The only thing missing was our first big rave: Ultra Music Festival
When I was in ninth grade, I greatly admired the counselors who were from Miami at the summer camp that I attended. They dressed beyond their years, had surreal stories of high-school clubbing experiences, and were way, way cooler than I ever thought that I would be. My friends and I would revel at their pictures of themselves on shirt-less boys’ shoulders wearing neon leggings and cropped tees. “What is Ultra?” we asked, going through the pictures. “We have to go when we are older.”
So, I patiently waited. By the time I was in eleventh grade, I had an EDM 101 playlist (think lots of Tiesto, half the songs on Hardwell’s “Revealed Vol. 3,” and pre-Atmosphere Kaskade), a bright orange fanny pack, and $350 to spend on the biggest electronic music event in America. My best friend and I would spend entire afternoons on Soundcloud in preparation, searching for new tunes that were sure to drop at Ultra. We were ready. We would take over auxiliary chords at house parties to play “Clarity” by Zedd and couldn’t go for a car ride without listening to Hardwell’s “Apollo.” Progressive house had invaded our lives; the only thing missing was our first big rave. We had to go to Ultra.
I really am not sure what happened that weekend at Ultra, but I will say this: afterwards, I believed that it had been the best weekend of my life. I have vague memories of jumping up and down at the front of the Carl Cox & Friends stage, screaming into the live stream during Benny Benassi, and crying when Swedish House Mafia played their final show. It was a maze of finding Kimmie, trying to meet up with Logan, dancing with Lauren’s sorority, and loving everyone. My whole body was sore for days after and I would hear heavy drops when I closed my eyes. It was unlike anything I’d done before and it was incredible.
So, I became a big fan of the rave scene. I went to lots of shows, constantly searched for new progressive house music, familiarized myself with up-and-coming DJs. I even bought an Ultra ticket the day that it went on sale for the next year. It seemed like my whole life had sped up, and I was loving the fast ride.
That summer, post-Ultra, someone revealed what seemed to be devastating news: a lot of progressive house DJs were simply that- DJs. I was shocked. They didn’t make their own music? Nope, a lot of them had ghost producers. I felt tricked (even though the information is pretty much out there). I started to feel like my EDM-induced mania was a sham and wasn’t sure whether I should brush it off with an “as long as it sounds good” attitude or find a more honest form of art, until I got word that there are, in fact, a plethora of PRODUCERS (not just music-mixing DJs) who make really cool, weird, creative music that may not be mainstream, but is still really good. I heard about these low-key producers and was reminded of my indie phase a few years back- artists making music for the sole purpose of making music. I was instantly drawn to this niche and began exploring the depths of SoundCloud.
And I mean that about SoundCloud- I REALLY went in. I began searching through the reposts, likes, comments, and playlists of “underground” producers. Soon, I knew every AlunaGeorge song, listened to Snakehips every morning, and played Mr. Carmack at college pre-games. I started following these guys on Twitter and was pleased to see tweets about their production, their love of music, all that stuff. They even acknowledged me when I would tweet at them (shouts out to Branchez, who often replies to my loving but frequent tweets). I fell in love with the genre-defying, innovative, and sometimes strange music that was low-key amazing. I still can’t get enough.
Now, I try to listen to anything that people send me because ya never know when you’re going to hear something incredible. I listen to trap, Jersey-club, future, future bass, techno, tech-house, deep house, tropical house, or really anything that sounds good and has a talented producer behind it. I’m looking forward to listening to more great music as my favorites put out more beats and the pool of producers grows.