Around the age of 15 I started getting into electronic music through some friends of mine who were listening to trance music all the time. I remember the first song that really hooked me though was "Flaming June" by BT. I also really got into the Cirrus Remix of "Nothing but You" by Paul Van Dyk and that's where I started: Paul Van Dyk and BT. From that point I started getting into my first mixes but kids can't afford to buy too much music and stuff was in really strange formats back then. I bought "ESCM" by BT down at Silver Platters because that was the only place you could really find any kind of a respectable Electronic Music CD secton. There was no SoundCloud for live sets so I remember getting Paul Van Dyk live at Ministry of Sound from Kazaa or somewhere and playing it so many times that if it had been a vinyl I'd have probably worn a hole straight through it. A lot of times, the things I'd download would be entire albums made into a single mp3 track so I had Tranceport (1998) by Paul Oakenfold in a long continuous mix that I listened to about a thousand times as well and some of the early In Search of Sunrise compilations. Somewhere in there I learned about Armin Van Buuren and Above & Beyond and things really took off when I started getting the A State of Trance and Anjunabeats compilation albums each year.
Music's always been a companion to me in my life. I never was one to obsess over a single genre. Hell, I even played the 1st chair Tenor Saxophone spot in my HighSchool's 1st Jazz Band (of 3) when I was a sophomore. At that time I was listening to the electronic stuff I mentioned as well as all manner of metal and hardcore bands. I remember hearing about people going to "raves" (we're talking like 2004 and 2005 at this point) and thinking to myself that they were probably full of those kids that hung out in the courtyard of our school all day, dressed in clothes from Hot Topic, and never went to class. I never found myself on the fringes of the social strata in high school though and it was hard to relate to those kids. I was a cheerleader and a full-time honors student that was college-bound for sure and my friends came from all different groups within the school. I went to all variety of rock concerts just like all my other friends: Green Day, The Living End, Incubus, Hoobastank, In Flames, Killswitch Engage... so many others. That list is truly a long one and yet it doesn't even compare to the list of artists I would come to see at this point today after the "EDM explosion" in the USA.
I went off to college and my musical tastes continued to deepen. Each genre I was interested in, blossoming into a fractal web of sub genres and my music library growing to the point that I couldn't find any single mp3 player that could house it all. That's the point where I went through my first really difficult times in life. Up to this point I had the typical middle-class white male experience. This music: Oceanlab, Armin, Tiesto, BT, Paul Van Dyk, Above & Beyond, Aruna, Paul Oakenfold was right there the whole time when I needed support.
I ultimately, sorted out my life, regained a purpose, and got back to school. That decision came as part of an overall action to take control of the state of my life at the time. I knew I needed to do something about my personal health. I weighed in somewhere around 285lbs and was on a fast track to full-on alcoholism and my cumulative GPA was 1.7 after my freshman year at UW. I was sick of feeling sorry for myself. My gym music was always trance music right from the start. I remember panting through a mile run and listening to the Monster Mix of "Helpless" by Myon and Shane 54 and Aruna or "Sunset Boulevard" by Alex M.O.R.P.H and Ana Criado in my headphones.
Then I went to my first show.
At some point I got past the preconception of what a "rave" was and I went to my first electronic event to see Tiesto play a 4 hour set at WaMu theater in April of 2010 and that's when it all changed. Shortly thereafter, I saw Armin van Buuren play a set at the Showbox SoDo. It's still quite a marvel to me that I could see such a megaton name like that at a venue like Showbox SoDo to a crowd that wasn't even sold out. In today's scene that is just unimaginable.
This is around the time that dubstep came to America and the sound of it changed forever. It was really easy for me to love that sound. It was like the metal of electronic music and I was already listening to some pretty heavy stuff all through middle and high school. I had a pretty short dubstep "phase" I guess you'd call it. I never really figured out why dubstep failed to keep my interest for more than 6 months or so but as I think about it now, I'm pretty sure I lost my infatuation with that sound around the same time I started learning how to shuffle. I stopped really wanted to dance to music that was that tempo and I kinda just lost a feel for it and settled back into my trance and house comfort zone.
I had a friend from high school who I'd never been that close with who had developed the same kind of love for this music over time. I remember talking about going with him to see Above & Beyond back in 2010 or 2011 when they came and played a show here but we never got around to it somehow and I hit him up one day after that and we agreed that missing the Above & Beyond show had been a huge mistake and we needed to get together and go to shows so we never missed out on those kind of opportunities again. That's really when I made my first really close friend through this music. Sure, we knew each other back in high school but barely. It was one of those loose sort of acquaintances that stem from having almost every class together. This was altogether different: we were like brothers.
That was my first rave family even though I didn't know it yet. Together, we expanded our friend network and we learned about the music and going to events all on our own. There weren't a lot of "experienced" ravers around at the time to explain things like kandi or rave culture to newbies at the time. At least not that we met. I still sort of shake my head (humorously) thinking back to the first things we went to together trying to find some girl to dance with all night or some of the choices artists that I went to see. That was the early stages of learning how to love this music but really it was the music that kind of taught us how to be. We had an arrangement where we just knew we were going to go to every show so we took turns buying tickets for each other because it just made more sense than going down to the box offices individually each time.
We both started to learn how to dance and I learned, through the music, how to love myself for who I am and that was a significant shift. We stopped hunting for girls all night and just went and saw the artists we loved, made new friends and got the fuck down on the dance floor in our own space.
The first Paradiso festival really changed my life and I say this in the most literal sense. That was the time where I finally had the opportunity to correct the error I'd made in missing my opportunity to see Above & Beyond live and my world will never be the same after that concert. That is when I started to understand so much more about myself in the way I relate to this music and it's also the day that my "rave family" expanded from 2 people to a group of friends. Our collective experience at Paradiso festival was galvanizing and really showed me how openly people who just met each other could still love each other through this music. My original rave brother and I fulfilled one of our lifelong dreams and flew out of the USA 4 weeks later and spent 48 hours in Ibiza, Spain experiencing the wonder that is your first pilgrimage to the White Isle.
After Ibiza, things really accelerated for me. I had 1 year of school left until graduation and at the same time as studying I was going to every single live event I could get my hands on. In a surprising twist, my musical family changed dramatically when I met my twin that spring. My original family and I are still close; we traveled to EDC together in Las Vegas in 2013 but that was when I started to realize some of the hardships of the reality of managing a group of 9 people in a place the size of the Las Vegas Speedway, for a sold-out EDC of 120,000 people and no cell service. As much as I cherish my friends, I'd definitely do EDC differently this year in terms of the group.
My twin is always on my level. She and I express ourselves the exact same way with this music and we are almost always on the exact same emotional level at a show. Rather than stress myself out over a massive group, the best way to rave is to just always be everywhere with my twin and then we can wander and visit all of our dozens of friends that make up our family. Having someone else who is almost always thinking the same thing that you are means you almost never have to disagree about who to see or where to go at a massive event and if you do have any differing opinions, it only takes a second to come up with a decision when there are only two opinions to reconcile.
This last year I'm at the point of seeing as many as 2 or 3 separate artists each week and through my involvement in the Seattle music scene and writing for OnlyTheBeat I've had opportunities to meet some of the artists that have inspired me most in my life face-to-face. It's been quite a long journey but this music has truly changed my life.
Through raving, I learned to face down emotions that I used to repress by feeling them in the music and also be more comfortable sharing them with others. I didn't used to be the kind of person who was very in tune with how they were feeling and I think that got me into situations of denial about problems early in my life. Furthermore, I've joined a network of supportive and inspirational people who create opportunity in their lives instead of coasting through their lives passively.
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