Considering the rate at which musical trends come and go, particularly within the hyper-evolving genre timeline of electronic dance music, you might expect a recurring party to squeeze out a year or two before interest flags. That makes the weekly Thursday night drum and bass party Elements at Phoenix Landing, celebrating its 13th anniversary this week, all the more exceptional. In fact, it’s the longest running drum and bass night in the country.
Drum and bass - a genre that spun off from rave culture and took nods from jungle and hardcore in the late 1980s and early 1990s UK club world - has splintered into dozens of subgenres over the years, but it can be typically characterized by densely layered percussion, drum samples from old funk and soul records looped into breakneck break-beats, fragments of reggae vocals and horn samples, dub-style dropouts and rewinds, distorted bass synths, and sub-bass rumbles.
When resident DJs Lenore Fauliso and Bill Crook started the night in 1999, the electronic music landscape was much smaller, and more fragmented by genre, Fauliso says.
It was a much different scene than the genre-omnivorous parties that have taken hold in Boston over recent years. Maintaining a focus on drum and bass has helped Elements weather the storm of waxing and waning trends.
“Overall, the electronic music scene has crossed over a lot, as far as who’s coming out to electronic nights, but not a lot has changed in the vibe of Elements,’’ says Fauliso, who spends her days working at Berklee College of Music’s City Music program, which helps bring free music education to underprivileged students. “It has a very underground, positive, non-corporate vibe.’’
A consistent vibe doesn’t mean playing the same stuff over and over for years, though. “It’s always evolving. There are a lot of sub-genres too that different people can get into: liquid, soulful, hard or dancehall. All those equally are evolving, there’s a lot of creativity and inspiration.’’
Bringing in headliners from throughout the international drum and bass world alongside emerging talent has helped put the night on the larger scene map as well. Over the years, big names like Sub Focus, J Majik, Calibre, and Adam F, to name just a few, have played the room. “We bring in a lot of overseas talent,’’ Fauliso says. “Last year, we brought in Goldie. We’ve had pretty much every major drum and bass producer, save a couple.’’
They also shine the spotlight on emerging stars as well, like London experimental drum and bass producers Wilkinson and Cyantific, who’ll play for the first time in the Boston area in February.
Aside from the performance aspect, long-running nights like this typically can serve as a sort of central meeting ground for fans.
“I get feedback and hear that it’s like a church for people,’’ Fauliso says. “There are a lot of people that have been coming the whole time. A lot of people will come up to me or Bill, almost every week, and say thank you so much for continuing to do this night. I don’t want to sound egotistical, it’s not about me. They’ll say ‘I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have this night.’ Part of it is the music and the dancing, but part of it is I see a lot of hugging and smiling, people letting go of their problems. . . . People aren’t going to get looked at funny if they walk in for the first time. There’s a good amount of diversity too, people in their 40s or 50s that come regularly, they feel totally comfortable there.’’
Todd Macleod, a designer from Arlington who has been coming to Elements regularly for seven years, is one of those community members. “It’s a place where I know I will see certain people I won’t see any other time during the week,’’ he says. Not to undercut the importance of the music.
“They get world-class DJs, and they’re top-tier DJs; so there’s a ton of music all the time, and I know it’s going to be decent. They stick to one genre, with everything now the way the music scene is in America, people are quick to jump on things, burn it out and throw it away, much like everything else. People are saying drum and bass is getting cool again, but it’s always been cool.’’