Music festivals are nothing new. In fact, they have been around for ages – Woodstock, anyone? But in recent years, there has been a definite increase in the number of electronic dance music acts – namely DJs – in the line-ups of these uber-popular events. Actually, electronic-music-only festivals are now officially a thing and happen everywhere from the UK to Croatia, Iceland to Miami. This rise of the DJ slot at festivals has provoked a shift in how the general public sees the dance music scene and its artists – and we can't really say they've been witnessing the real face of club culture.
First things first: Festival culture is very different from club culture
Music festivals take genres like techno and house (and, well, dubstep and so-called EDM) ouf of the club landscape and into parks and public spaces. They also shift the timing of the experience from night-time-into-the-break-of-dawn to the afternoon and a perhaps bit of the evening (some festivals do happen well into the am, but...not that many). And as much as music is what matters the most for us, with club culture the experience is heavily linked to an actual club setting, complete with a tight soundsystem, a great VJ or, even better, darkness, and that community vibe where we feel like we're all soldiers repping a (rather underground) cause.
With music festivals it's quite the opposite: the soundsystem may be super loud, but it's not exactly a quadriphonic Funktion One; the park, the giant LED screens, the cake in your face may be all fun and games, but ithey're far from a real club experience – ithey channel a stadium rock type of feeling rather than the intimate vibe you enjoy at a proper club night.
The truth is, the festival trend means that the majority of the new generation would rather shell out hundreds in going to festivals abroad than actually attending real, exciting club nights in their home city – and actually supporting local artists while actually having a taste of what the original club culture is all about.
Line-up quality: underground vs mainstream
We are all for people having a good time, dancing and doing whatever they want, but the trouble with festivals is – where do we draw the line when it comes to quality? For the most part, the DJs that are booked to play in big festivals are not the ones people like us, real lovers of the craft, would ever pick. They are rockstar Djs who top the charts and are a lot more worried about the stage props and laser projections than actually playing quality music using a respectable set of skills (yep, many of them play pre-recorded sets or dumb down their performace to the point of it being about “The drop”).
They are, in reality, bottom feeders of sorts, who thrive on getting people zoned out on wobblers and pitched-down vocals rather than emotion, substance and all those qualities that make music an amazing art form. The typical mainstream EDM stadium DJ does a disservice to club culture by wiping the possibilities for electronic music to be perceived as a thought-provoking genre with cultural relevance and depth. In essence, they contribute to making our culture less credible – and that's beyond frustrating, as DJing and electronic music, as fairly young art forms, have enough challenges to face as it is. Our thought? Bring more underground, respected names to these stages!
What also worries us about the festival craze is that it's breeding a generation of impatient, apathic, drop-thirsty kids instead of informed, passionate music lovers. Club culture is about the journey, about the hours of build-up and the ecstasy of the peak time, when everyone is going strong and the DJ is sweating it out to keep everyone dancing until sunrise. With festivals the DJ has one or two hours to make it all happen, creating a more-is-more atmosphere where bangers are played one after another, creating a rush described by Nina Kraviz on Groove magazine as a massive orgasm. By allowing this to happen again and again, these events are educating their public into thinking that “getting it on” and waving your glow stick is enjoying yourself – when really, what they should be doing if they wated to experience club culture is they should be dancing together to great, carefully selected music for hours and hours.
Another problem is that many of the festival-goers aren't really dance music lovers – they're people who want to go out, listen to super loud, banging tracks and let go of their worries. Which is fine. But what happens then is that they often disrespect real DJs that don't fit their hard-hitting standards, like what happened recently when Jeff Mills stopped playing after being hit by a botttle at a festival in Belgium. Festival promoters need to be careful and know their audience before they make their bookings. If your line-up features Nickelback, the public probably won't like Richie Hawtin, and vice-versa.
(Most) festivals aren't about the music
...They're about the money. There, we said it. Festivals have become a proverbial field day for marketing types, who fill them with brands and clichés about what it's like to have a good time. This means that, to maximise revenue, the promoters are forced to book super mainstream acts, and that extends to the DJ world. So instead of getting the pioneers and the innovators, you get the Steve Aokis and Skrillexes the Aviicis. And of course, your music enjoyment will be clouded by lots of advertising campaigns, and reminders to use X or Y app and update your Facebook status and scan that QR code – instead of just losing yourself in the moment. That is also the antithesis of music enjoyment.
Having said this, there are a good number of festivals that really do up the bar when it comes to bookings – like Sònar in Barcelona, or Movement in Detroit. But these are festivals created by dance music aficionados who know the importance of giving people a glimpse of the future, even if it means less profit. In these festivals, you can hear a whole lot of experimental sounds and ground-breaking new artists in well-curated settings and good sound systems. These are projects that elevate the club culture to new heights instead of appropriating it and making it look ridiculous and empty.
Last but not least: the hidden effect on the DJ Culture
The rise in popularity of these events has led to suggestions of an “over-saturation” of festivals, and that there are simply too many festivals for the market to sustain. This myriad of festivals has also driven up artist fees. In a global scene with numerous promoters fighting for the services of a handful of big-name international acts, these artists have been able to demand an increase in their fees, making it unsustainable and leaving out all the younger talent that doesn't drive as much profit.
But let's end on a positive note here - we don't want to sound like festival haters, we are not. We think festivals can be lots of fun but shouldn't be taken as a good example of how dance music works. In reality, we'd just like to start a conversation about our culture to hopefully make it evolve and be perceived by people in a fairer light.
Pacha, 27th June was home to the Raw Silence crew for the night and they invited world renowned DJ/Producer John Monkman to play. What a fantastic night it was, with everybody from the foot shufflers to people in tuxedos present. 13 Raw Silence DJ’s played alongside John Monkman of which 2 were their first time playing out live. Where did they hone their amazing talent i hear you ask, It was London’s finest DJ and Music Production School ‘Become A DJ’.
The 13 DJ’s creating vibrations amongst the crowd spread across two rooms alongside John Monkman included - Rimus, Keith Hunter, Long Pham, Pitix, Mark Ellis, Nico, Novella-K, F.L.Y., Sodergrenade, Naanite, H!FON-G, Tim James and Ed Esquire.
Here is how some of the guys playing described the night:
Michel aka Pitix - “A good sound system matters. After playing at Pacha for Raw Silence I couldn't deny it any longer. Sure, there were the lights and the cool venue, but what makes it a real party is the Raw Silence crowd dancing and celebrating the music…”
Katie Arnold - “My first set at Pacha has to be up there as one of the absolute highlights of my life so far. I have spent plenty of time daydreaming about playing music that I love to people, since I was a young girl. I am so happy to say that actually doing it was everything I hoped it would be, and more. Being able to not only see and hear, but to actually see people respond to the music as the energy in the room shifted, has to be up there with one of the most amazing feelings i’ve had. After a few minutes of relaxing into it, being behind the decks genuinely felt like home. I am so so happy I stuck at the course, despite a few challenges along the way, and followed my heart rather than my fears and doubts. Thank you so much to Mantas and Egle for all your hard work, dedication and support. You have helped me to bring a life-long dream to life!”
Mats - “I played my first gig at Pacha back in April and it was a truly amazing experience. The buzz was amazing and the crowd were brilliant. I was so surprised to be playing again and finding that the energy was even bigger than the first time. Everyone was in a great mood, some amazing tracks were played and you could really feel that everyone was having a great time. My set just flew by and i was having such a good time it felt like i was only up there for 5 minutes. The extra sound and smoke machines etc added to what was already an electric night with so much energy flowing. I am really looking forward to playing there again. I have no doubt that the Raw Silence crew and the crowd will make it into another unforgettable night. Hope to see you all there soon. Thanks.”
Marianno - “The Raw Silence nights at Pacha London is definitely one of my favourites. Everybodys vibe is just amazing from the very start till the end of the night. Performing there is the best, you feel you are being taking care of and your sound is really going to come through thanks to the constant improvements to their sound system. People know they are going to come and listen to an amazing crew of djs playing the best music.”
Paul Wright - “I had a epic night at Pacha. I really enjoyed playing my set and the crowd were amazing. I can't express how grateful I am to "Become A DJ" for making all this possible.”
It was a fantastic night for all those involved and the only way i could personally describe it is with a quote from the famous Friedrich Nietzsche - “those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music”. Raw Silence came, saw and conquered with heads held high in the knowledge of another successful party.
Photos can be found here - https://www.facebook.com/RawSilenceRecords