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Tech sector throws lunchtime dance party

It’s lunch time in the Innovation District, so of course it’s time to paper over the windows, hang the strobe lights, and crank up the music.

Welcome to the new power lunch in Boston, about as far as you can get from the cushy banquettes of the downtown dining salons, where a buttoned-down waiter recommends the baked scrod and two guys in suits discuss weekend golf.

Instead, Lunch Beat Boston style is an amped-up dance hour, where the Seaport’s District Hall is turned into a darkened disco, and techies groove to thumping electronica so loud that networking becomes, by necessity, a wordless bounce to the beat with your neighbor.


Lunch Beat — a global franchise that started three years ago in the electronic dance music hub of Stockholm — is a noontime rave intended to break up the work routine with a midday jolt of techno tunes. Organizers in Greater Boston held their fourth such rave Wednesday at District Hall, the newly erected center of the city’s budding Innovation District.

MassChallenge staffers showed up at Lunch Beat Boston in costume.Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff

“It’s a completely democratized, absurd experience,” said Dmitri Gunn, who has organized all four Lunch Beat Boston events. “You have venture capitalists dancing next to college students, and it’s not about business cards, it’s not about business plans, it’s not about any of that.”

Tickets were a mere $10, and went fast. Organizers had to cap admission at 160 people.

Gunn said he read about Lunch Beat online and immediately saw a natural fit for Greater Boston’s technology community, a young workforce with brains and drive, and a fun-loving wild side, too. And it also is another way the nascent tech community in South Boston is distinguishing itself from the nearby Financial District. The lawyers, financiers, and other white-collar professionals who work downtown largely hew to a daytime schedule; the techies in skinny jeans and T-shirts keep eclectic hours and are lobbying Boston to be a 24-hour city so they mix work with partying late into the night.


Ana Cohen of Salem attended Lunch Beat Boston on Wednesday.Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

“A lot of young people don’t want to just work and go home,” said Dries Buytaert, cofounder of Acquia, a software company that cosponsored the event. “They want to be part of something. They want to have an experience, so having some fun matters. It matters because it gives you a sense of purpose and makes work not just work.

“Technology people often come across as reserved, but I think they’re the first ones to drop their guards in an atmosphere like this,” Buytaert added.

How strong is the pull to be part of the scene? Acquia isn’t even in the Innovation District. It’s located in the suburbs — Burlington — but sent a busload of about 40 employees to Lunch Beat Boston and helped underwrite the event’s cost.

Another group elected to show up in costume. Staffers from MassChallenge, the business accelerator program located nearby, dressed in an odd-lot style. One wore a banana suit; another dressed as Pikachu, a character from the popular anime TV series “Pokémon.”

As the dancers spilled out of District Hall and returned to their jobs and afternoon classes, they could be heard chatting about how badly they had needed a temporary release from the daily grind. “It was awesome,” said Heather Kennedy from the Boston architectural firm ci design inc. “It gives you energy for the rest of the day.”


Callum Borchers can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.