Nearly a decade after its retirement, Boston’s revered weekly dance party, “LIFE,” has stood the test of time as a party of great influence and timeless appeal, remembered with enthusiastic reminiscence by it’s devoted followers and testifying to the depth of influence that this beloved culture has achieved in its relatively small years. “LIFE” was the pinnacle of Boston dance music tradition, a party at the fore of the then difficult to map state of House music in the United States and world over, a time when DJ’s, producers, and party-goers alike were striving to find a place in the increasingly standardized and blandly un-daring, dispassionate popular music world of the late 1990’s. In “LIFE,” everyone willing converged to reject the trivialization of party culture and club programming, in search of a new, unique space for free expression of all forms---a real party, determined to suspend all the outside burdens and numbing drudgery for the commencing of a specific, precise intent. “LIFE” reminded its devoted fans that music really can unite, weaving together space & time to create a forum, independent if only for a few hours, where the completely opposing personalities and styles can be subsumed under the undeniable energy of a real, tangible and consistent gathering---the likes of which are seldom seen.
The story of “LIFE” begins with its founders Paul Nickerson & Francis Englehardt. The two lifelong friends first became enraptured with the art of DJ’ing and programming during the early beginnings of Boston’s club and dance culture. These were different times, when songs actually expounded a message, a story…to be heard, contemplated and discussed. House had a lineage; a clear path; a heritage, and a goal: the energy and excitement surrounding this special time flowed forth as a natural progression, self-aware and determined to move forward full steam. Nickerson & Englehardt grew attached to this sound at an early age, and without hesitation surrounded themselves in this strangely enticing community of outcasts, rogue adventurers and veteran music obsessors, making their home in this bizarre yet beautiful amalgamation. The two were firmly set in the striving for constantly higher ground and new approaches, recognizing in this striving the vital life-source of their beloved music.
After various residencies and lengthy stints, playing at such Boston staples as “The Loft,” the godfather of all Boston parties, and “The Paradise,” where the two experienced the raw energy of club culture with devoted enthusiasm, Englehardt & Nickerson rapidly honed their craft while struggling to develop their musical pallet. Their investment culminated in 1998 when joining with promotional mastermind Courtney Mark Grey and graphics wizard Adam Gibbons, “LIFE” proved to be the next logical step in the Boston party lineage, stubbornly pushing House to new levels of creative eclecticism and selective maturity. What made “LIFE” so special was Nickerson & Englehardt’s refusal to relegate their sound to the standard, confined norms typical of many of their peers, blending the allegedly disparate styles of Rock, Soul, Experimental, Ambient, Techno and Disco into a carefully molded and uniquely personal aesthetic approach, uniting theses varying styles under the common banner of quality music regardless of factional differentiation and petty genre squabbling. What resulted was, in a way, nothing new: Club DJ’s have for decades pushed awesomely eclectic sounds in order to accentuate the common threads of authentic cathartic expression, emotional release and intellectual vision that ties together all records of high order. “LIFE” resolved to bring together both deeply invested lovers of the underground style and previously unaware stragglers---many of whom just happened to discover this weekly by chance, immediately drawn to the meticulously crafted setting and free honesty in music selection.
What once invigorated “LIFE” now continues in the form of NYC’s ‘Slow to Speak’ and dance music launching-ground ‘Dope Jams’, institutions that have, in a different form, continued to push for the very principles that Nickerson & Englehardt originally championed and have continued to in various forms to this day. Music unites, or so the saying goes, and yet only a few times in history has this saying actually proved to be true. Well aware of the legacy of underground club culture firmly rooted in NYC’s vibrant mixture of personalities and possibilities, Slow to Speak is determined to reignite, resurrect if you will, the lost possibilities of NYC’s legacy, determined to bring about the rare mixture of elements and determined atmospheric tailoring that when assembled exactly comprise the formula for a true party the likes of which are seldom seen, especially in this current era of waning honesty and declining passions, when dance music has become just another chore on the daily list of events “to attend,” far from the near magical essence that party’s such as the Paradise Garage, Zanzibar, Underground Network, and later Body & SOUL epitomized. These parties created the badge of authenticity that NYC still wears to this day…dishonestly and insincerely. Slow to Speak is determined to fight once more for this sincere love of music and freedom, careful to honor the legacy and contributions of the old party aesthetic and yet keen on reinventing this aesthetic once more. Music as uniter, but also music as aggressor, pushing for the necessary confrontation and daring experimentation that has always moved history forward to new realms. But most importantly, music as storyteller and social weapon, such that dance records and culture can once again speak to our everyday trials and wildest of dreams.
And with this resolve, “LIFE” will be rekindled once more, starting this Winter 2011. New sounds, new songs, new philosophies will be introduced; old favorites will be reexamined and reinvigorated; in short, this party will have a mission and purpose beyond pointless, masturbatory, self-rewarding pseudo-expression that many events have become today. With a hardened resolve, “LIFE” aims to save dance music from the dark shadows of banality and to once again make it exciting and NEW. Always forward, never backwards, and yet always aware of the movement, the progress that music must continue if it is to survive. Against transitory mediocrity we must stand, and so we embark once more to explore the essence of social transcendence through musical exercise.