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Culture - News - September 4, 2018

A Ravers Manifesto: A year in the life of a New York Shuffler

So many people have asked me what EDM means to me. This is my story. My name is Denzil, I am a Shuffler, and this is my manifesto. 

Denzil Chung

Denzil Chung: Photo used with Permission from Denzil Chung. Photo by @NicShotz

 

It could of been when I was figuring out life after college in my mothers house hearing Avicii’s “Levels” for the first time, laying in bed on a random Friday night listening to Evolution radio by Pete Tong, or seeing my first shuffle circle at Electric Zoo in 2016 when I realized EDM became more than music to me. All I know is that EDM has forever changed me and one could argue, saved me from a dark time.

I started going to EDM festivals 2 years ago even though I’ve always been a fan of the genre. I was always hesitant to go to a festival due to the fact I wasn’t sure if I could handle it, nor did I know if I could afford one. The festival bug was first planted in 2015 when I met a couple at my college’s friends house party and we instantly vibed. They were from California and they talked about their raving and festival experiences. I was immediately intrigued. However, it wasn’t until the summer of 2016 when I actually pulled the trigger and decided to go to Electric Zoo after my now good friend Manny and Jeff encouraged me to go. We had only just met that summer, but we had such a similar personality that we became friends instantly. He mentioned the EZOO plans he had to wrap up the summer, and I knew it was a sign. After some motivation (and a few beers later) I purchased my first ticket and never looked back. Little did I know I was going to enter a whole new world of possibilities. I met even more people through my friends and they showed me the ropes of raving at EZOO. From the different styles of Trap, Techno, Trance, and Dubstep to the personalities of Wooks, Headbangers, Shufflers, and Kandi Kids, I got a crash course in festival life. One connection I made at EZOO that I am forever grateful was my friend Jason. I knew I was hooked afterward and knew I couldn’t look back to how I used to do things. Jason took me under his wing and thus began my rave journey up until now.

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ULTRA MIAMI 2017

The next festival I had always wanted to do was Ultra. For a long time, it was the “white whale” of festivals and I didn’t think I would be able to go. Still, on cloud nine from my Electric Zoo experience, I was watching after movies of the previous years Ultra and felt the music in the trailers calling my name. Immediately I hit up Jason and said: “We have to do this festival.” We planned for months with part of our EZOO crew to go, and long behold it became a reality! In 2017 I attended my first Ultra Music Festival. Immediately I realized this was a much bigger festival compared to EZOO. Everything was taken to a whole new level: music sets, production, lineups, crowd, energy, the list goes on. Still, I didn’t feel overwhelmed but rather reveled in this new experience. I made lots of new connections, specifically a couple who I spent all of day 3 with just dancing the day away. I also had what you could call a rave bae and learned quickly the romance lasts as long as the festival. Nevertheless, it was all worth it. My favorite stage was Arcadia, the spider stage, and my favorite set was Tchami. But the real life-changing event was seeing Carl Cox. His set planted the seeds of me becoming a techno fan.

Photo of Denzil Chung.

Photo of Denzil Chung. Photo used with permission from Denzil Chung. Photo by Jason Foong.

Birth of Denzil Chung

The major gimmick of Ultra was representing your nationality. Rather than just bringing an American flag, I decided to mix it up. I was always fascinated with the Asian culture, from martial arts icons to my close association with other Asian friends so I decided to go to Ultra dressed as Raiden from Mortal Kombat, representing a Chinese flag. I called myself Denzil Chung, named after a former classmate of Jason’s. During Ultra, everyone showed me lots of love towards my outfit especially my rice paddy hat. From that moment forward, that hat would be my rave icon at future festivals and raves.

EDC LAS VEGAS

Coming back from Ultra gave me lots of perspective. I realized the festival and rave community as a whole was much bigger than I imagined. I also fell in love with shuffling while seeing numerous people shuffle during Techno sets. At home, I practiced this dance style day in and out so I could be ready for my biggest challenge to date, EDC Vegas. Jason, also being the ringleader in the trip planning was reluctant at first in going, given the fact that it was a physically challenging festival. The whole premise of EDC was “dusk till dawn” raving,  in a desert, during late spring. Even though I wasn’t used to that level of festival, I was looking forward to the experience and convinced Jason to come along.

When the day came, we landed for EDC week and headed to our first activity, Jauz at club Omnia. Since we arrived late at night we didn’t stay too long and headed back to the hotel to rest up. The next day we attended the Dreamstate pool party, which would be the best and yet most unfortunate time of my life that year. At first, I had low expectations for the event since it was a trance show, and at that point in my raving life, I had grown tired of trance. When I reached the event was blown away. We had a cabana at the Marquee Day Club and the views were amazing! It felt like I was in a scene out of Entourage, with glamour, sex appeal, and of course energy. I became so infused with good vibes from the people I met, it seemed like I could do no wrong. Just when everything was going smoothly I slipped and fell and broke my arm while showing off dancing! As crazy as that sounds, I wouldn’t regret the feeling I had leading up to that moment! The crowd was hyping me up, everyone was feeling my energy, and I just had to dance. Still, it did put a damper on my EDC experience going forward. Day one rolled around, and I still managed to go with my arm the way it was. I was impressed by the LED lights and race atmosphere. Every type of genre of EDM was on full display here. My favorite stage was the Circuit Grounds since it had really cool visuals. But my favorite set was Oliver Heldens. At that point, I became a huge fan of House music and had been working hard in my shuffling, so to see a whole Kinetic Field worth of ravers shuffling was something special to watch. Even me, with my injury, and being on sleepy pain meds, found the energy to still dance. I didn’t get a chance to make it all three days, but I ended up buying EDC Orlando to make up for that down the road.

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Summer 2017

Even though my EDC Vegas experience was short-lived, I was still motivated to attend my first real rave. Coming back to Boston with this new found love, I started to explore the underground scene all around the city, and use shows as a platform to get my rave fix and shuffling practice. I took my “Denzil Chung” persona, all around the Northeast, spreading postpose vibes where I could through dancing or getting a crowd engaged with the DJs set. Still, I was haunted by my injury from EDC and I was determined to be better prepared (and safer) for the upcoming EZOO festival to close out my summer antics.

EZOO 2017

Originally I had intended not to go to EZOO that year, for I wanted to explore other festivals (specifically Nocturnal Wonderland). However, with EZOO’s house heavy lineup and changes to the Nocturnal Wonderland schedule, EZOO was hard to pass up this year. Being the first festival after EDC Vegas, I knew I had to go hard to make up for that injury. Also, I wanted to show my rave fam, how much I had grown as a raver since my first EZOO last year. Off the gate from Day one, I was ready to go! I danced my butt off to all the sets that had me feeling alive. I remembered making new friends during Grums’ set as we had a mini dance circle. One of the EZOO production team came up to me and said, “Keep doing what your doing, we like people like you who get the crowd engaged”. To me, that meant a lot knowing my energy was making difference. My favorite set that day was Sasha and John Digweed’s three-hour set. It was probably the defining moment in my musical taste transformation because after that set I became fully a Techno/House guy. I was literally lost in the music for the three hours to the point that I didn’t realize how much time flew. My friend told me I danced for three hours straight!. The next two days were good, but Day one was the best. Day two was the moment when I realized I could hold my own with the great dancers of the shuffle community. There was a big shuffle meetup and I happened to come across it while grabbing water. The music took over and I just started breaking it down. The crowd was cheering me on, and I felt the sense of flow that took over. It was like my body had a mind of its own. Next thing everyone was coming up to me asking me if I was some kind of famous dancer and giving me compliments. It felt awesome to know how much I came along with my dancing and shuffling. Day three was a little short due to the tropical storm that hit us during the end of day two, making the grounds incredibly muddy. Even though I was exhausted from the previous night, walking back home in the rain, I toughed it out to close out EZOO 2017.

Photo of Denzil Chung. Photo Credit Don Idio.

Photo of Denzil Chung. Photo Credit Don Idio.

EDC Orlando/Dreamstate:

With my second EZOO complete, and mastering all three days of the festival this time, I gained back my confidence as a raver since I didn’t get hurt. I wanted to get the “PLUR vibe” that EDC Vegas had but not EZOO. I was told about EDC Orlando and Dreamstate, two festivals that were also produced by Insomniac, so I knew it had the same type of feel as EDC Vegas. EDC Orlando was first, and I was surprised by how affordable it was for the experience I had. In addition, it was the first time we got a quality Airbnb that basically was a mansion. I arrived a day after the rest of my rave crew and immediately I knew I was in for a treat. Everyone was very cool already getting acquainted with one another and ready for tomorrows festivities. Day one came, and I walked into the festival grounds like a seasoned vet! Since I had already experienced EDC Las Vegas. I spent most of my time at the neon garden tent since that was where the Trance and Techno sets were. I did venture off to other stages. I remembered seeing Brohug at Kinetic Field and feeling the immense energy from the crowd. I ended up finding a group of dancers up front and we were the life of the party. A new song by Brohug came on and all I remembered was the crowd cheering me on… and I as I call it “blacked out” danced for the first time. I received so many compliments after I was finished on my moves, and it gave me my confidence once again post-injury. The rest of the day I explored the festival grounds. Day two was just as phenomenal, but even more so because of the techno lineup. I literally just danced my behind off all during Pan Pot and Jamie Jones’ sets. I also hung out with several different rave crews I had met throughout my festival adventures that year.

I returned back home just to get ready for another festival in California called Dreamstate. Now I will be the first to admit I wasn’t looking forward to this festival as much, being that it was a Trance only festival and at this point, I was feeling burnt out from raving. I was quickly mistaken as it ended up being the best festival I attended in 2017! From start to finish I felt love and positivity from the people of SoCal and the sets blew me away. My favorite set hands down was Gaia on Day one. I also liked Jordan Suckley, mostly because I received my first shoulder ride ever. You see I’m a 6.1, 215 lb guy so I am always the one giving rides. This was the first time I had been given one, so it was pretty memorable! Day two was even better because it was mostly Anjunabeats day so it was filled with lots of “feels”. Sunny Lax definitely got day two started off right and had me in a happy state of mind. However, it was Armin who ended my day two nicely. I remember during his set he pointed me out of the crowd and then had this incredible drop. All of a sudden I was transported to my “black-out” shuffling place and just started breaking it down. Dreamstate was definitely one for the books, but the highlight of this trip and the 2017 festival season was the road trip to Las Vegas. Something about being on a road-trip post-festival gives you perspective on life. We saw Death Valley, an old haunted attraction, and and the Seven Magic Mountains. While driving we played all the sets we heard from Dreamstate, as well as any memorable ones we had in mind. This trip was so good that I was content with ending my festival season there. I didn’t want to ruin the moment.

I returned back home with a new look on life, a renewal of sorts and was ready for the new adventures ahead. Even though I was taking a break from traveling, I always had the memories with me in my heart. I kept all the wristbands I collected as souvenirs that one day I can create a “rave-board” for myself to show my family one day. 2018 marked the beginning of what I called a rave tour, and currently, I’ve already done Coachella, EDC Vegas for my second year, and Electric Forest. I look forward to recapturing the memories once the rest of the year is over.