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Zach's Story: A love affair with EDM

Zach, hailing from San Fran, is our first West Coast contributor. He's also our first EDM representative. Firstinline is all about passion for music and connecting to other people through those passions. Older generations may not recognize Electronic Dance Music as a music form that they care about, but as Zach highlights in his story below it involves talent, hard-work and dedication, and it is constantly pushing boundaries.  It inspires creativity, encourages individuality, and brings people together in unity. Sounds similar to how Rock 'n Roll, Hip Hop, and other genres were initially described, doesn't it? Read below to appreciate this style and to find out why it has the attention of so many young adults.

I was 17 the first time I heard of electronic music. While volunteering at a teen suicide hotline every week, my co-worker Angelica used to tell me about huge events that took place downtown called “raves,” filled with fun people who wore “kandi” and followed the creed of “PLUR.” It all sounded so adult, almost forbidden, heightening its attraction to a young mind.



I also listened to top 40 gangster rap as well as some indie rock and of course Manu Chao up until that point, but you couldn’t call me an audiophile by any standards. I would take my dog for walks around the block wearing headphones and memorizing the lyrics to Lil’ Wayne songs or singing “Mr. Bobby” at the top of my lungs, feeling happy to be given some time to be alone and free with music.

I can see my passion for this art starting with its ability to give me freedom from my rigid teenage after-school structure - freedom to curse at my parents and get emotional without them seeing.

I had to know what one of these events was like. With the end of junior year quickly approaching, I made a creative plan. My friend, French Nathan (we already had a Nathan in school when he arrived, so we dubbed him “French Nathan”) had his birthday coming up, so I asked my mom to buy me a ticket to the Electric Daisy Carnival in LA to celebrate his birthday. I showed her the most P.C. pictures on the web and convinced her to let me go, back when it was held at the Coliseum and tickets were around 80 bucks.

That night, French Nathan and I went to a friend’s house who was getting a limo to the event. Her mom had bought us an entire bottle of Belvedere Vodka which we drank like thirsty sailors before getting in the long black car. We made it to the venue and I started to see people dressed in the wildest of colors! Fuzzy boots, pasties, stilts, glowsticks, body paint — it was all there. I had never seen such a happy and open community of “freaks” as I might have thought them in my youth.

Walking out into the stands of the Coliseum that night was one of the most breathtaking moments of my life. Seeing the stage with all its multi-colored lights, lasers, and ornamentation was a marvel.  

The sheer number of people awed me and a rush came over me like I had never felt before. That night was the beginning of a love affair I never intend to end.

I heard Benny Benassi play, around the time when “Satisfaction” was the top radio hit. His house anthems and gritty electro tracks showed me a side of music I had never heard before. A younger David Guetta played his emotional, moving hits: “When Love Takes Over,” “Love is Gone,” and “I Gotta Feeling,” wooing me with their seductive melodies and thumping bass. These were my introductions to house music and the creative, manipulated, large-scale sounds of electronic dance music.

I write about this night with so much emphasis because it really was the catalyst for my passion in electronic dance music. From that night on I started downloading albums of the mainstream artists I could find, and researched more festivals I subsequently attended. Hard Summer, then Audiotistic, then Hard Haunted Mansion, then Together As One, then Coachella, and finally Hard Summer again. I was in love and didn’t plan on letting go. I found friends who liked the music and the festivals, started amassing a collection of tracks, and acted as a sponge soaking up anything about the music or the culture I could find.

This fervent ambition to be a learned source of knowledge about my new favorite genre grew exponentially until I was buying LED gloves and practicing in my bedroom. I grew to love this music so much it became a part of my daily life, and I gladly let it.

Over the next few years I refined my tastes. I became aware of all of the genres of house music, and started catching up on the decades of dance music I missed before I became aware of its sacred beat. I eventually became a DJ myself, buying my first mixer and learning from older fraternity brothers. Suddenly electronic music was just a drop in the bucket.

But shows changed. The music changed. For me what was a golden era of house, approximately between 2007 and 2012, slowly changed as dance music became more mainstream, blended with pop, gained worldwide adolescent notoriety, and DJs started to become a dime a dozen. Currently, I see an incredible resurgence in dance music and it is exciting to watch. Beatmakers are becoming tastemakers, genres are diversifying, and giving music away is becoming the norm in a world where the power of the large record labels is eroding. Many forces are shaping dance music today while dance music is also shaping trends in other areas of music. Pop today is reliant on the talents of top producers and names like Deadmau5 and Calvin Harris are becoming ubiquitous. As A-trak once said, there’s a reason you are going to see a DJ and not a band; DJs are still the cutting edge of music.

I sincerely hope dance music and electronic music in general continues to push boundaries and always look ahead to the next frontier to keep music fresh and innovative. There are still undiscovered sounds, sounds that synthesizers have not yet produced. While rock will always be classic, I treasure the moment I hear a sound I have never heard before. That is the magic of dance music. That is the mystery of the future of sound. That is the beat that beats in all of our hearts.

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