Wine, grooves and waterfront views: Inside the ICA's new Vinyl Nights

Tyler Kpakpo spins vinyl records during his DJ set last month at the ICA’s Vinyl Nights. (Photo courtesy Tyler Kpakpo)
Tyler Kpakpo spins vinyl records during his DJ set last month at the ICA’s Vinyl Nights. (Photo courtesy Tyler Kpakpo)

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August is here, and as many Boston residents decamp to the lake, Cape or pebble beaches of some Instagrammable European country, it can feel like a sleepy end to summer in the city.

But take a walk along Seaport’s Fan Pier on a Friday night and you’ll find the party isn’t over just yet. Those groovy, rich sounds echoing from the Institute of Contemporary Art are that of “Vinyl Nights,” an evening summer series inviting passersby to enjoy free music and harbor views, as well as (not free) oysters and wine, as they get out of the week’s final day of work.

The ICA’s regular evening events are notably cool, even earning a thumbs up from the city’s nightlife director Corean Reynolds. But Vinyl Nights — which features sets mixed exclusively on vinyl by local DJs — brings something new.

“Vinyl is all about high quality sound. It’s very crisp, clear and warm,” says Tyler Kpakpo, a DJ who mixed up soul, disco, reggae and house music for the ICA’s Vinyl Night on a Friday evening last month alongside fellow DJ Selecta Chemka.

Each night, the DJs are introduced (much like the bar’s curated list of natural wines) with a series of “tasting notes” describing the genres they’ll be playing. Depending on who’s at the helm, that could be anything from Detroit techno to bossa nova to ‘80s Japanese pop.

The mood was calm at first during Kpakpo’s set, which started off with some groovy, ’70s funk. But by 7:30 p.m., the crowd had grown to block party proportions. In a few hours, the area had come to life as people of all ages (and their pets) poured in to find seats on the museum’s massive outdoor staircase where they could enjoy the music and watch the boats go by.

Entertaining crowds on the waterfront in his hometown is something “I would have never imagined,” says Kpakpo. “It becomes personal.” Attendees moved throughout the space, taking the time to sit, eat, dance or chat. I overhead some people meeting friends and others exchanging names — a refreshing change of pace for a city that’s notably hard to make friends in. For a few hours that Friday, the ICA had become a true third place. And the cost of entry? $0.

There are more chances to attend the ICA’s Vinyl Nights — which run 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. the next three Fridays — before the summer’s end. Event dates and DJs are as follows:

  • Aug. 11: No Brakes & Stealth Mode (tasting notes: open format, dance, oldies)
  • Aug. 18: Saucy Lady (tasting notes: funk, disco, Brazilian)
  • Aug. 25:  Alfredo (tasting notes: rare disco, house, Detroit techno)

Sound like your kind of night? Then plan to bring a friend or two and get ready to groove. (Be sure to enter the waterfront patio at the staircase. Admission into the museum itself will still cost you, though you can always check out the galleries for free on Thursdays.)

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Hanna Ali Associate Producer
Hanna Ali is an associate producer for newsletters at WBUR.



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