Some Notes On Identity Fest


We waited on a taxi queue outside the Jones Beach amphitheatre for the twenty minute ride back to the train station. It was around ten and we’d left the show early with a quiet resolution that we had to cut our losses and make it out before the crowd. The longer we stood there, the more the line itself seemed arbitrary, as the soaked and shivering groups of kids broke apart and jumped ahead at the sight of a stray cab idling through the parking lot. 50 degree rain and the shore wind proved too much for the coming down and the wasted, the tired and burnt-out, as our makeshift society broke down into anarchy right in front of us. Times like these test our morals and resolve.

“This is the only time I wish I lived in Long Island,” a girl in front of us said.

“No… it’s not that bad,” I told her. “It can’t ever get that bad.”

And it really wasn’t – at least until the sun went down, and the energy had worn off, leaving everyone huddling for warmth in the corridors or around the hand dryers in the bathrooms. The people who braved the storm for Steve Aoki – you deserve our respect and praise, if you are out there – fought the weather for what looked like one of the best sets of the night. We were inside waiting it out.

“I want to be there but I don’t want to be there,” I said to everyone.  We were behind a group of hardcore ravers, P.L.U.R. and all that, and one guy overheard me.

“No man,” he said like it was a prophecy. “You want to be there.”

I.D. Fest, or Identity Festival, is a traveling music festival appearing in over 20 cities around the country this summer. The festival’s organizers have constructed what may mark the pivotal moment in the growth of American electronic music culture into a mainstream industry – an entry level vehicle for what was once the teenage Warped Tour crowd. It’s been clear that things have been heading in this direction for a few years. The growth of dubstep as an alt-trend stateside coincided with an upsurge of interest in house music, notably through the massive cultural visibility provided by the Jersey Shore cast, among other things. Electro permeates most modern Top 40 pop, with artists like Benassi and Guetta providing the production blueprint.

Maybe it speaks to the lack of influence and presence of rock music since the mid 2000s that young people are looking for a new form of aggressive, fun and alternative music to call their own. Electronic music offers a different aesthetic; it is already inherently commercial, meant for a wide audience of club and festival-goers, and immune from the concerns of authenticity that consume rock criticism. Electronic music producers and DJs are hardly expected to be socially conscious, or present a coherent messages other than “party.”

This could be a good thing. It was encouraging, even impressive, to see a crowd of thousands fill the half-shell of a theater and throw their hands up when the DJ dropped something – to see what more or less amounted to a bunch of hammered bros dancing, not just fist-pumping or thrashing, I mean getting into a groove – there has to be a small amount of hope in the fact that these guys, ten years ago, might have been listening to nu-metal or screamo.

We took two friends who’d never listened to this kind of music before, and would have considered the idea of paying to stand in front of a guy pressing buttons on a laptop to be, frankly, insulting to their intelligence. At first, they were aloof, weird about dancing – alright, understandable. It took them some Booka Shade, Chuckie, Steve Lawler and Avicii to start chilling out a little and enjoying themselves.

The sound from the second stage echoed off the concrete of the amphitheatre, so as soon as you exited you knew exactly what was going on over there. The screaming, whirring bass of a Nero track filled the air as everyone rushed through the gate to get over there. It was huge. I grabbed everyone and we joined the mass migration. It’s a curious thing about these festivals that when everyone gets excited they jump and dance as they walk, and people kept popping in and out of my vision as we approached the stage. The rain was picking up, and the occasional lightning only made it more epic when a new track dropped.

As soon as we hit the crowd it was a build-up and I looked at everyone anxiously. This was it. We had been listening to Avicii and I was pretty tired of being uplifted by his sentimental feel-good house anthems. I wanted something dirty and brutal. I wanted to lose my shit. The pitch rising, my friends were unsure of what to expect. Then it hit. Frantic drum and bass. The crowd exploded. Things were flying: water bottles, beach balls, spinning glow sticks, arms, legs, people holding onto their hair like they needed something to grasp because what they were hearing was absolutely ridiculous.

It was some time around when Nero mixed “Innocence” with Flux Pavilion’s that I caught my friends getting totally into it. Full on, half-tempo dubstep sway, arms forward, up and down, head rocking, face melting. It didn’t take long; Nero made fans of my friends, like a lot of dubstep has. Some underground rave heads will disagree with me, but I think this is for the best. Everyone deserves a chance to experience that, to have that look on their face of complete and utter “what the fuck,” even if it’s just once, in the rain, stuck in Long Island.

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image – Identity Fest