Accepting the EDM Transition

By Jordan Cooper
Music Journalist

We all have that one friend. The one who never misses an electronic music festival. Who prefers furry boots to sneakers. Who only listens to music that sounds like an old computer trying to connect to the internet via dial-up. And if you haven’t been to a show that didn’t involve glow sticks in years, then you very well may be that friend.

I am not here to criticize your taste in music. In fact, I myself have been to countless EDM shows in my 20s. But as I come within months of my 30th birthday, I thought I would try to help broaden the horizons of some of those people who insist they only like DJ’s or people who wear a giant mouse-head when they perform. Because regardless of how much you love dancing all night to dubstep or house or trance, eventually, you will reach a point when you just can’t hang like you used to.

deadmau5 at Austin City Limits Music Festival, 2011. Photo by Jordan Cooper.
deadmau5 at Austin City Limits Music Festival, 2011. Photo by Jordan Cooper.

That’s where I’d like to step in and introduce you to the EDM Transition. There are tons of bands out there that are heavily influenced by the EDM movement, or influenced the very DJs you find yourself blaring in your car as you drive to your early morning classes to try and wake you up. As fun as it can be to watch someone push a couple of buttons to play that catchy hook you can’t get out of your head (I am looking at you The Chainsmokers),  I think you’ll find that not only are some of these artists in your wheelhouse, but seeing them perform live with real musical instruments might take seeing your passion for “live music” to an entirely new level.

The first transition can be entirely painless. Many artists are already combining EDM with live instruments when they perform. Take Big Gigantic, and similar artist GRiZ, as an example. Both of these acts add a saxophone to their tracks, and if you have never seen someone blow on a sax over some heavy beats, then you are truly missing out. Similarly, Pretty Lights Music artists Break Science incorporate keyboards and live drums with electronic elements. Consider these baby steps out of EDM and into more conventional music genres.

Next, if you insist on the visual elements of EDM shows and festivals, I would recommend the “jam-band” groups. Some of my favorites include STS9, Thievery Corporation and I throw local Austin legend Ghostland Observatory into this category when they are touring. Others would include Phish and Widespread Panic, to name a few. At these shows, you’ll get a lot of the same elements you get at EDM festivals, some of which I won’t go into too deeply here. But all typically have incredible set designs and light shows that help captivate the audience along with their large bands full of multiple instruments.

The electronic acts playing with a full band trend continues with groups such as Emancipator, Beats Antique and Bonobo. The bands play live renditions of studio material, with a singer, and often times, additional band members such as a keyboardist, guitarist, saxophonist, string section, electronics and drummer. Even traditional DJs who typically focus on the old-school style of spinning music on wax records, such as Wax Tailor and RJD2, have begun touring with full live bands in support of their albums. You can catch both of them at Empire in Austin in the next few months.

Many artists do not identify as electronic music bands, although their music is in my opinion very influenced by the genre. Some of these include Tycho, SOHN, Neon Indian and Washed Out. These groups incorporate electronic elements into their songs, and provide a nearly seamless transition away from EDM and into more alternative and indie music genres, the kind we like to play here at KTSW.

Even some of the most popular bands in the world have heavy electronic elements incorporate into their process. I have been pleasantly surprised  by both Bon Iver and James Blake’s newest albums, which both have added new sounds and effects into their more folk sound. My two favorite bands also give and take to and from the electronic community. Both Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have been pioneering in pushing the boundaries in mainstream, alternative rock and adding sounds they could not have produced with instruments alone.

So next time you get in the car and plug your phone in, instead of listening to that Major Lazer song for the 100th time this week, consider trying out some of these options as an alternative. I think you’ll be surprised how much you’ll enjoy these and still feel like you are getting your EDM fill.

Holly Henrichsen

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