SASQUATCH! 2011: THE ELECTRO WRAP-UP
The Glitch Mob during their Sasquatch! performance. Group member Justin Boreta says “they play technology like you would a guitar or drum set.”
The siren blared and lights flashed brightly as the state trooper’s car pulled up behind us. It was 8 AM, the Tuesday morning after Sasquatch.
Pulling over to the side of the highway, my co-pilot commented on my outfit.
Covered in glitter, barefoot, feathers in my hair and sporting a robe lathered in psychedelic patterns. Was I really about to talk to a cop?
As he strolled up to the window, scanning me from head to toe, a half-moon smile spread across my face as flashbacks from the weekend ensued.
Saturday. Bassnectar and The Glitch Mob.
A dubstep prophet and a new age rock band that plays their computers like Fender Stratocasters.
Sunday. Gold Panda, Flying Lotus, MSTRKRFT, and Ratatat.
The UK new age meets hip-hop’s connection with the counterculture, all to be topped off by old cats thriving in the depths of music accessibility via the interwebs.
The entire night after Ratatat’s closing set, and well into Monday, praises from hipsters with glowsticks echoed throughout the Gorge.
“Man, did you lose yourself in MSTRKRFT like I did?” said Shawn Norman, a Native American-headress sporting music lover from Vancouver, Canada.
Monday brought Bonobo, Skrillex, and Major Lazer.
While Major Lazer bred mainstream with popular dance, Skrillex brought the heat with his heavy brand of electronic dubtempo. The former frontman of a screamo band, From First to Last, has been touring since he was 16 and started producing electronic music in 2008. However, regardless of the odd transition, he has yet to retire from stage diving.
“People like to call it dubstep, but I think it’s beyond that,” he said. “I really just like to create a unique live show experience that people can live to.”
When the L.A.-based producer energetically swaggered into the press tent, he put his fist out for a “dab” and immediately asked where an energy drink was. Despite having a laptop and two hard drives stolen (which included his new album) in Milan, Italy this past April, the metalhead, dubstep producer Skrillex never stops smiling.
“You coming to the show tonight?” he asked. “It’s time to dance!”
Oh, and Bonobo. He rocked everyone’s world. He, Simon Green, and Gold Panda seldom (if at all) used any samples and remixed original content in a manner that had the crowd mesmerized.
Original content, though. There is the mulligan that plagued my experience in the Banana Shack dance tent throughout Sasquatch.
These days, with Ableton presets, the accessibility of the internet, and APC-40 controllers, almost anyone can be a DJ. Take the right face, a few thousand Facebook friends, some well-recognized samples, and you got yourself a gig.
20 bucks and free drinks for the night. Sounds good, right?
Well, it might be fun to be a “rock star” for the evening, but many DJs who have spent their lives burning cash for vinyl records or studying intricate production software feel electronic music has taken a turn.
Perhaps it has become more of a self-marketing contest than actually producing good material.
Hell, who am I to judge.
But after a few showers, some meals consisting of more than crappy carbs, and a fat dose of the real world, there is one electronic act from Sasquatch! that needs to be revisited.
Hence, the L.A. electronic trio that goes by The Glitch Mob.
These three producers have been on the scene for years. They have performed “flash mob” style on the San Francisco streets. They have solo careers that have rocked the deserts of Burning Man. And they perform an interactive live show using Lemur controllers that shatters the constraints of laptop performances.
“There is a paradigm that exists within the club world,” said group member Justin Boreta. “There’s this wall between the laptop and the performer. In general, there is this person on stage who’s just playing music to you. We wanted to figure how to ‘play’ our technology like you would a guitar or drum set.”
The band pieces together instruments to create their own interface.
“We tilt the Lemur toward the crowd, because there is no instrument aside from that where we could actually show people we’re playing music and melodies like that. And because it’s programmable, we could design the thing like we want to.”
Seeing The Glitch Mob truly felt like a rock show. Center stage producer Edit engages the crowd like a new school Mick Jagger. Josh “Ooah” Mayer uses interludes and bridges to pound out drum rhythms that make your heart jump.
“We play epic, adventure dance music,” said Edit. “Epic, traumatic, theatrical, cliff-hanging, seat of your chair type-of-stuff.”
The entire band said they like to tell stories with their live show. When asked about the Internet making electronic music more accessible to create, they were full-fledged supporters.
“It’s adds to the greater picture of bringing more creativity to the world,” said Ooah. “It’s less about these particular groups of artists or rock stars that are making the music. Any one can do it now, and I think that’s a really special and unique thing.”
Other than accessibility in creating tracks and beats, another layer of the genre has been free music.
“If someone wants to buy music from us we consider it an act of charity,” said Boreta. “You can actually get any of our music for free. There are some torrent sites that we’ll put up our albums on.”
He thinks that internet distribution is also cultivating more fan bases.
“The other day I saw this huge 10 gigabyte torrent with all of our music and art,” he said. “It was such a cool thing, like a fan collage. Even though we don’t make a cent from it, we feel the love. If someone wants to support us, they can come out to the show and rock with us.”
The industry is changing, and The Glitch Mob thinks many major labels have been late in the game to recognize that. Like many electronic artists at Sasquatch!, they maintain close relationships with their fans via social networking tools. They release their entire discography for free.
And they constantly upgrade their live performance and production to keep fans coming back.
“The ultimate goal for us is to get our music out there and our story told,” said Edit. “At the end of the day, whether someone is pirating or paying for it, the result is all the same. The people hear your music, and that’s what you want. More or less everyone wins.”
Watch the entire interview with The Glitch Mob from Sasquatch:
Covered in glitter, I sat in my friend’s car anxiously awaiting the police officer running my driver’s license. As he walked back to our vehicle with a freshly printed, $300 speeding ticket, I smiled.
Nothing was going to ruin the dancing and low-end wobble of the weekend.
Because beyond the $12 beers, the hipster headdresses, or the high-strung security, Sasquatch! left festival-goers with one sure-fire promise: Electronic music is here to stay.