Until recently, I had found the music scene in Boston comparable to that small, stagnant pool of feces and drug induced sweat you find at music festivals that everyone still swims in for some reason. That was before East Meets Beats whisked me off my feet like Captain Save-A-Hoe himself in the form of a small underground music showcase. Boston lacks the tangible excitement and vibrancy of major music hubs like L.A. or New York, so when I came across EMB I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole to discover this whole other world where everything is infinitely more interesting. Sure, there are concerts held in Boston fairly regularly as with every decently sized city, but for the most part, they cater to mainstream tastes. Don’t get me wrong I can fuck with a little Jason Derulo, but “Trumpets” doesn’t exactly ignite a flame of artistic inspiration within my soul. For that reason, you can probably imagine how relieved I was that EMB is full of musicians whose tastes cover everything from the iTunes Top Ten singles you shamelessly love to sub-genres that you didn’t know existed.
The first EMB show I went to had an all-female line-up, from which I recognised a single name: Seneca B. Ever since I’d been introduced to this local producer’s buttery boom-bap instrumentals, I’d been using her Soundcloud page as the personal soundtrack to my life. The 19-year-old girl wonder has a knack for producing hypnotic beats that leave you more nostalgic for 90s Hip-Hop music than Outkast’s 2014 reunion tour. Her tracks have mesmerising abilities. Listen to her track “Survival of the Fittest,” and tell me it’s not something you would want to get lost daydreaming out of a rainy window to.
A set from Seneca B live and in-the-flesh was something I knew I had to experience. With the guiding hand of my music sensei, Boston-based DJ, Dr. Sus, I went to see what this showcase had to offer.
The basement of Cambridge’s design lab Danger!Awesome served as the venue, which immediately led me to believe I was the least cool person in attendance. Furniture and equipment was pushed aside, creating a homey space that was filled by a crowd shuffling with the anticipation of watching their friends perform. It only took about a split-second of being there to begin appreciating the exponentially more personal setting that East Meets Beats provides for the musically-inclined. This was clearly a function that was meant to be enjoyed in a close-knit group setting in contrast to the very individualistic show experience I was used to participating in. The ladies made the scene feel bigger than it was from the way they got the audience to punctuate good song choices, skillful beat switches, and catchy production with a unison of “ayyys.” East Meets Beats made itself memorable to me as a community by offering a source for people to witness up close the craft that goes into a performance and how they vary between individuals. It was icing on the cake when I was able to watch a female musician that I admired play a seamless first live set amongst the easiness of the no-judgement setting.
There’s an indescribable feeling being able to be a part of an atmosphere where the audience is collectively enjoying the show. You just don’t see, you feel that everyone is a part of a community that prides itself celebrating differences, using them to create thought-provoking discourse around music. This became clear to me after hearing Dr. Sus’s East Meets Beats set described using unconventional words like “clever” and “conversational.” This generous and intellectual approach to music and performance, where ideas of sharing and showcasing local talent is prioritised in an effort to help each other grow as musicians, is what makes East Meets Beats and other smaller showcases alike so valuable. You can go to as many big-name concerts as you want, but I guarantee you that no matter how much fun being packed sardine-style into the House of Blues’ general admission section can be, you won’t get to soak in local music culture like you do at EMB.