Bass & Brotherly Love: Identity Festival Philadelphia
Eva Simmonswas born to be a performer; practically oozing charisma as she struts across stage with her gravity defying Mohawk rocking rhythmically to the beat.
It’s a hazy and humid Sunday morning in Philadelphia and Eva is in charge of getting the party started as streams of neon clad fans slowly but surely flow into Festival Pier for the seventh stop of Identity Festival. As she stops for a secondbefore resuming to hop all over the stage she shouts, “thank you so much for all the energy and all the love! You guys ready to party?” As the audience answers with an affirmative up roar it’s apparent that she wasn’t asking a question. She was making a proclamation for everyone to party and partake in all the spectacular shared energy that’s just beginning to build.
Identity Festival is EDM’s equivalent of the Warped Tour; a one of a kind festival format where a long lineup of artists spanning all styles and ages tour together for 15 stops all across America. Now in it’s second year Identity Festival travels from Toronto to Tampa before wrapping up with a show on Sunday August 19th in Phoenix. While the line up sometimes shifts to incorporate local artists or accommodate the headliner’s hectic travel schedule it always includes an impressive and consistent cast of DJs. With all the artists sharing so many stages, shots and small tour buses there’s a strong sense of creative comradery that’s as focused on fun as it is fueling each other’s progression.
For plenty of the pre-pubescent kids in attendance questioning your identity is as inescapable as a pair of shrunk down skinny jeans. Yet as EDM emerges out of the underground and into the mainstream it’s experiencing a similarly indeterminate identity, and there’s not a better or more aptly titled place to ponder this idea than Identity Festival. In its most fundamental form someone or something’s identity involves a complex collection of indicators that act as the building blocks for constructing a concept of who or what it is. Electronic dance music is no longer in its infancy; it is maturing and growing into itself just like many of its listeners. At this point in its progression EDM is identified by flamboyantly colorful fashion, blaring bass lines, experimental sounds and unfortunately Madonna’s molly mishap at Ultra.
But what’s often eclipsed by these basic traits is the inclusive and compassionate community of artists and fans that is the crucial characteristic to truly understanding what this type of music is all about. And after sharing this sensation with countless crowds in my life I wholeheartedly believe that this community is not only EDM’s most valued and vital identifier, but also a primary part of why people attend shows like Identity Festival.
As the afternoon sun burns brightly above Festival Pier it becomes blatantly obvious that it is always sunny in Philadelphia and that Le Castle Vania is the Pied Piper of CDJs. Conducting the crowd with a wave of his lengthy fingers as he tempts them to join in and then takes them on a stimulating journey of sound. One where the mood and the music go hand in hand; the sound shaping the feeling, that feeling generating the energy and that energy being reacted to and recycled into the next sound. The pace of this progression is more like a marathon than a sprint; it isn’t a quick eruption of energy, but rather an ever-escalating excitement that’s regularly peaks and rarely plateaus. And at this particular point everyone’s energy and Showtek’s DJ Duro can’t be contained.
In fact to try and contain him or Showtek’s immense and intense sound would be like attempting to cage a wild rhino, which is why it’ s best to just let it loose and bask in all it’s pulse raising party inducing glory. The dark begins descending over the once sunny shoreline of Festival Pier and the masses of people migrate along with the music, ping ponging between both stages.
Madeon may be 18 but I’d bet he still gets his ID checked at R rated movies. As a musical prodigy with massive potential he is a prime example of ability exceeding age, and while you may notice he’s tiny you’ll remember that he’s talented. Talented enough to sample songs from before he was born and headline a festival filled with artists over double his age who were making electronic music while he was waiting for the school bus.
As soon as Madeon makes his way off stage Excision starts making my ear drums shake with his in your face fusion of groovy hip hop samples and gritty bass. Outside of a stage setting Excision’s Jeff Abel looks like a regular guy but put him behind two CDJs and he’s anything but average. He becomes a bass wielding beast to be reckoned with. His trademark stage set up is giant gothic X’s with towering crystal shaped screens staggered all around it displaying different dimensions of lights that make it look like a psychedelic peacock.
And while that exotic breed of bird may be endangered, EDM is flourishing as a result of its fun loving communal culture. Festivals such as Identity remind us of music’s amazing ability to unite people, create connections, and make us move. The tour may have moved to the next city and the music may have stopped, but EDM is just continuing to take off and create its identity.