By Corey Fox
I can still remember the smell. The musty basements, the dusty speakers, and rusted door frames. The crowded dance floors, and uncirculated air gestating through the Providence club foyers. The baggy clothes, the glow-sticks, and the tribal dance music orchestrating our weekend seances. The year was 2002; the year I acquired my first fake ID and I had intended on using it.
These recollections take me back to a simpler time. In reality, “a simpler time” is just a facade. An erroneous term of endearment used to reflect the olden days. As if there were no trials and tribulations for the general public back then. In reality, the times were not so simple at all. We were angry and incandescent. The tumultuous events of 9/11 were fresh on our minds, and the animus was palpable. We were enveloped inside of a free floating ectoplasmic apparition that was clouding our everyday life.
With that being said, we were at the perfect age to be angry, confused and disoriented by all of the haunting images and political commentary being thrown ad nauseam at our youthful eyelids and earlobes. The unremitting news coverage; the propagandistic nature of the entire event was exhausting and rage inducing. Throw in two parts adolescent rage and one part puberty, and we had the perfect storm of misdirected momentum. Relentlessly brewed into a vitriolic concoction labeled DRINK ME. It was around this time that I found myself as a raver.
Now, I first remember being introduced to some form of dance music on the radio in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Club music was constantly hitting the top 40, and I was there for all of it. Robin S “Show Me Love,” CeCe Peniston’s “Finally,” Culture Beat’s “Mr Vain,” Snap “Rhythm is a Dancer,” and LaBouche dominated the airwaves. Even Haddaway’s “What is Love” was made popular through Saturday Night Live. I had acquired a taste, even at age 10, that was about to fuel my love for all things EDM.
As the 90s progressed, so did the tunes. I was introduced to trance and Robert Miles; Lofi House classics like “Missing You” by Everything But the Girl. Eurodance groups like the Vengaboys, and even the monster hit “Better Off Alone” by Alice Deejay. These are all songs I still have in my rotation even today. They were a catalyst; a window into the soul. The layered textures and atmospheric nuances were hypnotic. The bass hits and hi-hats made you want to move. Inventing dance choreography you never even knew was possible. Willingly crammed into a basement with thirteen other like minded individuals, just having fun.
Techno had reached some sort of mysterious apogee in my junior and senior years of high school, which plunged myself, and my merry band of misfit toys into a world we never even knew was possible. Many of the proms I attended consisted of hour long techno sets. This was an era where Darude’s “Sandstorm” was a serious radio hit. An era before the memes made it iconic. An era that made me an absolute fanatic. Dj Louie Devito became our patriarch; our papal brother in arms leading Sunday Service from a withered boom box on a Friday night. New York Underground Vol. 3 was the pivotal album that changed my life.
The club scene at this time, was as you were. Acquiring a fake ID was the next step in my quest to purge my negativity and check my inhibitions at the parrish doors. Ascending our spiral staircase to Babylon while simultaneously dismissing the mayhem that awaited us outside the front doors. My friends just wanted a place to find solace. Our fortress of solitude. A safe haven to hear our favorite songs played through oversized speakers on flooded dancefloors. We were bass-heads trying to find our moment. The look we gave each other when Dj Skribble & Anthony Acid’s mix of “Do It Again” came blazing across the auxiliary like the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse, was something I will never forget. Those were the moments that made me who I am today.
I continued on with the club scene for many more New York Underground releases, dipped my toes in some Trance, a pinch of Techno, and a handful of House. Made it to my mid 20’s until the club vibe was getting old. It was wearing me thin. Our favorite spots had closed down. A once glistening Metropolis of bass music was no longer my Therapy. I always considered it a sanctuary for me; a place to release the viral toxins that poisoned my inner being on the floating granite rock beneath us. But the scene was no longer as you were. Things were changing and the music wasn’t evolving. Fallouts with friends didn’t seem to help the matter, but the love for electronic music is something that doesn’t die.
Flash forward to my later years, I wasn’t too enthused with dubstep in the beginning. Sure there were some Skrillex songs, and some Flux Pavillion songs that I couldn’t help but marvel at, and none-the-less, they were sort of underwhelming. I was indifferent to the evolution of EDM, while simultaneously biting my thumb at the mere thought of this umbrella term even existing. It seems like such a cop out to suppress so many genres of dance music into an abbreviated acronym. At the time, it felt pretentious; when really it was myself who had become pretentious.
Growing up, I always had this dream to live in California. Living in Rhode Island is sort of like existing inside of a bubble. It’s a familiar bubble -- a bubble that feels like home -- and it’s filled to the brim with comfort. Everybody knows everybody. The 6 degrees of separation was about 4 degrees too many if you lived there. I had this primal urge to see how the rest of the world was flourishing. After taking some vacations to California in my youth, I knew this was the place I would love to live one day. Little did I know that by age 34, I would not only move to LA County, but I would absorb myself into the festival culture that defined a generation of West Coasters.
I found myself, a relic, deconstructing and reanimating myself on my own volition, into this Californian festival scene like the ghost of Christmas past. Was I just an ancient, dilapidated sack of skin, emerging from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in a mummified stupor? Or was I on a quest for something greater? Something wholesome, nostalgic and eerily familiar? My quest for a spiritual identity was finally within arms reach like the brass ring on a merry-go-round.
My first life changing set was Seven Lions at Beyond Wonderland. The lasers slicing through the enormous tent like spotlights casted over the city skyline. A majestic, long haired Jedi Knight behind the ones and twos, orchestrating his crescendoed manifesto. Next came the Excision performance in San Bernardino. The visuals were on a level I could have never imagined. A psychedelic kaleidoscope straight out of Pink Floyd’s, “The Wall.” I was too stunned to move. The experience of these two sets were the significant factors of finding myself in the modern world of EDM.
And just like that, it all came together like mechanized cogs in a Swiss watch. First came the rave crew that introduced me to the lifestyle. Friends I considered family without knowing much about them at all. We were all patrons in the church of EDM, wandering on a perpetual quest for transcendental enlightenment. Holding on to each other’s shoulders as we cut through the crowds like surfboards on a crested wave. Each step taking us closer to the stage like we were hiking up K2 with hydropacks. Kandy wrapped around our wrists, and good vibes emanating from our inner beings. This is what I was searching for. This is where I belong. I’m finally home.