EDM and instruments of change

(Graphic by Lena Yang).

(Graphic by Lena Yang).

Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables, once said, “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” Music is about exploration, challenge and expression, much like any art form. Live performance takes this to the next level when the artist has a chance to introduce each piece. Lindi Ortega’s third concert at Maxwell’s Music House last Wednesday re-introduced me to the importance of exploring new music.

With Dustin Bentall and the Smokes backing her up all evening, the sounds coming from these musicians could not have been more emotional or intelligent. The skills of fiddler Kendel Carson kept the stage alive as she fluidly interacted with all band members. Both bands played engaging and perfect sets, professionalism and hours of rehearsal could be heard behind every note. The audience was there for Ortega as they cheered loudly for her when she walked on stage, though Bentall and his band seamlessly complemented Ortega’s music giving it an alternative rock twist.

The intimate setting at Maxwell’s made it easy for everyone to fully appreciate the music. With heart-felt lyrics from songs such as her latest title track “Cigarettes and Truckstops,” to the raw and angry “Apologies,” Ortega embodies the level of maturity required from both performers and audiences when participating in music. Being surrounded by a demographic of Waterloo-ers who have moved on from post-secondary education, Ortega’s music engaged this mature, respectful audience.

Cheering when appropriate, laughing at jokes in between songs, even dancing to her upbeat song “Bluebird,” people were there for the music. This is something I find lacking in student culture, where the party seems to be becoming more important. The rise of electronic dance music (EDM) over the past four years in both the post-secondary scene and popular culture has led this genre into a confused state of immaturity. EDM shows are now centred on being as inebriated as possible while still being contained enough to be served by the bar staff. The music has changed; it has become shallower and with more repetition within sub-genres of electro music, trance, trap and moonbathon. The focus is no longer on the music being played by the DJ either.

Having its founding roots in basement parties, with the infamous Toronto band ‘Bassmentality,’ EDM now has a cult-like following of bass-heads clad in neon-coloured straps of clothing at a trendy bar on the west side. EDM can also be found on television at the Grammys and on the radio, where artists like Deadmau5 have become commonplace. No matter how fun it is to leave all your worries on the dance floor for the night, maybe it is time to take a step back. The floor-to-ceiling subwoofer which leaves your ears ringing for hours will still be there next week. Try another form of live music performance.

Maybe it’s time for all of us to grow up a little bit and move on from the party, complimented by music, that is our Thursday through Sunday evenings. I challenge you, reader, to listen to a new artist in a genre of music that is unfamiliar. A genre that you think is intimidating, alien, even boring. Challenge yourself as an individual through music; listen to live instruments instead of the wub-wub-wub of bass. Find an artist who inspires you, as Ortega has inspired me, to come back to the building blocks of music.

This is a call to appreciate music for what it is and can do. Ignore the fads that blindly lead us away from the musicality.

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