From the Central Square offices of Together’s headquarters, marketing manager Charles Mazzola looks out and imagines what Cambridge could look like in the near future. “Imagine this block,” he gestures with a broad sweep of his hand. “Every door packed.”
It’s a plausible estimate that Together 2013 — an international celebration of music, art and technology — will bring in 50,000 people. Will that make this year’s edition, the fourth overall of the electro-fest, the biggest and best one yet? That’s a question that Mazzola and managing director Alexander Maniatis answer with a resounding “Oh yeah!” Electronic music (and hip-hop, and electro-pop, etc) is more than just their passion. It’s their mission.
The Together team has deep roots in the Boston scene, and in many ways, it embodies the many virtues that enabled the EDM explosion. They are young, quick to use any emerging technology and able to connect to their dedicated fanbase with a unlikely grassroots approach: word of mouth.
“This is different than a big outdoor thing,” says Mazzola, explaining how Together’s ground tactics — namely infiltrating all the clubs — make the whole thing work. “We have no big stage that holds 50,000 [people] to pay the bills.” But that doesn’t mean the talent pool the fest pulls from is small.
This year, Together presents some of its biggest showcases yet, including performances from cross-over acts like Canadian synth-pop duo Crystal Castles, experimental electronic/jazz artist Flying Lotus and UK house superstar Duke Dumont. These genre-bending artists represent what Mazzola and Maniatis consider the biggest trend in EDM — music that breaks barriers.
“This festival loves to exploit that,” says Maniatis. “Before, there were people who only listened to house music, people who only listened to drum ‘n’ bass, etc. But now you have producers such as Four Tet who are producing really experimental music, but also making banging house tracks. Or you have people like Scuba who are dubstep producers who are now leading the charge for house music.”
Those interested in more intimate venues might check out Thursday night’s show at Middlesex, where patrons of Make It New will get a chance to hear the down-tempo grooves of Detroit underground legend, Andres.
Searching for a playground
Part of Together’s mission is to present Boston’s best talent alongside reps from the vibrant international scene. This helps to get EDM acts on historic stages (such as the Middle East downstairs, which dedicates an entire week to the festival) as well as to establish a need for new mid-level, electro-friendly venues.
Soulclap’s Eli Goldstein built an internationally-known house/funk act from Cambridge’s Phoenix Landing. According to the producer, Boston has places for the huge acts, but lack spaces for “the really cool shows that aren’t as commercial,” like UK avant-electronic artist Four Tet and Canadian house-producer and Turbo Records-founder, Tiga (both Together highlights).
One of Boston’s fastest rising acts, electronic-based songwriter André Obin, agrees. While his live instrumentation and vocals work well in Boston venues, Obin would love to see a venue with “that perfect combination of DJ culture and live acts that would make modern performers feel more comfortable.” If you build it, they will come.
Whether you want to dance, watch, listen or learn, one thing about this particular fest remains true: We’re all in this Together.
Dancing On The Charles: Crew Love BBQ
With Wolf+Lamb, Tanner, Slow Hands, NRP
May 19 from 2 p.m.-8 p.m.
The Central Quad
Corner of Landsdowne and Auburn Streets, Cambridge, Mass.
With Hooray for Earth, Mean Creek, Guilermo Sexo
May 15 @ 8 p.m.
Middle East Downstairs
Together runs May 12-19 at venues across town. Festival passes are $150; $225 VIP.