Getting the BBD podcast series back up and running again I wanted to enlist a good friend of mine, Joe Grafton, to lay things down for #94. Grafton was brought into the dance scene in a bit of an unconventional way, which makes his story a bit more unique than most. Instead of discovering The Prodigy, Skrillex, or the Chemical Brothers on the radio, buying turntables and ‘never looking back’ like most, Grafton was actually helping spearhead an entire music festival with little more than a passing curiosity towards the content of the outfit in question, Together, sought to curate.
‘When co-founder David Day sent out an email detailing his initial vision to start Together, I was quick to reply. We had collaborated when I was directing Somerville Local First and he was editing The Dig,’ said Joe in a recent Q&A we did over email. ‘I had recently been exposed to dance but didn’t understand everything at first. I couldn’t describe genres, couldn’t remember the names of artists or tracks. Meanwhile, I’m helping run a festival geared towards, and surrounded by, DJs.’
Grafton goes on to name-check Together’s Director of Operations, Gareth Middlebrook (aka General Motor), in helping influence his decision to dive deeper into the world of DJ’ing after a few years of involvement with Together. ‘Once he taught me, not only did my relationship to the music change, but also my ability to converse with the team. It’s become an amazing creative outlet!’ Grafton exclaimed.
Even on a holistic level, not knowing a niche style of music can often be a language barrier to people who eat, sleep and breathe it 24-7. But having worked directly with Grafton myself every year on the festival, this barrier never seemed to pose a challenge to him. Willing to learn as quickly as he was able to lend a hand in other avenues, Grafton made the effort to embrace the culture rather than be shunned or intimidated by it. That didn’t happen overnight.
As the Chief of Operations, Treasurer, and what David Day calls ‘the engine of Together’, how much influence does Grafton have when it comes to influencing who plays the fest? When asking this, Grafton is quick to enforce emerging talent. ‘While booking falls more on (CEO) Alex Maniatis, we try to recognize it’s not just personal preferences that matter; we try to focus on underground and emerging performers people may not be familiar with yet.’ Grafton goes on to mention one more important fact: ‘We like artists who are about the music, first and foremost.’
So what does Together mean for Grafton anyhow? ‘A shit ton of work??’ he started. ‘Just kidding…not really. It’s really about our name, about bringing disparate communities together to create stronger communities and share the joy that comes from the world-class experience in music, art, and technology.’ To dive deeper into his personal experience, Grafton mentions how the Together team is ‘very much family’ and the annual team photo at the end of the week-long fest ‘his favorite moment every year, where we all celebrate the fact we somehow pulled it off again.’
If Grafton was not able to see eye to eye with his team, likely, he never would’ve taken the time to learn more about the artists that pique their interest.
The podcast mix Grafton recorded for BBD is entirely comprised of first-wave artist announcements from this year’s upcoming installment of Together, which include Floating Points, KiNK, Jon Hopkins, and others) as well as past headliners. Working with a small palette of artists can be limiting when it comes to creating a fluid mix, but Grafton acknowledges his experiences of having seen many of these performers in years past actually enhanced it. ‘I wanted this mix to encapsulate what Together week is about – daily FOMO of having to choose one show or another.’
As multiple events happen simultaneously throughout Boston over the course of Together week, past attendees surely can relate to having to ‘miss out’ on seeing one artist in favor of another, or leaving one party right in the middle to check another one. ‘I hope I was able to make something cohesive that flows well from a variety of genres, but that’s part of the challenge and fun.’
Concluding the interview I had to ask Grafton if he had any goals as far as DJ’ing goes. ‘Well, my #1 goal was to get a mix on BBD so I think I can retire now?’ (If only I was able to do the same purely from this blog, LMAO!!)
Grafton is not only involved in Together but also a Partner and Director of Business at Delta Foodservice Group, the founder of Somerville Local First, and Treasurer of the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts. He also is a resident on Cathouseattic, a weekly live-streaming video feed showcasing local and often lesser-known DJs. Now that’s a full plate.
Third-tier tickets for the festival, which take place May 15-22, are still available. Learn more on their website.
Bob Moses – Far From The Tree (Together 6)
Frank & Tony – Breath Game feat. Black Light Smoke (Together 6)
Floating Points – Montparnasse (Together 7)
Mano Le Tough – Primitive People (Tale of Us Remix) (Together 6)
Daniel Avery (KINK Remix) – Knowing We’ll Be Here (Avery – Together 5, KINK – Together 7)
In Gold – Palms Trax (Together 7)
Abandon Window (Redsparrow remix) – Jon Hopkins (Together 7)
Henrik Schwarz + Ame & Dixon – Where We At – (Together 7)
Break 4 Life – Soul Clap (Multiple Togethers)
Justin Martin – Ruff Stuff (Together 6)
SBTRKT – New Dorp. New York (Solomun Remix) – (Together 2)
Trentemoller – Always Something Better (Together 2)
Martyn – Seventy Four (Redshape remix) (Together 6)
Beat Faster – Maya Jane Coles (Together 2)
SOHN – Blood flows (Sonny Alven Remix) (Together 5)
Fatima Yamaha – What’s A Girl To Do (Together 7)