WBEZ | EDM http://www.wbez.org/tags/edm Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en EDM after the drop: What a wounded corporate giant means for dance music culture http://www.wbez.org/news/music/edm-after-drop-what-wounded-corporate-giant-means-dance-music-culture-113209 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Festivalgoers at TomorrowWorld Electronic Music Festival in 2013..jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res445043110"><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Festivalgoers at TomorrowWorld Electronic Music Festival in 2013." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/01/gettyimages-182603438_wide-cbe1cf96bfd6238dd03c6091799431e3a2fce61b-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 343px; width: 610px;" title="Festivalgoers at TomorrowWorld Electronic Music Festival in 2013. (Christopher Polk/Getty Images)" /></div><div><div><p>Mud has a way of capturing the popular memory of a music festival. After stormy weather hit this year&#39;s massive TomorrowWorld, an electronic dance music gathering held in Chattahoochee Hillso, Georgia on September 25-27, images circulated online of self-identified festival goers sleeping, stranded, on the soggy ground. Organizers of the event, which last year drew 160,000 people, ultimately closed off the final day to anyone not among the estimated 40,000 on-site campers.</p></div></div></div><p>TomorrowWorld has promised refunds, and a festival spokesperson told NPR in a statement, &quot;The safety of our attendees is our top priority.&quot; But the public-relations disaster came at a curious time for the fest&#39;s parent company, SFX Entertainment, and the world of EDM as a whole.</p><p>On October 14, SFX faces a self-imposed deadline for considering offers to buy all or part of the EDM-focused conglomerate. SFX&#39;s D-Day arrives after multiple postponements, and after its colorful chief executive, the veteran radio and live music impresario Robert F.X. Sillerman, scrapped an offer to buy the roughly 60% of the business he didn&#39;t already own. The backdrop is a precipitous fall in SFX&#39;s market value, from more than $1 billion when it went public in October 2013 to around $70 million as of October 5. With so much money in flux, what happens to SFX can&#39;t help but reflect on the broader culture of dance music, which goes back more than four decades, to the worlds of rave, techno, house and disco. In 2015, that mud is big business.</p><div id="res445046423"><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="Robert F.X. Sillerman, CEO of SFX." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/01/gettyimages-184435502_sq-8e39f0d6a15e79b70a170137d0651f03b1f4c771-s400-c85.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: left;" title="Robert F.X. Sillerman, CEO of SFX. (Robin Marchant/Getty Images)" /></div><div><div><p>Sillerman, in a nearly 40-minute interview with NPR just hours before the photos from Georgia began surfacing, acknowledged his business failings while describing his attraction to EDM culture as sociological more than aesthetic. &quot;There are things I&#39;ve done terribly and I deserve to be faulted for them,&quot; the 67-year-old Bronx native says from a home in the Hamptons, his voice raspy following successful tongue cancer treatment in 2001. Of EDM&#39;s young fans and any connection they might feel with the scene that existed before them, he tells NPR: &quot;I don&#39;t think they want to discover the past. I think they want to invent the future.&quot;</p></div></div></div><p>The genesis of SFX was a little bit of both. In 2000, Sillerman sold the first version of SFX Entertainment, a patchwork of live-music companies that is now Live Nation Entertainment, to Clear Channel for $4.4 billion. He founded the current SFX in 2012 with a plan to spend $1 billion buying up EDM businesses. In effect, he was looking to repeat his past deal-making success with the music he now saw as the future. Among SFX&#39;s high-profile acquisitions have been the European festival promoters ID&amp;T, American festivals such as New York&#39;s Electric Zoo and the genre&#39;s top digital music retailer, Beatport.</p><p>SFX positioned itself as the face of EDM but never laid claim to the tradition that gave rise to it. &quot;From a personal point of view, I&#39;ve always loved to dance, but that&#39;s not why we got into this,&quot; Sillerman says. &quot;The appeal was pure and simply to be attached to a generational movement.&quot;</p><p>Nor does Sillerman profess to bring anything new to the culture. &quot;If there was a contribution we&#39;ve made, it&#39;s to make it easier for fans and DJs and producers around the world to access it.&quot;</p><p>But despite SFX&#39;s partnerships with established promoters, the company&#39;s connection to the culture it markets is subject to debate. &quot;That genre is evolving,&quot; says a former SFX executive who asked not to be named, citing obligations to a current employer. &quot;When I was at SFX, we didn&#39;t tell the proper story about the culture and the evolution of the actual genre. It&#39;s ever-changing. We used it as a static point in time, and that&#39;s not what that genre&#39;s about.&quot;</p><p>A weakened SFX, then, doesn&#39;t necessarily mean weakness for the hodgepodge of styles that might be loosely lumped together as EDM.</p><p>In fact, few acts today stand with one foot in SFX&#39;s world and another in the underground, says Marea Stamper, who DJs and produces music as the Black Madonna and works as a creative director and talent buyer at Chicago club Smart Bar. &quot;It&#39;s like comparing Kiss to the Clash,&quot; she observes. &quot;They&#39;re just not related.&quot;</p><p>Electronic dance music actually has multiple cultures running in parallel, and none are going away anytime soon, says Philip Sherburne, a contributing editor at Pitchfork (and former Beatport news blog editor). That&#39;s not to say mainstream culture hasn&#39;t changed. Sherburne traces a shift to around 2008, when longtime club-goers who followed dance music traditions gave way to a younger, bigger crop of fans that were learning about the music through modern channels.</p><div id="res445045252"><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Avicii performs during the KROQ Weenie Roast at Verizon Wireless Music Center on May 31, 2014 in Irvine, California." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/01/gettyimages-494974919_wide-90e8617be33d12c64a7f41cb3b1ce094c843e3e0-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 337px; width: 600px;" title="Avicii performs during the KROQ Weenie Roast at Verizon Wireless Music Center on May 31, 2014 in Irvine, California. (Christopher Polk/Getty Images)" /></div><div><p>Sherburne agrees with Stamper&#39;s comparison between SFX-scale acts and vintage pop-metal bands. &quot;Just sonically, Avicii or mainstream EDM sounds to me like Van Halen&#39;s &#39;Jump,&#39;&quot; Sherburne says. &quot;It&#39;s the same synthesizers; it&#39;s the same pleasure centers. You could say that Alesso is Bon Jovi. Bon Jovi took metal or hard rock and aimed it squarely at a very mainstream, middle-American public. That&#39;s exactly the same thing: These artists have taken what was once a subculture and redesigned it along a pop format. I don&#39;t know the economics of hair metal, but it seems to me pretty clear that [with EDM] we&#39;re in the era of the Wingers and the Whitesnakes.&quot;</p></div></div><p>Fittingly, the neon and glow-stick set has climbed up the pop charts. In July, &quot;Where Are Ü Now,&quot; a tender electronic-pop ballad by Jack Ü, the joint venture of producers Diplo and Skrillex, and featuring Justin Bieber on vocals, cracked the top 10 of&nbsp;Billboard&#39;s Hot 100.&nbsp;The New York Times&nbsp;documented the making of the song in a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/08/25/arts/music/justin-bieber-diplo-skrillex-make-a-hit-song.html?_r=1">video</a>, rebutting the idea of EDM-pop as just empty calories.</p><p>Ali Shirazinia, who won a Grammy in 2002 with progressive house duo Deep Dish and now performs minimal house and techno as Dubfire, has seen EDM from various sides, finding value in each.</p><p>&quot;I don&#39;t have time for nostalgia or boohooing about the way things used to be,&quot; Shirazinia tells NPR in an emailed statement. &quot;What defines me as a DJ is being steeped in the tradition of the art form, and I am grateful and very fortunate to have had that education. It makes me a more skilled, fully formed DJ. But it is not essential.&quot;</p><p>If dance music has avoided artistic bankruptcy, SFX recently raised concerns it might be headed toward the more traditional kind.</p><p>On August 10, SFX reported that despite a 48% rise in second-quarter revenue, it lost a net $48 million. Four days later, the company revealed Sillerman was rescinding his offer to take it private, reopening the bidding until October 2. SFX said it had received an unnamed &quot;indication of interest at a price lower than the $5.25 per share offered by Sillerman.&quot;</p><p>On September 17, the company announced $90 million in new financing. Rich Tullo, director of research at the financial services organization&nbsp;Albert Fried &amp; Company, tells NPR the financing &quot;takes bankruptcy off the table.&quot; Ratings agency Moody&#39;s called the move &quot;credit positive&quot; and SFX poised to stay afloat. Yet on October 1, SFX once again postponed the cut-off for bids, saying offers to buy all or part of the company would now be due October 14.</p><p>Speaking before the extension, Sillerman told NPR he plans to submit a revised bid, without further details. Asked whether he plans to sell a part of the business, such as Beatport, he says: &quot;No,&quot; though he immediately adds, &quot;I know that whenever I&#39;ve made a definitive statement like that it always turns out not to be true ... but we&#39;ve been pretty careful assembling only parts of the business that genuinely make sense.&quot;</p><p>The realm of quarterly earnings reports and corporate mergers is absurdly far removed from the early days of raving in the United States.</p><p>Drew Daniel, a member of experimental electronic duo Matmos who also records as Soft Pink Truth, remembers his experience with dance-music subculture began at free, illegal parties &mdash; the type that would be powered with a generator under a freeway overpass.</p><p>&quot;There were always limits and doubts that I had about the utopian ambitions of the rave era, but there was still a feeling that raving could mean cutting ties to business as usual,&quot; Daniel says. &quot;It&#39;s epitomized in that kind of hilarious gatefold drawing inside one of those early Prodigy LPs.&quot;</p><p>The artwork for the 1994 album&nbsp;Music for the Jilted Generationshows a long-haired raver cutting a bridge that connects the toxic, heavily policed city to an idyllic meadow.</p><p>&quot;That exemplifies this idea that radical forms of dance music could also lead to radical forms of creating community,&quot; Daniel says. &quot;There&#39;s always been a spectrum, so I don&#39;t want to say there used to be a good thing and now there&#39;s a terrible thing &mdash; that&#39;s overly simplified.&quot;</p><p>SFX confronts different sorts of battles. A class-action lawsuit claims Sillerman&#39;s buyout offer was a &quot;sham process.&quot; Another suit, which a federal court judge in Los Angeles ruled may proceed, is from three men who allege they co-founded SFX with Sillerman. Asked about the cases, Sillerman tells NPR, &quot;Without being disrespectful, look at the people who filed them.&quot;</p><p>SFX-owned Beatport came under fire in early August, when it told some artists and labels via email that their royalties were &quot;trapped&quot; in connection with Sillerman&#39;s buy-out deal proposal. Within a week, Beatport reversed course and issued a contrite statement. &quot;I did not pound the table,&quot; acknowledges Sillerman. &quot;I should have and I finally did.&quot;</p><p>SFX has a reputation as particularly business-minded even in the realm of corporate EDM.</p><p>Jason Huvaere and Sam Fotias, co-founders of Paxahau, the production and promotion team behind Detroit&#39;s Movement Electronic Music Festival, differentiate SFX from Live Nation, which signed deals with the likes of Los Angeles promoters Insomniac and HARD.</p><p>&quot;When SFX came in, they had promoters lined up down the block because they were openly selling it as a financial gain,&quot; Huvaere recalls. &quot;That was the big pitch. I got a text once that said, &#39;Do you like money,&#39; question mark.&quot;</p><p>Shirazinia, aka Dubfire, concurs, &quot;Everyone had a price, and Sillerman took advantage of that.&quot;</p><p>Meanwhile, some indicators for the EDM business are less glowing than they once were.</p><p>The global EDM business took in $6.2 billion in revenue in 2014, according to the latest&nbsp;<a href="http://www.internationalmusicsummit.com/img/stand_alone_files/file/original/ims-business-report-2015-na-edition-vfinal-14.pdf">IMS Business Report</a>, growing at a 12% pace compared with 37% in 2013.</p><div id="res445044873"><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="TomorrowWorld Electronic Music Festival in September 2013." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/01/gettyimages-182603664_wide-ccbd12772bb47593630d6f911f508303f60932a4-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 337px; width: 600px;" title="TomorrowWorld Electronic Music Festival in September 2013. (Christopher Polk/Getty Images)" /></div><div><div><p>More anecdotally, the EDM-themed Zac Efron vehicle&nbsp;We Are Your Friends&nbsp;opened August 28 for a first-weekend gross of only $1.8 million, one of the worst ever for a wide-release movie.</p></div></div></div><p>And though a slimmed-down iteration of SFX-owned Electric Zoo boasted attendance of 80,000 over Labor Day weekend, the company canceled its planned September 25-26 One Tribe Festival, set to take place outside Los Angeles, citing disappointing sales. Add to that the debacle at TomorrowWorld, which the local authorities have pledged to investigate. The review process will probably start this week, Chattahoochee Hills Mayor Tom Reed says in an email to NPR, &quot;We&#39;ve been focused on first getting everybody out safely, and then cleanup.&quot;</p><p>Another risk factor for SFX in particular and EDM in general is its perceived link with drug use. SFX acquired Electric Zoo in November 2013, just two months after the deaths of two fans and hospitalizations of three others led the event on New York City&#39;s Randall&#39;s Island to close a day early.</p><p>The correlation between EDM and health problems is overstated, suggests Albert &amp; Fried&#39;s Tullo. &quot;Where the industry needs to be vigilant is making sure there&#39;s proper emergency medical attention and security at these festivals to keep everybody safe,&quot; he says.</p><p>Because the EDM business is tailored toward the idea of taking part in an experience rather than watching a performance, it doesn&#39;t necessarily lend itself to the kind of growth needed for SFX to be profitable. &quot;Scaling an experience is difficult to do,&quot; says Brandon Clark, an entertainment lawyer at McKee, Voorhees &amp; Sease who has handled A&amp;R for a small EDM imprint. &quot;That&#39;s almost in the DNA of the experience.&quot;</p><p>As Sillerman explains it, his business strategy for SFX is rooted in sociological theory about the millennial generation. In the rock era, he says, with the dawn of singers writing their own songs, &quot;What you had was a seismic shift where music became an expression and not a reflection.&quot; But &quot;the digital generation,&quot; born in the &#39;90s, &quot;decided to not reflect but to interpret,&quot; which they did through creating &quot;digital music.&quot;</p><p>&quot;We know that the generation today, thankfully, likes to make up its own mind. They don&#39;t make decisions based on movie reviews or restaurant reviews. It&#39;s peer to peer.</p><p>&quot;If you&#39;ve been to an electronic music festival, you&#39;ll see 50,000 kids smiling, dancing, each one telling their own story and interpreting what it means, not being told what they&#39;re listening to. When you think of peer to peer and you think of digital and the freedom that that gives, the cultural impact of the music is unstoppable. And it&#39;s why Justin Bieber and everyone else are asking in, not the other way around.&quot;</p><p>The gravitational pull of a once-$1 billion company is inherently wide. Still, there seems to be broad agreement that dance music&#39;s parallel cultures can find a way to coexist.</p><p>&quot;Dance music will always happen and even have mainstream popularity,&quot; says Smart Bar&#39;s Stamper. &quot;It&#39;s just not going to look the way [SFX] thought.&quot;</p><p>The arrival of big money players hasn&#39;t hurt &quot;the underground culture,&quot; says Paxahau&#39;s Fotias. &quot;It&#39;s almost done more to bring more people to it.&quot;</p><p>Daniel, of Soft Pink Truth and Matmos, says, &quot;There are still plenty of ways that this music can circulate where it&#39;s not tethered to money, whether it&#39;s a SoundCloud culture of people making and sharing weird forms, or whether it&#39;s house parties that are literally house parties, where you aren&#39;t paying to get in the door.&quot;</p><p>He&#39;s careful to note that how much money changes hands doesn&#39;t correlate neatly with the quality of music. But doing events above a certain scale often leads to &quot;increasingly cumbersome and increasingly compromised relationships, and the result is something vulgar and crappy,&quot; Daniel says with a laugh.</p><p>Paxahua&#39;s Huvaere says he can&#39;t take issue with any publicly traded company for seeing an opportunity in the growing dance-music space, though his own business has remained independent. &quot;He&#39;s almost just part of nature,&quot; Huvaere says of Sillerman. In other words, where there&#39;s a chance to make money, someone will take it; whatever can&#39;t be valued in dollar terms is practically beside the point.</p><p>It&#39;s easy to see a disconnect between SFX and the extant culture of dance music. More immediately relevant than any cultural changes embodied by the EDM generation, though, might be the commercial ones. And by any account, SFX has made mistakes of management.</p><p>The former SFX executive contacted by NPR says the company was concentrating on increasingly outmoded ways of marketing. &quot;[There&#39;s] a business shift that goes along with that generational shift,&quot; the executive says. &quot;You don&#39;t centralize the sponsorship anymore. You do more native advertising now. There are just fundamental ways of monetizing the business &mdash; [SFX] are not building the business around that.&quot;</p><p>All signs point to plenty more years ahead for electronic music that people dance to. And it&#39;s too soon to count out SFX, though the company may take on a different form. If and when the results of the bidding process emerge with the October 14 deadline, the future of Sillerman&#39;s empire &mdash; and the living, breathing culture that continues to progress in its shadow &mdash; may soon become clearer than Georgia mud.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/therecord/2015/10/06/445039871/edm-after-the-drop-what-a-wounded-corporate-giant-means-for-dance-music-culture"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Tue, 06 Oct 2015 15:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/music/edm-after-drop-what-wounded-corporate-giant-means-dance-music-culture-113209 The rise of EDM festivals in Chicago is a return to local musical roots http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-05/rise-edm-festivals-chicago-return-local-musical-roots-107462 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/3496_316349445146476_1856269964_n.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 600px;" title="(Photo courtesy of Wavefront Music Festival)" /></p><p>Something beautiful rises out of Chicago. Chicagoans know and understand this, but it is only recently that others have begun to see this as well. If Chicago is best in the summer, then the past five years have reaffirmed this truth. Chicago continues to surprise culturally, especially during the summer when the musical arts are given a chance to rise with and compliment the architecture, parks, waterfront and history of Chicago. For many, this is best found in the festival.</p><p>Although produced locally, Chicago&rsquo;s music festivals continue to draw national and international performers and audiences. Not only have music festivals in general found a home in the city, electronic music festivals in particular have begun to take root. With the rise of EDM (electronic dance music), it was inevitable for more genre-specific festivals to rise within the US. But Chicago has taken on a more direct role, with local promoters and organizers creating their own festivals to showcase local acts as well as internationally-acclaimed producers, DJs, and musicians.</p><p>One such festival vying for local prominence is the <a href="http://www.wavefrontmusicfestival.com/" target="_blank"><strong>Wavefront Music Festival</strong></a>, now in its second year. Running from July 5-7, talent producer and principal producer Dino Gardiakos indicated that the rise of EDM signaled the right time to begin their festival.</p><p>&ldquo;If we didn&rsquo;t get into it now, we knew [the city] would be saturated,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Indeed, beginning with last week&rsquo;s&nbsp;<a href="http://electricdaisycarnival.com/Chicago/" target="_blank"><strong>Electric Daisy Carnival</strong></a>, Chicago will also welcome&nbsp;<a href="http://www.springawakeningfestival.com/‎" target="_blank"><strong>Spring Awakening</strong></a>&nbsp;at Soldier Field and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.northcoastfestival.com/‎" target="_blank"><strong>North Coast Music Festival</strong></a>&nbsp;at Union Park. Although each festival includes electronic music acts, each has found room to separate themselves from the rest. For Wavefront, this includes a combination of location (right on Montrose Beach) and performers.</p><p>&ldquo;I think we&rsquo;re the most diverse,&rdquo; Gardiakos said. &ldquo;We have a bit of everything from house to dubstep to disco and with the pioneers who started the music as well.&rdquo;</p><p>Other festival acts include Fatboy Slim, Jacques Lu Cont, and a DFA Records-heavy roster with sets by James Murphy, Nancy Whang, and Pat Mahoney, among others.</p><p><img alt="Matthew Dear at 2012's Wavefront Music Festival" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/31541_316350025146418_1990496521_n.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 600px;" title="(Photo courtesy of Wavefront Music Festival)" /></p><p>In many ways, this rise signals a return to some of Chicago&rsquo;s musical roots, specifically as the birth home of house music. Originating in the early 1980s, house continued to spread throughout the world, spawning a variety of different subgenres such as deep house and Detroit techno. The abundance of these subgenres, fusion genres, and regional scenes quickly spread throughout the 80s, 90s, and aughts. This year&rsquo;s lineup includes &quot;House Comes Home - The Chicago Heritage of House Stage.&quot; Scheduled performers include Frankie Knuckles, Derrick Carter, and Jamie Principle.</p><p>Although finding sporadic prevalence in the mainstream throughout the 1990s, in the United States, electronic music has only recently taken a dominant position among music fans. Although many newer fans are only familiar with acts on major labels or pop artists who have incorporated the use of dirty synths and a 4/4 drum kick beat, the rise of EDM could also introduce audiences to more underground or subgenres. Fans interested in attending any of the local festivals, especially Wavefront, will find such varying degrees in the acts.</p><p>&ldquo;I do respect all of the genres,&rdquo; Gardiakos said. &ldquo;I want the festival to be as dynamic as possible, with what is the most underground to what is the most accessible.&rdquo;</p><p>Genres produce scenes and cultures of their own. Scenes can mean different things. They are often problematic, exclusionary, and usually temporary. But they can also provide an idea of normalcy. And as a scene rises, so too does its place in the personal consciousness.</p><p>&quot;When I was in college, house music wasn&rsquo;t big,&quot; Gardiakos said. &quot;Those DJs were outcasts and now if you go to any college campus, the music people listen to is something electronic.&rdquo;</p><p>This idea is inherent in the term EDM itself, which sums up everything without being specific. In the media, EDM can be used to describe genres, sub-genres, and micro-genres to audiences who might not be familiar with the music.</p><p>But perhaps it also represents something stronger culturally: collective public dancing, the use of synths, and a desire to escape on a grand scale. It would make sense for the festivals to rise, to respond to this growing cultural popularity that can mean different things to different people.The trend may be a fad or a real sign of the changing musical landscape, one that understands the diversity of musical listeners and the access to different and abundant quantities of music.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Britt Julious blogs about culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt&#39;s essays for&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr</a>&nbsp;or on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank">@britticisms</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 31 May 2013 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-05/rise-edm-festivals-chicago-return-local-musical-roots-107462 EDM has grown so popular, the dance music is hitting the campaign trail http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/edm-has-grown-so-popular-dance-music-hitting-campaign-trail-103568 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/TeamBaysideHighAtTheMidOliverPangbornPhotographer.jpg" style="margin: 5px; height: 400px; width: 600px; " title="Team Bayside High at The Mid (Photo by Oliver Pangborn)" /></p><p>First came disco, then house music and then raves.&nbsp;Now there&rsquo;s a new generation dancing to the latest incarnation of EDM.&nbsp;The acronym may sound more like a disease to puzzled parents.&nbsp;But EDM, or electronic dance music, has grown so popular, some political campaigns are using it to woo young voters. And&nbsp;Chicago&rsquo;s playing a major role in that scene.</p><p>Over on the Southwest Side, scores of teens are dancing wildly into the wee hours.&nbsp;They&rsquo;re scantily clad, wearing knee-high fake-fur boots in all colors of the rainbow, and some are draped in neon shorts, bracelets and bikini tops. Others wield glow sticks.</p><p>They&rsquo;re dancing in a bare-bones vacant space with a DJ booth and pulsating lights.&nbsp;The beat is unrelenting and throbbing.</p><p>&quot;Right now we&rsquo;re throwing it in a burned out arcade,&quot; says the 20-year-old underground promoter throwing this illicit rave, who goes by the name of Sub Vice. &quot;There&rsquo;s only four decent venues in Chicago, and the cops know about all of them. So it&rsquo;s either a crackhouse or some large box that the cops know about before you&rsquo;ve put it up on your infoline.&quot;</p><p>&quot;What people don&rsquo;t realize is like this is their Nirvana,&quot; says Zach Partin, publicist for the well-known EDM promoter React Presents. &quot;This is their &lsquo;90s, you know, that was going on at the time. This is their alternative culture.&quot;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/GlowKidsTwoOliverPangbornPhotographer_0.jpg" style="height: 266px; width: 400px; margin: 5px; float: right;" title="Glow kids (Photo by Oliver Pangborn)" />And much like grunge in the &lsquo;90s, EDM has moved beyond the underground and exploded into the mainstream, topping charts the world over.</p><p>Massive festivals such as Chicago&rsquo;s North Coast and Spring Awakening and the Ultra in Miami attract hundreds of thousands each year.&nbsp;Established venues like the Congress, Metro and The Mid sell out DJ-oriented shows in Chicago.&nbsp;EDM artists are even tapped to do commercials for companies like HP and Kmart.</p><p>A friend, DJ Greg Corner, says the craze started taking hold a few years ago.&nbsp;Corner helped launch Dark Wave Disco, one of the first indie-electro parties held at venues.</p><p>&quot;It probably started in 2008,&quot; Corner says. &quot;I would say the next wave started kinda taking over, and it&rsquo;s the biggest it&rsquo;s ever been, hands down. It&rsquo;s never been this big.&quot;</p><p>Back in the day, in the &lsquo;80s, if you wanted to hear house music you had to venture underground to warehouses and private homes. Very few venues booked DJ acts as headliners outside of some exceptions like Smart Bar.</p><p>&quot;Back then, it was very renegade,&quot; he says. As a teen, to avoid age limits at those clubs, Corner started DJ&rsquo;ing parties in his home.&nbsp;Some locations at the time were even deeper underground, as he learned from a promoter:</p><p>&quot;I go to South Michigan Avenue, and I&rsquo;m like &#39;Where&rsquo;s the party?&#39; He&rsquo;s like, &#39;I don&rsquo;t know yet.&#39; I&rsquo;m like &#39;What do you mean?&#39; ... So we went into this office complex. Took an elevator up and they&rsquo;re going, using a screwdriver, opening doors to like these office rooms, and they found one with electricity and it&rsquo;s like, &#39;This is where the party is&#39;.&quot;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/KidInMaskOliverPangbornPhotographer.jpg" style="float: left; height: 233px; width: 350px; margin: 5px;" title="Young people wearing elaborate makeup and neon are part of EDM culture. (Photo by Oliver Pangborn)" />Nearly 20 years later, EDM is so mainstream, DJs are playing it for politicians.&nbsp;In&nbsp; 2011, Corner was asked to DJ President Obama&rsquo;s 50th birthday, and later, events for Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton.</p><p>Some political campaigns are even turning to EDM to attract younger voters. Along with videos by actors, musicians and politicians, the Obama campaign&#39;s YouTube site features a PSA by DJs. The group in the video, DJs for Obama, includes noted artists like Steve Aoki, and they&#39;re holding events and Tweeting, too.</p><p>DJ Mikul Wing of Midnight Conspiracy thinks the music&rsquo;s popularity is a reaction to the current economic and political climate.</p><p>&quot;It&rsquo;s just a good, fun thing,&quot; he says. &quot;It&rsquo;s like an escape from the realities of the world that&rsquo;s out there ... and that&rsquo;s what&rsquo;s driven the direction it&rsquo;s really gone.&quot;</p><p>What&rsquo;s also helped the music go viral is the internet.</p><p>Rick Carrico of the Chicago DJ/Producer duo Team Bayside High says artist often give their tracks away for free on the web, where they&rsquo;re easily discovered and shared. The duo&nbsp;posted their remix of Matt and Kim&rsquo;s &ldquo;Let&rsquo;s Go&rdquo; and got 15,000 plays within a week.&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RaveKidsNeonOliverPangbornPhotographer.jpg" style="float: right; border-width: 5px; border-style: solid; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; height: 250px; width: 375px; " title="Rave kids (Photo by Oliver Pangborn)" />Carrico says the web inspires fans to try it themselves.</p><p>&quot;Everybody can throw an event now, via the internet, promote it, and anybody can create a track. So you&rsquo;ll have people everyday figuring this out and starting to do it. You&rsquo;re going to have tons of people &hellip; It allowed the masses to do what at a certain point only a few were able do.&quot;</p><p>The promoter Sub Vice is a good example. He started going to parties at 13 and then threw his own events, like this Southwest Side rave. He says the music and party vibe are what make this so important.</p><p>&quot;It&rsquo;s just sounds terrible to old people and that&rsquo;s always a plus,&quot; he adds.&nbsp;</p><p>One of the people here dancing is a 19-year-old woman who goes by the name of Gizmo. She says she hits EDM parties like this weekly.</p><p>&quot;You get to come a big group of people that you know, and they&rsquo;re your friends. I mean, friends isn&rsquo;t even the right word for it &ndash; it&rsquo;s family.&quot;</p><p>She takes one quick breath before she jumps back on the dance floor.</p><p><em>NOTE: Music in this story included &quot;Steve Jobs,&quot; featuring Angger Dimas, by Steve Aoki (from Wonderland album); &quot;Circus&nbsp;Bells,&quot; by Robert Armani; &quot;Earthquakey People,&quot; featuring Rivers Cuomo, by Steve Aoki; &quot;Sentinel (Original Mix),&quot; by Midnight Conspiracy; and Matt and Kim&nbsp;-&nbsp;&quot;Let&#39;s Go (Team Bayside High Remix)&quot;, by Team Bayside High.</em></p></p> Thu, 01 Nov 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/edm-has-grown-so-popular-dance-music-hitting-campaign-trail-103568 Bassnectar pumps it up http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-05/bassnectar-pumps-it-98734 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1Bassnectar.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 450px;" title=""></div><p>Though it should be needless to say electronic dance music never has gone away, forever mutating and evolving in sometimes rewarding and sometimes redundant ways, these sounds haven’t been such a focus for the corporate music industry since the late ’90s, when they bubbled up from raves to draw the attention of optimistic major-label execs who expected the likes of Aphex Twin, Orbital and Moby to become “the next big thing” as alternative rock waned.</p><p>Only Moby got there, sort of, and more in an <em>O Brother Where Art Thou?</em>/soccer-mom way than as any true reflection of underground dance culture. Now, “EDM” is once again drawing the big-time culture sharks—witness this front-page canonization <a href="http://www.billboard.com/features/skrillex-diplo-a-trak-the-billboard-cover-1006087352.story#/features/skrillex-diplo-a-trak-the-billboard-cover-1006087352.story?page=2">in the music-biz Bible, <em>Billboard</em></a>—and we’re seeing artists like Deadmau5 and Corey Feldman lookalike Skrillex all too eager to be their chum, headlining big-money festivals and posing and preening on the red carpet at the Grammys.</p><p>Ethically, culturally and most important, musically, Bassnectar is a welcome alternative, and his new self-released <em>Vava Voom,</em> the ninth full album amid a flurry of EPs and singles in a prolific career dating back to 2001, is an impressive example of a talented visionary drawing connections to the genre’s past while breaking ground for the future. There is much more to this guy than the spleen-rattling bottom end so beloved of many of his peers and hinted at in his own stage name.</p><p>From his hazy roots at Burning Man, San Francisco-based Lorin Ashton has become one of the biggest stars in EDM, a touring juggernaut who has made enough money from ticket sales to dedicated “Bassheads” to donate a quarter of a million dollars to charities supporting public education and Net neutrality, on top of traveling with his own state-of-the-art sound system and compassionate security team to assure fans the best experience possible (though the only time he’s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-03-28/critical-congress-security-headliner-brings-his-own-97696">made an issue of the latter</a> was during a recent return to the troubled Congress Theater). But his biggest strengths are a wicked sense of humor and a wide-ranging and inventive sonic palette unequaled in this field since the devilish Richard D. James, coupled with a flair for dramatic dynamics and killer riffs and melodies that underscore his earliest musical days as a stone cold metalhead.</p><p>If on first listen the 11 tracks on <em>Vava Voom </em>sound so diverse that you’re tempted to think they’re the work of different artists—flirting with dub, garage, hip-hop and punk amid the pounding rhythms and gurgling electronics—the ebb and flow of the album begin to make much more sense as you live with it, allowing Ashton to take you on a thrilling rollercoaster ride. From the pulsating, high-energy peaks of “Ping Pong,” “Ugly,” the <em>Blade Runner</em> punk of “Pennywise Tribute” (a reimagining of that band’s “Bro Hymn”) and the Lupe Fiasco-enhanced title track, to the beautiful, lulling, chill-out valleys of “Butterfly” (with gorgeous vocals by Mimi Page), “Nothing Has Been Broken” and “Laughter Crescendo” (a giddy and unforgettable new version of a track from 2005), this is a breakneck trip guaranteed to thrill even if you’d never be caught dead gyrating under the phosphorescent strobes.</p><p><strong>Bassnectar, <em>Vava Voom </em>(Amorphous Music)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the four-star scale: 3.5 stars.</strong></p></p> Wed, 02 May 2012 08:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-05/bassnectar-pumps-it-98734