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Mash-ups get their own nights

Call ’em what you will — mash-ups, bootlegs, bastard pop — but those semi-legal MP3s, in which the vocals and music of disparate songs are digitally wed to create whole new tunes, are everywhere. Now, with their "Mash Ave" nights at River Gods and Toast, Somerville’s Bob Cronin (a/k/a DJ BC) and Luke Enlow (LenLow) are taking them offline and playing ’em live.

Cronin — who was making analog prototypes of mash-ups using a four-track recorder and a guitar delay pedal way back in the pre-Internet early ’90s — has been putting digital mash-ups on his own Web site (www.djbc.net) and on message boards like Get Your Bootleg On (gybo.proboards4.com) for some time. A song like "Nothing in Its Right Place" mixes Radiohead and the Roots, for instance, while "Sweet Dirty South" is more thematic, combining Lynyrd Skynyrd’s "Sweet Home Alabama" with "Dirty South" by Goodie Mob and Big Boi. But when Cronin released a nine-song online album last month called simply The Beastles (splicing, you guessed it, the Beatles and the Beastie Boys), he really began attracting notice. "It proliferated through the blogosphere," he says. "In the last three weeks the site has gotten 115,000 hits, and I’ve been getting e-mails from all over the place. OuiFM in Paris is playing it, Beat 106 in Scotland is playing it, DJ Muggs is playing it on [New York City station] K-Rock."

Cronin says he was obviously inspired by DJ Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album, which mixed and matched tracks from the Beatles’ White Album with a cappella raps from Jay-Z’s The Black Album. (And whose legal tussle with the Beatles’ publisher, EMI, inspired Grey Tuesday, where more than 170 Web sites hosted the album last February 24 in an act of online civil disobedience.) But, he says, "I’ve always loved the Beatles and I’ve always loved the Beastie Boys. And, of course, [Beasties record] Paul’s Boutique has a number of Beatles samples on it, so the idea of sampling the Beatles for hip-hop is kind of an old one." Cronin’s splicing ’n’ dicing is more nuanced and complex than that of many bootleggers. "Whatcha Want, Lady?" weds the Boys’ in-your-face taunts with the bouncy piano from "Lady Madonna." On "Mother Nature’s Rump," Paul McCartney’s bucolic idyll is enlivened with a pounding breakbeat.

Cronin has more up his sleeve. "I recently contacted the Perceptionists — DJ Fakts One, Mr. Lif, and Akrobatik," he says. "They’re in the process of producing their album now, but they’re gonna let me use a couple a cappellas and I’m gonna be mashing them up with some Boston bands, like Cracktorch, Uncle Shaker, Jetlagger. Since it’s actually sanctioned, if people like what they hear, maybe we’ll work something out where it actually gets released." As for The Beastles, Cronin thinks — hopes, at least — a lot has changed since The Grey Album came out a year ago. "I haven’t heard from EMI, who would be the ones to give me a cease and desist," he says. "I think that record companies are trying to figure out how they can make money off of these. It has been blowing up, and a lot of people are listening to them. Plus, they can’t really control the entirety of the Internet. They’re chasing shadows."

"Mash Ave" takes place every Friday night, starting January 21, at Toast, 70 Union Square, in Somerville; call (617) 623-9211. It also happens the last Tuesday of every month, beginning January 25, at River Gods, 125 River Street, in Cambridge; call (617) 576-1881. Visit mashave.com, djbc.net, and luke.enlow.net for more information.

Issue Date: January 21 - 27, 2005
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