Together fest de-emphasizes Cambridge; World’s Fair, concert return is in question

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Yasiin Bey, the hip-hop performer also known as Mos Def, is schedule to perform as part of the Together festival May 15. (Photo: Michelle Ettlin)

Yasiin Bey, the hip-hop performer also known as Mos Def, is schedule to perform as part of the Together festival May 15. (Photo: Michelle Ettlin)

The Together electronic music and technology festival returns May 11-18, moving into Boston for its biggest acts.

The fifth festival is still being pulled together, but organizers said they’ll be posting performance and booking information as they get it – starting with Yasiin Bey (known as Mos Def until the summer of 2011) playing Boston’s Wilbur theater May 15. Tickets are $35 to $45, or included with the purchase of festival passes.

It may stand out among the sounds of techno and electronica predominant at the festival, but there’s precedent from last year.

“As we’ve expanded over the years, hip-hop culture has played a larger and larger role, in addition to other new musical forms,” said Alex Maniatis, the festival’s managing director and booking coordinator.

Shows will also take place at The Middle East in Central Square (such as May 14 with Robert Hood, one of the founders of the cult Detroit techno group Underground Resistance and of the M-Plant record label) and at The Sinclair in Harvard Square (including a May 12 show with Vienna-based Sohn). The Brighton Music Hall has Together performances booked as well.

There are also announcements on the way of the festival’s daytime panels, presentations and demonstrations, film screenings, music technology seminars and meet-ups all around Cambridge and Boston, festival founder and creative director David Day said.

Cambridgeside

Last year’s festival dominated Cambridge clubs, even spilling over to venues such as the ImprovBoston comedy club in Central Square, and coincided with the revival of the Central Square World’s Fair and its giant, outdoor concert and annual art event, Cambridge Open Studios. This year, the open studios are April 26-27, held apart from Together.

It hasn’t been determined whether there will be a World’s Fair this year or a concert with Together, said Robin Lapidus, executive director of the Central Square Business Association and the square’s Cultural District designation. The association is focusing on other plans, and last year’s afternoon concert was held in the shadow of the Boston Marathon bombing and the violent events that followed, leaving the results with a bit of an asterisk.

“It was close on the heels of the bombing, and it was unclear how to have a large public event,” Lapidus said. The concert was moved from Massachusetts Avenue, which would have to be closed to traffic to hold large crowds, to a grassy area in nearby University Park. “The attendance was good for a first-time event in a new location, but it’s hard to measure based on anything else.”

Even if there’s no World’s Fair and outdoor concert, Central Square may yet host a Together record exchange, she said. In the meantime, other projects have her attention:

Cambridge Elements brings together scientists and artists for projects that will overlap with the Cambridge Science Festival to be held April 18-27, including an outdoor event on the final day. “What they’re doing is phenomenal,” Lapidus said of the collaborations. “In the past we haven’t been able to connect Central Square physically with the Science Festival, and this is that opportunity.”

The Taste of Cambridge food sampling event has been moved to July 15, out of the June rainy season that forced the date to change twice last year. And there are yet other new events on the way Lapidus said she couldn’t yet reveal.

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