Dueling DJs serve up hidden gems
Play-off baseball in Boston turns just about everybody into Red Sox fans. Even the funk-seeking souls who usually crowd River Gods in Cambridge for "Weekly Wax: Dinner, Drinks and Beat-downs." The cozy and purposely TV-less bar -- where "the focus is on the music," according to owner Jackie Linnane -- was next to empty on a recent Monday night as the hometown team battled the Oakland Athletics in the deciding game of the American League Division Series. It mattered little to DJ George Killgoar, who nursed a pint at the bar while sizing up his competition -- Brooklyn-based DJ Peter Gunn.
"The coolest thing about the Wax is that you get to hear stuff that wouldn't normally get out there," said Killgoar, a veteran DJ for WZBC whose sounds have what he calls "a modernist tone meant for children of the new wave. They give DJs absolute freedom here."
So free that many of the DJs aren't even DJs. A reincarnation of the Underground nights at the former Delihaus in Kenmore Square, Weekly Wax is the brainchild of staffers at The Weekly Dig alternative newspaper. The Wax pits two like-minded guest DJs against each other in a well-intentioned competition under a central musical theme. There are duals between coffee shops (Other Side Cafe vs. Someday Cafe), record labels, lounges (Milky Way vs. Lizard), and even college radio stations.
While professional DJs are invited to share "hidden gems," the tracks that many times are off-limits during traditional dance club gigs, the night is really about tapping into the resources of serious collectors, said Craig Kapilow, a DJ and associate music editor at The Weekly Dig, who co-runs the night with River Gods manager Rory Keohane.
"There is a vast pool in the city of people who have such incredible music at their disposal," Kapilow said. "They never play out, though, unless they do college radio, simply due to a lack of technical DJ knowledge. We bring them in, and people love it because we get to hear all these great songs likely buried amongst the glut that is the music market."
With it's earlier start at 8 p.m., the Wax targets the dinner crowd, mostly in its 20s and 30s, that fills River Gods for its high-end pub grub, including Korean handrolls, crepes, and pesto pizzettas. The charming two-year-old Central Square haunt is the perfect space for intimate listening, with comfy high-backed chairs and music played at just the right volume.
Kapilow said the dinner music builds ambience -- "not too loud or overwhelming, to encourage people to hang around for a few drinks after dinner and check it out." Later, the competing DJs take over from the ceiling-high DJ booth, spinning everything from film soundtrack songs, vintage hip-hop, jazz and '70s soul to electronica.
"Musically, if you like a certain night someplace and go four or five times, you end up hearing the same stuff over and over again," he said. "Here, we keep the theme varying. For the most part, the crowd goes nuts for the music."
There is no cover and definitely no attitude at the Wax, which celebrates its one-year anniversary this week. On Monday, DJs John Funke and Dinos team up for a rockabilly vs. '60s beat battle.
E-mail Joanna Massey at email@example.com
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