How a Rock Die-Hard Became Attuned to EDM

With the rising popularity of electronic dance music (EDM), comes more criticism of the genre. The rock community has been one of the more outspoken groups of EDM. During the Foo Fighters’s acceptance speech at the 2012 Grammys for Best Rock Album, Dave Grohl announced in what appeared to be a dig at EDM, “To me, this award means a lot, because it shows the human element of music is what’s important. Singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft, that’s the most important thing for people to do . . . It’s not about being perfect, it’s not about sounding absolutely correct, it’s not about what goes on in a computer.” Henry Rollins of Black Flag gave a hilarious monologue of his EDM critiques where he asked, “I don’t know which came first: [crappy] rave music or the drugs?”

As a die-hard rock’n’roll fan, I often discriminate against most modern pop music. However, through experiences I will mention later in this piece, I have come to appreciate and even love some EDM; but the culture wars occurring between EDM and rock have me questioning if I can truly be a rock enthusiast and EDM lover simultaneously.

First, we need to address the wide misconceptions of EDM. The SNL digital short brilliantly examines these myths: the cocky “DJ/producer” that simply presses a bass drop button, the un-originality of the music, and the crazy, simple-minded fan base. EDM fans have been stereotyped as privileged and ignorant, and the drugs/”rave” scene has been sensationalized in the media through the tragic death reports at some EDM concerts.

However, you can’t judge a scene’s culture before you experience it for yourself. In the summer of 2013, I attended Camp Bisco, an EDM weekend festival. Bisco is one of many EDM festivals today that includes Electric Zoo, Electric Daisy Carnival, Ultra, Tomorrowland, and many more; but Bisco draws a smaller crowd (about 20,000) in the open fields of upstate New York. I was amazed by the huge variety of EDM artists; it’s not always all about that bass drop. Subgenres within EDM include progressive, dubstep, trap, electro house, and pretty much every branch you could imagine.

Show production often plays a major role in EDM. Many DJs at Bisco added an incredible visual experience including lights and video recordings that were symbiotic to the music in creating an otherworldly ambiance.

The culture, by far, impressed me the most. EDM bases itself off of the PLUR philosophy: peace, love, unity, and respect. Despite the vulnerable camping environment my friends and I were in, I felt protected by the surrounding campers. Our “neighbors” offered us food and other materials, and we in return did the same. A PLUR handshake from the 90’s rave culture still exists, which results in an exchange of handmade beaded bracelets.

Unlike other shows I’ve been to, I did not witness any fighting between concertgoers vying to get to the front row. When someone tried to start a mosh pit, the audience reacted negatively, explaining, “We don’t do that here.” These behaviors allowed me to fully enjoy the shows without worrying about aggression. It sounds cliché but I returned from Bisco believing that I experienced the closest thing to Utopia I’ll ever find.

Any groundbreaking music scene eventually corporatizes, though, and unfortunately the same could be said for EDM. Corporate sponsors have caught on to the EDM trend, and seek to use the scene as a way to advertise their products. Copycat producers/DJs have been sprouting up to employ a “press play” approach and rely on simple-mash-ups and bass drops (think Martin Garrix’s “Animals”). Criticism has even come from EDM forerunner Carl Cox and Deadmau5, who slightly veered away from the genre in his latest album, while (1<2).

These posers in EDM should not detract from the true talent, however, that still exists in the genre. Artists like Seven Lions, Steve Aoki, and Daft Punk create beautiful, innovative music. Just like in rock’n’roll, some of the most profound meaning is found in instrumentals alone. Philadelphia boasts a significant number of EDM underground artists, and the SoundGarden Hall in South Philly hosts their shows on a regular basis.

If we focus on the sociology of EDM, the gathering of all kinds of people to enjoy a common love of music, it’s reminiscent of the 60’s rock movement. The Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock compare to Camp Bisco and other EDM festivals in its PLUR philosophy. Rock artists should not insult EDM but rather embrace another genre that promotes its egalitarian values.

Does my newfound affair with EDM overpower my love for rock music? Not quite, but I definitely don’t consider it a “guilty pleasure.” As the great Dave Grohl said, “I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you f**king like something, like it.” So enough of the hate on both sides of the aisle and let’s learn to love a little EDM and rock’n’roll.

What are your thoughts on EDM and who are some of your favorite EDM artists? Tell us in the comments below!

3 Comments

  1. Katie Antonsson

    November 23, 2014 at 9:44 am

    I’m so ambivalent about EDM! I think it’s because I just don’t get it. Admittedly, when Aoki played Made In America this year, I was having a blast, but I really don’t understand EDM. I get that it has roots in jazz, but I don’t know how it went from jazz to this. Daft Punk may be my guiding light through all of it, but they too created Random Access Memories because they were tired of the EDM “scene” they had sort of created. I don’t know. It’s a complicated question.

    • Lauren Silvestri

      November 23, 2014 at 6:28 pm

      I do agree it’s complicated. There are so many sub-genres within EDM and EDM has its fair share of posers, so you need to sift through the music a bit to find the quality material.

  2. Amanda Silberling

    November 23, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    I’m not the biggest EDM fan, but I still try not to write it off. I think it’s interesting how technology is impacting the creation of art these days.

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