Beat Primer: A Beginner's Guide to the Identity Festival
Pop commentators have ecstatically argued that dance music's gonna blow up in 2011. However, this perception that electronic tuneage has been waiting idly on the sidelines just isn't true. Dance music crossed over a long time ago.
In case you hadn't noticed, it's been crashing on our couch and raiding the fridge for almost a decade. How quickly we forget that acts like Fatboy Slim, Moby, and Paul Oakenfold found success on the Billboard charts at the turn of the century, when digital sales were negligible and the interweb exerted little influence over the masses' musical taste.
But even so, the Identity Festival signals dance music's true arrival on the American pop-music scene.
For years, metal and punk fans have enjoyed traveling summer festivals like Ozzfest and Warped Tour. And although there's never been a shortage of great electronic-music festivals in the U.S. — such as Ultra Music Festival, Electric Daisy Carnival, Electric Zoo, and MoogFest — this country's beat junkies have never had a nationwide tour of their own until now.
Identity is a one-day, 20-city festival, packing a diverse electronic-music lineup with something for everyone, from traditional house to dance rock to dubstep.
Often considered a joke genre and dismissed even by its unintentional poster boy, Rusko, the term brostep is meant to denote a testosterone-heavy brand of dubstep. But why not broaden the definition to mean "the music that bros (or alternatively 'brahs') have come to love"? Yes, that includes the dirtiest, wobbliest dubstep imaginable, and there will indeed be plenty of low-end filth at Identity, courtesy of Rusko, Datsik, Caligula, and Juan Basshead. However, the bros — and the occasional sorority girl — also love jamtronica (a portmanteau of jam bands and electronica) like the Disco Biscuits, who will help to hold down the Skullcandy main stage. So, a warning: If you plan to step up or jam out, the guy-to-girl ratio is going to be about 100-to-1.
Girls, Girls, Girls
For too long, dance music has been a man's game. But the ID Fest is pumping this party full of estrogen.
Straight outta Miami's swamplands, Afrobeta's Cuci Amador — along with Tony Smurphio — has spent several years perfecting a signature Miami Sound Machine-meets-New Order musical hybrid. And the Identity Festival is Cuci and Tony's most ambitious tour to date, marking Afrobeta's transition from a local outfit to a national act. Chances of seeing the twosome play a local venue anytime soon seem slim, so don't miss this opportunity to answer that eternal question: Do you party?
And let's not forget about Britney Spears. Or actually, Jessie and the Toy Boys (AKA singer/songwriter Jessie Malakouti), one of the opening acts from Brit's "Femme Fatale" tour. Rumors swirled that Jessie's special guest slot with Spears may have been a calculated apology from the pop queen after gossip blogger Perez Hilton pointed out the similarities between Britney's "If U Seek Amy" and Jessie's single "Trash Me," which was written two years earlier. But Jessie is a prime example of the current electro craze taking over pop music. Her sound is equal parts Lady Gaga and La Roux, spiked with a shot of traditional dance music.
Another Identity act — twin DJ duo Nervo — also enjoyed quality time with Spears. Although, as cowriters for the David Guetta and Kelly Rowland track "When Love Takes Over," which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Dance Recording, the sisters had proven their dance music pedigree long before joining Britney's arena-pop roadshow.
Finally, while lacking XX chromosomes, we'll stretch the limits of gender for Chicago DJ/producer White Shadow (AKA Paul Blair) because his headlining stint at the Advent Stage is guaranteed to be heavily influenced by another female pop superstar. After serving as a consultant on Lady Gaga's "Monster Ball" tour, Blair was handpicked by Mother Monster to produce and cowrite several cuts on her most recent album, Born This Way.
There's plenty of hip-hop influence to be found in dubstep. Witness aforementioned acts like Rusko and Caligula. And Kanye West's sampling of a certain Daft Punk track may have proven to the masses that hip-hop and dance music could make great bedfellows. But DJ Shadow — the godfather of trip-hop whose turntablism skills have gone nearly unmatched since the early '90s — was incorporating the genre into his sets for two decades, way before it ever became trendy.
Meanwhile, leading the new generation of blip-hoppers is Pretty Lights (AKA Derek Vincent Smith), a Colorado native whose Miami Music Week showcase at the Fillmore in March proved he's worthy of headlining any event. He packed the venue thanks to his skillful mix of hip-hop and glitchy electronic beats.
Locally, South Florida's answer to Odd Future and Das Racist, O'Grime and Metro Zu, are teaming up on the Overthrow Stage for a blending of alternative hip-hop styles.
Music for Snobs
There is dance music, and then there is EDM, which is inherently better than everything else. Or so claim EDM fans. And with all the lowbrow on Identity's roster, it almost seems that EDM has been left out.
Not quite, though. German duo Booka Shade is basically a Pitchfork reviewer's wet dream. With tracks like "Mandarine Girl," "Body Language," and "Regenerate," Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier have been critical darlings since the moment they began producing music.
And for the traditionalists, there are acts like Crystal Method and Kaskade. Both long ago crossed over into mainstream consciousness, but they still enjoy acclaim from critics and peers. Kaskade, in addition to headlining the main stage, actually had a hand in helping Identity organizer Live Nation put together the festival's lineup.
Dancing With Hipsters
Ninety percent of hipsters in attendance will be there to judge anyone and everyone in furry boots and neon makeup. They will also be there to check out acts like Holy Ghost! and Hercules & Love Affair, both of which have called DFA Records home.
Holy Ghost! shot to indie-dance fame in 2007 with the single "Hold On." But the duo wouldn't end up releasing its self-titled debut until 2011. Dance-floor-ready tracks like "Wait & See" and "Say My Name" proved that it was well worth the wait.
Meanwhile, Hercules & Love Affair has jumped ship from DFA to British label Moshi Moshi. Yet Andy Butler and the gang have continued to churn out nü-disco tunes, though with a strong throwback to early Chicago house. Take, for instance, newish cut "My House," an unapologetically classic gay house track with glitchy effects and an electro backbeat to keep it contemporary. If anything was ever lab-designed for dancing with hipsters, this is it.
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