December 31, 2013
Tracks That Made Me Go “Oh” in 2013

Every music critic, or person who spends lots of time listening to lots and lots of music, constantly wishes for the “oh” moment. 

In my case, it’s when music I have on - frequently, admittedly, in the background, while I’m concentrating on something else - makes me stop and actually make a noise. Usually a clipped, simple, “Oh.”

Then I pay attention, listen again, and eventually lose myself in the world of the song. It might come back to me when I’m falling asleep, or walking on the street, or when someone says something that reminds me of a lyric. When a friend’s story plays out one of its themes in real life, or when the subway tracks mimic its rhythm.

All the tracks below made me go “Oh” this year. But that doesn’t equate to a value judgement, a “best” list, or anything I would publish on any media platform besides my little semi-blog here. It’s just songs that in an underwhelming and often mute world of listening, made me make a monosyllabic noise. Maybe they’ll do the same for you.

Here’s each song and its “oh” moment. Happy 2014.

Nine Inch Nails, “Copy of A”

Those opening few bars of gurgling acidic techno - something in which, despite all his industrial leanings, Trent has never really indulged.

First heard: In a record exec’s corner office.

Close, “Beam Me Up”

When the track pays off its spacey intro by starting the lyric mid-phrase. But doesn’t get to the chorus until nearly halfway through. One of those rare form-meeting-function achievements.

First heard: Trolling Beatport.

Avicii, “Addicted To You”

Haters gonna hate. But from the moment Audra Mae opens her mouth, you hear the history, the soul, and the pathos. My real “oh” came a few weeks later when I found out that she’s Judy Garland’s great granddaughter. Of course she is.

First heard: In the pouring frigging rain at Tomorrowland.

Banks, “Change”

The entirety of this track made me fall hopelessly in love with Banks and her tiny catalog. Such a potentially trite topic - the man who says he’ll “change, I swear.” But her perspective is so clear and cinematic that you can see and feel it all.

First heard: On Spotify.

Tiësto ft. Kyler England, “Take Me”

So many “big” EDM tracks; so few that actually warrant the scope of lasers, light, and fire. But the bridge and chorus work so perfectly on this record, you leave yourself open to that moment. “Feel my heart / It beats like a stopwatch / Running out of time with each tick-tock.” Dance-pop perfection.

First heard: On the treadmill.

Sinead Harnett, “Got Me” (MK Swallow Dub)

I love a good dub and MK has always made the best ones. I think I had this on for about four hours straight the first day I heard it. Made for mindless dancing, which is sometimes the best kind.

First heard: Soundcloud searching.

Rudimental feat. Emeli Sandé, “Free”

“I don’t do yoga, never tried Pilates / Not many people want me at their parties.” Sold! One of the most lyrically compelling and honest tracks of the year - not sung by a 16-year-old.

First heard: In my red Honda Accord driving to my parents’ house.

Gesaffelstein, “Hate or Glory”

The sinister screaming ghost sample. It just sounds so brutal. And then things get more brutal.

First heard: When I saw the video.

Throwing Muses, “Lazy Eye”

The hi-hats in the intro. Muses tracks aren’t usually so driven; they chug, but they don’t race. A 30-year-old band gets more urgent with age. I bow down.

First heard: Just before interviewing Kristin Hersh, 15 years after our last talk.

Disclosure, “Grab Her!”

Yes, yes, I know. All the other Disclosure tracks. But you’re talking to a girl who has two copies of Paris Is Burning on DVD. I get how a pair of British teenagers might come to understand garage. But how do they know about bitch tracks?

First heard: When I bought the CD. (I still do that when I feel like it will matter.)

M83 feat. Susanne Sundfør, “Oblivion”

The chorus, which opens up the full cinematic scope of the track. Sundfør has a strange, nasal voice, and she’s singing the type of closing-credit anthem usually reserved for Shirley Basseys and Adeles. A rare Hollywood coup.

Lana Del Ray, “Young & Beautiful”

Speaking of cinema, Del Ray nailed her gun moll persona with this one - which was just as glamorous but more poignant than the entire The Great Gatsby remake. The “I know you will,” which really says the opposite, gets me every time.

First heard: Before I saw the film. Which got me excited for it.

Baauer & RL Grime, “Infinite Daps”

The cracking snares right out of the gate. Raw, crispy drums! I missed those.

First heard: Soundcloudin’.

Flux Pavilion, “Mountains And Molehills”

The intro, which sounds like Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android,” right down to the strings.

First heard: On Big Beat promo.

Sia, “Elastic Heart”

“You did not break me.” Sia channels Katniss. Diplo nails the pulse - and avoids gimmicks. I can accept The Weeknd as Peeta.

First heard: In an L.A. hotel room, when it was temporarily leaked. I didn’t refresh the page and recorded it playing back with GarageBand.


July 11, 2013
On My Coverage of Wavefront, and Critical Reading & Writing

I’ve been deluged over the last three days with criticism about my review of Wavefront Festival for Billboard.com ("Chicago’s Wavefront Music Festival Offers an EDM Alternative,” July 7), and felt the need to clarify my thoughts. As you can tell from the timestamp of this post, it’s been keeping me up nights.

I thought Wavefront was a good young festival with a few issues to solve before it becomes great. But the responses I’m getting - from Wavefront itself, commenters on the Billboard article, and social media - indicate that my writing apparently didn’t make that clear. “If I wanted to drive 50 miles to EDC I would have,” said someone via Twitter. That comment was so off, so contrary to what I thought the article actually said, that it inspired me to write this; to clear it up, and also make the case that it’s what the piece said all along.

Anyone who has read my stuff or followed me for any length of time knows that I’m a househead; that fact defines a lot about not only my musical taste but my view of the world. (Knowing that is not required to read and understand my writing, of course, but for the sake of the full-disclosure nature of this post it’s important to share.) As such, I was predisposed to like Wavefront from its lineup alone (Mark Farina x Derrick Carter - OMG!) . That’s why I decided to make the trip out to Chicago. But it was also something I needed to be careful of: Having such strong tendency to like something can ruin your critical objectivity. So, I decided to cover Wavefront for two outlets, and therefore two sides of my brain: The emotive music fan/expert for InTheMix.com, and the festival critic (I go to lots of these things) for Billboard.

My IntheMix coverage of Day 2 was flat-out gushy. Here’s what I said about Frankie Knuckles’ set:


The tent was perhaps a quarter full, but it didn’t matter: The househeads were there, a greyer, and yes, gayer, group than the rest of the festival, living for this homecoming moment with such passion that it clearly transcended just nostalgia.

This was house showing its roots as a social movement, a safe haven for the marginalized, set to music that’s just now beginning to creep upward into the mainstream. It all came together here, on this dance floor, at this festival in the year 2013: The originators, their small group of faithful, and one stage over, the massive youth culture they helped spawn, wearing brighter colors and more carefree smiles. Appropriation, commercialization, whatever: Wavefront created a temporary place in which they could coexist, and in those brief moments, it was beautiful.


You can tell I really hated it, right? I also Tweeted some crazy shit:

 

image

 

When it came time to write the Billboard article I was still of course filled with these types of positive vibes (I had even cried on that dance floor!). But I had to take stock of Wavefront in the context of the other events deemed “electronic music festivals” in the year 2013, some of which have staffs of thousands on the ground and million-dollar budgets. Wavefront isn’t there yet - but I also believed that it wasn’t the organizer’s desire or intention to get there. They were designed to be different.

I decided the best way to express these things was to go right at the most extreme example (a construction writers often use):


Wavefront Music Festival, which wrapped its second year last night (July 7) at Chicago’s Montrose Beach, is not Electric Daisy Carnival. The accouterment for its Main Stage, dubbed The Wave, was not an animatronic owl with plasma screen eyes; it was two blue-painted wooden wave structures with some plastic “foam” on top, that looked like a high school drama club made them. The side stage called The Cube was not an actual cube, as modern festival-goers might come to expect. It was just a stage, with a few LED screens arranged in a square formation hanging from its trussing. The sound was not super. It was muffled, dull, or overloud, and bleed was occasionally crippling, as DFA patriarch James Murphy discovered during his Friday night set (“Could my monitors be louder than the sound from the other stage?” he quipped to the tech).

 

First to admit that these things could be perceived as “negative.” But they’re also true. More importantly, did it sound like I was asserting that owls are required, or that the expectation that a stage called The Cube be an actual cube was a fair one? Thought the tone made it clear that those are strange permutations. Obviously we needed to get to the point though…

 

But all the things that made Wavefront unpolished (and in only its second year, what else could it be?) were the things that made it so endearing, and important. Because when the children of EDC start wanting a deeper, stranger, or more localized dance music experience (that’s the cycle of fan-dom, after all), someone has to be ready to provide.

 

Translation: Wavefront’s understandable scrappiness is the very thing that makes it not only worthy of love but “important” - that’s a big word, right? Because when kids start to scratch the surface of the owl and don’t find what they’re looking for, they’re going to want something else, something different. The future of dance music depends on them getting it. On the all-important positive-negative/black-white scale, this is pretty effing positive, right? From this point in the piece my overall feelings should be clear, right?

Wrong. This passage apparently got readers on the defensive, and unwilling to go down any subsequent paths with me. When I went on to talk about the relative “greenness” of the crowd, they said I had no respect for the educated Chicago dance music fan. (I saw and noted the ‘heads, for sure, but most of the crowd was, quite interestingly, more concerned with hearing dance music in general than idol worship at a particular DJ’s feet. This is in stark contrast to other festivals, where attendees rush from stage to stage to make certain sets and never leave their comfort zones. On the positive/negative spectrum, again, this was positive.)  I used the word “unsophisticated” in this context - a bad choice, but meant to describe this general lack of pretense (you’re right, I should have just said “unpretentious”). Fail. In another passage, I defined the festival’s brand as “kinder, gentler, more astute and democratic” (albeit in the context of constructive criticism). Not enough. They were even annoyed that this sentence (I added “refreshingly” in a later edit to be absolutely clear where it fell on the positive/negative spectrum) did not contain a laundry list of all the drinks available in the VIP area, including wine:

 

Refreshingly, the VIP areas didn’t have bottle service - only free vodka, beer and coconut water.


I’m the first to admit that if the writing requires this much explanation then it probably failed. Perhaps I should have used more superlatives - “best dance festival in Chicago” (not qualified to say that; haven’t seen them all) - or called it “a music fan’s dream.” But I’ve never really written in sound bite. Perhaps I shouldn’t have said anything negative at all; just turned a blind eye (and deaf ear) to the issues that I noticed over three days of watching very carefully, and blithely supported a festival I do believe in. But I feel like it’s my job to be honest. So many writers these days write what the event or artist wants to hear, so they can get a pat on the head and continue to enjoy a good relationship with the behind-the-scenes staff. To me that should not factor into the work.

My takeaway from this unfortunate series of events (and it really does suck; I feel rotten about it) is to simplify my language and be more overt when writing an opinion piece. That’s kind of a sad lesson, because I enjoy using the areas between-the-lines to communicate my true feelings. But when the possibility of being this misunderstood exists, it’s not worth the risk. The onus is on me to be crystal clear, and going forward that’s what I’ll be.

February 22, 2013
billboard:

Get a sneak peek at the new issue of Billboard!
Baauer and his “Harlem Shake” cover the latest issue of the magazine, as the viral hit debuts atop the revamped Hot 100.

billboard:

Get a sneak peek at the new issue of Billboard!

Baauer and his “Harlem Shake” cover the latest issue of the magazine, as the viral hit debuts atop the revamped Hot 100.

(via misskatiemo)

February 5, 2013
An EDM Promoter’s Manifesto

Yes, America, many of our attendees use drugs, and no, they are not from the margins of society. They are your children, and your friends, and your coworkers. They might be less risk-averse than you are, and more into visceral experiences. They might not be entirely sure of what they are just yet. But like that safe ride you took home from the bar on New Year’s Eve, or the 7th inning beer cut-off at the stadium, we need to give them tools to help them party responsibly. And we need the help of outside agencies to do that.

First, we need you to accept that this is happening; and if it wasn’t at Promoter A’s event, it would be at Promoter B’s. This is a music culture, and a youth culture, and it’s driven by passions that we can barely harness, let alone control. So forget any ideas of abstinence or eradication, or blame, for that matter.

We need you not to consider it an endorsement of this high-risk behavior when we take measures that could help our attendees, like creating harm reduction stations, distributing literature about the effects of drugs, providing limitless free water, and hiring trained medical teams to proactively walk the grounds and make sure kids are safe – without harassing them. To you, this might be an admission of some sort of guilt, but to us, it is essential. It can save lives.

To the DJs whom we pay upwards of $200,000 for an hour’s work: We ask you to lend your famous faces and names to this effort, so your fans realize it’s not somehow uncool to be safe and aware.

We all stand to profit mightily off the backs of the young people who pay money to come to our events. We owe it to them to not play dumb about what they might do once they’re there, and to do as much as we possibly can to protect them – yes, sometimes from themselves. Anything less would make us opportunistic profiteers who are turning our backs on the very culture that nurtured us, and is making our lives so comfortable and fulfilling now.

We mourn the dead, all taken too soon and too abruptly, with their families and communities. We will not rest until we’ve done everything we can to prevent further tragedies, even if it means sacrificing a stage, or a ride, or even an entire event. Every life is precious: Our culture rests on that truth. Our actions from here forward will bear that out.

July 3, 2012
"Is that Aretha Franklin?" -Skrillex

Don’t wait for Monsta’s first EP to come out on Owsla this Fall. “Holdin’ On” is already the song of my summer.

Skrillex told me in Billboard (full article here)…

“I was at South by Southwest with my manager Tim [Smith] and a few friends,” says Skrillex. “Tim says, ‘I got something,’ and pulls up [Monsta’s “Holdin’ On”]. I said, ‘That’s a sick track and a cool vocal sample. Where’d they get that from? Is that Aretha Franklin?’”

But it wasn’t a sample. It was Christopher’s powerfully androgynous performance of an original song written and recorded by the group using live instruments as well as synths and beats. 


July 2, 2012
The Vinyl rules, New York, circa 2003.

The Vinyl rules, New York, circa 2003.

July 1, 2012
"Press Play, Hit Start": A Viral Timeline

How my first Tumblr post went the v-word, via Storify.

June 26, 2012
Press Play? Hit Start

There’s been a lot of noise over the past few weeks, from various people and places, about the quality of the current electronic dance music experience.

On June 23 – enjoying the afterburn of a Rolling Stone cover story in which he called out everyone from Skrillex to David Guetta for dialing in their sets – Deadmau5 used a Tumblr post to piss on the importance of technical DJ-ing skills, saying that with the advent of Ableton and its automatic beat-matching capabilities, “we all hit play.” An editorial on super-blog Dancing Astronaut declared that “EDM” had officially “mainstreamed,” and decried the lack of new music in most superstar DJ’s sets: “What worries me is not that DJs are simply ‘pressing play,’ but that they’re pressing play on the same tracks in the same order night after night after night,” said writer Jacob Schulman. Meanwhile, Paris Hilton played her first official DJ gig – and apparently wasn’t even able to press play (a tech came onstage to do it).

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal (of all places!) even chimed in, bemoaning the “dumbing down of electronic music,” and labeling crossover artists like David Guetta and Calvin Harris “cliché-riddled, white-bread house that don’t represent the best of the genre.” Then there’s the much-talked-about feud between veteran DJ Sneak and Swedish House Mafia (sample: “I do not respect DJ actors”); and icons like Mark Farina and Dennis Ferrer being asked to vacate superclub DJ booths for not playing recognizable music. 

The bottomline: Artists are getting comfortable, some fans are starting to notice, and the ancients are rhapsodizing about the way we used to do it (for you younglings, that’s a track reference).

As a dance music lifer who had her conversion experience on a New York dance floor in 1999, and who has since made it her (literal) job to cover the genre’s evolution and development (as dance music reporter at Billboard) – of course I had feelings about all of that. But the only reason I’m writing this now is because someone else – someone who is experiencing this music for the first time – finally said it himself. For an old fan like me, Schulman’s final paragraph, a direct plea to DJs, is practically a tearjerker: “Don’t be afraid to take risks. Don’t be afraid to play a song that you released in 2011, 2010, or 1995 for that matter. Don’t be afraid to play a new song from an up-and-comer that has the potential to make people ‘go bananas.’ Don’t be afraid to omit your latest single for once. Don’t be afraid to leave us wanting more.” 

Full disclosure: I’m 32. That’s older than most of the people at Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra Music Festival, but younger than the majority of those who have committed their lives to the genre of electronic music – or house, or EDM, or IDM, or electronica, or whatever you want to call it. 

I was welcomed into the community – and that’s what it was, a community – at New York nightclub Vinyl, on Danny Tenaglia’s dance floor. Now, don’t all roll your eyes at once. If I were your age, I’d get sick of listening to old(er) people talk about the same stuff too; people and places that have little (perceived) relation to the music you love now. But if you want to talk about DJs taking risks, supporting new talent, skipping the big track, teasing crowds of thousands with little to no regard for their reaction, and making people not only go bananas, but weep, yell, and question the nature of their existences – then gather round the fire, children.

In that Wall Street Journal article, Avicii literally said this: “I can’t play house for two hours.” Then what in God’s name would you do for 26? When Tenaglia finally closed Vinyl, which was then called Arc, in 2004, he played a 26-hour set. I know; I was there for every one. By then, I had been a regular for five years, dedication that had won me the auspicious position of cashier – which in a cash-only club with no liquor license is a pretty important person.

Because of this role, I heard Danny’s entire set, from the midnight open to the 8 a.m. close, for nearly three years. When I would work the door for his other events – like his Winter Music Conference marathon, quite literally the international dance music party of the year for nearly a decade – people in my queue would look at me like I was the anointed one. “I’ve seen him three times,” one guy from London said. “You’ve seen him hundreds. WOW. Now can I get in?”

The WMC parties were so big because they represented what at the time was the ultimate experience in dance music: Hours and hours (and hours and hours) in the presence of a master. Tenaglia didn’t press play. He hit start – and that’s not a Technics reference (sorry purists). Every set was an experience, a journey, a play starring you but not meant for you at all. In five years and well over 200 sets, I never heard him mix the same two records together twice. That’s for real.

I remember everything about the dance floor at Vinyl. I remember Murk’s dub of Karen Ramirez’s “Looking For Love”: It sounds thin compared to the hyper-compressed bombs of today, but back then it set the room on fire. When DT dropped it – sometimes over three hours into his set – it meant the night was about to take off. What would come next was always different; we’d say it depended on his mood, or the weather (“It’s raining, Danny’s going to play really dark tonight!”). Sometimes it was honking adrenaline rushes like X-Press 2’s “AC/DC”; smirking references to the normal world like Superchumbo’s mix of Missy Eliot’s “Get Your Freak On”; mind-blitzing techno like Underworld’s “Kittens.” Sometimes it was something from DJ Pierre’s canon of Wild Pitch masterpieces; soulful confessions with modern grooves like Cuba Computers’ “Haunting Me” (the Chus & Ceballos mix); old shit like Henry Mancini’s “African Symphony” (originally released in 1976) that amazingly fit right in.

[Note: Tenaglia got tons of flack from the “old-school” house DJ community for playing current, not-necessarily-house music, including trance (Tilt’s “Angry Skies” was a Vinyl anthem) and minimal tech-dub (Maurizio’s “M-Series” inspired a lot of his own productions). So while he’s grouped with these guys now, he was something of an outcast and revolutionary at the time.]

I know these IDs only because I was there and I hunted them down like a beast – at the local record store, mostly, or by befriending DJs and other punters, and eventually DT himself (one of the most important relationships of my musical life). No one recorded sets – that was punishable by expulsion, not only from the club but from the community. At a certain point, you realized you weren’t even supposed to ask people for track IDs. Either you knew, or you didn’t.

But more often than not – and this is a critical point – WE DID NOT KNOW WHAT THE F*CK WE WERE LISTENING TO. We did not know where one track ended and another began. We did not care to know. We were losing our minds out there. We were in the depths of minimal synthetic despair one hour, brought up by the palpable joy of gospel house the next, then mind-blown by a postcard from the world outside. DT once dropped Truth Hurts’ “Addictive” (it’s hip-hop) and Portishead’s “Numb.” He knew what was going on in music. He made it his business to know, so he could run it through his filter and feed it back to us. That was our deal, our bargain with each other.

(It’s important to tell you that some nights were bad. Some nights we waited and waited and the magic never came. That was part of what it meant to be there. And can you imagine the anticipation – and eventual blissful relief – of a drop that took literally weeks to build?)

I look back on this now and realize that ID-coveting was overly insular, and probably hindered the wider development of dance music. But that was kind of the point. Vinyl was a subversive mix of black, white, gay, straight, tranny, poor, rich, American, Euro, young, old – it was allowed to exist because it was a small group. More people meant dilution, potential misunderstanding, and maybe even danger. “DON’T tell your friends,” DT used to say into the mic at the end of the night. Cell phones and cameras were not allowed on the dance floor; security guards actually enforced this. To have the experience, you had to be there. And you had to participate. 

Danny was my guy: He had a mix of darkness and soul that resonated for a kid who came of age to Nine Inch Nails and Lauryn Hill. But there were others, so many others; some with similar weekly residencies, some who breezed through town once or twice a year. Junior Vasquez would get to the epic snare-roll build in a record – his circa-2000 Twilo-era stuff sounds so much like these “Atom” bombs today, it’s almost comical – loop it a few times, and then not let it drop, just cut the music and start another track. That’s what you got for expecting him to do ANYTHING – he was in control, you silly dancer. The Body & Soul DJs (Francois K, Danny Krivit, Joe Clausell) could blend tribal drum tracks, with disco, with stuff like Beenie Man’s “Dude.” Carl Cox – OMG, CARL COX! – used to brag that he could keep three turntables going in a mix that was “tight as a cat’s ass” (in a British accent, the hardest phrase I’ve ever had to transcribe). But that didn’t even matter: He was a master at energy. Even last year at Electric Zoo, hearing him go from Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing in the Name” into a set of pure acid techno was a reminder of his terrifying prowess.

What does this have to do with today? Not much, really. You can’t ask artists who are essentially pop stars to do things like this. And that’s not a judgment. Dancing Astronaut said that “EDM” just mainstreamed now: I would say that it happened two years ago, when guys like Deadmau5 and Swedish House Mafia got popular more for their brands than for their music or their performances. SHM has five (maybe six, if you count “Leave the World Behind”) tracks to its name: That music made an impression, for sure, but it’s not why they were able to sell out MSG in nine minutes. That was more about what they represented: Jetsetting, hyper-cool international playboys, fist-pumping in the spotlight. Without that mousehead, Deadmau5 would just be a kind of punk-rock bedroom producer with incredibly rich, dominantly instrumental tracks that never cracked the radio. And that is – say it with me now – OK. 

The Swedes and others like them are masters at making music that a lot of people like; they know texture, and dynamics, and how to make a drop really hit home. The only way to perform this studio-created music is to play it back. You cannot fault them for that. Festival crowds want to hear this music; it is probably, for most of them, their one chance of the year to experience the given artist. In an hour, there are only so many tracks they can play. The artists have to use this massive platform to promote their own music (and that on their labels), and to keep these modestly (musically) educated, casual fans happy. They have to give them the music that best defines them. It just makes sense.

Tenaglia released a great album, 1998’s “Tourism.” But he, Cox, Vasquez (despite his giant remix library), and others like them were not producers who DJ-ed mostly as an outlet for music in which they had a direct stake. They were curators of other people’s music. There was no shame in not being able to DJ: If you were a talented producer and wanted to tour, you might try to learn. But the DJs were your patrons and your champions. You can’t think of Tenaglia without thinking of Cevin Fisher and Oscar G (both fantastic DJs, but also the creators of many of his pivotal records). Vasquez made names out of local guys like Razor & Guido and Tim Rex, who produced records with the express goal of having the maestro play them. Being able to DJ to a level worthy of a 5,000-capacity crowd was thought of a rare thing, a talent. I still think it’s probably one of the hardest things in the world to do well – and no, Deadmau5, not because of beat-matching (which I even taught myself on belt-driven Gemini turntables from Sam Ash). Because of programming; fitting a universe of music into 26 measly hours.

So, you can’t hate on a dog for not being a cat, or a car for not being able to fly, or any other non-judgmental metaphors you can think of. And you can’t expect a growing mass of EDM fans to want a rarified, occasionally difficult, protracted dance floor experience: They probably just want to buy the ticket, ride the LED-lit ride, and go home. But if you want more, you can definitely take your business elsewhere – or to an additional place.

Being a DJ – or a curator, a filterer, an MTG (musical tour guide – I just made that up), whatever you want to call it – can still be an elevated, difficult, aspirational thing, like an Olympic athlete or an opera singer. You can seek out old masters of the craft: Frankie Knuckles and David Morales had Cielo on its knees a few weeks back. Or you can challenge the current DJ crop to show their chops, like when a movie star does a Broadway play, or a pop artist goes unplugged: Can you play a six-hour club set? Do you even want to?

But most importantly, you can start to set new standards for upstarts, demanding that in order to be called a DJ-curator-MTG-whatever, they have to dig deep. They have to show you something. They have to change it up. They have to play with their heads AND their hearts. They have to be able to tell you the studio musicians on their favorite R&B records, and how that guy’s bass sounded different from any other (Tenaglia can do this). They have to force tracks on you, maybe that you really don’t like at first, but-OK-geez-after-200-times-I-give-up-Coca-Da-Silva’s-“Saudade”-is-bloody-genius. Their platform will not be the festival stage or the concert venue, unless those models seriously evolve; it will probably be the nightclub. You will have to be of age. You will have to spend hours there. You will have to listen, dance, learn. You will have to tell your friends, if you ever want them to understand. You may have to endure long stretches without seeing a particular jock, because weekly residencies don’t currently make economic sense, for DJs or venues.

But one more thing: This will continue to happen even if you don’t seek it out. DJs like this have been around since before one snagged me for life in ’99, before the Brits lost their minds to ecstasy and beats at Shoom in ’88. Most people will tell you it started with Larry Levan at New York’s Paradise Garage in 1977. He had predecessors and contemporaries, absolutely – Frankie Knuckles, Francis Grasso, David Mancuso (just go Netflix “Maestro” and thank me later). But the Garage was where it all came together, where the modern underground nightclub was born. This was too important of a cultural development to fall away. It will ebb and flow like it always did before 2010, but true believers will not let it die. You, young Jedi, can be a part of that special crew.

I think Deadmau5 is a real talent and a visionary. The Swedes are epic showmen with incredible studio savvy. Skrillex makes music that sounds like my inner 16-year-old; visceral, out of control, but from the heart. I love him. I think Flux Pavilion, Porter Robinson, Knife Party, Steve Aoki, etc. etc. are awesome. But, after all these years, I still think Danny Tenaglia is a god.

I hope you get to have the dancefloor experience I had hundreds of times even once, with a DJ who speaks to you, your personality, your musical history – and who helps to show you your musical future. That’s what a DJ can do. Go find yours. S/he’s out there.

Liked posts on Tumblr: More liked posts »