By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Late last month, hordes of electronic dance music fans took to the streets outside Hollywood's Grauman's Chinese Theater for the premiere of the music documentary Electric Daisy Carnival Experience, which takes an in-depth look behind the scenes of Los Angeles' popular EDM-centric music festival. The masses showed thanks in large part to a tweet from Kaskade, the internationally renowned EDM producer and DJ, who announced the night before the event that he'd be performing a free outdoor set for all who showed.
But what was intended to be nothing more than a harmless block party surrounding the premiere quickly escalated into a near melee. The event turned in to a giant rave, as thousands mobbed the streets, blocking traffic. Los Angeles police officers, decked out in riot gear, eventually won over the crowds, calming the escalating situation — but not before an LAPD car was reportedly set on fire.
Need proof that EDM is a big deal in 2011? There you have it.
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Need more? How about the fact that there's now a touring EDM festival?
A few weeks back, the Identity Festival, with a few dozen big-name DJs in tow, officially kicked off its month-long, 20-city tour of the United States. It's being presented as the first of its kind. But, given the EDM scene's troubles of late, might it also be the last?
This much is for certain: The Identity Festival sure is big. Festival mogul John Reese, who's had his hand in creating both the Rockstar Mayhem Festival and the Taste of Chaos tour, initially came up with the idea after noticing an uptick in EDM interest. It turned into a reality when two of the bigger names in the EDM community took early interest in the project. Not only did Kaskade and fellow superstar Steve Aoki, founder of Dim Mak records and basically the hipster DJ of the universe, think the idea was a good one, they also wanted in on the creative and organizational aspects. Reese, not surprisingly, was more than happy to oblige.
"I gave them 50, 60 names of what I thought were really cool artists, and electronic musicians that are doing cool and interesting things," Kaskade explains over the phone from a rehearsal for Identity before the tour kicked off in a town outside of Indianapolis earlier this month. "I was one of the guys who was speaking up and saying that it needs to be really diverse, and represent a lot of different niches that are in EDM. I feel like, before, we got really stuck on the genres. Now it's like we're more accepting. [Crowds] aren't so worried about some little micro-genre; they're just like, 'I like this song, I don't care what it is. It's drum and bass? It's dubstep? I don't care. This is awesome.'"
Problem is, it's also dangerous. Or it has been. No, not everyone who attends EDM events comes decked out in elaborate costumes, sporting LED gloves and those raver boots that look like a My Little Pony did the deed with a pair of Uggs. But that's part of the element. So, too, are drugs — even as EDM enjoys its greatest run in the mainstream to date. Authorities have blamed ecstasy pills (and subsequent user dehydration) for the recent deaths and numerous hospitalizations that came recently at the one-off Electric Daisy Carnival events in both Dallas and L.A.
DJs like Aoki are eager to speak out about such drug use — and the fact that, as the EDM movement as a whole moves forward, the drug aspects are holding the genre back.
"There's going to be some fucking idiots that are going to come here and sell drugs and do drugs, and that's something that I'm not promoting, for sure," Aoki says. "I think, most of us, we don't want that. We don't want that stain on this music culture."
But it's difficult to ignore the juxtaposition between the fun carefree nature of EDM music and the cold hard reality of a bad trip. It's similarly just as difficult to ignore EDM's stranglehold over the modern music landscape. It's difficult enough to listen to Top 40 radio these days without hearing the genre's influence, let alone to walk into a restaurant and not be inundated with faint dance beats being piped into the dining room. EDM may have bubbled up at times before, but never like this, never this successfully, never this incessantly and never with it being so prominently discussed in the mainstream media — even if in some cases it's only brought up negatively.
Kaskade, for one, isn't worried. Far as he sees it, this is all just the beginning.
"It's going to continue on its path of world domination," he says proudly of his chosen genre. "It's weird. Now that I've kind of seen where it can go, I definitely think it's going to go all the way. And when I say that, I mean that I think it's going to be completely synonymous with pop music and pop culture."