Follow Friday: TJ Connelly
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As far as cool résumés go, TJ Connelly’s boasts some pretty sweet gigs. Since 2008, he’s been the official DJ and music director at Fenway Park, and more recently, he’s taken on Pats games at Gillette as well—maybe you saw him spinning at the Super Bowl rally on Monday? The active tweeter often shares notes from the DJ booth and beyond, whether he’s continuing his #ramenquest, providing the tunes for your Monday morning commute on WZBC, or tossing out ideas for @midnight’s hashtag game.
Here, Connelly shares some of his top DJ moments, favorite ramen spots, and where his Twitter name, @SenatorJohn, came from.
Can you start by sharing how you initially started DJing at Fenway and Gillette?
I’d written a letter once a year asking if a spot at Fenway might be available, and the third year I got a call before I sent the letter. I came in for auditions and interviews, and got the job as backup DJ in 2005. My predecessor retired in 2007, and I’ve been the DJ and music director at Fenway Park since Opening Day 2008.
At Gillette, I did some consulting on the stadium music in 2013 and ended up working the 24-0 comeback game against the Broncos that year. This summer, they asked me to work the whole season, and thus far it has been an incredible experience.
As a DJ, you get to provide the soundtrack to some pretty amazing moments on the field and in the stands. Do any memories stick out as especially triumphant, funny, romantic, or poignant?
In the last 10 years, I probably have five stories for each of those adjectives. The 2013 season at Fenway was full of incredible moments. [See Connelly’s list of top moments from our December 2013 issue.] But speaking generally, any time several thousand people get up and sing at the top of their lungs, it’s pretty amazing to hear.
What are your top go-to songs for the Sox and Patriots?
The list evolves over time. I’m a big fan of the way The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” sounds in big open spaces. The tone of Fenway and the tone of Gillette are very different, but this year I’ve been playing The Call’s “Let the Day Begin” somewhere near the start of both games. It’s got a heavy but uplifting sound, excellent lyrics, and builds perfectly. On a warm day, I’ll go with a more classic feel, like “In the Street” by Big Star. James Brown is always great to get people dancing, and the way people holler during Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right” is truly awesome.
It’s really fun to read your tweets from the DJ booth during a game. What’s the craziest thing you’ve experienced at a game?
Winning the World Series in 2013 was about as crazy an experience as I can imagine. But in another way, every single moment of this Patriots season has felt crazy, too—learning the mechanics of football production live in front of a stadium full of people is a thrilling challenge. I’ve been so caught up in music and pacing during Patriots games, I haven’t had much opportunity to post playlists, but I try to keep half-an-eye on mentions when I can. It’s nice to hear people like the music.
Your Twitter bio mentions you’re the founder of “@OntheBar.” Could you talk a little about that?
I’ve been working in nightlife for a long time. I’ve always been very interested in the individual people whose creativity builds different experiences around town. The OntheBar app is a platform that helps people see what’s going on all over the city through direct updates from the people working in entertainment and leisure they follow. We’ve been at it for a couple years, focused mostly on bartenders and craft cocktails, and are in the process of expanding.
And you also do radio?
Yes! I did my first show on WZBC last semester in the middle of the night on Fridays and it was a complete blast. I like freeform radio a lot because you’re hearing the tastes and voice of a real live human DJ, similar to the kind of focus on the individual we try to create with OntheBar. I’m now on every Monday morning from 6 to 8 a.m., which fits nicely with my love of coffee. And as a former video store guy, I am incredibly excited to be live on the radio at 6 a.m. on February 2.
Describe your social media presence in three words.
Hits, eclectica, hits.
Your other great interest is ramen. When did your #ramenquest first get started?
Five or six years ago, I set off to try and find the best ramen in Boston. At the time, only a handful of places around town served ramen, but rather than finding the “best,” I learned a lot about the different ways to prepare the dish and got hooked. I traveled quite a bit in the next year, and in every city I visited, I would seek out the places serving ramen. By now, I think I’ve been to roughly 100 different places around the country—one of these days I hope to compile my notes and photos and put a guide together, but unfortunately the work keeps taking a back seat to other projects.
In 2013, for our Asian dining package, you shared four must-have bowls in town. Two years later, would you like to make any updates?
As I’ve been traveling a lot less, it’s been great to see the number of options in Boston grow. I was very happy to see Totto opening in Allston, but I’m most excited to try the lunchtime ramen at Shojo in Chinatown. I try to keep an eye on Twitter too so I can catch monthly special events like “Big Trouble in Little Sycamore” at Sycamore out in Newton or Monday nights at Sweet Cheeks in Fenway.
As far as standards, I still visit Sapporo and Myers & Chang frequently, and Snappy Ramen in Davis and the Sapporo inside H-Mart in Central are great for a change of pace with richer broths or new preparations. Yume Wo Katare remains delicious, particularly if you are incredibly hungry.
Why is your Twitter handle “@SenatorJohn”?
I first started to DJ in bars around Boston around 15 years ago, and when I looked at the club listings in the Phoenix, it seemed like every other DJ had these simple one-word names like “DJ Mug” or “DJ Streetsign” or whatever. I decided I would stand out if I had a ridiculously long name, so I went with “DJ Senator John Blutarski,” based on the epilogue at the end of Animal House where Bluto, dressed like a pirate, drives a convertible off into the sunset with one of the sorority girls from the parade—when I was 22, this seemed like a fairly decent set of goals. I don’t use the name for gigs or on the radio anymore, but I still sign it on mix CDs. I continue to be surprised by the number of Twitter users who think I’m a real U.S. Senator and tweet at me trying to influence my vote on bills in Congress.
And if you were in politics, would you support or oppose Senator Hedlund’s efforts to make “Roadrunner” the official state rock song?
I am entirely in favor of making “Roadrunner” the state rock song. It’s a personal favorite.