Identity Festival signals dance music's true arrival on the American scene
Dance music is about to blow up!
That's the kind of ecstatic chatter that pop commentators have endlessly parroted in 2011. But the 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 such as 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.
Even so, the Identity Festival signals dance music's true arrival on the American scene. For years, metal and punk fans have enjoyed traveling summer festivals such as Ozzfest and the Warped Tour. And while there's never been a shortage of great electronic music fests in the States — 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.
But that has all changed. 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.
Brostep. 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 indeed there will 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 band and electronica) such as the Disco Biscuits, who will help hold down the Skullcandy main stage. So, a warning: If you plan to step up or jam out, the guy-to-girl ratio will 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 seems 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 on Brit's Femme Fatale tour. Rumors swirled that Jessie's special guest slot with Spears might 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. However, as co-writers 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 road show.
Finally, while lacking XX chromosomes, Chicago DJ-producer White Shadow (AKA Paul Blair) appeals to the fairer sex. 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 co-write several cuts on her most recent album, Born This Way.
Blip-Hop. There's plenty of hip-hop influence to be found in dubstep. Witness aforementioned acts Rusko and Caligula. And Kanye West's sampling of a certain Daft Punk track might 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, O'Grime and Metro Zu — Miami's answer to Odd Future and Das Racist — will team 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 EDM has been left out.
Not quite, though. German duo Booka Shade is basically a Pitchfork reviewer's wet dream. With tracks "Mandarine Girl," "Body Language," "Regenerate," and others, Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier have been critical darlings since the moment they began producing music.
And for traditionalists, there are Crystal Method and Kaskade. Both acts 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. Approximately 90 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 such as "Wait & See" and "Say My Name" proved 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 nu-disco tunes, albeit 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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