EDM needs an intervention. That's what Insomniac video editor and longtime raver, Annie Rinsky has declared in an impassioned 17-minute video posted to her YouTube channel yesterday. Coming at a time when many see EDM's future as precarious—owing to the recent the fall of the SFX mega conglomerate, Las Vegas clubs no longer booking EDM stars, and an LA club banning laptops—her video addresses some of the conflicts recently bubbling up in the scene. With a lighthearted but serious tone, wearing bunny ears and sat in front of some string lights, she expounds upon everything from digital vs. analog DJ politics, to the importance of kandi. While it may leave some things out in its breathlessness, Rinsky makes a number of sobering points about the scene. Here are some highlights:
The sync button is not that big of a deal
After explaining that her life has revolved around electronic music industry for the last six years, Rinsky said that she had a revelation seeing Denver artist Wuki perform in Los Angeles on Saturday: it reminded her just how much technology opens up new possibilities for electronic music. "If you're scared of technology, you shouldn't be making electronic music," she says, controversially arguing that DJs should embrace the sync button—which automates the beatmatching part of DJing—so they can focus on making their sets better. Elaborating on the subject to THUMP via email, she said: "DJs who have big platforms need to start being conscious of how terms like "real DJing" can be misconstrued to enable elitism and create conflict in a scene that is supposed to be about love and understanding."
Think of EDM raves as like the sci-fi film, The Purge
Turning to the social aspect of EDM, she countered negative stereotypes about raves by comparing them to the popular 2013 science fiction film The Purge. Directed by James DeMonaco, the movie depicts a society that maintains order by letting people commit any crime they want for one night a year. "Raving is another form of purging, but you don't have to kill each other and destroy the world," she said, arguing that it instead of holding ravegoers' lives back, it actually helps them thrive.
We still haven't figured out what safe rave spaces are
Rinsky said that EDM raves "accept you for who you are" and challenge societal standards more than other music events. At the end of the day, though, the argument that raves in general are more inclusive spaces than other music venues is not totally convincing. Although it makes sense that some people are able to "shed their defense mechanisms" and feel completely encouraged to be themselves in these spaces, it's hard to believe that the realities of racism, sexism, transphobia, ableism, economic exploitation within capitalism, and their attendant forms of discrimination stop at the gates to the rave. In fact, there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. As THUMP staffer Michelle Lhooq wrote in a recent piece for Cracked Magazine: "In 2016, nightclubs, music festivals, and raves are political arenas where culture wars are fought against a background of rattling subwoofers and strobes."
The eternal battle of the underground vs. the mainstream rages on
Where the underground vs. mainstream debate currently stands is also pretty complicated. On the one hand, we should celebrate mainstream conversation about drug use at raves—it can help people can get information they need and focus on harm reduction. On the other hand, dismissing raves "thrown in bad neighborhoods by people who [don't] know what they're doing" gestures towards the uneasy relationship between gentrification, nightlife, class, race, and power. Additionally, as Rinsky acknowledged, reducing drug-related fatalities in the scene is made even more complicated because of legislation like Joe Biden's RAVE act, which led events in some cases to actually stop offering free water and cool down rooms for fear of prosecution.
Stop being a techno snob
A portion of the video rightly critiques elitism in dance music culture, particularly when it comes to the stigma associated with the term "EDM." Rinsky points out that techno, psytrance, and every other genre technically count as EDM, because it stands for electronic dance music, simply put. "The reason why the EDM scene is so beautiful is because it's a place we can escape from the judgement and expectation that we feel from the rest of society," she said. "If you're judging other people, you're defeating the purpose." Adding to this via email, she said: "Electronic music is no more of a 'trend' than the internet is: it's not going anywhere. So we can either let it slip away from us into the hands of greedy people who don't care about it, or we can each take personal responsibility for the well-being of our scene."
Embrace all things kandi
The touchy subject of kandi, the brightly colored beads ravers wear to festivals, inevitably comes up at some point. Noticing that some seasoned ravers dismiss people as lame if they wear it, Rinsky argued that they should be more generous and less judgmental, especially if these young ravers are new to EDM and just getting a sense of its cultural landscape. The purpose of kandi in the first place is to promote PLUR: peace, love, unity, and respect, and bad attitudes like being judgmental are antithetical to the spirit of EDM.
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