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Festival Season 2018 | A Raver’s Perspective

by Denzil Chung

If you were to ask what my festival schedule would be heading into 2018, I would have said, “Coachella, Electric Forest, Escape, then chill for the holidays. The reality ended up being 9 festivals, over 30 shows, and that’s not including shuffle meetups and underground after hours (yikes).

It’ s safe to say this year’s festival season took me by surprise. As I write about this year, let’s sit back and see what I noticed about the EDM/festival scene overall.

Denzil Chung
Denzil Chung | Photo via Denzil Chung

Anjuna is the New Trance

I might get some heat on this, but you have to admit for the majority of the year, you couldn’t mention trance without someone from the Anjunabeats label coming up.

Anjunabeats, a label started by the world-renowned Above and Beyond, took over the trance world this year, even having their own stages throughout Ultra, ASOT, EDC, Tomorrowland, and EZoo. They feature artists such as Ilan Bluestone, Jason Ross, Andrew Beyer, Spencer Brown, Oliver Smith, and many others.

I think this goes back to Above and Beyond Group Therapy, an annual mini-festival highlighting all of the artists on the label. Last year, ABGT 250 was hosted at the Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington state and ended up being one of the biggest yearly ABGT events to date.

This is partly due to the fact that it was in the USA and most of the Anjuna artists rarely tour here. To make things more interesting, the venue was at the Gorge Amphitheater with all of its eye-popping views and a two day camping event. Setting the stage with its already popular “feely” music, you can see why 2018 was a big year for this label.

Later on, in 2018 two other events made the waves on social media: Anjunabeach and Anjunadeep takeover at the Brooklyn Mirage. Anjunabeach was an event hosted in Huntington Beach, CA featuring Anjunabeats and Anjunadeep artists performing at the famous beach for one day.

Anjunadeep, the sister label of Anjunabeats, has a more deep house style, unlike its progressive counterpart. Artists like Yotto, Luttrell, Lane 8, Jody Wisternoff and James Grant are signed to this label. Both of the events this year were well-received by fans known as “Anjunafam.”

As big as Anjuna became this year, I couldn’t help but notice an overload of events. There was definitely some fan fatigue towards the end of the year around the time of ABGT 300.

However, I think it was bandwagon “Anjunafam” that began to drop off, but the die-hard and real Anjunafam remained. Personally, I am happy that it became a small community again. One thing that I can always look forward to when I see an Anjuna show is coming out of it in a much happier place than when I entered. That happens because the community is so kind and giving.

Underground isn’t so Underground Anymore

Ask someone what techno is and they’ll probably respond: “Oh that’s like that song Sandstorm right?” or if its someone who is familiar with EDM genres they’ll say “Pssh..no one listens to techno!!”

Well, in 2018 that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m not sure when techno became as popular as (the now sadly dying) dubstep, but my guess would be because of Output Nightclub in Brooklyn, NY.

Late last year, it was announced by DJ Mag as the number 1 club for EDM. Like anything popular, it will generate attraction, and as a native New Yorker, I know Output is famous for techno and tech house music.

Planting that seed and fast-forwarding to Ultra 2018, the techno boom arrived. I didn’t have the opportunity to go to Ultra this year, but I do know there were a plethora of techno sets. Whether it was the flagship Resistance Stages led by the legend Carl Cox himself or the most buzzed about Adam Beyer b2b Cirez D shows, techno was all around.

Later this year I would see this surge directly when I attended Coachella. Unlike Ultra, Coachella isn’t known for being strictly an EDM festival. In fact, most of the EDM there could be considered “mainstream.” However, after attending the Do-lab and Yuma stages, I realized that techno has become the new mainstream.

I still remember seeing the Do-lab stage packed to the max when Chris Lake and Fisher did a b2b. As surprising as that was, nothing blew me away like the crowd of Maceo Plex in the Yuma tent. His style of music is as underground as you can get, yet he drew in a crowd as big as Migos!

Since Coachella, I’ve only seen this trend continue to grow and believe me, I am not complaining.

Denzil Chung
Denzil Chung at Dirtybird West Coast Campout | Photo via Denzil Chung

Everybody’s Shuffling

Yes, it is the dance craze you may have heard from LMFAO’s 2011 hit “Party Rock Anthem.” However, that’s not when it truly got popular in the EDM scene. I will have to give that honor to social media.

The shuffle dance has been a common dance style going back to the early hardstyle/trance days of the late ’90s, but it really didn’t gain EDM mainstream attraction until the rise of social media. Whether you saw Gabby David’s Ultra dance video or Elena Cruz’s 3lau dance video, it was probably from platforms like YouTube or Instagram. They popularized the shuffle dance and transformed it into what I call “shuffle shapes” (a combination of the Melbourne shuffle and cutting shapes).

Their videos instantly became viral and very popular among both female and male EDM fans. Still, that was only the beginning. By now I’m sure everyone and their grandmother have heard of Bang Energy. Let me ask you this, did you hear about it because you are some hardcore gym rat that keeps track of the latest supplements (for me yes lol)? OR is it because you saw the endless wave of “shuffle babes” (popular term used for girls who shuffle dance) dancing to house music while promoting Bang products? I guarantee you it was the latter.

This marketing strategy combined with the techno and house boom took both fitness, underground music, and shuffling to a whole new level of popularity. There have even been challenges that stemmed from this movement by both fitness and music companies alike.

You have to admire the genius of Bang’s CEO, utilizing this untapped market to its full potential. However, as great as this movement has been, it has caused some ripples to keep up and be the best.

When I first started shuffling pre-2018, the community was small but very intimate. I followed crews like New Empire Shufflers (NES) and South Florida Shufflers (SoFLA) to learn and improve my dancing. Not many people were doing it so I jumped at the chance to go to a festival to see a meetup and it was an encouraging time.

Fast forward to this year, I did notice a bit of friction in the community. I started to see a divide among what’s considered the right way to shuffle. More underground dancers (not as popular, but well respected) will say cutting shapes are lazy shuffling.

The more famous shufflers have started to take more advantage of the “sex appeal aspect” of marketing and post shuffle videos after 30 seconds of showing a booty cheek or two (not that I’m complaining, I’m a guy lol). Still, it has become a divisive topic in the community.

For me what has hurt me the most is issues between different shuffle groups or as my friend calls it ‘shuffle beef.” Yeah, I know… Maybe it’s because of the popularity in this dance that it’s caused one group to want to be better than the rest.

Shuffle circles have not felt very welcoming to outside members of the crews hosting them to the point where some may feel intimidated to join in. Even among the more popular social media dancers, there were rumblings of beef.

Now that isn’t the case all the time and the good in this community outshines all of this, but I do hope we can return to a place where we can all encourage each other both on the dance floor and off.

Lets go Camping! I wanna go Camping with you–all night Camping!!!

Denzil Chung
Electric Forest | Photo via Denzil Chung

Probably one of the biggest surprises of my festival journey this year was the love for camping festivals, not only by me but the rave community. It’s been a long rumor that camping festivals have better vibes than regular daytime festivals.

Back when Mystery Land or Tomorrow World were around, I heard endless tales about how those events were magical beyond belief. Even last year’s surprise hit festival Lost Lands, had similar reception among the EDM community since it allowed ravers to enjoy an endless amount of bass in a safe and comfortable space. 

Maybe this is the reason Insomniac events made the transition to have a camping option at this year’s EDC Vegas. However, I never knew why that was the case until I attended my first camping festival, Electric Forest. Prior to this event, I only wanted to do daytime festivals because camping was just not my thing.

As awesome as a festival can be there are some cons associated with the daytime ones, the main one being pace. Over the course of three days, at least for the big festivals, you literally have to go hard raging over the course of 8-10 hrs per day without rest.

If you do get tired beforehand (and if you are a dancer like me, YOU WILL), leaving the festival to rest is not an option since most events do not allow re-entry. That leaves you the option of taking a power nap during the festival (good luck with that if you’re a solo raver) or holding back from being in the moment.

Experiencing this phenomenon one too many times prompted me to mix it up and try Electric Forest. What I didn’t expect was experiencing a whole new way of raving. From Day 0 (not even Day 1), it was nothing but love.

Being a first-time camper, it was great connecting with both experienced and rookie Forest Fam. Not only that, the staff was very welcoming, creating a safe environment for you to rave however you like without judgment.

Moreover, to my delight, I can dance as hard as I like, rest, and keep on dancing again! Electric Forest was a game changer for me, and since then I only chase those types of events. Later on, in the year, I attended Dirtybird Campout and it had the exact same type of vibes. 2018 was a great year for camping events.

All over social media, events like Electric Forest, Hulaween, Shambala, Lost Lands, and even Burning Man saw a rise in popularity. It wouldn’t be surprising if in 2019 more camping festivals or camping options get added. 

Conclusion

2018 was full of new memories, discoveries, and great music. It’s amazing how much the scene has changed since I started this journey and I’ve only been in it for 2 years!

In the beginning, it was only meant to be something I thought I’d cross off the bucket list after one rave. Several festivals, and a bunch of raves later, I’m still excited about the next adventure.

More importantly, I loved how much this scene has become a bigger part of my life. Whether it’s the type of dance I did, festivals I attended, or music I listened to, I can’t deny how immersed I became in it.

With 2019 just weeks away, I can’t wait to see what EDM discoveries await me in the new year!

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