Boston DJs make a strong showing at Identity Festival

VolTran (Mike Tran) says the event is a “great look for electronic music.”
Gina Manning
VolTran (Mike Tran) says the event is a “great look for electronic music.”

Now in its second year, the Identity Festival, one of the biggest roving electronic music productions of its kind, returns to Massachusetts. On Thursday, the grounds of the Comcast Center transform into the biggest dance party in the state, with a lineup of superstar international DJs and producers including Eric Prydz, Wolfgang Gartner, Showtek, Excision, and a few dozen more.

One of the stages will play host to a slew of Boston area talent, curated by the people behind the promotions and artist management group Mmmmaven. We asked some of the performers to introduce themselves, and to share their thoughts on the festival itself.

DJ: VolTran (Mike Tran), Boston


Style: moombahton, trap, bass music, house, dubstep

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Hear here: Tran’s elongated, spaced-out remix of Boston band Gentlemen Hall’s “How Long Have They Been Watching” and more can be heard at

“I think that the Identity Festival is a great look for electronic music,” says Tran, a founder of the Tens Collective, a group of DJs, artists, producers, and promoters. “We are now ushering in the new age of EDM where this music is now, more than ever, easily accessible. It’s festivals like these that allow people to witness first-hand what these artists can actually do in the real world, rather than what they hear on his or her laptop.”

For him that means highlight sets from the likes of Nero, Doctor P, and Datsik. “It also provides a great place for people who don’t know a lot about electronic music to go explore other genres of music outside from what they might be familiar with.”

DJ: Joe Bermudez, Watertown


Style: big room club bangers

Hear here: Bermudez hosts a syndicated radio show called The Mass Movement (www.massmovementra and plays on KISS 108 on Saturday nights. You can find a full slate of his sets from gigs like this year’s Ultra Music at www.joebermu He performs at Ocean Club at Marina Bay on Sunday.

“I think it’s great for the local scene,” Bermudez says of ID Fest. Bermudez has made a big splash in the international DJ world, having been nominated as one of America’s Best DJs by DJ Times for six straight years, playing in places as far flung as Beijing, and performing with the likes of David Guetta and Avicii.

Bermudez feels at home in a festival setting, having more than a few under his belt. “As the crowd grows to larger numbers than any night club in town could possibly hold, the energy starts to snowball and it allows me to play some pretty crazy stuff that just wouldn’t have the same effect in a more intimate setting.”

DJ: Coralcola (Mikey Lee), Worcester


Style: bass, techno, house, “Anything but brostep”

Hear here: Find originals and remixes from Coralcola, including a dreamy take on You Love Her Coz She’s Dead’s “Softer Cell” at

Coralcola, the self-described “only DJ ever to drop Enya at Royale,” has spun at the past two First Night Boston events, and alongside Jamie XX, Trentemoller, and Bonobo. He’s looking forward to the festival for reasons both community-building, and self-serving, he admits. “It brings a lot of the kids together and hopefully that will spawn new friendships and parties and so on,” he says, but perhaps more importantly, the large format setup of the stage means “drunk girls can’t get in my way and demand I play something ‘with words in it.’” A DJ’s dream.

Sir Froderick
From left to right: Time Wharp, T-Dredz (on the basketball) and Taye Digg$.

DJs: JASS, including Taye Digg$ (Tyler Damato); Time Wharp (Patrick Loggins); T-Dredz (Tyler Skoglund); Back Bay, Mission Hill

Style: vogue, tropical bass, and grime “with sprinkles of hip-hop here and there”

Hear here: The collective JASS, who also operate a record label, recently released the “Up Wind” EP by Savannah, Ga., producer Cc, who’ll perform at the Phoenix Landing on Tuesday along with Damato. You can hear it and their other releases at www.jass

“I think it’s a big deal that electronic music has penetrated so deeply into the American psyche that an event like this can exist in the first place, and I give it up to the people who put it on for making this sort of thing happen around the country,” Loggins says. “That being said, I think it sometimes lacks a crucial element, what’s happening on the fringes of the scenes and the importance of unfiltered, fresh underground sounds.” Expect JASS to fill those gaps with their set.

Chris McDonald aka DJ Knowledge.

DJ: DJ Knowledge (Chris McDonald), Middletown, Conn.

Style: progressive electro house, midtempo, moombahton, tech house

Hear here: McDonald’s latest release is a remix of Rockin Tsars’ “Love Bullets,” out on his label and promotion company Columns of Knowledge Recordings (www.columnsofknowledge

“I think ID Fest introduced EDM to a much broader audience in a format that was contained last year,” says McDonald. “The concert format of EDM in America is here to stay and grow. People want to dance and they don’t want what’s always on their favorite pop station. They want something with more edge.”

While some critics may resent the increasingly corporate nature of the culture, the important thing to McDonald is that EDM is reaching more people. “My kids love this music,” says the DJ who’s played at prestigious festivals like Ultra Music, and in numerous big clubs around New York. “They came last year. The concert ended at a normal hour and our family enjoyed a day of fantastic music in a great setting.”

Leigh Smyth/Oh Snap! photographycq
Glowkids & Fuse (a.k.a. Eric Spicuzza and Angela Bray)

DJs: Glowkids & Fuse (Eric Spicuzza, Angela Bray), Boston

Style: electro-house, progressive house

Hear here: Get a taste of this duo’s high-energy electro-house sets from Wonderland and Rise at www.sound Their new show, Illumina Live, “a large-scale live dance club concert experience,” debuts on Sept. 21 at the House of Blues.

The best part about the festival, Bray says, is how it serves as an introduction to the world of EDM for newer audiences. The format of the festival, however, might be somewhat difficult, she says.

“Most of the time we have a good idea of what we’re walking into. We know what kind of crowd to expect and what they’re looking for. With an event as big as ID Fest, there will be a mix of many types of people from all over. This can be challenging, but we do our best in these situations to show who we are while connecting with as many people in the crowd as possible.”

Tom Monaghan
Mike Swells plays a range of styles: house, techno, and downtempo.

DJ: Mike Swells, Boston

Style: house, techno and downtempo

Hear here: Check out a sampler of Swells’s broad range of styles with sets like a downtempo tripped-out deep mix he did for Trippy Soundscapes
on his website, www.mike

Like all of the other acts on the bill, Swells, a resident at Rise since 2004, points to the transformative power of the music at a festival like this to shape the future taste of young people. He would know; he’s played at big fests like the Winter Music Conference in Miami, and Camp Bisco, earlier this month in New York.

But with great exposure comes great responsibility, he says. “It’s really up to the artists and the promoters to steer those young kids in the right direction. ID Fest is a for-profit operation, so everything has to be looked at from that perspective; but all in all they’re bringing quality international music to a festival venue for young kids in Massachusetts and that’s a great thing.

Also, like everyone else, he’s most excited to see London-by-way-of-Sweden producer Eric Prydz (“Call on Me”) perform. “He never comes to the States because he has insane flying phobia. I played with him at Pacha in New York City and it was really an amazing set, so I’m excited to do that again.”

Luke O’Neil can be reached at lukeo