“Water can flow, and it can crash,” said Bruce Lee, and the same can be said for EDM. And we’re not just talking about breaks and drops. It all depends on what side of the river you’re on.
In “The Underground is Massive: How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America,” Michelangelo Matos traces the origins of house and techno in Chicago and Detroit to Daft Punk’s Grammy winning ascendancy with "Get Lucky" in 2014. Rave culture in America began with the celebrated underground scenes, the invite-only parties in defunct warehouse and industrial spaces that took their inspiration from the legendary all-night parties and chill-out rooms in England.
To rave in the early years of dance music was a fringe behavior. This was long before the days of social media, when an invite to a party was as clandestine as a Skulls and Bones secret knock, or perhaps the green-haired guy at the record store (the what!?) who was always talking about The Orb, handed out illustrated pamphlets advertising a Perpetual Dawn Party out in the hills of Laurel Canyon.
In other words, the underground was massive, but it was still underground. To borrow Bruce Lee’s phrase, the old timers say this is when EDM "flowed." They say it all came crashing down with 2003’s Rave Act, a congressional bill that shuttered rave culture as it had existed in the 1990s. Dancing in abandoned buildings is unsafe. There are fire hazards. Who knew?
And EDM culture now…
Today, big tent events like Electric Daisy Carnival are corporate sponsored. There’s nothing underground about them. As a genre, EDM is as popular as rap and pop. There’s nothing particularly dangerous or subversive about it. Superstar Dj’s such as Calvin Harris and David Guetta are making as much money as professional athletes. According to Forbes, Harris made $46 million in 2013. Damn!
When Daft Punk won the 2014 Grammy, the mainstream fully embraced EDM. Still, you can’t damn EDM for being popular. The old school punks who dusted off their Doc Martens every once in a while screamed foul when Green Day became popular in the 90s.
Michelangelo Matos put it best in his book… “I do miss the oppositional aspect of it (EDM). Of course I’m going to mourn my youth. That’s my job as an old man.”