Bassnectar, Kaskade, The Glitch Mob & more join Imagine Festival 2018 with phase two lineup announcement

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Imagine Music Festival has released the full roster of performers for its 2018 event, which returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway in Atlanta, Georgia September 21–23 for its fifth annual edition.

Once viewed as the burgeoning new festival of the Southeast, Imagine Music Festival has grown to become one of the nation’s most anticipated electronic dance music events of the year. Now, joining the likes of Armin Van Buuren, Alesso, Galantis, RL Grime, and Zeds Dead comes two new headliners, Bassnectar and KaskadeThe Glitch Mob and Getter will also be joining Adventure Club on the Oceania Stage.

Additional new artists to the lineup include Green Velvet, Tiga, Boogie T & Squnto, and many more.

This year, Imagine will boast four main stages, with its world-renowned, immersive aquatic theme running all throughout the festival.

Tickets and more information can be found here.

Photo Courtesy of Imagine Festival

Bassnectar – Bass Head (Birthdayy Partyy Remix)

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Birthdayy Partyy just won’t stop. They continue to release tracks at about a two week pace, although they’ve managed to squeeze in a few extra releases along the way since their launch in the first month of this year. Fast forward to now and they’ve cleared a dozen releases and played EDC Las Vegas, with

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Bassnectar Announces The Spring Gathering Of 2019

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Could it be, potentially the most beautiful festival/ gathering of the year? Bassnectar has just announced a super rad concept that needs your help. His public post below: “Lately I have been dreaming up a concept for an intimate, immersive weekend event in a far away land… somewhere tropical on the beach. I imagine several

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Introducing Dorfex Bos: A rising underground bass talent talks inspirations, collaborative hopefuls, and his penchant for low-end vibrations in debut ‘Opinions’ EP [Interview + EP Review]

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Who exactly is Dorfex Bos?

Dorfex Bos may not be a household name in electronic dance music, nor may he ever wish to be. However, the Madison House-signee is one name in underground bass that we’ve been keeping tabs on here at Dancing Astronaut since appearing on Bassnectar‘s tenth full-length studio album, Into the Sun, back in 2015.

“Lorin [Ashton] is an absolute beast. He’s a genius,” Dorfex Bos told us in a recent interview. “I’ve never met someone with such a clear vision of what they wanted and the skills to make it happen so fully.”

Dorfex Bos is Angelo Tursi, an artist emerging from the early 2000s West Coast bass scene. His music is easily discernible by its eclectic, heavy sound stamp that weaves together elements of lush downtempo, dubstep, and left-field electronica.

But, like most free form bass music artists, don’t ask Dorfex Bos to force himself into any narrowly-defined categories. “I don’t really identify completely with any genres,” Tursi says of his experimental sound. “I’m known for making deep, trippy, cinematic tracks that I guess is considered ‘bass music,’ but I’m not really trying to put myself in that box.”

The Brooklyn-based beatmaker further alluded to the bass music genre as one that is as loose and expansive as it is subversive and very much open to creative interpretation:

“I feel like ‘bass music’ as a genre is very much solely focused on the body experience. I like to weave in a melodic and harmonic element that takes the whole experience a little deeper. My music has [an] emotional flavor that I feel is missing from a lot of ‘bass music.’ “


Dorfex Bos plays the Incendia Stage at Okeechobee, Florida, 2018. Photo courtesy of Madison House.

“Okeechobee was absolutely bonkers. I was set to play a smaller, late night stage…and there were a few thousand people there. It was a beautiful sight. It was a super tight, deep set.”


Dorfex Bos is known by many for his iconic collaborations with Bassnectar, including the self-titled track “Dorfex Bos,” which first appeared in 2004 on Diverse Systems of Throb, along with “Horizons” and “Other Worlds“— two mind-melding numbers that appeared on the recently-released Reflective EP.

“Our last two collaborations, ‘Horizons’ and ‘Other Worlds,’ were made in my bedroom studio on two separate occasions. We would start playing with ideas and very quickly a very clear and defined sound would emerge. It’s crazy making music with him because I have to keep in mind that tens of thousands of fans are going to experience these tracks in arenas and stadiums and you have to think about how they are going to sound in huge venues. It’s different than writing music for clubs. It’s a bit of a mind fuck.”

Recently signed to the Boulder-based powerhouse booking and management firm, Madison House — who also represent electronic music careers of Bassnectar, Clozee, Crywolf, Golfclap, Mt. Eden, Polish Ambassador, The String Cheese Incident, William Black, among many more — Dorfex Bos now brings his debut EP, Opinions, to the table. He is poised to stand alone as a new power player within his area of expertise.


“This EP is very special to me. Each track encompasses a specific and unique combination of mood and groove.”


The four-track project is an aural representation of a roundtable discussion on the sheer eclecticism and diversity of sound within the underground bass music scene. Rather than a cohesive journey of musical story-telling, what Tursi is laying down in his Opinions EP is a track-by-track catalog of playful sonic surprises with ever-evolving synth patterns, broken beats, and newly emerging bass lines around every turn. Perhaps no one puts it better than Tursi on his Opinions EP:

“It feels like a cocoon-deep welcoming, charged with just the right kind of rhythmic energy to keep it moving forward into the unknown. It’s music made for dimly lit dance floors or late night car rides down empty highways.”

Tursi’s auspicious sound sits on the horizon of where bass music is heading: It’s a purview into another world, catalyzed by a full-bodied, all-encompassing listening experience. Opinions serves as his artistic vessel into charting this plane: It’s a sonic mosaic that Dorfex Bos pieces together layer by layer, bit by bit, through each of his meticulously-crafted productions.

Take the EP’s eponymous leading track — a stunning, yet jarring composition laced with a sounds often mirrored by Bassnectar himself in his recent work. Complete with gritty electro-style synths, robust, grounding basslines, and highs that resemble the emergency sirens of a national weather warning system, it resembles an aerial adventure through hypnotic sound fx“It’s so big and expansive, it feels like you’re soaring on the back of a dragon very high up in the sky and you can feel the wind whipping through your hair,” says Tursi of “Opinions.”

 

Building upon the steady momentum set by the EP’s beginning, “Teen $pirit” begins much lighter with a keen focus on arpeggiated chords and captivating toy-box synth work. After the song’s first drop is where the intensity culminates into a more foreboding mood; yet, with the continuous use of light-hearted synths, users need not be apprehensive in giving themselves over to the song’s darker elements.

 

“Cyalafalora” subsumes the EP’s most mysterious appeal. Laid across an experimental landscape, the track features outer space bass elements, retro 1980s synths, like something out of Stranger Things, and laidback tones that allows the listener to explore the unmapped terrain of the human psyches. Upon the song’s second drop, Dorfex Bos takes a complete 180-degree turn into what sounds like a completely different song. 

 

Finishing off the EP is “Ralph’s Dance,” complete with a dark, anthemic quality that only Dorfex Bos can replicate. It catapults listeners into a side show circus tent, as if one is lining up to watch a traveling freak show somewhere in an arid desert county in the 1950s. 

 

In short, Dorfex Bos’ breakout EP is a statement of what is to come from the rising artist. Though eclectic as ever, that isn’t to say that the EP is disjointed by any means. For Opinions features a unique, experimental, and amorphous sound so as to explore the deeper possibilities of free form bass. “It’s thick, it’s bouncy, it’s deep, it’s dreamy,” says Tursi.

Dorfex Bos plays the Incendia Stage at Fractal Beach, Florida, 2018. Photo courtesy of Dorfex Bos.

“I wanted to present a mini-journey of what Dorfex currently represents and what I’m doing in my live sets — which is [using] very big, expansive beats with a mysterious, almost haunting, narrative running through it.”

Still in the early development phase, Dorfex’s live show is a rollercoaster ride of raw, undefined emotion and low-end frequencies that incorporates original tracks from Tursi’s sizable back catalog of music. Visually, there is still much left to map out for the young artist: “Up to this point, I have been the sole designer of all Dorfex visual art. I enjoy having a lot of creative control over how my work is presented. But I do look forward to collaborating with the right artist in the future if that magical synergy is there.”

“The live show is very me in that it will be an interesting dichotomy of ‘dark’ and ‘light’ imagery.”

Tursi’s approach to his live experience is laced with the kind of DIY sensibility that runs deep within the spirit of the underground bass scene. It is a sense for which he also takes cues from Tipper, whom he has opened for in the past, and Bassnectar, who he will open for during night two of Freestyle Sessions. On playing the upcoming event, which will be full culty bass heads:

“I’m super excited for Freestyle Sessions! I’m playing on ‘Dreamtempo’ night so it’s going to be a dreamy, bouncy set. I’m not really nervous about it, a lot of Bassnectar fans come out to my shows and they are usually super engaged and excited about me playing.”

As for his other upcoming appearances throughout the year, Dorfex Bos is also booked as direct support for The Glitch Mob on their new album-accompanying world tour, dubbed “Blade 2.0,” a interactive live music spectacle with visuals powered by Dell and an immersive VR experience from Strangeloop Studios.

“I’ve been friends with Ooah and Boreta for a very long time, about 15 years,” Tursi explained matter of factly. “They got in touch with me because their original support Elohim was unable to do [one particular] date.”

Dorfex Bos was beaming at the opportunity to play on The Glitch Mob’s cutting-edge stage set-up. “It’s a game-changer,” alluded Tursi. “I very quickly said yes because I know they have a very open-minded fanbase that would be down to go on the Dorfex journey, which is going to lean a little on the cerebral.”

With mentors like Tipper, Bassnectar, and The Glitch Mob — each with their clearly-defined respective sounds, and their shared roots in psychedlica and new-age spiritualism — there is no doubt that Dorfex Bos is one breakout artist whose climbing the swift ladder to success. Not only is he set to expand the sonic worlds of the three aforementioned artists, who all share a similar musical flavor, as well as crossover fanbases, DA asked what other artists made Tursi’s list of collaborative hopefuls.

“I’d love to work with Four Tet… he’s been a big inspiration to me for years. I’d love to make something with Potions (of the Lab Group)… he has such an amazing sense of sound design. Some other names I’d like to throw out on my collab wishlist… ELWD, Nils Frahm, EPROM, Oneohtrix Point Never, FlyLo, and Björk.”


So what exactly is a Dorfex Bos?

“I like my audience to experience ‘feels,’ and not just solely a beat to bang their heads to. It’s a fully sensory experience.” – Angelo Tursi

Tursi conjured up his moniker from a wildly imaginative place. The root, “Dorfex,” refers to some imaginary rural county in the British countryside, complete with lush rolling hills and dew-filled forests; the stem, “Bos,” he’s always thought about in terms of a fantasy computer-coded language. Juxtaposing the two creates a kind of elemental synergy — between nature and machine — for the artist. It’s a space Tursi says he enjoys dwelling in, both mentally and physically.

As for Dorfex Bos’ vibrant future, 2018 has much in store for the Brooklyn-based producer, including several more releases and collaborations for which the artist remained rather vague about going into detail over.

One thing we know for sure of the left-field bass producer is that he has a clearly-marked sound, with a penchant for low-end vibrations, and a definitive map for where he’s going.

 

How this will come to take shape for the audience?

Only time will tell.

 

But Dorfex Bos is not just a moniker, or even a man behind a moniker. According to Tursi, it’s a fully immersive experience: “The Dorfex Bos experience is a balanced combination of bass heavy beats and a rich cloak of melodies and harmonies that feel very much like a film score.”

Cinematic and fully sensory, on the one hand. Heavy, cumbersome, and yet fully palatable, on the other.

Elements NYC returns with stacked 2018 lineup topped by Bassnectar, Emancipator and more

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BangOn!NYC‘s beloved Elements Music & Art Festival brand is returning to its Bronx home at Hunts Point this year for the event’s fifth installment, and this time, they’re gearing up for their biggest outing to date with newly reimagined programming for the summer shakedown. Returning with four elemental-themed stages and New York’s iconic skyline views as the festival backdrop, Elements has tapped Bassnectar with the day’s headlining duties, along with performances locked in from Emancipator, Snakehips, and a Dirtybird Players showcase of Claude VonStroke‘s west coast house heroes.

Taking place this year on August 11, the festival is incorporating a heavier emphasis on emerging technologies and interactive performances, and visual arts. The single day event is bringing over 20 performers to Hunts Point this summer, with some surprises still yet to be revealed. Now, with half a decade of Elements in the books, expect BangOn to pull out all the stops on the the 2018 edition.

Bassnectar announces line-up for Basscenter XI

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Riding the massive success of his sold-out Spring Gathering event in Chicago, Bassnectar has announced a third family-style event for 2018. BassCenter XI returns to Hampton, Virginia’s Hampton Colosseum, a sacred space dubbed “the Mothership” by bassheads.

Following Bassnectar’s summer gathering, Freestyle Sessions, which touches down in Colorado in early June, the Bassnectar project will venture out east for Labor Day weekend. As a celebration of fall, Basscenter promises to be the creative pinnacle of the year from Bassnectar’s team.

The two-day spectacle, held September 1–2, 2018, will feature line-up support from Stylust, Ill-esha, Hatcha, Ana Sia, the legendary Dutch DnB trio Noisia, and the in demand Barclay Crenshaw — Claude VonStroke‘s new alter ego. Pre-sale tickets begin Wednesday, April 11th with general on-sale beginning Friday, the 13th at 11am EST.

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 Shaves Head, Announces Collaboration With Lil Yachty: BoatNectar

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We have seen a lot of artists turn to the rap genres from dance music in recent years. Steve Aoki, for example, decided to focus almost entirely on an EDM Rap crossover album in 2017, with it he found decent success. Even deadmau5 made a rap track with Mau5trap signee Shotty Horroh. Now though, a

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BUKU Music + Arts Project – photos by Christian Miller and Dianna Shelley

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Photo credit: aLive Coverage

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Sending it to The Big Easy: BUKU Music + Arts Project in Review

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Additional words by John Flynn.

The smell of lobster po’ boys and boiled crawfish is thick in the air, as crowds of festivalgoers make their way down Magazine Avenue towards the entrance to New Orleans’ Mardis Gras World. The venue is a one-of-a-kind urban promised land, whose grounds are home to the Big Easy’s iconic Mardis Gras Day parade floats and an abandoned early 20th Century power plant that has become the official backdrop of Winter Circle Production’s BUKU Music + Arts Project.

BUKU’s position at Mardi Gras World is perhaps its biggest prominency. The destination provides the ultimate unique locale for festival organizers to craft a singular experience rooted in the spirited history of one of America’s oldest cities. Located on the banks of the Mississippi, its outdoor stages are set in plain view of a rusted-out power plant. The festival’s newest stage, dubbed The Wharf, is quite the intriguing addition, with wooden shipping crates standing as it’s center piece aesthetic. While BUKU veterans were initially disappointed in the organizer’s elimination of the boat stage, their apprehensions seemed to melt away as they danced their hearts out to the house beats of Green VelvetWalker & Royce, and Bonobo, among others.

Photo credit: aLive Coverage

Photo credit: aLive Coverage

As festivalgoers from many walks of life scurry through the grounds with grins on their faces and all sorts of potions in their hands, one can see the minute mental moments of reflection of their faces, where they pause briefly to take in the Mississippi River air, contemplating the performances the next two days has to offer. The seventh annual edition of BUKU, it seems, thrives off of the palpable hype pulsing through the veins of wide-eyed 20-somethings seeking total sensory assault.

The festival is a match made in heaven for such a demographic, offering up some of the biggest names in EDM and hip-hop — from Bassnectar, Porter Robinson’s new Virtual Self  project, and the goddess of Neptune, REZZ, to Migos and Lil Uzi Vert — along with a plethora of other styles for those looking to forsake sonic overload for something a bit more subtle in SZA, Sylvan Esso, and MGMT.

It is this sort of eclectic line-up that the festival prides itself on. One might be dancing to the hypnotic builds of Honey Dijon and, upon a turn to the left, see the Mississippi River as freight boats glide by. Turn to the right, and the gutted power-plant provides an industrial backdrop to Illenium and Gryffin‘s feel-good soundscapes. BUKU’s premier indoor stage, the Float Den, is set inside a 300,000 square foot working warehouse — the very one where the city’s elaborate Mardi Gras floats are created and stored.

Beyond dance music, Friday night brought an abundant array of more popular spectacles. Two stalwarts of contemporary hip-hop/R&B, Migos and SZA, made and appearance, while hitmakers MGMT brought a taste of indie flavor. As the beginning synth from “Time To Pretend” sets in, swells of festival goers could be seen rushing to the stage to catch the band in action. Their booking helped fill a niche for attendees that existed outside of the EDM and hip-hop dominated culture.

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While Migos’ performance was cut to a mere 30 minutes due to their tardiness, SZA’s surpassed all expectations. Despite an ankle injury cutting her set ten minutes short, the artist hit her notes in stride. At a time where SZA is quickly becoming one of Generation Z’s largest pop stars, her elegance on stage made for something downright magical. As far as Migos set goes, you’d have to ask one of the thousands of panting kids that exited the stage promptly after, but it goes without saying the Atlanta trio put on a spectacle of a performance.

Friday also marked the debut of Virtual Self’s US festival performance. As the Porter Robinson alter alias descended on the festival, surges of fans flocked into the Float Den to catch the performance. Given his set time and location on the more intimate stage, his set was a huge success. As the melancholy tinged synths from “Ghost Voices” bounced off the warehouse’s walls and the dance floor hit peak movability, it became clear that the alter ego has nearly equated Robinson himself.

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What Robinson has crafted in this current reiteration of his live performance is painstakingly artistic and novel. With lights shooting up in parallel lines from the stage’s see-through flooring panels, to the multitude of lasers so perfectly timed to his uncanny drops, Virtual Self’s set stands as a fully immersive visual and auditory spectacle. Even if his IDM, jungle-infused, era-accurate trance, early hardcore, and j-core blended sound doesn’t tickle everyone’s ear drums, one simply could not walk away from the set without an immense respect for what the Robinson is doing — that is, recycling early electronic sounds into a rollercoaster journey of new-wave sounds.

Saturday’s diverse range of sets made for a great follow up, with artists like REZZ, Isaiah Rashad, Sylvan Esso, and Illenium drawing large crowds. Bassnectar also made a welcome appearance, slamming his most sought-after tracks upon his audience — from “Raw Charles” and “Cozza Frenzy” to “Hologram,” and “Lost In The Crowd.” He also paid homage to the city of New Orleans in his deliverance of his bass-bolstered remix of Buku’s “Front to the Back,” while making time to drop in a tune by NOLA-based bass music duo, sfam, so as to promote rising local talent. However, it was REZZ who molded these bass worshipping disciples into pure balls of energy with her hypnotic performance. No longer human, the audience transformed themselves into slow moving entities at the hands of the Niagara Falls native’s industrial-tinged rhythms set to the frequencies of the planet Neptune. Indeed, the slotting of REZZ to close out the festival after Bassnectar was a bold, deliberate, and keenly-astute decision by organizers.

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The most notable aspect of BUKU fest was the organizer’s intentional booking of strong female headliners — a highly laudable move that deserves recognition in an age of the #MeToo Movement, where female artists and consumers have begun speaking out against sexual assault at the hands of powerful male industry professionals. With additional lineup support from Alison Wonderland, Bishop Briggs, No Name, and Clozee, it was clear that the Bukweens were out in dominant force. Their presence transformed the festival vibe into a refreshing modality of equality and empowerment, further spotlighting how the music industry masses are waking up to the fact that females are disproportionately represented at the top tiers of dance music.

As BUKU thrives and grows with each passing year, the Winter Circle-produced event has earned a reputation as the South’s premiere outdoor, urban, spring time festival. It’s become clear that these organizers know what they are doing as they expand the venue seamlessly, create insane stage productions, and curate cutting-edge line-ups. If you haven’t experienced the magic of Mardis Gras World already, you’ll want to make sure to include BUKU Music + Arts Project as the kick-off event of your next festival season.

Photo Credit: VibeSmith


All photos by Vibesmith, unless otherwise noted