Elements, A Drum & Bass Empire
Few bars in Boston have managed to captivate an audience and create a unique atmosphere towards the love of music. Sure, you'll find your average concert at House of Blues or Paradise Rock Club, but I've never thought of any independent Boston promoters as being trailblazers. I always sought out something with an underground feeling, which to an extent I've found. I've been pleased by Rezinate, which has consistently brought in a variety of electronic music to the The Middle East nightclub. But I'll be honest, I've been sleeping on an event that happens right across the street from these booming Rezinate shows. Cue Elements, a company that has held down The Phoenix Landing for the past 18 years, bringing in new talents and veterans alike within the Drum & Bass scene. Although, I had always heard of Elements, I never had the opportunity to check out one of their shows-- I'm still beating myself up over missing Calyx & Teebee a few months ago. With the announcement of Hospital Record's S.P.Y making his return to Boston, I had no choice but to finally step foot into The Phoenix Landing. Little did I know how much I would learn from the tight-knit and energized community it attracts. Upon entering the bar I decided to chat someone up, his name was Lucid and he was rocking a shirt with the Hospital Records "H" on it. Through Lucid I met some more regulars, and before we knew it, the show got underway. This event slowly became one of the most memorable nights of my summer.
Fox Warmed Us Up
Lucid frequented the event, and told me about what I could expect from Elements' resident, Fox. "Liquid and Energetic" said Lucid, leaving me without the slightest clue of what that entailed. Despite hoping to see founding resident Lenore on the decks, Fox did an exceptional job setting the vibe before S.P.Y. Lucid's description came to life as Fox flawlessly transitioned between tracks. His set was fast and energetic, yet ambient and homely. The majority of the people there seemed familiar with him, almost as if they've come weekly and have seen him rise to be revered within the local scene; which judging by his set, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case. The performance never felt too fast or like I needed a break, rather it felt like a journey through his love of the unknowingly diverse genre. Compared to the ADD method of a build-up and drop every minute, this was a breath of fresh air. He played for what seemed like two hours, and left the stage with an outstanding praise from the crowd. Fox came to contribute with his mastery in the craft, and he did so with elegance.
The Hospital records legend, S.P.Y
No matter where you were in the building, you knew when S.P.Y took the stage. The crowd uproared like no other as the "Brazilian born, U.K. based, Drum & Bass don" approached the controls-- credits go out to Pete Tong for that title. If like myself, you were expecting something similar to his two year old Essential Mix, then you were in for one bumpy surprise. S.P.Y relentlessly dropped aggressive bass lines with drums that had a unique character in the genre. Being someone who has barely explored this style of electronic music, I was blown away by how complex and varied the DnB break could be. S.P.Y masterfully layered tracks on top of each other, colliding two atmospheres that he deemed fit to create something extraordinary. In the video above, S.P.Y mixes "Betamax" with some other track to give it a faster and more fulfilling build-up. The night was filled with little change-ups like this, and while S.P.Y had a heavier set of tracks, there were points where he chilled out a bit and let the crowd enjoy something with a little more substance. Some of my favorite moments were swaying to something with a groovier bass, complimented by a fast, yet more heady drum section. It was as if he took that "liquid" sound you would find in those corny Drum & Bass mixes on Youtube, and spiced it up with a little bit of his own flavor. I was also impressed by when S.P.Y would have the song start off with a simple pattern, yet it would get an insane crowd response with just a single element added in (no pun intended); take this video for example. The crowd made the experience so much better because of how genuinely into it they were. Especially the lady screaming, "Show me what you got!" at S.P.Y during his final few tracks. He graciously came out and took a photo with her first, and proceeded to meet any fans that stuck around. It was great to see him appreciating the support from this small community in the United States.
With S.P.Y going on a short U.S. tour to promote his new project, Alone In The Dark: EP 2, it was a treat to have him stop by the city of Boston. It's even more impressive to see Elements book these bigger artists, while also showcasing local talents. They have truly built a community from the ground up, and seem to have a dedicated group of enthusiasts. Although, there aren't any bigger names for a while, I feel encouraged to see some of the other residents spin some music. After all, this event was founded by Lenore and Crooks over a decade ago. If Fox is any indication of what to expect from the other residents, then I would be stoked to see all of them perform. Here is Elements' Facebook page, where you can find the rest of the August lineup. The 31st will have residents Lenore & Fox take the stage, along with a special guest. That is one event I'll be sure not to miss, hope to see some of you there!