Meanwhile, at the Together Stage…
It’s about 2:30 pm when we arrive at the Comcast Center for Identity Fest, skipping through a parking lot of rainbow tu-tus and
just as much neon as I expected.
The afternoon is pretty hot. I’m already sticky as I stand backstage of the Together Stage in the woods, where hundreds of kids are going absolutely nuts for Eric Spicuzza and Angela Bray, the local electronic duo Glowkids and Fuse.
I feel weirdly proud of the Wonderland family (picture an 18+ club blasting straight up dance music from the best soundsystem in Boston) holding it down behind their sparkling black masks with a smorgasbord of electro-house pumping up the crowd in the shade, proving that intense light shows in dark rooms aren’t the end all be all of their musical performance, though purple and blue beams of light are still visible through the trees. Angela smiles the whole time as both of their shoulders bump to the beat and kids find solace in a cool dance party at the center of a heated festival.
Erik (Baltimoroder) and I decide to walk around, and hilariously enough, past the giant hose shooting a waterfall of free hydration over the pathway between the Together and the Rockstar Energy stage, and atop the latter at the back of the giant parking lot, JDevil is standing on top of his DJ set up throwing his body and long black hair around and head-banging like a fucking lunatic. There are, give or take, 30 kids contorting their bodies to the hideously terrible, screeching dubstep (noise) he is playing.
After five minutes of taking in the spectacle, Erik and I turn to each other, eyebrows popped in disbelief.
“I feel like I’m being cursed,” I say.
“Dude looks like the guy from Korn,” Erik says.
“That IS the guy from Korn.”
“I hate Korn.”
“So do I,” I say, chuckling.
“But I’m going to get a video of him doing that ridiculous dance of his.”
Sure enough, JDevil runs out from his lair, knees high, arms shooting up and down at bent elbows like some kind of rotten-toothed possessed person.
“FUCKING, FUCK IT!” he screams at no one in particular.
“I’D FUCK YOU. I’D FUCK YOU. I’D FUCK YOU.” He screeches, pointing to people in the crowd. “I DON’T GIVE A FUCK!!!!!!”
“Okay, that’s enough. Let’s get out of here…” I say to Erik and we walk away from that hellhole. Entering the leafy shade of the woods, the entire expanse of mulch in front of the Together stage is packed.
“Yeah, time to get loose in the woods stage!” the guy with the mask yells into the mic.
“White Rabbit takin’ numbers up here!”
With each hit of the bass, the hands of the entire forest are up and moving along with the beat. “I need to get a picture of this, and be like ‘meanwhile, at the Together Stage…” I say to Erik, and he suggests standing on a big stump to get an aerial shot.
After White Rabbit, JASS is up, getting
an honorary fucking awesome intro from Matt Rohr (aka Fens).
I think if Matt introduced like Iron & Wine or something, he’d be able to get people psyched—whenever he gets excited it’s pretty infectious.
T-Dredz and Time Wharp are up B2B, the local boys again kicking ass and taking names, Patrick’s hair swinging all the while. The crowd gets low as they pull out all the stops from boxes of musical Good & Plenty: Good, clean, smooth beats, and plenty of switches and turns with chopped up vocals, tempo-switches, sometimes to dub and faster tropical-flavored beats, all with deep undercurrents of soul--music as red-hot as the afternoon. With a depth of character that makes any attempt at throwing out genres moot minutes later and thereby futile.
Therefore, it was definitely a DJ set like none other at Identity.
Afterwards, one of my best friends Greg and I head back to the Rockstar Stage to check out two parts of the pretty long-time famous Dutch electronic trio Noisia. The crowd has at least filled the entire black top for them, but I was hoping they’d play less hardcore dubsteppy shit and more oldschool drum and bass; the segments of D&B inserted between massive bass throbs are the most refreshing parts of the set.
We pick up Matt Rohr when passing the Together Stage on the way to see Atlanta-based Le Castle Vania, who apparently started his career DJing at warehouse raves when he was 16. In the couple hours we’ve been here, the stadium housing the iHome Main Stage has seriously filled up.
Up to the halfway mark of the bleachers is a garden overgrown with bare-skin blooming into raised arms ripping through the hot air to more machine-gun-like electro-house … which would sound a lot better anywhere but in this giant amphitheater made for blasting rock music.
From our position sitting in the bleachers, we take in the epic digital display on the giant screens behind the invisible DJ: sometimes shooting us through a black night spinning with a vortex of retro-rainbow-colored polka dots, sometimes white ice crystals pumping over a neon purple background along with the beats, one time a girl’s face doing … something. But all I can really hear are repetitive booms, like a heavy trance song or something with any trace of mids and highs turned way down.
“I just can’t comprehend how any person could wake up one day and think to themselves, ‘You know what? I need a ‘Sex, Drugs, and Dubstep” shirt,”
I say to Greg, throwing up my hands in dismay as I see some d-bag walk by wearing one as we once again head back to the Together Stage. This one’s a black beater with it written in blood red. Probably the fiftieth person I’ve seen with the shirt today. “I just could never in my life take someone who owns that shirt seriously. I mean, who could? I guess that’s why they all just hang out with each other?”
While Erik (as Baltimoroder) and Mikey (aka Coralcola) are up having a blast at the Together Stage, catering to the crowd by leaning towards some progressive tech house rather than the usual delicious techno as Erik pumps him arm with them laughing, some kid pops out of nowhere from my right in the woods.
“Eh… no… not at all. These are Baltimoroder and Coralcola from Boston. Do you like techno?” Kid’s neon green shirt is gone in a flash.
Probably bolting to the Rockstar Stage to catch the second half of the Showtek bros. Approaching the parking lot stage has become sort of a nightmare for me by now, what with the sun, my head, and more ridiculously hard Dutch dance music pounding.
As we get closer, a chant has started,
“I DON’T GIVE A FUCK! I DON’T GIVE A FUCK!”
The crowd of sweaty jumping kids screams in unison, louder and louder as I try to make my way in. I pass a girl who’s covered in sweat and notice she’s the only one around frowning and not really moving much. “Want some water?” I ask her, and she graciously takes huge swigs of my cold water bottle. “GET FUCKED UP!” I hear a kid scream next to me. Wow, that’s really sweet, this girl’s about to pass out and this gu—“GET FUCKED UP! GET FUCKED UP!” Wait, this is coming from all around me.
Wordlessly, I slide through sweaty appendages towards the fresh air at the edge of this waking nightmare. Then the music shuts off completely in my mind. A group of EMTs is bent over a convulsing boy sprawled out on the macadam. His face is purple, my eyes water, and I look back to the edge of the crowd, where kids are screaming “GET FUCKED UP! GET FUCKED UP!”
probably so fucked up that they are oblivious to the life and death situation right in front of us.
I’m so freaked out that I sprint back towards the woods to be with my Boston friends. Girls in bikini tops are laughing and jumping in the spigot; one boy pours water down a girl’s back to my left; about four couples are lying down making out against the fence and it’s all I can do to not puke.
Since ID Fest, a lot has been said about the two deaths—
the first ever overdoses at the Comcast Center—the 45 arrests and nearly two dozen people hospitalized this year. Kids stumbling out of the woods not even knowing where they are due to what police have called a “witches brew.” According to reports, the boy died with ecstasy, alcohol, amphetamines and marijuana in his bloodstream.
In the Sunday Herald, Peter Geizinis went so far as to call the festival an “all-day orgy of new wave and techno” where kids chomped down a “lethal buffet of drugs,” and everyone seems to be trying to blame this “rave” culture, but they are focusing on the wrong things here. They are lumping everyone at Identity Fest, and all people who go to dance concerts, really, into a sweeping generalization: a massive drug culture.
There are a lot of kids who are misinterpreting this entire scene—kids who buy neon trucker hats that say “SLUT” or “RAGE” and think the whole point of electronic music festivals is to get as fucked up as possible. It is really disheartening to be in a crowd like at Showtek, where you look around and seriously doubt if anyone is even capable of listening to or processing the music that they’re hearing.
These kids are looking for a release, an escape from reality. And this need for an escape through wild rebellion has been going on for decades. If you’re going to blame electronic music now, you could blame disco in the ‘80s and sacks of cocaine, or Woodstock and major rock concerts in the ‘60s with viles and sheets of acid, or just blame rock and roll itself for preaching “tune in, turn on, drop out” and causing the deaths of hundreds of rock stars addicted to heroin—to sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
But there was a place to escape at Identity Festival—to good music, which was going on all day at the Together Stage thanks to Boston producers and DJs. This was the first ID fest to have a local stage, and after seeing the craziness all around me, I’ve never been prouder to have a place to run back to in the woods. And that kind of electronic dance music “scene” goes on almost every night of every week here in Boston.
The tragedy is that it takes inexplicably terrible things like this to happen for kids to be more careful.
The blame falls on nothing but hasty decisions and lack of consideration before the act. And it certainly doesn’t help when certain DJs are encouraging the “get fucked up” mentality rather than focusing on their music. But friends of mine have died or lost years of their lives due to stupid mistakes, and I just wish people would realize beforehand for once that
the music is what this should be all about, and it is just as enjoyable sans drugs and alcohol.
The embodiment of this idea is before me when the Re:Set Crew take control of the Together Stage as the sunlight finally fades. The dull throbbing heat rises from my body as we all dance onstage to the epitome of deeply moving, classy house music, Randy Deshaies, followed by the most delicate four-to-the-floor hands down that day by Laura (aka D-Lux).
Someone should tell all of the half-naked girls at ID Fest that “nothing’s sexier than subtlety.” Good house music can get your blood pumping naturally. Bpms can take you higher than high. And good music can make you fall in love.
This was her first music festival ever. She made me wish it was mine, too.
“Greg told me you write about electronic music!” Olivia says tapping me on the shoulder, her eyes wide, glowing brighter than the glow sticks I’m twirling in my hands absently while still musing over what I saw at Showtek. “That’s so cool!!!”
“Yeah! It is pretty cool … I love it.” I say, thinking about all the other ways this day could’ve been spent behind a desk, for the first time in a while.
Her mom has to go find her dad and puts Olivia in my control for Wolfgang Gartner. I don’t particularly like the music, but I jump up and down and swerve the glow sticks around my body to the beat with Olivia so she has someone to dance with. I watch out of the corner of my eye as she watches and mimics some of my motions, her eyes shining and glued to the light display.
“This is so good! Isn’t this awesome??” she yells to me over the music.
“SO GOOD,” I shout, looking out over an entire stadium packed with intensely dancing kids. The soft pink lights bathe the gigantic crowd in one warm glow.
“So what kind of music do you listen to?” I ask Olivia as we dance. “Who’s your favorite producer or whatever?”
“NERO! Oh my gosh I love Nero!” she shouts excitedly. “I really want to see them! Greg saw them at the beginning of the summer and I’m so jealous!”
“Oh yeah, they’re super cool! Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of chances to see Nero,” I say, making a mental note to check out when they’re next coming by Boston so I can get this girl in. I spend the rest of the night dancing crazily with Olivia, laughing at her excitement and loving every minute of it. New best fest partner: a 14-year-old girl who looks up to you and has just gotten into EDM.
ID Fest was so intense this year.
I feel like this was the most lenses I’ve ever looked at a music festival through, and it taught me a lot about myself and how I feel about the scene. But it always comes back to one thing for me: good music. And with the younger generations eating EDM up: teaching them that good music can be appreciated safely.
And when I finally got to Middlesex Lounge that night after a day spent running from sex, drugs, and dubstep, DJ Volvox restored my faith. It’s not about drugs or sex or womps or anything else, it’s about the feeling you get when you and a crowd of people feel the same thing at the same time. That moment when your hearts beat in sync. And you dance. It’s all about the music.
SPECIAL THANKS TO NICK MINIERI FOR BEASTING THE PHOTOS AS USUAL. CHECK OUT THE REST OF THEM ON BEANTOWNBOOGIEDOWN.COM!