Bassnectar is not your father's hippie. His long hair and music are more Metallica than Grateful Dead, but in many ways, Lorin Ashton, the 33-year-old northern Californian DJ and producer, is as much an heir to John Lennon as he is DJ and producer. Listen to him speak and you'll notice that he's more concerned with empowerment and community than ass-shaking and drugs. At first, it's easy to misconstrue his music's intensity for aggressiveness. A closer listen reveals that his tracks are uplifting in their arrangement and samples. Without getting too wonky, his songs are complicated — they contrast varying tempos and scales that convey conflict. It's party music about the human condition and music itself, which explains its wide appeal. Emerging from the Burning Man scene in the early 2000s, he has been a dance music beatsmith and selector for three times as long as fellow American bass icon Skrillex. In many ways, he paved the way for Skrillex's Grammy surge and the evolution of America's heavier, more hip-hoppy version of UK bass that has swept today's youth like the Britpop of yesteryear. The rise of EDM in America was first championed by hippie festivalgoers and urban hipsters — two camps at odds with each other. One movement was about community while the other was about individuality and exclusivity. Partying was their common ground. Now the lines are blurred as both parties attend the same concerts and festivals, along with hordes of mainstream latecomers. A Bassnectar show is perhaps the best place to watch the different worlds chafe. While their proximity might irk those in the crowd, it no doubt pleases the man behind the decks.
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