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Breaking the Mold: GrooveBoston's Innovation in College Entertainment

Author Name: Sam Helm  

Published On Aug 10th, 2017

Pizzuti Photography

Adapt or die goes the saying. But what happens when you don’t see the benefit in adaptation and decide to revolutionize?

That’s the question that was in front of Bobby Dutton in 2004. A soon to graduate senior, Dutton attended Tufts first Fall Ball. The event, intended to be nicer than frat party but less than a concert, was headlined by DJ Kid Capri – at the time as close to a household DJ as you could get. Fall Ball, held in Gancher -  a field house capable of holding thousands – drew just over 500.

During senior week, facing the “abyss of not knowing what [he] was doing in life,” Dir. Of Student Activities, Ed Cabellon, familiar with Dutton through his AV support for events and computer engineering background, asked Bobby about Fall Ball.

“How did it go” he asked, “Be honest.”

“I’m glad we tried,” replied Dutton, “But it wasn’t what I was hoping it would be.”

“Could you do better?” Cabellon responded.

“I’d love to try.”

Dutton, a computer engineer and self-described nerd, was well known on campus for his involvement in student activities, and as the go-to DJ for frat party’s. Interested in entertainment, Dutton started doing 1099 work for local production vendors – minimum wage gigs involving hours of intensive labor lugging cables through muddy fields, local clubs, arenas, and other venues.

It was at this point that Dutton noticed what he called “a huge gap between the best mobile DJ and the smallest concert. DJ’s peak at good Guitar Center Equipment, and concerts start in a very decent place.”

To Dutton, this was an opportunity. As he had observed, the college demographic wants massive variety, million dollar artists, and an incredible experience. For the college that can’t afford the price tags of the Beyonce, the Kanyes, and the Biebers, they settle for what they can afford, according to Dutton, not what the students want.

The result was a new model. Without the ability to provide the artist in person, Dutton would take the best parts of a great college party and the best parts of a concert production, and combine them with the music from the artists the students love.

“This was before the EDM superstar, and the rock star DJ. We just said ‘We’re going to make the best night ever.’”

The next Fall Dutton was finally able to execute his vision.

“I was still living with my parents, we had no office, no overhead, so we spent as much as we could on production, promotion, and messaging.”

The result: 5,500 students in Gancher. 85 percent of the Tufts student body, start to finish spent their evening in the field house. The event was so successful that the Jumbo community, particularly the student programming board, asked Dutton if they could repeat the event. In January.

“That was the beginning. We called it the mobile club, because in 12 hours we were building something bigger than the Royale or House of Blues.”

With proof of concept, Dutton launched GrooveBoston.

The versatility of GrooveBoston can’t be understated. While their model is unique, they’re happy to accommodate. For 10 years GrooveBoston was a staple for Tufts, and they’re happy to take a back seat and support a campus tradition.

“We’ve got The Bash at Arlington, Texas. We cap off their welcome week with an arena show every year. We’ll advertise as ‘The Bash ft. the Proximity Tour’ if they want to market it that way, but we’re just as happy if they want to call it ‘The Bash.’ We want them to look like heroes for delivering an event that’s huge and awesome.”

When it comes to supporting campus entertainment, GrooveBoston’s production arm, Mission Six, is equally effective in building a show around an artist. Dutton states that working with an artist is a challenge they’re happy to meet. “We love doing shows. We’ll put anyone on stage you want, and make sure it’s a dope sound and lights system and a killer stage.” 

GrooveBoston's 9th Tour will be an incredible campus experienceWhat sets GrooveBoston apart in the live show experience is access. A traditional concert on a college campus involves a production company and local labor arriving early in the morning. Student volunteers are given simple tasks and instructions while the professionals focus on executing every detail of the artist rider to ensure that all the bells and whistles are aligned for the impending sound check.

With a GrooveBoston show, things are different. GrooveBoston designs the package, meeting with the students 3 to 4 times prior to show date to establish the vision and maximize the use of the space.

“My first question is always ‘what are you excited about and what are you stressed about?’ And we use that to build the day. Want to know lighting? Follow Jason. He’ll walk you through everything on the console, and take advantage of your help while he hooks up the DMX controls. Do you want to take pictures? We’ll help you get the best possible shot and tell you when something crazy is about to happen in the show.”

Students often feel overwhelmed at the accommodation, typically being relegated to photographs from the pit – the area between barricade and stage – and only having the ability to take photos for the first three songs.

“You paid us to be there, it’s my job to make sure you get what you want.”

To learn more about GrooveBoston and see what they do check out their OCL Profile here (insert URL), check out their website here, and contact GB at BOOKINGS@GROOVEBOSTON.COM or 1-888-815-9694.