Reports of Boston’s inability to “turn up” have been greatly exaggerated.
Doubters should probably make a point to visit the Middlesex Lounge on Mass. Ave. in Cambridge this Sunday evening, when the sun is still out. By around 7:30–8 p.m., even the skeptics will be riding the Wave, awash by the unmistakeable sense of revelry brought on by the dance party. Or, in the common parlance: it’s lit.
The Wave is a monthly day party put on by CLLCTV Boston – a local assemblage of organizing creatives committed to curating and documenting local nightlife. Tired of stringent dress codes and excessive cover charges, the CLLCTV minds conceived a regular event that could put to rest out-of-date notions that Boston isn’t equipped to throw the kinds of high-energy parties people might expect to find in other social hotbeds like New York or L.A.
“There wasn’t too many day parties in the city for people like us or that thought like us,” says Paul Francois, CLLCTV’s director of operations, who helped co-found the group in 2012 and DJs under the name YVNG PAVL.
They wanted to create something on par with what they’d found going out in other cities, and recruited former WERS-FM (88.9) program director Malcolm Gray for help. He tuned the group — which also includes Seun Ajewole, Owen Lumadede, Brian Karanja and Kibee Miller — into nationally trending DJs and helped build connections.
When the Wave launched on the Sunday of 2014’s MLK Day weekend at Middlesex, it faced tough competition, as it coincided with a Patriots playoff game. Given Boston’s sports-centric reputation, organizers were unsure about turnout. But when a huge crowd showed, they knew they were onto something.
Named for the “wavy” terminology popularized by rapper Max B, the group decided that the event would work best as an affordable late-weekend day party that casually starts around 4:30 p.m. and is over by 10 p.m., giving attendees adequate time to prepare for their upcoming work-week responsibilities.
“Sometimes you party Saturday and think ‘Damn, I wish there was one more thing to do,’” Francois says. “Maybe you went to church or brunch, and [this] gives you enough time in the day that you can handle the morning, can come out after, and we end at a time where even if you live 20-25 minutes away you can get home and be in bed by 11:30.”
Most that pack in attendance are young professionals and recent college graduates that either grew up in the area or stayed after finishing their education. Held on Sundays (usually ones that coincide with a Monday holiday), there is a photo booth, a themed drink menu, a branded Snapchat filter, roving photographers capturing everyone looking their best, a ton of new and classic music from resident and visiting DJs and an unmistakably affirming energy.
That temperament is no coincidence. “We strive to foster an environment where everyone meets each other,” says founding CLLCTV member Brian “DJ Big Bear” Karanja. This “positive vibes only” approach is achieved through “little things like telling people on the mic to say hi to someone they don’t know,” he says.
Many will tell you that local venues are often reluctant to host “hip-hop” parties as there is a presumption that with them comes an element of trouble, but CLLCTV found a willing partner in Middlesex after winning over general manager Nate Brown, who first booked the Wave event. “I’m a big fan of those dudes,” he says. “They’re some of the most positive, professional people I’ve worked with, of any age.”
Stephen Kayiwa, who has worked the door at Middlesex for 12 years, attributes the Wave’s steady sailing of incident-free nights to an aura of familiarity. “It feels like one big house party where everyone seems to know each other,” he adds.
To Brown, the Wave brings something essential to the region, admitting, “This is not a ‘cool’ city, and culturally it’s kind of behind. There’s not a lot of growth, so when something cool happens it’s great to see people support it.”
Francois says that after more than 2 years of successfully staging the Wave monthly, outsiders have taken notice. This summer the group brought in DJs from New York and Atlanta, who were pleasantly surprised by the culture they found, and by what CLLCTV has built.
“It’s always funny because a lot of people will say that they didn’t know there were people of color in Boston, Or ‘I didn’t know Boston got down like this. I didn’t know there was this much energy in Boston,’” according to Francois. “We’re a slept-on city. We want people to understand there’s a lot going on here.”
“We want people to feel like this is a community,” Francois explains. “You come here, you may meet one of your best friends down the road. You may meet the girl that you start talking to in the future. You may become a lifelong patron of Middlesex. That’s what we wanted to build.”
Inspired energy, eclectic DJs, a promising future and a full night’s sleep? That’s just the Wave.
$10 tickets via online presale, $15 at the door, thewaveboston.com