You close your eyes and feel your heart beating to the bass of the music. Smiling, dancing people envelope the space around you so you’re all packed together like sardines. You find yourself moving along with them like a school of fish gliding through every wave of the ocean. Attending EDM, electronic dance music, and dubstep festivals and shows is like no other experience. The laser and light shows mesmerize your eyes, the fellow ravers around you dancing so close to you send sensations through your skin, your ears ring with every drop of the bass. The EDM culture has been growing more and more popular since the 2000’s. With festivals like EZoo, Firefly, Electric Forest, Ultra Music Festival, TomorrowWorld, and many more, the EDM scene is expanding rapidly. According to Wikipedia, festival officials for Ultra recorded that the first time the festival was held in 1999 they sold 70,000 tickets then 100,000 in 2010 and 330,000 in 2013. Similarly the amount of artists performing at these festivals has increased as well. In 2009, EZoo was a two-day event and had 55 performers then by 2013 the festival expanded to three days long and featured 134 artists. You can even see the EDM culture expanding and coming to James Madison University. On October 19, 2012, JMU held MadiGlow in the Dark featuring Baker & Atkinson, which was sponsored by GlowU and White Raver Rafting. Experiencing a show is possibly the only way to fully explain why this culture is cultivating among so many people but I’ll try to give it justice.
To a follower of the EDM culture, it is clear why this music is becoming so popular. One reason is that the entire culture as a whole is based off of a simple love of music and the want for not only you, but everyone around you to have an unforgettable experience. This is extremely evident when at a festival or show. The people around you are more than willing to go out of their way in order to insure that others are having a good time an enjoying the music. Whether by dancing with you, picking you up on their shoulders so you have a better view or just simply saying hello, usual attenders of shows are selfless and driven by their passion for the beats. Brooke Maden is a JMU student and frequent show attender. When asked why her love for EDM music is so strong she replied, “The music just brings all different kinds of people together. There isn’t one type of person that enjoys EDM and dubstep. It’s a cluster of different personalities and races and ethnicities.” You can feel this love for music radiating off of the audience as you all feed off of each other’s vibes, dancing together almost as if you were all one person. You can feel it from the DJs interaction with the audience by them pumping their arms in the air along with the crowd or dancing along with you all. The DJ’s dedicate their lives to create this music solely to have you be so moved by it that you can’t help but to bounce, sway and dance to it. Shown in the video below, in an interview with NotMTV, Lorin, otherwise known as Bassnectar, said, “I’m married to my music,” when asked if he was in a relationship.
So through their dedication to the music, beats and passion, artists help spread this love for music. My brother, Joe Mayes, is an adamant show and festival attender. He has been to over fifty shows. When I asked him to describe what going to shows means to him I could feel his passion through the phone. “During the shows you feel connected to everyone around you because you’re all there for one reason and that is to feed your addiction to the beats that DJ’s throw down. You’re entire experience is enhanced by those around you, you all play off of each other’s vibes.” You don’t only connect to the people directly around you but you also create a bond between the DJ themselves. “Good DJ’s can literally control how the crowd feels with certain songs. They use sound to evoke certain emotions from you.” So with one press of a button and one single tone, you and the DJ become one, feeling the same emotion, moving in the same manner to the beat.
EDM also revolves around another value. That is peace, love, unity and respect; otherwise known as PLUR. This concept first became evident to me when I was at my first show ever. It was my freshman year of high school and I was seeing Deadmau5. I was so close to the stage that I could almost reach out and touch him. With each beat I would bounce along side the crowd feeling as if I had known these people for my entire life. I had been dancing along side two groups of people; we would all scream the lyrics with each other. All of a sudden I see people come from each group on either side of me say hello to each other and introduce themselves. They then made a peace sign with their hands, then a heart and then held each other’s hands and each transferred one of their bracelets to the wrist of the other. They then hugged and began dancing again. I had just witnessed my first PLUR trade. It astonished me that two people who had previously not even known each other’s names, let alone had ever met, could have such a personal exchange. This video shows one of these PLUR kandi trades. If you’re ever able to attend a show, I recommend going up to someone and participating in this exchange.
Ravers, no matter how different their backgrounds, all feel as though we have personal connections through the music we listen to. There is actually a group of people that call themselves the BNF, or the Bassnectar Family. They are a crowd of bassheads, people who are large followers of EDM, who follow Bassnectar to the majority of his shows. My brother joined this group about four years ago and has been an active member ever since. “I have met so many amazing people through BNF. You travel together, stay in different cities together and get to have some of the most insane experiences together.” The joys of this culture don’t end when you leave the show either. The people you meet at shows can become friends you keep forever.
You also are able to make connections with EDM-goers outside of concerts. I met one of my really good friends at James Madison University because he noticed the kandi on my wrist and asked me if I was a show-goer. We almost instantly became best friends. “I once met a girl in Walmart because she approached me about my Kaskade shirt. We talked for about thirty minutes and found out we were both going to be at a festival in the summer. We exchanged numbers and decided to meet up once we got there,” Brooke explained to me. EDM has the ability to bring extremely different types of people together and that is another benefit of it. DJ’s actually preach unity at shows. They encourage the audience to accept one another and become one through their music. Bassnectar, in fact, takes pictures that he calls family photos at every show. It’s a picture of him and the audience all together as if a family. Here is an example of one of many of these photos:
Although this culture is growing everyday, there are some people that are very against EDM because they have misconceptions about the culture. For instance, there is a stereotype that all people that attend these shows are on some type of substance whether it be Molly, Ecstasy, alcohol or Marijuana. This couldn’t be more wrong. My friends and I have been to countless shows, like Bassnectar, Deadmau5, or Kaskade, and have never taken any sort of drug. You don’t need to be high in order to enjoy the music. However, unfortunately, it isn’t a surprise that this stereotype has come about. There are those people that can’t enjoy the experience sober and stupidly try to heighten their experience through some substance. You always hear about those kinds of people because they often have “bad trips” and end up getting arrested or injured. There have even been deaths that have occurred at certain festivals such as EZoo that resulted from drug overdoses. But these drug-dependent people are not the majority. Most ravers are just high off the sole experience of the show and nothing else. “You don’t need to take drugs, the atmosphere at shows is like a drug its self. You just absorb the music and let it flow through your body,” says Brooke.
This culture can be quite a misunderstood one. But for those who are already followers of EDM, there is no experience like it in the entire world. If you have never had the chance to go to a show or a festival I highly recommend it. No amount of explanation could even come close to describing the experience. It’s more than just a concert, it’s the ripple affect of feeding off of the vibes of the people around you, the drops of the beat that grab you by the hips and make you dance, the light show that captivates your mind and the overall feeling of love in the atmosphere.
Ashton, Lorin. Family Photo. 2013. Family Photos, Mountain Oasis. Bassnectar. Photo. 2/12/14.
Barbaricgerm. “PLUR Warriors – Presented by Lady Casa and Barbarica.”YouTube. YouTube, 07 May 2013. Web. 20 Apr. 2014.
Mayes, Joe. Personal Interview. 11 February 2014.
Maden, Brooke. Personal Interview. 8 April 2014.
Rowles, Tom. “Lorin of Bassnectar – Interview on NotMTV.” YouTube. YouTube, 05 May 2009. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.
“Ultra Music Festival.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Apr. 2014. Web. 20 Apr. 2014.