From Europe with beats: Electronica shows clout in NYC



Fri, 01 Sep 2017 - 08:00 GMT


Fri, 01 Sep 2017 - 08:00 GMT



1 September 2017: The United States was the birthplace of electronic music from techno to house, but the genres had always found their true footing in Europe.

Times are changing. Electric Zoo, the three-day festival that opens Friday in New York, comes as promoters see a newfound appetite in the United States for European-style DJ culture.

Donning their brightest rave attire, more than 80,000 people are expected to converge for Electric Zoo on the city's Randall's Island. Headliners include chart-topping French producer DJ Snake, Canadian electro-house artist Deadmau5, and English trance act Above and Beyond.

With the festival in its ninth year and three-day passes sold out, Electric Zoo is no upstart phenomenon. But Electric Zoo has discovered a niche by going past the pop-driven party style -- generally referred to simply as electronic dance music, or EDM -- that has come to dominate US festivals.

Armin van Buuren, a godfather of the free-flowing trance genre, said that tastes still differed across continents: Americans, for example, are much more in tune with the hip-hop subset of trap. But the gaps are narrowing, he said.

"I think, especially now with the internet, everything has become more and more global, with Spotify basically being a service without borders," Van Buuren, who plays Electric Zoo on Sunday, told AFP.

Van Buuren -- whose following is so large in his native Netherlands that in May he filled the 54,000-seat Amsterdam Arena for two nights -- said that festivals such as Electric Zoo have raised the standard for electronic music in the United States.

"Dance music was already huge in Europe at the end of the '90s, early 2000s. I think the US has now completely caught on," he said.

- Festivals, not clubs -

German DJ Paul Kalkbrenner, a leading force in techno -- the fast, hard-driving form that was born in Detroit and reigns in clubs in northern Europe -- said that in North America, only Montreal had the same affinity as New York for underground electronic music.

"These are two cities that have so much European and international influence and the crowd takes it almost like in Europe. Which you can't say about other American cities, where it's much more difficult," Kalkbrenner told AFP.

Kalkbrenner, who later this year will tour the United States to promote his voluminous "Back to the Future" collection that explores techno's roots, said that the rest of the continent was too dominated by rock, rap or Americana genres to develop the same electronic scene.

Despite the artists' bond with New York audiences, the metropolis has one glaring difference from Europe: fewer nightclubs.

Faced with a changing tastes, not to mention skyrocketing rents, the number of New York clubs devoted to electronic music has dwindled to a handful in the past years.

Michael Julian, who oversees Electric Zoo's sales as the chief marketing officer of Made Event, nonetheless saw a bright future for electronic music in New York.

"The paradigm shift happened where kids today are a lot more interested in going somewhere where there is an experience -- a festival, or somewhere outdoors where they can see the sunset, or something in a cool industrial warehouse," he said.

"So the interests have changed, but the people are still there," he said.

- A short future for EDM? -

Music producers heading to Electric Zoo include Barcelona's elrow, which plans a Bollywood theme with an aptly colorful stage, and Netherlands-based Awakenings which will run a techno-dominated stage that includes Kalkbrenner.

Maarten van Beusekom, an executive at Awakenings, said that techno always had a following in South America, but the growth in the United States has been especially striking.

"America has followed, but it's followed really fast," Van Beusekom said. "I wouldn't say it's mainstream but it's gone a little bit upward from the underground.

Kalkbrenner credits the EDM boom with turning fans on to more inventive, less pre-packaged forms of electronic music.

A firm believer in live mixing, Kalkbrenner suspected that EDM audiences will grow tired of pre-recorded sets as the US audience grows for electronic music.

"EDM needs something to happen; otherwise, I don't see it being there in another 10 years," he said.

"But electronic music itself, especially techno, is a worldwide phenomenon. I don't see it ending, ever!"



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