Yesterday the music collective Dubco posted an article eulogizing Boston’s Ocean Club at Marina Bay. For those who don’t know, it was recently announced that Ocean Club would be no more and that luxury apartments would be built in its place. Though Ocean Club gained its name only a handful of years ago when DePasquale Ventures (Prime Nightclub, Umbria Restaurant, Quattro Restaurant, Bricco Restaurant, etc ) purchased it, the venue itself had been around for two decades under various aliases. Over the past few years Ocean Club’s rise in popularity was a direct response to the rise in popularity of dance music (or EDM as many of the club-goers would call it). Promoters like MASS EDMC and NV Concepts took the reins in booking talent to entertain crowds at Ocean Club, and management from Prime and the-now-closed Splash ran operations. Even resident DJs from the Boston community, like Bamboora, Voltran, and Dirty Dek, were part of the action. During each of the last couple Summers, rumors were always swirling about Ocean Club closing and that the venue would be torn down to make way for residences – I had always doubted this rumor. But it looks like the claims were not unfounded as the greater Boston area loses a key player in the dance music scene.
I’m not here to shit on Dubco for writing a mostly negative article on the late Ocean Club. Being a part of the media I respect the fact that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion – I can’t say Dubco’s piece was right or wrong. In fact, I share some of the same views the Dubco author provided his/her readers with. What I’m here to do is offer my perspective and history with Ocean Club.
I first started investing my time and money into dance music around 2009-2010. While I’m not going to bore you with the details of my exploits, I will say that living in Boston as a dance music fan in his young 20s created a desire to find places where I could have a good time, particularly at ones that were playing good music. In the Spring of 2011, this blog was founded, and with it came the opportunity for partnerships and to cover the scene in/around New England where I was residing. I met the founders of MASS EDMC as well as my new local favorite DJ Bamboora during the warm months of that year. That’s also around the time when I learned about Ocean Club at Marina Bay and in particular my interest piqued when I saw Avicii would be playing a show there. I don’t have any shame in admitting I was a rather big Avicii fan, before he exploded onto the scene and it became cool to hate on him. Bamboora would be the opening DJ for this particular show and despite it being on a Sunday night, I knew I had to be there. I won’t lie, Sunday nights were pretty inconvenient for me as someone who was working a 9-5 job, but I understand why the folks at MASS EDMC, NV Concepts, and Ocean Club were trying to carve out a weekly Sunday Funday type of night that they could call their own.
So off to Ocean Club I went and I’ll admit I was pretty impressed. Remember, this is 2011, a year before what I consider to be the break-out year for Ocean Club. I always referred to OC as Jersey Shore meets Miami – an open-air venue on the water (Quincy’s Marina Bay), with fake sand, a decorative pool, some cabanas, and a few bars – this automatically set it apart from every venue in Boston, and even in New England as a whole. I loved the idea of open-air parties, especially in the warm Summer air of Boston. I thought it was great how large the venue was and that you could walk around freely without being shoulder-to-shoulder with someone, unless you wanted to push up to the front. I don’t remember many particulars of the evening, but I remember Bamboora killing it and Avicii putting on a fun set. I was satisfied. Though that may have been the only OC show I went to that Summer, I knew I would be back.
Fast forward to 2012 and 2013. Dance music is exploding. MASS EDMC is making a huge name for itself by throwing parties all across the Northeast and by bringing some of the best electronic talent to places it had never previously been. MMIBTY, as a blog, is becoming a familiar name all around the country and especially around Boston. I’ve managed to form partnerships with MASS EDMC, NV Concepts, and management at Prime and Splash (and consequently Ocean Club). I’ve also formed relationships with resident DJs Bamboora, Dirty Dek, and Richard Fraioli. Ocean Club is becoming the place to be during the Summer, bringing in top-tier acts and selling out shows. Nights have expanded to Fridays and Saturdays, and the promoters of the events are actively working with fans of dance music to determine who they want to see play at the venue.
So what are my thoughts? I went to Ocean Club a lot in its time of existence – both as a music fan and as someone covering shows for this blog. I helped generate buzz for shows through this site as well as our various social media outlets. Sure, there are several aspects Ocean Club leaves to be desired – such as a loud, state-of-the-art sound system (legitimately my biggest complaint) – but the venue and the people working to make it a success did one crucial thing: they helped to build the dance music community in and around Massachusetts. Whether or not people went to Ocean Club to hear a specific DJ spin, the fact of the matter is that world-famous DJs were booked to entertain the people of the greater Boston area. Sure, when I asked someone if he knew who the DJ spinning was last year, and it was juggernaut Fedde Le Grand on the decks, the kid I questioned had absolutely no idea. Sure, during that same show Fedde played one of the most mainstream sets I’ve ever heard him lay down across the many times I’ve seen him (Swedish House Mafia in rotation? Really?), and maybe that’s because the Ocean Club crowd was a mixed bag of dance amateurs to die hard ravers, but in the grand scheme of things does that matter? Steve Angello in 2012 played to a PACKED house. I was incredibly bored by Steve’s set and it was far too predictable, but the majority of attendees were so happy to be there that, again, did it matter?
What I liked best about Ocean Club is actually a two-fold answer. First and foremost, I had some of the most fun Summer nights in recent years there. Whether it was wrapping up the weekend on a Sunday night, or getting things started on a Friday night, I always had a good crew of friends around me. More importantly I always saw smiling faces there who I’d go and talk with, and of course the opportunity to meet fellow dance music fans. From dance-offs in what my friends and I dubbed the back bar area (stage left, back corner), to dancing on couches, to hanging out backstage, there was always an adventure to be had. I had the chance to witness my 6’7″ friend pole dance in hilarious fashion, and I watched another buddy challenge a dancing dude to see who could come up with the most ridiculous move. You can bet your ass that my friend’s full-body floor hump took the cake.
And let’s talk about the music itself. Sure, there were locations at Ocean Club where the sound was mediocre at best. But the openers always started the party off right – whether they were resident DJs or up-and-coming acts like Pegboard Nerds opening up for the phenomenal Knife Party who were all business when they kicked off the 2013 season. I had the pleasure of witnessing acts like Eric Prydz, Destructo, Claude VonStroke, Diplo, Skrillex, Thomas Gold, Kaskade, Pretty Lights, and plenty more, who I thought really made their stamp on the venue and on Boston in general.
Towards the end of last year, yes things got a bit out of control. Arrests were made, ticket prices skyrocketed, and complaints from local residents increased. It was always hard to get to Ocean Club if you didn’t drive or if you wanted to enjoy a few cocktails, but there were alternatives you could explore. Neon ravers started outnumbering Guidos in tank tops, and I noticed a LOT of dilated pupils. But doesn’t that add character to an experience? And doesn’t it make for great people watching? As long as someone wasn’t bothering me I was okay with what was going down around me. I think the biggest thing is that after several years of Ocean Club’s existence, a party-goer should know what he/she is getting him/herself into by going there. If you didn’t enjoy the venue you probably shouldn’t have gone – there was plenty of other stuff to do on a weekend night in Boston.
Maybe I’m just a glass half-full kind of guy. Maybe I’m just looking at the bigger picture and understanding the value that shows at Ocean Club brought to the dance scene in Boston. As I said, it could have been a lot better, but at the same time us dance fans could have missed out on seeing a lot of top-tier acts if not for Ocean Club. I may not have met or hung out with some of the people that I shared experiences with if not for Ocean Club. This blog may not have gained the exposure it received if not for Ocean Club.
All-in-all, I think there will be a large void to fill with the loss of Ocean Club. I may not live in Boston anymore, but I know it will be felt. Dubco has its opinion, and this was mine. Let us know what you think and perhaps what could ultimately step in as a Summer dance music experience in the Bay State.