La La Land Music Festival @ Phoenix Convention Center, 12/7/2012
Has the current zeitgeist of electronic dance music about to hit its expiration date? It's a contentious topic that's been bandied about by DJs, producers, and online music wonks in recent weeks.
No less a source than the great godhead himself Deadmau5, in a recent interview with Billboard, compared EDM's present popularity to that of disco and believes it doesn't have much of a future. Meanwhile, Spin Magazine recently stated that the musical style has a "creative crisis," a prominent dubstep website declared EDM is about to "be a victim of its own popularity," and English trance superstars Above & Beyond feel like the bubble "is about to burst."
But while these doomsaying DJs and gadflies are busy with their doomsaying and forecasting EDM's decline, its ferocious fanbase is busy actually enjoying the music and going absolutely bonkers at every big-time dance music festival possible, including last night's La La Land.
Previously a staple of the rave/underground dance party scene, the promoters of La La Land decided to take things to a whole new level the event's fifth year, holding it at a higher-profile venue like the Phoenix Convention Center instead of a space like the Madison Event Center. They also amped up the lighting, brought in bigger acts, and added in more spectacular stage antics into the mix.
For instance, the Global Arena mainstage took on a carnivalesque feel as whimsically dressed performers slung hula-hoops and glowsticks while gigantic Pegasus creatures or aliens stomped around on stilts in front of the DJ booth while the usual go-go girlies dances and headlining artists like British-born trance wizard Mat Zo and German progressive house demons Cosmic Gate sent the crowd into the stratosphere.
Both acts -- neither of whom have gone on record with predictions of EDM's doom, by the way -- adroitly demonstrated their skills at transforming a throng into a single living, breathing mass of movement that hangs on every single beat being laid down.
Everyone in the crowd had their own personal dance club measuring less than 12-inches square and spent time showing off their own brand of moves. One girl seemed to have some kind of dysfunctional relationship with the security rail, beating it swiftly with a clenched fist, while a dude in a banana costume was repeatedly thrusting his head forward and dishing out headbutts to an army of invisible foes.
But if the EDM stylings of either Matt Zo or Cosmic Gate weren't to your liking, the beauty of La La Land was that the Bass Jungle stage rocking a much harder sound was available in the neighboring ballroom. Step through the doorway separating the two areas and both the sound and energy changed in an instant.
The Bass Jungle stage may have been smaller, but its sound packed a much bigger, gut-busting punch. It was the domain of the low-end dance music "booty bass" practitioner like Texas-based act Bro Safari and British jungle/techstep beat perverts Ed Rush and Optical. It was a roller coaster ride for those who witnessed their sets as both pounded brainpans with a mix of bass and beats.
The absolute king of the evening, however, was masked mixmaster Bl3nd, who journeyed from his L.A. lair to terrorize our fair city. Prior to his set, the rave favorite Tweeted about how he was "about to rage it up with Phoenix." And he did just that.
If some crafty scientist was to somehow tap the energy that Bl3nd unleashed during his set, the world would never need to harvest another fossil fuel source. Ever. Clad in his signature Mohawked mask, he bounced about the mixers in between frequent trips to the security rail to douse the crowd with a water cannon, multiple jags of spastic dancing, or a few jaunts to the top of the towering speakers to soak up the adoration of the crowd. Oh, and he also spun up his ferocious concoctions of dubstep, glitch, and electro, mixed with bass explosions and thunderous screechings.
Bl3nd's crowd also outnumbered La La Land's headliner Datsik, who worked his magic with dubstep and trap-filed mixes on the mainstage. While the audience wasn't as big, and took up only a little less than half of the cavernous ballroom, those who were in attendance got their money's worth as the Canadian producer dropped everything in his arsenal in an all-out audio assault. And he didn't even break a sweat while doing so.
If EDM is indeed about to become DOA, members of the local rave and club scenes should be ultimately thankful for the crack in the space-time continuum that the Valley seems to occupy (whereby trends take forever to get here and tend to hang around long after dying off in bigger cities). It means that energy-filled EDM festivals like La La Land will continue to thrill and give the 16-25 crowd somewhere to sport their neon-colored clothing and shake their collective tailfeathers.
Last Night: La La Land Music Festival feat. Datsik, Bl3nd, Cosmic Gate, Noise Controllers, and more @ Phoenix Convention Center
The Crowd: Slickly dressed funkmeisters, giant female Pegasus dancers, club beauties, sweaty teenagers, filthy dubsteppers, hula-hoop honeys, masked madmen, and rave warriors.
Personal Bias: This is the seventh electronic dance music festival I've attended this year alone.
Overheard: "I don't want it to end," stated one female candy kid wistfully as the lights came up in the Bass Jungle room.
Amusing Antics: A couple of club photographers shooting the festival had fun posing for personal pictures inches behind Datsik while he was busy performing, utterly oblivious to the shutter shenanigans taking place behind him.
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Random Notebook Dump: "Wonder how many parents considered tagging along to see what this whole EDM thing their kids are into."
One More Thing: All photobombers deserve to be shot, but not with my camera.