This is the story of how I came to be a resident DJ at The Phoenix Landing, an unassuming Irish pub across the river from Boston, USA, and of an epic night on the water had by nearly 300 music lovers this past Independence Eve.
In 1996 I was a college student and DJ of underground electronic dance music based in Boston, USA. Though I had at that point achieved some success as a DJ in my short career of 2-3 years, having performed around the country for crowds of thousands, I was feeling that the meaningful experiences the rave scene had provided were coming far less frequently than they had before, and that a more superficial, less music-oriented attitude had become common place amongst promoters and patrons of those events. I yearned for an opportunity to play for crowds who appreciated the music as much as I did.
In late Fall of that year a good friend from school suggested I bring records to a house party he would be attending. I did and the other djs kindly gave me the chance to play. I remember having a great time, turned out a good set for a small but enthusiastic crowd, and afterward was introduced to a gentleman named Kevin Treanor.
Kevin said that he enjoyed the music I played and that I should come by a bar he owned called The Phoenix Landing. He told me that on Sunday nights DJs played proper dance music and I might be invited for a guest spot at the party if I played an opening audition set and the residents liked it. At that time I had been attending dance music events multiple times per week for four years and never heard of the bar or the event. I was quite curious so I thanked Mr. Treanor and told him I’d be psyched to take him up on his offer.
I believe it was late November, 1996, when I showed up for my audition at The Phoenix Landing. Several close friends came with me that night. The Phoenix is a charming pub with a nice open feel for its size. It has a long bar on the left and a bench all along the right wall which wraps around a large booth at the back. Carpeted wooden panels have been built to span the benches in this booth, forming a small stage. Throughout the bar are tables and chairs where lunch and dinner is served; these are cleared out by 10pm, turning the bar into a music venue.
I played a set of house music I felt would be appropriate to get a party started and by the end of my set around 11pm a decent crowd had gathered and folks were grooving. I turned the decks over to the resident DJs, Peter Bailey and Foxy John, and stuck around to check out the scene. What I witnessed inspired me in a way I hadn’t been in some time. It was exactly what I had been looking for.
Sunday Service, as it was called, was an epic party every week flying under the radar of the Boston rave/club underground establishment. It was a completely different crowd made up of mostly Irish nationals, older on average than the American club/rave crowd, and these folks knew how to party like it seemed no one did anymore at the parties I was going to. These were experienced house music fans, having come up in the golden era of the late 80’s and early 90’s at legendary European venues such as Sir Henry’s in Cork (a club Laurent Garnier has cited as his favorite place to play in the world). They packed The Phoenix on Sundays and danced on the benches, on the tables, and even on the bar, punching in the air and grinning from ear to ear. They cheered and screamed for every good track; every good mix. The vibe was electric. I felt like Indiana Jones discovering the Ark of the Covenant.
Peter and John invited me back to play their party during peak hour several times that winter. Those nights were mad, raucous, and ecstatic. It seemed like the crowd could eat up as much as I could dish out and feed it back tenfold. It was a joyous release to share my passion with such an enthusiastic and welcoming audience.
Several months after I first auditioned, Kevin Treanor asked me if I’d like to do a weekly party of my own at The Phoenix Landing and offered me my pick of a weeknight. At that time there was a popular party at a big nightclub on Thursdays so I chose Wednesdays. My close friend and music partner, Chuck Caseroc, was living and rocking dancefloors in Denver then and I called to invite him to share the residency with me if he could move back to Boston. He agreed and Wednesdays @ The Phoenix Landing opened on March 7th, 1997.
What transpired over the next seven and a half years is a topic for another post. Suffice to say the experience was a defining chapter in my life I hope to never forget, and I will be forever grateful to the owners, management, staff, and patrons of The Phoenix Landing for welcoming me into their family and for the support I was given to share the music I love.
The Phoenix Landing has now been the hub of underground electronic dance music in Boston for 15 years. Every year the venue has organized a dance party on a cruise ship in the harbor with music provided by current resident DJs. For the 15th Anniversary, five past residents were brought together for a very special edition of the event: Peter Bailey and Foxy John from Sunday Service, Caseroc, myself, and Randy Deshais. I’ve been looking forward to this event for months.
Adriene and I had a soul-crushing, 15-hour journey from San Francisco overnight; finally arriving in Boston around two hours before the ship was set to sail. Many times we thought there was no chance we would make it and even if we did I was nervous I would be too exhausted to enjoy it, much less turn out a good set. But we finally made it, and with time to spare for dinner. It was raining but the boat was still on schedule to leave and with food in my belly my spirits were lifted.
Things could not have turned out better. The event was completely sold out. The weather cleared and we watched the sunset over the city. Later we saw fireworks from the shoreline in every direction. The breeze was warm. The sound system was kicking. People came out of the woodwork I hadn’t seen since the Sunday Service days. So many old friends and friendly faces. All DJs played brilliantly and the flow of the music through the night was perfect; a graceful arc from grooving to ecstatic and back to grooving.
Trainspotter tidbit: In his closing set Randy Deshais rocked the now classic DJ Gregory remix of Cheek’s “Venus”. It so happens I played this track in my audition at The Phoenix Landing in 1996. It also appears on my 1996 demo mix Shannon Shalako – The Freaks Come Out At Night. Love that track.
|00:00||Lovebirds||Want You In My Soul||Winding Road|
|06:11||Burnski||Sometimes Takes Longer||Dessous Recordings|
|11:29||Humate||Love Stimulation (Vincenzo Remix)||Grand Casino Recordings|
|15:33||Mr. Statik||Ganymedes||Bpitch Control|
|20:34||Royal Sapien||Do It Now (Opencloud's I Don't Know Mix)||Proton Music|
|27:17||Steven Peters||Acid Sunset||Wolfskuil Records|
|37:14||Blade||Talkin' About The Power (Super Diva Dub)||Amoco|
|42:16||Kevin Knapp||Like This (Audiojack Remix)||Leftroom Limited|
Update: In addition to my individual set from the night above, I have posted the continuous recording of the boat party in its entirety, including sets from Peter Bailey, Chuck Caseroc, myself, and Randy Deshais.
Update: I’ve also added Youtube videos taken by Mike Wilkins and Deepstate as well as a gallery of photos taken by Evan Smith and others.