Are Multi-Genre Music Festivals the Solution to Musical Elitism?

Article by: Alexander Dias|@@djsychosis

Wed May 03, 2017 | 12:15 PM

Musical elitism in the dance music genre is nothing new – but it's become a more persistent force within the community. The seismic shift towards the mainstream has birthed a legion of purists snobbishly pointing their old school noses at the music Seth Troxler so abrasively proclaimed to be “sonic ear rape.” It’s become a spectator sport to find the cleverest way at taking down whoever occupies the prime time slots at major festivals. It’s not to say that people shouldn’t vocalize their opinions – after all, if we didn’t have elitists how on Earth would we know what obscure artist to follow next? It does beg the question though: Does this kind of sonic snobbery do more harm than good? And is there a way we can prevent ourselves from becoming a grumpy old ravers always waxing poetic about “good music”?

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If we could all transport ourselves back in time, we might find a younger version of ourselves grooving with reckless abandon to whatever made us happy. There’s something special in that space, where nothing matters more than the way the music makes us feel. And attending a large-scale music festival – if you can get past the fleeting feelings of anxiety and claustrophobia – can really help us reconnect with that feeling.

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My wife and I attended Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas for the first time last year. While riding the Ferris wheel that was closest to wasteLAND, a stage dedicated to hard dance music, I had a musical revelation. Maybe it was a combination of the festival's irrepressible spirit, the slight anxiety I always feel when on a steel contraption that swings you around many feet in the air, and a bit of nostalgia. But I found myself connecting with the groove of the heavy beats coming from the stage. It reminded me of when I first began to explore dance music and how much I loved the frantic energy of hardcore and hard trance. I admittedly can sometimes be a music snob. And in my nearly 20 years of raving I’ve dabbled in nearly every genre on the dance music spectrum, and somewhere along the way I formed some pretty strong opinions about what I like and what I don’t. This experience reminded me that those rules don’t always have to be hard and fast. And sometimes surrendering yourself to the moment can reveal some eye opening results.

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This isn’t to say that we will all suddenly become fans of the things we may have previously loathed. There are simply some things that don’t resonate with us. However, you have to at least give yourself the chance. Staying stuck in the same old routine at every show is no way to reach out and discover. Music festivals have become more and more diverse as the once-stringent boundaries between genres collapse, and now more than ever we are offered the opportunity to shake up our tightly held perceptions of what kind of energy we can soak up from each stage.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from festivals, it’s that it’s best to have no plan. Sure, you can make a strict list of all your favorite acts, and frantically rush from stage to stage catching all your favorite tunes. But where’s the fun in that? There are so many unexpected and amazing turns that happen when you allow your ears to be your festival map. Multi-genre festivals can be a voyage of discovery, where you can uncover your new favorite artist. And let’s be completely honest, your favorite DJ or band aren’t going anywhere. If you’ve seen them before (or even several times before) take a breather and seek out that spine-tingling feeling you get when you hear something for the first time.

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Photo by: Insomniac

Middlelands offers something special this year. Happening this weekend, May 5-7, 2017, at the Texas Renaissance Festival Fair Grounds in Todd Mission, Texas, a huge, open space will transform into a fully themed deep-dive into music, art and the world of lords, ladies and dragons. A brand new joint venture between Insomniac and C3 Events (which also produces Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza ), Middlelands aims for the ideal balance between immersive, themed experiences and musical diversity. The festival features a lineup that spans the spectrum of dance music and well beyond, with acts ranging from the deepest of underground dance to hip-hop and alternative.

For those looking to get an education in the roots of Los Angeles's vibrant and storied underground hip-hop scene look no further than Jurassic 5. Danny Brown, who has lent his animated bars to the likes of A-Track, A$AP Rocky, and even appeared in a Bob Dylan video, provides an awesome, extreme energy that gets any festival crowd hyped. The enigmatic Elohim's live sequencing and haunting vocals sit comfortably at the intersection of pop and electronic. And the dreamy and evocative sound of Phantogram will provide the perfect aural backdrop for sunset on Friday night.

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If you are looking to get your shuffle on to something a bit more upbeat, look no further than Billy Kenny, one of the head honchos at German label This Ain't Bristol, dubbed by many as Dirtybird's European counterpart. My Nu Leng, who hail from the ancestral home of bass music, Bristol, will bring their uniquely UK amalgamation of garage, bass house and heavy dub. And a whole host of local favorites quickly making their ways into the international spotlight will hold down Trinity Vale all weekend long. Left/Right has a brilliant handle on deep and dark bass. The composer, engineer, producer and college professor is signed to the Stanton Warriors Punks imprint and will open the show on Friday afternoon. With so many choices, this is the perfect opportunity to find some unexpected musical bliss.

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It isn’t the first time that a lineup with this kind of diversity has been put together. But for fans of the EDM-heavy festivals that Insomniac usually puts together and those used to C3's penchant for exposing audiences to exceptionally rare talent, this lineup will provide the perfect opportunity to gain a more well-rounded musical experience with the brilliant spectacle that the company behind EDC is known for.

Regardless of your taste in music, there’s always room to expand your horizons. And relegating entire genres of music to the "do not call" list does nothing to help promote a spirit of love and acceptance. There are so many ways to step outside of your comfort zone at a music festival – so next time, leave the judgment at home and try something brand new.