As a resident of one of the more outlying suburbs of America’s capital city, I don’t have very many opportunities to see my dance music heroes live. Every few months, an artist that I respect will make an appearance at U Street Music Hall or the 9:30 Club in the middle of D.C. and I’ll make the trek into the city from melancholic exurbia. I drive over an hour to the nearest Metro station, take the train into the heart of D.C. (which takes another 45 minutes), and then spend a few hours blissfully overwhelmed by the music until I have to leave well before the end of the set to catch the last train back to my car. It’s far from ideal, but I’m willing to go through the hassle to see with my own eyes the DJs and producers that I listen to and read about every day on the internet.
Boiler Room brings me one step closer to the live experience without having to spend money on gas, train tickets, overpriced drinks at the club or a door fee. It’s a direct offshoot of UK’s long tradition of pirate radio; however, instead of just broadcasting underground music in a clandestine fashion, the organizers of Boiler Room throw dance parties at a secret location, invite the best DJs and producers to perform sets, and then stream audio and video of the artists performing. People learn where to show up to the party via the internet grapevine of Twitter and Facebook because Boiler Room never advertises the location of the party, only who’s going to perform and when the music begins. After starting in London, Boiler Room has spread to Berlin, L.A., and now New York. There is about one party in each city per week and all of them can be live-streamed through Boiler Room’s website, boilerroom.tv.
What makes Boiler Room better than the countless audio streams of DJ performances available online is the video feed that accompanies the audio. To someone who isn’t a fan of dance music, a visual feed of what the DJ is doing may not seem interesting since the artist isn’t actually playing “real instruments,” but the one thing that many dance music enthusiasts dream about is that one day they’ll be the person on stage putting on a show for the crowd. Any tips that can be gleaned from watching a DJ’s performance are things that are hungrily consumed and while the video feed doesn’t pull back the curtain completely (the side-view camera, e.g. isn’t zoomed in close enough for the viewer to see specifically what effect is being manipulated or exactly what remix is loaded onto the deck), you get a piece of the live experience by watching the DJ manipulate his or her equipment, live, in real-time.
Boiler Room has drawn top-shelf artists for their parties. For their New York party on 6/26, they had Baauer, one of the biggest producers/DJs in the Trap genre, open for AraabMuzik, the hip-hop producer responsible for Dipset’s migration to a more idiosyncratic, drum-break heavy sound in 2006. Just in the past few months, they’ve had performances from Brenmar, A-Trak, Lunice, James Murphy, XXXY, Orbital, Boys Noize, Carl Craig, and other luminaries from every niche of electronic music.
To find out about upcoming Boiler Room events, you can follow their Facebook event feed but that doesn’t give any clues to party locations or even give much of a warning about which artists will perform; like the best parties, you really have to know someone who can get you on the guest list to experience Boiler Room totally live. Luckily, those of us not blessed with the proper connections or cursed geographically (like I am) can still enjoy some of the experience from the comfort of our laptops.
Parties can be streamed live at boilerroom.tv/live and most performances are archived for later viewing here.