What is a Boiler Room?
In this case, a Boiler Room is not a living room, where a water vessel with a heating element hangs. But a Boiler Room is a small space, inside or outside, where the temperature can rise with some flashy DJ work and an overheated audience behind the turntables. Boiler Room has been a household name in the DJ world for over ten years, and a well-intentioned initiative that has even changed that same DJ world, according to experts. But basically a Boiler Room session is actually very simple: a stream of a DJ set.
How did it start and what was the purpose?
In 2010, Briton Blaise Bellville (now 37), who has just opened the online youth magazine ReadPlatform had created, radio DJs Femi Adeyemi and Thris Tian to spin a festive and multi-cultural DJ set for his blog. The three got an idea: what if we record not only the sound but also the image and put it on the site? They taped a camera above the turntables with duct tape, against the wall of an old room where a kettle had hung: the ‘boiler room’.
With that first set, the creators wanted to sell multicultural, typical London dance music and get it out of the tight squeeze of the club circuit and trendy nightlife. The concept caught on: well-known DJs such as Hudson Mohawke, Jamie Xx, James Blake and Theo Parrish soon joined Bellville to play a set in that cramped room. The Boiler Room became a cult phenomenon and Bellville quickly (and cleverly) founded the Boiler Room company, which was then able to put DJ shows online on a regular basis. Boiler Room’s YouTube channel grew very quickly, with subscribers rising to three and a half million in recent years. And on the site are an incredible eight thousand videos, with those DJs at work over and over again.
Why is it worth watching a rather long video of a record spinning DJ?
In the first place because it is fun and educational to see a record-playing DJ at work. And because it can be mood-enhancing to set up a set with friends and an inexpensive drink at home before going out, with the laptop over the speakers. But mainly because after those first sessions in 2010, Boiler Room got the idea to move the turntables, DJs and of course the camera to locations all over the world, from beautiful, preferably somewhat unconventional dance festivals such as the Dutch Dekmantel to small clubs in Seoul or Tokyo .
The DJ sets are also visually fascinating, because Boiler Room, in addition to the DJs, also puts a few handfuls of audience behind the turntable. That audience can then keep a close eye on the DJ and react enthusiastically to every new record. And the viewer at home can see what a confident and certainly not shy dance audience looks like in Berlin, Mexico City, Lima, Lisbon, São Paulo or Los Angeles.
What are the best sessions that everyone should watch?
The DJ set recorded nine years ago by British house and techno king Carl Cox (60), who has taken on a life of his own, should not be missed. More than 58 million people watched the 45-minute session at a swimming pool on the dance island of Ibiza. Of course to listen to the tight and exciting track list, but probably also to observe the beautiful people in the background. Compliments can still be handed out in the comments section: ‘Go for it, lady in blue!’
But it is even more fun to travel the world for a while, because the distant sessions are often just that little bit more special. A beautiful example is a Boiler Room from the Palestinian city of Ramallah, where the young DJ Sama’ Abdulhadi spins together a great set of techno, on the street, among a dancing Palestinian audience. Boiler Room is looking for adventure and wants to give young DJ talent from less obvious regions a chance to present themselves to a global audience. And that works: Abdulhadi’s set has also been viewed 10 million times. Now, four years after the recording, she travels the world with her music. According to many connoisseurs, Boiler Room has been one of the main drivers of global dance culture because of shows like this.
A Boiler Room festival is now being held in Amsterdam. What is that?
Boiler Room started its own festival three years ago in the working-class neighborhood of Peckham near London. Now it’s Amsterdam’s turn. From Thursday 24 November, an incredible 48 DJ sets will be recorded and broadcast. Naturally, a lot of Dutch talent appears behind the table, from Mad Miran to De Schuurman and the dazzling duo Animistic Beliefs. The bad news: audiences can be received by invitation only, at one of the city’s seven stages and studios. The good news: anyone can watch the live streams, free of charge.
The Boiler Room Festival Amsterdam will be held from 24 to 26/11 at various locations in Amsterdam. The public that wants to attend can register and then have to wait for an invitation. The applications are judged by a number of DJs who appear behind the turntables. The sets will be streamed via Boiler Room’s channels, on YouTube and its own site, and can be followed live.