Why New School EDM Acts Should Pay More Attention To The Old School

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David Ireland
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Why The New School EDM Acts Should Pay Attention To Underworld

This past Sunday while just about every other EDM fan in LA was in Vegas for EDC I stayed back and went to see Underworld at the Hollywood Bowl. 

Ok so this was not intentional, it was just a lucky coincidence that they happened to be playing.

I’m going to very transparent about the fact that I’ve been doing this a long time, 20+ years in fact. Holy shit, has it been that long? Yeah.

Not to go on some long and sentimental diatribe, but I do distinctly remember getting the Dubnobasswithmyheadman album in a copy of URB Magazine with my subscription. It stayed in my CD player for about a month straight, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Karl Hyde and Rick Smith have been working together since 1980 (that even makes me feel super young) and in different iterations of Underworld since 1987. I came across them in 1994 just before I started BPM Magazine and got the chance to hear them at the legendary rave Organic that happened in ’96 at the Snow Valley ski resort Southern California. I remember being backstage just as they dropped their first big track, the lights went all the way up, and the entire crowd was jumping up and down in unison. Karl Hyde was out in front rocking his funky chicken-like dance moves and spitting his soul through that mic, he still does.

It had been a long time since I’d seen the group, and I didn’t quite know what to expect. The last time I was in the bowl to see an electronic act was Avicii, and that was well, kind of lame.

Too many artists are just relying on big LED walls, and they just keep getting bigger and bigger. Pretty soon it will just be the LED walls going on tour with a laptop, who needs the artist at that point. DJ Laptop and the LED Wall filled with bright, trippy visuals synced to the beat, which will be $50, please.

You could probably put an “act” together in a Daft Punk kind of way DJLT + LED and headline festivals, no one would give a shit. 

Underworld did the opposite, their gear racks and a mic was just about all that was on stage aside from some very simple visuals and cool lighting. No fireworks, lasers, huge LED walls, dancing robots/fairies or trickery. Just Underworld front and center playing their music.  

Ah, right… now I remember, that’s why we used to go out to go see DJs and electronic acts like The Orb, Orbital, The Chemical Brothers, Massive Attack, etc.

Why The New School EDM Acts Should Pay Attention To Underworld

Things have indeed changed, and I guess there are very few modern day acts that would dare go out so bare at a venue like the Hollywood Bowl. Karl Hyde and company just handled the crowd with their insanely good music and energy; it’s all they needed, and the crowd went nuts.

I’m certainly not going to say that I’ve got anything against good stage production at concerts, only that I think it should not overshadow the music. 

Maybe I’m just behind the times but it’s nice to know that the band/DJ that I’m paying to see is actually doing something and/or gives a shit. 

So many DJs today play super short sets, that are premixed or synced with light shows it just makes you wonder what you are paying for or if this whole culture has just lost the plot. 

Funny enough Chuck D. from Public Enemy dropped a pretty solid thought at the last IMS here in LA in April. It was more or less saying that the artists need to be better than the booze or drugs that people are on when they are out at the show. Otherwise you will just be forgotten. 

The same applies for the LED walls if your music is not more memorable than your light show you most likely will not have a very long career.

So big props to Underworld for delivering an incredible show that was centered around the most important part, the MUSIC.

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