Sometimes Music Is The Only Way Things Will Start To Make Sense [Opinion Editorial]

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Sometimes life hits you harder than you are fully prepared to handle. Everything can be going perfectly, and out of the blue things seem to implode. You are left alone, frantically looking for answers in the chaos, questioning how you can move forward. I think we are all familiar with that feeling. Where you don’t

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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.

 

 

Whats The Best Anjunabeats Remix? Here’s Our Top 5

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Above & Beyond‘s label Anjunabeats have been pushing the trance and progressive boundaries for over 10 years. As a label they’ve eclipsed well over 100 releases from dozens of artists including the likes of Mat Zo, Kyau & Albert, Jason Ross and Above & Beyond themselves. In that same 10 year span, some of those Anjuna tracks

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The Odd Link Between Over The Top Sorority Recruitment Videos And The EDM Scene

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Ahhh Fall, the autumnal season evokes so many different images and sensory experiences. Pumpkin flavored everything, Halloween, gorgeous colors as leaves change colors. Oh yeah – and if you go to college – good old Greek life recruitment. We started to notice a trend though with these over the top recruitment videos over the last

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Electric Zoo : The 6th Boro – 3 Day Event Recap

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The 9th edition of Electric Zoo took place at Randall’s Island in New York City this past Labor Day weekend and I luckily got the chance to cover this event and attend all 3 days. The lineup was stacked this year with incredible headliners including DJ Snake, Above & Beyond, and Eric Prydz b2b with deadmau5. We

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Electric Zoo 2017 – 4 Under The Radar Acts You Don’t Want To Miss

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Electric Zoo 2017 : The 6th Boro is now officially less that 1 week away and with the set times officially out, its time to get excited. Electric Zoo is New York’s biggest EDM festivals and have garnished some HUGE names for this year including deadmau5 b2b w/ Eric Prydz, Above & Beyond, DJ Snake,

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Moon Boots gives his steps to success on the heels of his debut album, ‘First Landing’ [OP-ED]

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Over the past several years, Pete Dougherty has built a reputation as one of Anjunadeep’s most intriguing stars. Though he launched his career around the turn of the decade, Moon Boots broke through most resoundingly with his 2015 singles “Utopia” and “Red Sky,” which introduced his brand of complex, entrancing deep house to his broadest audience yet.

Two years later, Dougherty has honored his benchmark hits by featuring both of them in his debut album, First Landing. Released on Friday, August 4, the 10-track LP provides a thorough glimpse into Moon Boots’ stylistic penchants. Throughout the course of the record, a duality is present in Dougherty’s sonic brand.

Moon Boots 2017 headshot purple

 

The mesmerizing composition which defined “Red Sky” is further present in newer album singles such as “First Landing” and “The Life Aquatic.” Moon Boots also delves deeper into the soulful, R&B-inspired sound which pervaded the Janelle Kroll-assisted “Utopia” across the vast assortment of vocal-laden songs which make up the bulk of the LP. In particular, “Never Get to You,” “Keep the Faith,” and “Power” stand out as exemplars for this area of Dougherty’s inspiration – bolstered by lyrical contributions of Antony & Cleopatra, Nic Hanson, and Black Gatsby, respectively.

With a distinctly-crafted signature sound and a full-length Anjuna project to his name, Moon Boots has proven his astute understanding of how to succeed and evolve as an artist in the electronic realm. In the hopes of imparting his hard-earned wisdom onto the current generation of aspiring producers, Dougherty has taken it upon himself to outline his steps to success in this Dancing Astronaut Op-ed.

Moon Boots 2017 press shot red

Don’t get attached to your day job

There are a lot of different beliefs on this and my advice is no better than anyone else’s. Honestly it’s hard enough to find a good career these days, so if you are driven or lucky enough to get one, you might want to keep music as a hobby. But if you can’t or won’t get a good job, don’t hedge your bets. Pay your rent working as little as possible (bartending / serving / temping / tutoring / freelancing / DJ’ing bars & weddings) and spend the rest of your week on music for as long as you can get away with it. You won’t have the bread for a nice apartment or vacations, but you’ll be getting paid to go on vacation when you get booked on the road.

Get some hardware

If you’re just starting out on the laptop, get at least one piece of hardware, whether it’s a synth, sampler, drum machine or something else. If you’ve never spent much time browsing you might be surprised what you can get for <$500, both new & used.

Don’t download every software crack you can get your hands on

Learn the stuff you have. Get good at it. Find the sounds that a person casually diving through presets never would. Then think about getting other stuff.

Make music everyday

This is so important, especially when you’re starting out. Don’t let producing be like the guitar that gets pulled out of the closet a couple times a year. You won’t get anywhere unless you make music every day. For a few years. Be patient.

If you already know an instrument, use it

It always mystifies me when I hear producers say they play guitar or trumpet or violin or sing choir but don’t incorporate that into their electronic music. It will set you apart from your peers and will probably make it more fun.

Don’t pigeonhole yourself; listen to all kinds of music

Don’t listen to new club tracks in your chosen genre all the time. It will make your music boring and one-dimensional. Find whatever speaks to you, whether it’s disco, old school hip hop, old trance / progressive tracks, quiet storm, dub reggae, classic rock, classical or all of the above. Or none of the above. Take ideas from those styles — snippets of lyrics, bass lines, melodies, chord progressions, drum fills, production tricks, etc.. — and put them to use in your music.

Find a crew

Some artists seem to spring up fully-formed with no help. This is almost never true. If you don’t have a crew, find one. If you can’t find one in your local scene, look beyond it. This even goes for music capitals like London, New York, Chicago, Paris, Los Angeles, Berlin etc. When it comes to getting your music on the springboard it will need to get discovered, you may need to look beyond your city. Or you might be so freakishly talented you get signed to your dream label on your first track (but you probably won’t.) In any case, try and find a crew of people who love music just as much as you do.

Don’t be a total shut-in, but also don’t be a social butterfly

If you aren’t too young or too geographically isolated to go out to clubs, don’t spend all your waking hours in your studio. I can think of a bunch of tracks I never would have written if I hadn’t been out on a certain night. Support your friends when they’re playing and check out the superstars and legends whose ranks you will one day be joining if you keep at it. That said, no one’s gonna judge you (or care) if you stay home and work. Some people have a harder time staying in than others, but without a good work ethic, you’re probably not going to get anywhere.

When things really get cooking, you’re gonna find yourself oscillating between two extremes. On the one hand, you’ll need to be comfortable in big crowds and crazy late night parties. On the other, you’ll have days and weeks in front of your monitors without much social interaction. It’s a schizophrenic lifestyle. You’ll be a mess sometimes but remember that you signed up for this!

Don’t read too many articles like this

It’s easy to get writer’s block and think that someone else has the answers. Maybe you’ll be able to write that great track after you finish those e-books / complete that online course / learn music theory / start practicing yoga and meditation. Some of these are good uses of your time of course, but often you’re just putting more obstacles in your place.

Stay humble, don’t get complacent or bitter, learn new skills, enjoy the ride.

Moon Boots vertical press shot yellow 2017

 

Moon Boots’ debut album is available for purchase here.

Read More:

Meet the underground talent of CRSSD Fest: Moon Boots

Moon Boots – The Life Aquatic [Exclusive Stream]

Moon Boots – I Want Your Attention (feat. Fiora) (Original Mix)

Chester Bennington’s Tragic Death Shows That As Fans, We Need To Treat Artists Better

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We have all had service jobs before. These include but are not limited to retail, food service, hospitality or manual labor. Working at these jobs in high school, college or even still we have all encounter a special breed of asshole. Someone who makes your life a living hell even though you are trying your

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Chicago’s Premiere Electronic Music Festival: Spring Awakening

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On the weekend of June 10, 2017 in the center of Chicago, Spring Awakening Music Festival blew up the city with a varied lineup featuring musicians from house, dubstep, and funk amongst other genres. Taking place in Addams/Medill Park, the festival was a short 10 minute Uber from the Loop, and easily accessible for those

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NYC News Station Goes Undercover To Underground Rave, Misses The Point Entirely

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I want to start this little article off by saying the crew at New York City’s ABC7 had their hearts in the right place. They wanted to point out the dangers of underground raves, specifically the dangers of buildings not up to code. Finally a piece that was not supposed to be about drugs, and

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