The year was 2010. The place was Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, CA. It was my first time to a big music festival, and I had a lot of expectations. Because Coachella plays host to music from a variety of genres -- everything from indie rock and folk to hip hop, pop, and electronic -- I wasn't expecting your typical rave scene. I'd heard of Electric Daisy Carnival, and I knew Coachella wasn't really on the same level in terms of the kind of people it attracted. I mean, during the day, there were toddlers being carted around in satchels by their hippie parents as they swayed to the sounds of Sly and the Family Stone. I interpreted it as California’s answer to Woodstock.
Having never really been to an actual rave -- except for one when I was 19 and far too naive to understand at the time — I still had this image of "club kids" in my head (thanks, Macaulay Culkin), which involved an obnoxious amount of glow sticks and crop tops and people licking the walls. At Coachella, any trace of ravers could be found collectively bouncing around at the Sahara tent — aka the dance music tent. EDM as we all know it now, was truly a lot different then. It was still climbing the ladder on the way to the mainstream, but it hadn't quite gotten there yet. This was my initial draw to electronic music — it felt like a secret club I’d been invited to join, and word wasn’t out about it to the public yet.
Day one of the fest was relatively uneventful. Fun, but nothing worth writing home about. Day two, however, was the day that changed me forever. After a super hot day of cruising around the festival grounds, night slowly crept up on us. We’d heard some decent sets during the day, but once night hit, the whole vibe of the fest changed, and we knew the artist we’d come to see — Bassnectar
— was known for putting on some pretty memorable visual shows. I’d only been introduced to his music a few months prior to the fest, and while I liked what I’d heard, I had no idea how it would translate in a live setting.
He started his set in the early evening, and we move slowly through the crowd. My best friend and I, like most eager kids at their first fest, wanted to get up as close as we could to the stage. Then a pulse of electric energy hit us both at once, and in that moment we looked at each other and we knew we just needed to dance. Lights and lazers bounced in every direction, playing off the pulse of the music, which fueled the energy of the crowd. It was unlike anything I had previously experienced
, and I was in love. My entire perception of “club kids” crushed and rewritten in an instant, and I can’t think of a time when I was happier to be proven wrong.
When it was over, I was a new person. Whoever I was before I walked into that tent didn’t matter, because this was all there was now. Those feelings, those moments. I didn’t even know it, but this was what had been missing from my life. Walking back to our tent afterwards, we couldn’t talk about anything else. Hours, days, weeks passed, and in one way or another this experience was always with me. In many ways, it still is. This was the first time I was ever part of something that completely changed the way I felt about life in such a short period of time.
Since then, I’ve discovered more, traveled more, and developed my own preferences for the music within this genre that we very broadly call EDM. I’ve had plenty of those "ah ha!" moments. Those moments of musical enlightenment that wake you up and change you a bit each time. This, however, is the one, the first such experience that really converted me and made me understand what it meant to fall in love with music on a level I couldn't describe. It made me realize that music could be a multi-sensory experience, and that a performance is just as much, if not more, important and impressive as the music itself.
I'm a firm believer in the idea that until you've completely lost yourself -- mind, body and soul -- in the music, until it takes hold of you like nothing else has and won't let go, and starts shaping the way you see the world and live your life, until that happens, you won't understand. You can't. If these experiences, the people I’ve met along the way, and above all, the music, have taught me anything, it's that there's a place for us -- the weirdos, the misfits, the “lost” boys and girls who never truly want to grow up. It’s there waiting for you whenever you’re ready.