In Defense of Bassheads: The 5 pillars of the Bassnectar community

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Easter Sunday has come and gone. While most god-fearing men and women hunkered down in church for communion followed by an Easter egg hunt in their local parks, the Bassnectar family flocked to the Midwest for their own holy sacrament.

The bass worshiping disciples have congregated in Chicago’s Donald E. Stephens Convention Center under the iconic bass drop image displayed across several large LED screens. They’ve traveled far and wide, commingling in the sacred space to commune and catch up since their last familial gathering. After all, it’s been several months since their last mass migration to Atlanta, Georgia — far too long.

The two-day event, dubbed Spring Gathering, is the first of four family affairs scheduled for 2018. The previous night saw Lorin Ashton deliver a truly mystical full moon sermon, with amorphous sound waves crashing into the hearts and minds of his loyal followers, making them weak at the knees as they lean their faces to the floor, bowing to the bass in head banging unison.

As the onlookers prepare for the weekend’s second and final set from their musical savior, Bassnectar, it’s clear they’re feigning for deeper exploration of the bass music abyss. The pre-show music begins, preparing the congregation for the ensuing throw down, and the scene begins to feel a bit like an enchanting ritual.

Nerves settle. Pupils dilate. Arms extend upward. Anticipation permeates the air.

Bassnectar Spring Gathering, Chicago, Illinois. Photo: aLIVE Coverage

Known collectively as “bassheads,” Bassnectar fanatics are a generally a progressive, fun-loving, and wildly ostentatious bunch. So, why do they often get such a bad rep? Many have heard the stereotypes: Bassheads are cynical and elitist, burnt out on their passion for Bassnectar, filled with contempt for newcomers into their cult-like community.

Admittedly, there are quite a few “haters” in the Bassnectar scene; although it’s important to note that, much of the time, haters are just angry lovers. This vocal minority pessimists often drown out the many positive voices in the Bassnectar community, longing for the days before the Ashton’s explosion into stardom and even shaming those in the community who don’t know every Bassnectar title circa the days of Underground Communication or Divergent Systems of Throb.

Generalizations are thus formed about the bassheads as a whole based off these particularly distinctive outcriers. After all, it’s a proven fact that our brains are biologically wired to categorize,compartmentalize, and make assumptions about a whole community based on personal and prominent observations. Ultimately, however, this reasoning is fallacious.

Dancing Astronaut aims to redeem bassheads from their misunderstood image by getting back to the essence of what the Bassnectar family truly stands for: community, love, and immersive bass music. Based on online polling results from within the community itself, we trace its five central pillars and the commandments within.

 


1) Unconditional love and unwavering acceptance

Bassnectar Spring Gathering, Night One, Chicago, Illinois, 2018. Photo: aLIVE Coverage.

Imagine having just endured the arduous endeavor of getting past the security and ticket lines and feeling fatigued. Then, a stranger approaches with a warm, familiar smile and presents a homemade business card with the following message: “You are loved beyond infinity.” Such sharing of meaningful, affirmative words and gifts are regular occurrences at any family gathering, known to bassheads as random acts of kindness.

This tenet, one that is similar to other pillars of transformational communities such as Burning Man, is in fact the first commandment bassheads live by. They carry this awareness from the show into everyday life, sending each other care packages and giving out small tokens of appreciation. Across the country, selfless bassheads are constantly engaging random acts of kindness and treating others with respect, gratitude, and equality.

The second commandment bassheads choose to consciously live by is best summed up in one of Bassnectar’s song titles: Inspire the empathetic. They practice empathy with a mission of existing with others on a leveled playing field. Empathy requires walking a mile in another’s shoes — a difficult task that bassheads work tirelessly, and not always successfully, to achieve.

These two commandments form the first pillar of the Bassnectar community: Unconditional love and Unwavering Acceptance. This is the new age sense of spiritualism that pervades the Bassnectar community, a belief emanating from Ashton’s Bay area upbringing in a hippie commune that is absorbed and proliferated by his followers.

 


 2) Freedom of artistic expression 

Live painting at BassCenter X, Hampton, Virginia. Photo: Reston Campbell Photography.

Anyone whose traveled to a Bassnectar special event has almost assuredly been bombarded with the usual traveling creatives hustling event-specific gear in the parking lot, before even checking into hotel. Through the revolving doors and into the lobby, a pop-up marketplace beckons: one painter has laid out her psychedelic-inspired oil canvases, while a craftsman is selling his handmade wire-wrapped jewelry.

The above encapsulates another critical commandment of the Bassnectar community: a strong support for grassroots art. Many within cultivate their own creativity out of deep inspiration for Ashton’s DIY attitude. While some fans pursue art at an amateur level, others have manifested their artistic passions as a full-time career and a live embodiment of the commitment to Freedom of Artistic Expression.

One basshead revealed, “I quit my nine-to-five because I was getting so many requests for custom wire wrapped rings and pendants. Now I’m making a living off my art. I’ve even started learning welding and soldering techniques to become a professional jeweler someday. I’m living the dream!” He pours his all into each piece he constructs.

These are the kinds of goals, dreams, and artistic aspirations that grant bassheads the means to travel all over the country to attend every nectar family event — and trust that they don’t miss a single gathering.

“That’s the key to evolution, you always want to change, adapt and improve but also balancing that out with being grateful.” – Lorin Ashton, in a previous interview with Dancing Astronaut

Roaming performers pose at BassCenter 9 in Commerce City, Colorado. Photo: 303 Magazine.

 


 3) Connection with like-minded individuals 

Basshead railers at BUKU 2018, New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo: Christian Miller.

Every couple of months or so, bassheads come together from all over the country for “listening parties,” where they put on a throwback Bassnectar mixtape in real time and with strangers online through live tweeting and such. Local bass families will often convene at someone’s home or in a local park with enormous subwoofers as they listen, reflect, and head bang together. The point of these social functions is to celebrate bass music and come together in the same moment despite barriers of physical distance.

This is more-or-less the bedrock of an cult, underground community built from like-minded individuals coming together to baptize one another in bass. They flock to four special locations each season to completely immerse themselves in the alien frequencies of their figurehead, who they’ve dubbed “The King of Sound,” as well as to celebrate Ashton’s amorphous music in all its majestic height. At each festival that Bassnectar headlines, dedicated followers often stay behind after the set armed with trash bags to collect every bit of garbage and confetti left on the ground — it’s a sustainable practice with roots in the Burning Man “leave no trace” principle. Bassheads regularly come together in their respective cities and towns to volunteer their time to serving in the community as well, usually through local clothing and canned food drives or park and beach clean-ups.

But Bassnectar’s cult-like movement has ballooned into a burgeoning and increasingly bifurcated community that is anything but underground, with Ashton sitting at the helm of a rockstar spectacle. As the it continues to grow at an exponential rate, so too do its complexities and contradictory cultural inner-workings.

Bassheads gather in New Jersey to volunteer at The Food Bank. Photo courtesy of The Bass Network.


 4) Passion for politics and progressive activism 

Ashton’s politics are unapologetically progressive at their core. So naturally the issues that are important to him are important to bassheads. Bassheads have shown up in large numbers to high-stakes, at times dangerous, political demonstrations like the Dakota Pipeline protests, the Women’s March, and the fight for Net Neutrality.

Key issues like these have long been a theme in Bassnectar’s music, which he took from the 1990s punk rock and death metal scenes he came of age in, infusing those values and ideals into the cultural current of his electronic music.

“The spirit of punk rock and death metal was very anti-establishment, pro-underground, pro-community, very fucking fiercely in opposition to the mainstream, in opposition to ignorance, and you know all kind of religions and weird human dogma traps. And having a flag of resistance to fly in the face of that is really powerful”

Basshead protests #NODAPL, Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Photo courtesy of Chelsea O’Connor.

Bassnectar brings this staunch sense of political activism into his live sets with visual segments that implicate public figures like Dick Cheney and Donald Trump using Nazi and KKK imagery — all as his bass-bolstered remix of Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name” plays over clipped images of the swastika and white hooded figures.

During his iconic Oregon Eclipse and BassCenter X sets last year, Ashton brought to the stage a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, named Chase Iron Eyes, who delivered a powerful message about the continued protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Indigenous-American activist ended with a resounding chant that bassheads still echo into today: “Water is life!”

The Bassnectar community’s passion for taking a stand against wage and class inequality highlights another important commandment: that art is and always has been political.


5) Think for yourself and question everything 

Bassnectar performs in Rothbury, Michigan, 2017. Photo courtesy of Electric Forest.

When Lorin Ashton launched his “Think For Yourself” campaign with Electric Forest in 2015, he compelled fans to challenge the mainstream news that is bound by political bias and corporate interests. The campaign encourages bassheads to seek out alternative news sources that cater to the well-being of the general public, as opposed to the 1%.

“When it comes to current compelling issues, it is very difficult to find ‘the truth’ without wading through a ton of bias from corporate sponsors, pundits, or even just the opinion of the newscaster or the owner of the publication (or some half-wit long-haired DJ who has found the time to type a zillion words and post them online),” Ashton wrote on his official blog.

He even puts his own biases on display as a public figure with a sizable influence over the opinions of others. Despite how the Bassnectar community constantly catapults Lorin to god-like status — sometimes for fun and giggles, sometimes not — Lorin Ashton is, for all intents and purposes, only human after all.


The message is very simple. 

Bassnectar Spring Gathering, Night One, Chicago, Illinois, 2018. Photo: aLIVE Coverage.

A few years ago, when Lorin Ashton made his Electric Forest debut, a landmark festival which now houses Bassnectar’s residency, DA sat down with the man behind the hair to discuss his cultish community of loving bassheads. It was a time of great transition for the underground king of bass — from a figure who detests fame to an electronic music rockstar whose name draws tens of thousands of loyal followers to any given event. Ashton made the decision to stop touring in the classical sense, with his iconic 2014 Noise Vs. Beauty Tour resting as his last, and start creating more immersive family gatherings several times a year. The events that unfold at these gatherings is what sits at the core of the Bassnectar project: Unconditional love, artistic expression, connection with like-minded individuals, passion for politics, and thinking for yourself. 

These five pillars of the Bassnectar family are really the very same ideals that strike at the heart of the music community at large. The Bassnectar community is just one tiny microcosm for seeing into the more expansive universe of music. From the freaks and outcasts of punk rock and metal core to electronic dance music, issues that sometimes plague the community aren’t anything new or specific to only the Bassnectar family.

So when returning to the earlier problem of how bassheads are perceived — as cynical, misanthropic misfits — the reality is that communities are much more nuanced than we can ever fathom them from the side lines, and that sometimes it only takes a small minority of negative individuals to making enough noise to end up representing a whole group of people. As outside onlookers, we ought to use caution when making blanket statements that lump large groups of people together; lest we risk stereotyping in such a way that stigmatizes, which leads to ignorance, demagoguery, and witch-hunting. Generalizations can be helpful, but they can also be harmful. Ultimately at stake is an ethical question that boils down to this: Live and let live.

Bassnectar family photo. Spring Gathering 2018, Night 1. Photo: aLIVE Coverage.

 

 

Bassnectar reveals first of four 2018 seasonal gatherings in Chicago

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After tweeting a short cryptic teaser that had the Bassnectar family clamoring over possible upcoming events, Bassnectar has officially revealed his return to Chicago, IL, March 30–31, 2018, after a seven year Windy City hiatus. The two-night run features an incredibly diverse cast of bass music’s most promising rising talent, including REZZ, TroyBoi, TOKiMONSTA, Ivy Lab, Danny Corn, and Bay Area newcomer Andreilien.

The theme of the spring time gathering, according to Bassnectar’s official blog, is set to “…celebrate the dawning of Spring: rebirth, regeneration, and a radiant gratitude for life.” The whole team promises to amp up all levels of art, music, interactivity, and community as well with staples like The Haven and The Gift Altar.

The spring announcement also comes as the first of four seasonal gatherings in 2018, of which Lorin Ashton presents as a bit of a jigsaw to be decoded by his devoted followers. The Bassnectar team will be planting tiny reveals and clues over the coming months as to dates, themes, locations, and line-up support. But for now:

 

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Pre-sale tickets for the Spring special event will go on sale Wednesday, November 15th at 12pm ET. Regular tickets will go on sale the following day, also at 12pm ET. Read the full announcement on Bassnectar’s official blog.

 

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Bassnectar makes his ‘Return to the Mothership’ this weekend with BassCenter X

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For its tenth anniversary, Lorin Ashton is bringing his iconic BassCenter gathering to Virginia’s Hampton Colosseum for a specially curated three-night run. Recently, Bassnectar spoke to fans in an hour-long Reddit AMA and revealed some insider details into the event.

He’s deemed the occasion as “the Return to the Mothership,” which harpoons back to nostalgia of Bassnectar/Pretty Lights co-headlining show, BassLights, from 2012-15. Since the show’s cancellation, fans have since been making some noise about their demigod’s return to the sacred Hampton venue. Ashton certainly answered the call.

“Essentially Hampton Coliseum really wanted me to come back, and it seemed like a great opportunity,” says Lorin, “also I wanted to try something a bit more intimate and left field in Colorado.”

Last year, Ashton drew over 25,000 attendees to Commerce City, Colorado for a massive two-day camping event. “Having pulled off the biggest show of my career,” said Ashton, “I wasn’t thinking ‘yes! bigger is better! now I gotta come back and play to a hundred thousand people!!’ AHHH… i dont want to take over the world.”

Photo courtesy of Brown Note Productions.

“Bass Center is without a doubt the creative pinnacle of the year for my entire team!”

Of course, it wasn’t always that way, but, as Lorin explains to his fans, “after last year, it really became a chance for me to take the deepest dive possible into ‘bassnectar’ and reinvent it live while ripping into the past and flinging it into the future. its like the quintessential ‘ok i am involved in every tiny aspect of this event’ so i just obsess over it.”

Anyone who has witnessed the mass spectacle that is the Bassnectar experience knows that there is bound to be mistakes made in any three-hour-long impromptu event, for which Ashton handles like a complete veteran. But fans also know they can expect to see massive spectacles, such as faux-snow or beautiful rose petals falling from the ceiling, instead of the usual EDM confetti. No wonder, then, that Ashton becomes so obsessive about every minute detail.

Ashton describes his process in planning out the weekend as “OBSESSIVE. COM. PULSIVE.” He jokes that, in the BassCenter lead-up, he’s “basically just [been] terrorizing [his] team for a year about this event. and ironically, lots goes right, lots goes ‘wrong’ and lots of stuff which goes not as planned ends up better than planned…”

And that is exactly what one can expect to happen at a Bassnectar show. Expect the unexpected. Or, as the bass music demigod puts it to his cult-like fan base so regularly, “don’t expect anything, just come join us and dive in deep.”

What makes Bassnectar events so special isn’t only the cutting edge technology or the physical, visceral, emotional rollercoaster of sound. It’s the psychedelic, communal experience in which the Bassnectar fanbase brings to the show. As many devout followers of Bassnectar would say, it’s not a fanbase so much as a family base. At every turn, you’ll see random acts of kindness, like homemade gift exchanges, pop-up art installations, and live performers wandering through the crowds.

Photo courtesy of Westword.

Leading up to the event, Bassnectar noted in his AMA that he worked “nonstop hours with the lighting team, designing how to approach the room into the exact visual experience we want.” Of course, in addition to the stunning visual display, the music will make unexpected twists and turns that Ashton has cooked up in his mind, and, yet, that he isn’t exactly even sure he is taking.

Lorin elaborates, “[F]or Bass Center, across three nights, I will conjure up 3 totally distinct sets which feel like the full throttle tour sets, which a totally unique and independent of each other, with all my favorite music, remixed into new versions, going NUTSO on the request line, and basically taking every request that comes in…with a twist”

“In terms of the music…for anyone who is like ‘why dont you tour anymore’ …those three nights are like fucking tour.”

bassnectar-red-rocks

Photo courtesy of aLive Coverage.

Outside of Bassnectar’s own performance, there are a number of enticing features that attendees can expect to see at this year at BassCenter X.

The area called “The Haven,” which was debuted at last year’s BassCenter event, was designed as a safe space for fans to come to when they were facing sensory overload (a common thing to happen at nectr events). The Haven is home to massages, a gift alter, green tea, and interactive projects.

Also announced is the unveiling “The Lot” in Hampton. This is an enhanced gathering space outside the venue with renegade sound systems, pop-up arts & crafts fair, and guest performances.

“We are working on every tiny element,” Lorin continues, “making the outside ‘line’ area blend into a larger kind of event carnival, maybe kind of like a Grateful Dead lot of the 1990’s meets an ICP show, meets a free outdoor day party in Golden Gate Park.”

Fans can also experience the show from any angle since the entire event is a “free roam” type of environment. Ashton says about the venue, “the floor is so massive, and we are making the stands wrap around so you can spend the whole night running in circles if you wish.”

Bassnectar will be playing extended sets each night alongside a diverse cast of musical talent, including Cashmere Cat, Dan Deacon, Mr. Carmack, CloZee, Tsuruda, Bleep Bloop, Shlump, Son of Kick, and CharlesTheFirst. Suffice it to say, the tenth iteration of the event is poised to be one of Ashton’s best yet.

BassCenter X is will transpire for three days this weekend, September 1-3, 2017. Limited tickets are still on sale.

All quotes from Lorin Ashton in this piece are from his Reddit AMA earlier this year.

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8 things we learned from Bassnectar’s newest Reddit AMA

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When Bassnectar isn’t busy digging out of the vault each year for new albums, curating new immersive experiences for his cult family following, and headlining every major U.S. festival along the way, Lorin Ashton makes time to engage regularly with fans over social media. Yesterday, June 28, the Bay-area producer stopped by r/IAmA for a very special Q&A — special since it was his first AMA in over 4 years. Ashton got candid on a variety of topics, ranging from side collaborative projects, his overall creative process, and his upcoming special events.

Here are 8 things we learned from Bassnectar’s Reddit AMA:

1. His “heavy duty” collaboration with Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello also features Big Boi and Killer Mike.

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2. His manager mentioned how impressive the rate at which his “hair” comments came.

Bassnectar has been iconic for his trademark thrashing hair. Building on his manager’s earlier comments, Ashton even made sure to mention later on how important it was for fans to be themselves: “dont grow your hair out and try and play music that sounds like bassnectar [grow your hair out and play music that sounds like YOU].”Bassnectar has been iconic for his trademark thrashing hair. Building on his manager’s earlier comments, Ashton even made sure to mention later on how important it was for fans to be themselves: “dont grow your hair out and try and play music that sounds like bassnectar [grow your hair out and play music that sounds like YOU].”

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 3.47.57 PMIn the process, however, Ashton speaks deeper about “Do It Yourself” (DIY) art work, which has been a hot button issue in his artistically-driven bass head community for some time.

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3. There’s a new Colorado camping event in the works for 2018, which is being talked about as the new “BassCenter.”

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Ashton finally spoke up about why he wasn’t going all in a large-scale Colorado-based festival this year, especially after last year’s massive success with 25,000 people in attendance. As Ashton explained, he doesn’t want to “conquer the world” or “go bigger;” quite the opposite, actually, Lorin wants to go more small scale for his events in order for them to feel more underground. Less lights, more focus on the sound.

Ashton also explained that a “Mothership” event at Hampton Coliseum just seemed to fit better, especially since the venue asked him to return (a rare feat for any Bassnectar event). It’s no secret that a huge Bassnectar fanbase resides in colorful Colorado, and with the record breaking numbers of BassCenter 9, the biggest show of Lorin’s career, it comes with great relief that the “King of the Sound” is bringing his set-up back to the Rocky mountain region. Hopefully the Bassnectar team are shooting for a camping site outside of the city this time around.

4. He delves into his inspiration for his Mimi Page collaboration, “Was Will Be.”

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Ashton goes into a unique stream-of-consciousness dialogue that gives fans a deeper look into his spiritually-driven creative process. He first explains how he meant for the song to build upon 3 previous tracks, then moved toward tapping his usual favorites for the vocals. Ashton elaborates, “Lupe Fiasco, Zion I, Rye Rye, all kinds of people made really interesting concepts to it, but the one Mimi came up with was so haunting” that it “was super powerful to [him].”

5. He speaks in depth about the concept behind “Freestyle Sessions.”

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The event sounds like it’s going to be an alien playground of sound. Since this is the first event of it’s kind, Ashton explains he’s been focusing on the music non-stop, and that it’s going much deeper than a main stage set at Electric Forest or Bonnaroo, for instance. “Its what would i play if it was just you and me on a road trip, or if it was just us and a dozen friends drinking wine in a tree house.” Eventually, Ashton plans to roll out the concept to small rooms in cities across the country, with no lights, just loud bass music in the dark.

6. Coming up with his set lists are “insanely time consuming,” but an intense matrix of endless possibilities.

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7. It doesn’t sound like he’ll be doing another road tour anytime soon

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Lorin explains how difficult (indeed, physically impossible) it had become to move his massive collection of equipment on the road 4-5 nights/week. He further alludes that his current iterations of “tour” stops (e.g. “family gatherings” or “special events,” as they’re deemed) is where he is at currently in life. Perhaps that may change in the future.

8. He won’t stop playing music until he is dead.

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Read the full Reddit AMA here.

 

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Bassnectar announces line-up support for Freestyle Sessions

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Lorin Ashton, known to most under his Bassnectar moniker, has just revealed the full line-up for his Freestyle Sessions event taking place at 1st Bank Center in Denver, Colorado this July 7-9, 2017.

Ashton took to his official blog this morning, May 19th, to elaborate on the Bassnectar team’s creative vision for the special three-night event. According to Ashton, the Sessions will be taking on a rare and unique “interactive approach” with omnidirectional lasers and lighting, along with rare tracks, throwbacks, and customized remixes of specially requested tracks from fans.

Backing up Bassnectar on the bill for Friday, July 7th, is Truth, Thriftworks, and Goopsteppa, followed by ill.Gates, CloZee, and AtYyA on Saturday, July 8th, and, finally, Beats Antique (DJ Set), Aztek, and Mr Projectile on Sunday, July 9th. As always, come armed with no expectations – but also expect to experience a “dynamic free-for-all” featuring DJ sets from amazing line-up support, and three specially themed sets from the King of Sound himself.

Read Bassnectar’s full blog entry to learn more about his nightly themed sets, including “Freestyle” Friday, “Dreamtempo” Saturday, and “Wildstyle” Sunday. All remaining GA/VIP three-day and single-day tickets are available here.

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