Last weekend I attended Seismic Dance Event 4.0, indulging in a long overdue wish of mine: going to a three-day festival dedicated exclusively to house and techno music. As an outsider to this specific community of electronic dance music, I’m aware the term “raving” has evolved from underground origins of warehouse shows and is now liberally applied by newcomers to even commercialized subgenres of EDM. But for all intents and purposes, I’ve wanted to step outside my comfort zone into a truer modern rave experience like what Seismic offers for a long time.
The energy of the crowd, as I’m sure anyone would guess, was very different from the bass music events I usually go to. Most dubstep shows are insanely high intensity and all about raging like a maniac. At these house and techno sets, however, the vibe was much more relaxed. People still dance all around, and those shuffling hit the floor with astounding moves. But where I’m accustomed to mosh pits spontaneously forming around me, this festival felt more like grabbing a beer, hitting a vape while two-stepping, and just kicking it back, vibing with sunglasses on at night.
A transplant from California (just like all the rest of them), I only recently moved to Austin, TX. Yet I’ve already been to enough shows in both Austin and San Marcos to know that The Concourse Project will undoubtedly become the hottest spot for EDM shows in all of Travis County. There is so much potential for this venue – the energy is eclectic, RealMusic Events delivers masterful production, and the coolest part is I truly do feel transported to an old-school warehouse rave – even though I wasn’t around for that era. While my first show at Concourse was Seven Lions, and I can’t wait to see artists here from the genres I primarily listen to, I think most would agree that the venue is best suited for house and especially techno shows.
Being at the Volcano stage – the only indoor stage out of the three, hosted within the actual venue of The Concourse Project – returned me to the underground clubs of my initial introduction to techno. Before ever going to a festival, I backpacked solo across Europe, and techno reigned supreme everywhere I went. The Volcano sound system was perfect, deep bass reverberating in the large warehouse as strobe lights, the dark atmosphere, and a sea of bodies clad in black and leather hypnotized me into a state of flow. The ballistic, turbo beats of Amelie Lens and the acid techno journey of Nina Kraviz were some of my favorite sets from this stage and from the whole weekend. The live performance and technical wizardry of Reinier Zonneveld also mesmerized me, and during his set especially, the circle of shufflers in the back unleashed a jaw-dropping flurry of footwork fury.
But the majority of my time was spent at the Tsunami stage, where my burgeoning love of house music blossomed. The allure of its sonic tide unequivocally drew me in, feeling I could dance most freely there. While I was at the festival to try new things, this stage felt the most familiar to me. Friday’s Tsunami lineup was an all out party with Will Clarke, Eats Everything, Jaime Jones and Claptone. Kyle Watson brought saucy grooves Saturday and Solardo closed out day two bumping so hard I simply had to see them again at Sunday night’s afterparty. Flow artists and shufflers abounded at this stage, and since I belong to both of those groups, this made me feel immediately at home. I rode a constant wave of fun at Tsunami and made the most friends there.
The photo-op art installation at the back of Tsunami was one of many visually appealing additions to the outdoor portion of the festival. Futuristic, LED oval “floating” seats were spread throughout and the most in-demand spots to hang out. The best nostalgic trip down memory lane was the set of LED teeter-totters, where riders paired up to catapult the other person as high as possible into the air. Everything just felt so carefree and jovial. Festivals are already the quintessential Disneylands for adults, full of joy and escapism. But there was a unique quality of stress-free collective consciousness at this boutique fest, quite different from the more mainstream, other-genre festivals I’ve been to.
The Frequency stage embodied these open vibes most organically. It’s the first stage you’d see upon entering and definitely the most intimate. The crowds were usually the smallest, and the production was the most minimal, but I’ve found that these are often the places where some of the deepest magic circulates. In the back of this area, the murals of four live painters sublimely came to life over the course of three days. Getting to watch artists paint or use whatever other medium in real time is one of my favorite parts of festival culture, so this added immensely to the engaging ambiance. AC Slater and Dom Dolla are among my favorite DJs in the realm of house music and the only two artists I recognized coming into the weekend, so I couldn’t have been happier seeing them at Frequency.
I met some truly incredible people at Seismic Dance Event, which showcased what the community and culture are all about in the house and techno scene, absolutely invigorating me to become a part of it. Having gone to some really large festivals, I’ve grown to love the intimacy of these smaller ones – and the fact that it’s in my backyard is even more exciting. I’m eager to see how this fest and The Concourse Project grow over the coming years.
Discovering new music is always a cherished goal of mine. Now I have a slew of new artists and subgenres to check out. I feel more connected to house music than ever, and my interest in techno has been reignited. There was a heavy intensity to some of the techno I listened to, almost overwhelming me at times. I overheard a person proudly yet jokingly laughing at those who couldn’t take the techno ferocity and had to leave. It reminded me of my own facetious amusement at people who get terrified listening to dubstep, running away in fear walking by a dubstep stage at a multi-genre festival and deeming it trash “beep-boop” robot non-music.
There’s a lesson that can be learned exposing ourselves to other communities, cultures, and so forth and putting ourselves in their shoes, as cliché as that may sound. I think more often than not, most of us consider ourselves and whatever group we belong to as outsiders. THE outsiders. Everyone else is mainstream, the status quo. But there’s a lot of commonality that can be found over everyone feeling like only they are the outsiders. And while there’s a certain comfort in feeling like the misunderstood ones, sometimes it can lead us to misunderstand others too. We all have our preferences; it’s not realistic to expect everyone to like everything. But damn, I sure feel fucking bad for anyone who doesn’t like house or techno.