After covering my tenth Winter Music Conference and Ultra Music Festival last month, I came to the conclusion that everything I grew up on is the hands of an entirely new generation. The kids at raves these days were babies when I was a kid at a rave. I feel kind of old for the first time in my life, but the connection to rave culture feels reborn. I like that the word “rave” is reborn too. Not that the stigma has left it, in many ways it’s only been re-enforced. But long gone are the days of yester-decade when the mere association with the word “rave” would undermine an event with a passé, delinquent, childish vibe. On the other hand, during the last decade many dance music affairs seemed pretty long in tooth when it came to patrons. The Winter Music Conference five years ago was very adult. Decadent, don’t get me wrong, but aged.
Now that the kids are back, listening to electronic music, wearing colorful beads, and popping those you-know-whats, the fun, fantastical world of rave culture is back, not that it ever really left. It just splintered off into pieces for a while. And now it’s less about the genres and sub-genres but more about the vibe, the trippy-dippy one-love stuff, and the esoteric aspect of it all. Terrence McKenna would be proud.
Steve Aoki put it perfectly to me backstage at Ultra. “Electronic music, EDM, house whatever you want to call it, it’s not mainstream, still after all these years. But what has happened is that the underground is bigger than ever. It’s almost the size of commercial mainstream culture, but it’s still underneath it all. Maybe it always will be, and that’s the beauty of it.”
In fact, when the mainstream tries to pander to the vast, global community that rave and electronic dance music has fostered, it turns into to a big fail, like Madonna’s contrived moment with the crowd at Ultra. She asked “Has anyone seen Molly?” Of course, everyone cheered. But many of us felt like grandma just made a pass at one of our friends. Since the underground has grown to its present proportions, it’s also become more inclusive. I couldn’t help notice the wide range of ages (18-late 30’s) and styles (from hardcore freak to surfer preppy types) at the Richie Hawtin M-Nus Showcase at Space closing out the Conference. And they all stayed to watch minimal techno savant even though he didn’t take to the deck until a very old school hour of 5 AM. That was the point I realized I’m getting too old for the morning rise set. Plastikman is worth it though. All in all, I welcome the new gen with open arms. They should take the culture and run with it. They’re more media and technologically savvy, and what is rave and EDM culture if not that? They are also friendlier and more positive than I my friends and I were. Then again, we were selling fake hits in the parking lot and jumping the fence to get in. But that’s more an old school Miami thing I can’t shake. I’ll tell you more about that sometime soon. Peace…(and Love, and Unity, and Respect).