VIDEO: Chris Faraone interviews Soul Clap
When heads deserted the Chinatown-warehouse rave scene in the late '90s, the house loyalists from Soul Clap and Marz Entertainment were still cracking glow sticks. And when everybody else's taste morphed from Lollapalooza to the HORDE Festival through the Warped Tour and Rock the Bells, Eli Goldstein and Charlie Levine (of Soul Clap) and Sergio Santos and Randy Deshaies (of Marz) — who are joint culprits behind the world-famous summer-long Dancing on the Charles (DOTC) riots on the Cambridge waterfront that return this Saturday — dug themselves deep into the international techno underworld.
Now, 15 years after Beverly Hills 90210 embarrassed rave culture into oblivion, the DOTC crew are honored to host homecomings for, as Charlie puts it, "the 25-to-35-year-old crowd that still loves partying, and still loves dancing, but hates going to lame clubs in downtown Boston, and doesn't wear Armani shoes." Eli and Charlie don't spite anyone who burnt out on Special K and abandoned them; instead, the DOTC DJ-promoter hybrids are thrilled that alterna-flocks are once again drawn to deep sounds and elusive hoedowns. They've been waiting, their needles sharp, their speakers cranked.
"It might seem like it [the rave scene] disappeared," says Eli, "but if you really think about it, you still have 16-year-olds wearing big pants and fluorescent bracelets." Charlie: "That scene might have just vanished into thin air, but you have to think about electro — which is basically anything that happened because of Daft Punk and Justice — and the legions of hipsters that came in the wake of that. It's completely disconnected to what we do — musically, theme-wise, historically, and there's a tremendous age difference. But because it became so popular, it allowed us to have a point through which we could communicate and through which they [outsiders] could understand what we do."
Exactly what it is that Soul Clap do is slightly complicated. In boogie-prone metropolises worldwide, Eli and Charlie are highly propped house DJs and producers; over the past three years, they've cut more than a dozen projects on six labels. In Boston, they're primarily known for their two-years-running Midweek Techno jams at Phoenix Landing, where nothing but avant-garde underground product rotates on their decks. The Central Square staple is the only recurring Wednesday party of its kind in the country, and that — along with Soul Clap's reputation — enables them to lure such headliners as Dixon and Nick Curly at bargain rates between dates in New York and Montreal.
As music fiends first and foremost, the guys from Marz and Soul Clap love nothing more than instigating sweat parades on their own terms. It wasn't always the case that they got paid to break subterranean gems over large masses. Before starting Midweek Techno and DOTC, Charlie and Eli were themselves enslaved by mediocre-nightclub standards. "We just got tired of all that venue bullshit," says Charlie. Eli: "Being a DJ is all about connecting with the crowd. And in order to connect with those crowds, you have to play the cheesiest music for the lowest common denominator."
Of course, it's not easy for four dudes to stay independent and execute a legendary new throwdown. From PCU to House Party, every major rager has an uphill struggle — without jocks, who would nerds seek revenge on? In this case, the underdogs were the DOTC boys, and the Phi Beta Bureaucrats were the brass monkeys inside City Hall. After an article and a pictorial about last year's DOTC appeared in the Cambridge Chronicle, licensing officials took notice and threatened to put the kibosh on the series. And though Charlie and Eli eventually did secure permits for six soirees this summer, they once again had to navigate labyrinthine municipal hurdles. "Now, finally, we met all the conditions and sorted everything out," says Charlie, "so we're just extremely grateful that this is going to happen."
Caps off to Cambridge for allowing DOTC to continue. Had it been in Boston, party animals would likely be deprived of the cheap drinks, barbecue buffets, riverside milieu, and intense rhythm that we've come to expect from Marz and Soul Clap. These guys are in the midst of a storied revival; to stop them now would have been nothing short of uncivilized.
Charlie: "A few years ago you should have seen what it was like to push dance music in Boston. You would be like, 'Here's a flyer — we have dance music,' and people would be like, 'Oh — it's not fucking hip-hop. Fuck that.' Now it's like, 'Yeah — we like techno.' Likewise, when we started these parties, just talking about 'house music' was off limits, so everything became 'techno.' Then that burnt out, and now 'techno' is fucking lame. Basically it's the same music — we just call it whatever people want to hear us call it. So long as they keep coming out, it makes no difference to us."
DANCING ON THE CHARLES | American Legion Marsh Post 442, 4 Gerry's Landing, Cambridge | June 20, July 4 + 25, August 8 + 22, September 5 | 7 pm | $10 before 9 pm | www.dancingonthecharles.com