The New Montana EDM “Rave” Scene: History Repeating, And It’s Awesome
"..it's over. Nobody listens to techno!"- Eminem
And just like that, the scene ended. Once the song "Without Me" hit the airwaves back in the early 2000's, you'd swear it was the nail in the coffin for the underground American rave scene. Time to hang up the JNCO jeans, the teddy bear back packs, and spit out the glow stick mouthpiece. For the next 10 years the music scene had shifted from peace, love, unity, and respect (or "P.L.U.R" as old-skool ravers lovingly put it) to sex, money, cars, and clothes. A full decade of white boys acting hard. Thank God that scene is all but over now.
Fast forward to 2012, and the Missoula County Fairgrounds is the scene of history practically repeating itself. The backpacks, check. The glow sticks, check. JNCO wide bottom jeans? Let's just leave those behind, shall we? Animal Nite 2012, a rave (scratch that, we can't say "rave" anymore. It draws too much negative attention), er, "Electronic Dance Music Festival" was brimming with the same excitement as the events that were held so many years ago. Everything is just as it was, but not without a few modernized changes..
For one, the promoters of today's dance events would put any 1990's rave promoter to absolute shame. They are kids, some not even 21 years old, and yet they're intelligence and street smarts rival those of a New York full-scale nightclub owner. Jay Riskay, owner of Youphoric Entertainment and promoter for the annual Animal Nite parties blows me away with every sentence he utters. He proudly proclaims that he "keeps his cards close to his chest" when dealing with negotiations, and rarely beats around the bush when it comes to things that he wants his way. And to see him running around in a Winnie the Pooh costume that night makes it all the more ironic. Logan Foret is another force to be reckoned with. The promoter for the Disco Bloodbath Halloween event is savvy both on the streets and online. When I once tried to show him some pointers on how to increase his invites to his Facebook event page, he looked at me like I was trying to explain how to tie his shoes. Then he proceeded to show me his own online networking tips that made mine look like Nintendo cheat codes. The Missoula scene is in very, very good hands.
Oh, and for the record, these promoters are far from the "snobby and rude" people that some have stereotyped local promoters out to be. I've never met more polite and open minded people in my entire career.
The techno (scratch that, we can't say "techno", it's too dated) er, electronic music was simply bound to make a comeback. It was simply inevitable. In a recent interview with Kris Moon, DJ for the Badlander and various area dance events, this performer put it best when he said "it was only a matter of time before computer generated music returned to the limelight, with today's technology and tools so widely available, this style of music just had to return." And it did. Rap music entertainers took note and began to shift their beats per minute to match the energy of big room house music, even dubstep. Crunk died the moment Lil Jon went on record admitting that he was always an old-skool raver at heart. Chris Brown re-introduced the return of the electro-infused dance beats to the mainstream when "Forever" made a splash on the charts. Nearly every hip hop producer was put out to pasture. Bye-bye Scott Storch, hello David Guetta.
The most important change I've noticed in the new generation of dance music parties is the cooperation with the local law enforcement. Back when parties were thrown in the 90's, promoters like myself kept locations under wraps until the night of to keep police guessing. Often times the warehouse or building was broken into so we could party until dawn. Today, more and more credible, safer venues are allowing these types of parties to continue. Animal Nite did however end at 1:30am, not the all-night party some have grown accustom to. In fact, it's no longer that much of a surprise to see cops parked right next to the venue. In my personal opinion, this is without a doubt the best way to keep the scene alive for a much longer stretch. When promoters cooperate with authorities to ensure the safety of party-goers, it's really a win-win. Maybe not so much for the ecstasy dealer..
Speaking of drugs, sorry, it has to be brought up: Regardless of Eminem's public techno death sentence, rampant drug use was even more so the nail in the coffin for the original American rave scene. In fact, isn't this always the downfall to any music scene? Elvis? Drugs. Hendrix? Drugs. Ravers? Well, you see the pattern. The crash and burn of this new electronic music generation will ultimately end up in the hands of people who seek a high much stronger than music alone. There is simply no way around this. It is in our human DNA to build something up, only to watch it, and sometimes ourselves, burn. The death of a key member because of an overdose or drug deal gone bad is all it takes for a scene to spiral out of control. It takes one person to ruin the fun and, yes history repeating itself is something we can't avoid. Let's just hope the new Missoula party promoters, with their keen instincts and hopefully some knowledge of the not-too-distant past, can be able to find ways to keeping the scene sustainable, if only for just a little while longer without corruption and drug abuse.
So until the next music trend distracts EDM fans with something flashier and too exciting to resist, our local electronic scene is undeniably thriving and really does exist. Yes, even in Montana. Now, if only I can find that box in the attic that has my JNCO 54 inchers. Oh wait, that's right... scratch that.
Aaron is a published author who wrote a book revolving around the radio, nightclub and rave scene. "The DJ Chronicles: A Life Remixed" is available in stores nationwide and is now available for Nooks and Kindles.