
ADVICE FOR FIRST TIMERS: “I suggest definitely reading the bios for the acts,” she says. “Knowing their backgrounds and what hooked them onto that particular kind of music adds another dimension to the performance, and is a solid way to inform which shows to catch. It’s a condensed version of what goes on in Boston and Cambridge all year, so a festivalgoer can see which nights resonate with them as an entry point.”
WHO IS HE: With roots in the analogue days and work as a manipulator of modular tech, John Debo is a New York-born and Boston-bred DJ/producer who swims in the simplicity of it all. He’s one of the pioneers of the underground dance music culture, hence why his headlining sets at the old Avalon are a time people still talk about.
THE LOWDOWN: Catch him at Middlesex Lounge on Sept 30 at the festival’s final wrap-up: Together’s Closing Party. Expect the unexpected, too. “The dance floor always dictates where I take things,” says Debo. “The fact that it is both the closing party and a day party will definitely be of influence when it comes to curating music for my set.”
VENUE VERDICT: “Middlesex has such a warm, welcoming, intimate, family vibe to it,” he says. “Whether your first or 100th visit, the sense of culture and community felt there is overwhelming. That DJ booth on the floor is a huge plus.”
TRYNA PEEP: “I foresee a week filled with very little sleep ahead,” he says. “Floorplan, Derrick Carter, Jon Hopkins, Lenore, Honey Dijon, the Black Madonna, Denis Sulta … and the list goes on and on. The real question is, who am I not excited to see?!”
ADVICE FOR FIRST TIMERS: “Sleep when you can. Stay hydrated. Arrive early. Stay late. Have an open mind,” he says. “Personally, I am always one of the first people at the venue. I want the entire story. Some of my favorite sets are the ones I hear before the headliner. In traditional Together style, there is just so much quality music being showcased, in a variety of quality venues around the city. If you are looking for a gateway [to electronic music], this is the week to find it.”
TOGETHER FESTIVAL 2018. 9.23–9.30. VARIOUS VENUES. TOGETHERBOSTON.COM