EDITORIAL: GBallz & Bernie Roche Discuss the Current State of EDM

After Co-Founder GBallz and contributing writer Bernie Roche attended an 18+ Dada Life show in a town called Revere, Massachusetts (north of Boston) last week, they had an email correspondence about the state of dance music and dance music culture from their perspective living in the United States’ Northeast. The two dance music fans had free entry to the show, had only consumed a couple beers, and both are 24 years old. Despite Dada Life being one of GBallz and Bernie Roche’s favorite DJ duos they left the show after five minutes.

BR (email 1):

Hey Man,

I thought I had seen some young crowds at EDM shows. Dance music has taken off this year and I hit the festival circut just in time to see all the teenie boppers in their animal hood hats and furry legwarmers. We saw really young kids at Camp Bisco on large amounts of various substances. I was almost used to it by now. It went with the territory that if we wanted to see a good [electronic/dance music] artist and it was an 18+ show, we had to deal with that. After last night’s Dada Life show at Wonderland Ballroom, I am perturbed at the scene we have come to grow and love. I love having a huge crowd at shows and want as many people as possible to experience the DJs I love. I don’t want this trendy genre (to some) to ruin a generation of our youth. When we were in high school, the lawn section of Dave Matthews Band shows was full of the beautiful aroma of ganaja. Rap concerts were one in the same, lots of hazy venues but nothing overboard. Now, the current high school and rising college generations are coming into their own in a scene with very different rules (or lack thereof) and a very different subculture. While you can still pick up fragrant aroma of sticky green in these shows, they are now accompanied by saucer plate eyes, kids lying on the ground stuck deep in K-Holes and youth that look overwhelmed and completely uncomfortable with their choices. It has almost reached the point of going too far.

I find it bothersome that there are kids going to Thursday night shows, rolling or tripping their faces off and then going to first period English the next day. I want people to enjoy the scene but it’s starting to be compromised by kids that are just going to get fucked up and who can’t handle what they put into their bodies.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter because I know you share this opinion with me.

GB (email 2):

I’m 100% with you. It seems like dance music (I hate calling it EDM) shows have become the “cool” thing to do among the youth of America and with such a saturated market of DJs and shows to attend, the “scene” is all that more accessible to teenagers. Now listen, I’m not saying I haven’t partaken in a few extracurriculars, but there’s a time and a place (and I know my limits). These kids are under the impression that they HAVE to roll or do other elicit drugs in order to enjoy the show. But once they consume these substances, they don’t even know what’s going on around them. I go to these shows for my love of and passion for the music. 21+ shows are more tolerable for me, but 18+ events are becoming outrageous and are not making me want to attend anymore. Dada Life are one of my favorite DJ duos out there, but the fact that I couldn’t stand to be in that room for more than five minutes says something about how the current fan base acts.Even more so, security and bouncers at these shows are worried about underage kids who have been drinking or who are trying to get inside with fake IDs. Unfortunately that shouldn’t be their main concern. Underage kids have a much easier time getting their hands on illegal substances and these items are much easier to conceal and digest than alcohol which is so closely monitored. And no one is walking around these venues making sure people are okay which they absolutely should be doing in the event these kids get too messed up and their friends aren’t taking care of them.

Another example of people attending these shows solely for “the scene”: last monday at Dayglow (another 18+ event). I was really excited to be seeing Felix Cartal because he is an underrated DJ and he kills it every time. I remember turning to the girl next to me and asking if she knew who the DJ was. Obviously she didn’t, but she kept dancing, playing with paint, and (likely) rolling her face off…What other examples are there in the music world of events that occur where people go without caring about or knowing who’s playing and more for the scene? Maybe Country Fest? But even then, most of the people know who is playing.I can only imagine this bubble is going to burst in the next year to three years, but until then we may have to start picking our spots more carefully.

Holla back

Bryant (Email 3):

I will admit the scene is a bit intimidating when you are first getting into it. I remember when I was first started going to dance music shows, being hesitant to attend without at least being drunk. As I progressed into the scene, I realized that these shows are still awesome if you are sober. These events now happen so frequently that keeping up a certain pace would be impossible, especially with Boston hosting them during the week when we have work early the next day. It is a shame that people don’t realize they can go to these concerts and still have fun without being so messed up that they’re completely out of their mind.

It’s particularly scary to see how young these kids are that are partaking in this recreational usage. I talked to several people at Bisco that were really messed up; sometimes because they started talking to me and sometimes I spoke to them merely because I was concerned. Nearly every time, the individual(s) were under 21 and a majority were under or around 18 years old. The danger comes when these kids at such an impressionable age are trying harder and harder drugs. Who knows what exactly will be next if you are trying LSD and MDMA at the age of 17.

To your point about Country Fest and other non-dance shows, there are a good amount of people that go to Country Fest just for the parking lot party prior to the actual concert. In fact, several people that came with my group this year came for that reason. The difference I feel is that at dance shows you don’t need to know the songs to get into it as much. Country Fest, however, turns into a big sing along. People that didn’t know the music before hand reached out to try to get into it so they weren’t completely lost. In contrast, I have gone to several dance shows with people that didn’t know the particular artist and I have even done this myself. You see a lot of really drunk people who start fights at Country Fest and that results in arrests. The difference between that and dance music shows/festivals is you don’t see zombies walking around in a stupor like you are playing Resident Evil.

I have a distinct memory from Camp Bisco that sticks out as particularly disturbing. I was walking with one of the girls in my group to get some food and as we left the smaller side tent, we walked past several people I had to assume were in K-Holes. The dust and grime made the situation a little more dramatic but we both left the tent feeling disturbed by how many blank faces we saw; people were bumping into us as if they didn’t see us. The whole week after Camp Bisco, which was my first camping festival, made me reassess my love of the scene and where the scene stood from a broad perspective. While I came to the conclusion that there are a lot of people at festivals like Bisco to party, get messed up, and to escape reality, I was there primarily for the music. In contrast, the group I previously described was there to party and get really fucked up and “oh, there happens to be DJs and bands playing too? Cool!” This doesn’t make it wrong but it does paint the negative image that already overshadows dance music a bit more vividly. If you are going to a show simply to do drugs, then you probably shouldn’t be there. You are potentially taking a ticket away from someone who really loves the artist and wants to see them live. The reason I love artists like Bassnectar, Big Gigantic and STS9 is because true fans come out to these shows and end up pushing the spunions aside so everyone else can have a good time.

Jon (Email 4):

I hear what you’re saying loud and clear. I think this kind of culture, getting as fucked up as possible, has always existed and will exist in the future. But right now this culture is extremely accessible and these concerts/events/parties have become the destinations at which people choose to escape reality. Sure, it’s all in good fun, but it really depresses me and annoys me to see it happen so often all the time. I’ve almost become numb to it, knowing what to expect and just hanging out with my crew that still likes to have fun, but doesn’t do it to the extreme (or if we do, we can handle our shit).

Maybe we live a sheltered life hanging out in Boston, a city that has never really embraced dance music culture and that only now is starting to play catch-up. But even so, we have far less of the fans who want to go just to enjoy the music (NYC, Miami, LA, Denver have more of those fans) and we have far more who go just to party. The first thing I saw when I walked into Wonderland Ballroom? A guy spinning/playing with glow lights and glow sticks and a few wide-eyed kids staring blankly at what he was doing. These people were totally oblivious to the music and to their surroundings and they were fully locked on the glow display.

Something else I’ve noticed is how frequently the same DJs are coming back to Boston. I feel like Thomas Gold has been here four times in less than a year, and the Bingo Players return this Sunday for the second time since the end of August. I realize these guys are in-demand, but I don’t feel any obligation to jump and get to these shows because I’ve seen them so recently. If club and venue owners want to increase ticket sales and get big numbers to their events, people are going to be less inclined to see someone who was just here (especially if it’s an off-night such as a Wednesday or a Sunday which are two consistent nights you can see big names in Boston). With so many DJs out there it shouldn’t be hard to get someone new in the mix (no pun intended). Anyways, i think it’s obvious you and I are on the same page and we can only wonder how this pattern is going to play out in the next month, six months, year, and into the future.

The above was a free-form correspondence between two MMIBTY writers. The opinions and stories shared do not necessarily represent MMIBTY as a whole nor does it share the opinions of our other writers. We wanted to use this editorial as a forum to express our frustrations and concerns with the culture surrounding our favorite musical genres. By no means does this editorial speak to the culture as a whole and it is mostly reduced to our experiences and vantage points in the Northeast.

If you have a stance on this matter or if you’d like to weigh-in, please do not hesitate to do so. There is plenty more we could write about this topic but we feel these four emails get the point across. Maybe things will change, maybe they won’t. Only time will tell.

– Jon (aka GBallz) and Bryant (aka Bernie Roche)