My Musical Evolution

Music is magical. There is something about it that can transport me anywhere. I takes just a moment for me to get lost in the past, present, or future.  If the soul exists, music is the purest form of communication between different souls. Listening to music (sadly, I have yet to find any musical talent within myself) has always been important to me throughout my life, though the genres that I listened to have varied widely.

Growing up I was only allowed to listen to Christian and Country music. I guess this was to prevent me from being dirtied by the secular world. In a way this makes sense, my home was “god and country”, Christian music reinforced the religious foundation and Country is very American nationalism. I didn’t mind country but I was more in tune with rock during my teenage years. My cassette tapes were mostly Audio Adrenaline, Newsboys, Petra, and dc Talk. I proudly wore their t-shirts to high school which, in retrospect, probably didn’t help my decidedly unpopular and nerdy persona.

Aside from occasionally listening to the radio (KNRK Portland – The New Rock Alternative!) I didn’t have a lot of secular variety in my music until I discovered MxPx. MxPx is a punk band that was (is?) also Christian. Their music had some religious aspects but they weren’t in your face about it. God may be mentioned but the focus was on being a teenager and surviving the world. The lyrics spoke to me at a time in my life when I was trying to figure things out as a Christian teen. By listing their influences on the back of their CD cases MxPx also introduced me to non-Christian punk bands like NOFX, The Ramones, and Misfits. I started to realize you can be influenced by artists who have different political and religious views than you. At this point I was no longer young enough for my parents to control my music.

When I joined the Army I had shifted pretty strongly into punk, pop-punk, and emo. Again, I think this is a reflection of the lyrics. The words always came first to me, regardless of musical genre. Bands like Fallout Boy, Tsunami Bomb, Blink-182, Green Day, and The Ataris filled my harddrive (thanks Napster!). While I was still pretty conservative at the time these musical influences were decidedly not. Around this time there was a lot of anti-war sentiment within music, particularly when Bush sent troops into Iraq. My only interaction with non-Conservative thought at that time was within music. It was a strange time, I would be listening to American Idiot by Green Day while reading a book by Sean Hannity.

Punk was my primary influence for most of college until I was introduced to EDM. EDM was more than just music, it was a community. Being at a rave with tens of thousands of other people dancing and enjoying life was a surreal experience. It was pure, beautiful anarchy. I particularly love artists like Krewella who mix lyrics I can relate to with music I can dance to (Dance, much like playing an instrument, is an art that is traditionally lost on me). I have come to believe that EDM is the newest example of music reflecting the newest generation of a culture. It is often hated by “old” people who see it as noise instead of music. There is always a view that music “used to be good”, but really it is all good for the people involved in it. Music is how youth show their independence and create something unique. It adapts new technology, criticizes old institutions, and is an outlet for frustrations and love. It is how we connect and create a new world.

At this point in my life I love EDM and Kesha and music that inspires revolution (Rise Against, Flobots, et al). I love female voices and lyrics I can relate to. I love being in the crowd, feeling the sweat and tears of a thousand friends, and making eye contact with strangers that express pure love. I love when music allows my soul to talk to another soul. I’m sure my musical tastes will continue to change and evolve with the times (at least I hope so), and I’m excited to see what new generations create.

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Just Dance

Aside

EDM. Electric Dance Music. There is just something about the drop… that “womp womp womp” that has come to bring out passionate cries for censorship from the haters and bring the lovers into a nearly orgasmic trance. Recently on Facebook I posted this article, and like many articles I share I didn’t actually read it because I trusted the source and was at work with little time to slack. I’ve read it now and it does a great job talking about the history of EDM, something I know little about, but it did get me thinking about my own experience with raves and the music that takes over the heartbeat of thousands of glowing and fuzzy fans.

In truth, I don’t listen to that much EDM. I can’t tell the difference between dubstep, drum and base, trance, or whatever. I just call it all dubstep and find I prefer my music a little grimy. What I love is the community. My first rave was Beyond Wonderland and my normally introverted self was cautiously curious at the environment. Beautiful colors, sounds, and lights overwhelmed the senses. To be at one of these shows is an experience that the word “concert” doesn’t do justice. I had truly stepped into a new world where how you danced meant nothing, as long as you were being true to yourself, it was a place where strangers hugged, said hi, complimented each others outfits*, and were generally polite. I’m sure that the drug going through most people’s systems was MDMA or mushrooms instead of alcohol had a lot to do with it.

Regardless, there was a sense of community. Everyone was there to have a good time, and that often meant making friends, performing light shows, and loving your neighbor. Coming from a military world where you are trained to hate the different and see anyone as a potential enemy this was a pleasant culture shock. I felt comfortable enough to wander alone, explore the sounds and different stages, dance around, talk to girls (trust me, this is a shock), and enjoy sitting alone. It seemed to be a judgement free zone. Certainly there were drunks and troublemakers, but these seemed to be the exception not the rule. In fact, there were more problems, aggressive people, and drunks at a Lindsey Stirling concert I went to recently than any rave I’ve been to.

Unfortunately, things aren’t always peaceful. Most ravers have stories about the police doing drug busts and shutting down raves. I’ve even heard rumors of undercover cops hanging out near DanceSafe (an organization that tests drugs at raves to make sure people don’t OD) and arresting people who go to them for information and tests. In fact, Assemblywoman Ma from California attempted to ban EDM and seemed shocked when she found out it was unconstitutional to ban a type of music, so she worked to ban LED gloves and pacifiers instead. What this really is is an attempt to use the government to ban what is not understood. And the result is raves moving underground or leaving states where they feel unnecessary pressure from the state.

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Just look at those troublemakers…

If the state must exist the resources should be used to protect those that are weak, not punish those that are different. Every dollar spent going undercover to make low-end drug arrests and shut down raves is a dollar not available to investigate rapes and murders. Any person who thinks that this is an appropriate use of tax-dollars should find the victim of a crime and explain to them why the murder of their loved one or their rape should have resources taken away from it to stop an adult from dancing while wearing a fur vest. We have homes for abused woman and mental health facilities severely underfunded but we have kids going to underground parties because you can’t celebrate life in the open without fearing arrest.

I may not be the biggest fan of EDM but it is a community that has shown me love and I do hope it is here to stay. These are people who embrace peace instead of war, love instead hate, and communication over passive-aggressiveness. It is simply discrimination to punish those with legal action for celebrating a life in a way that is new or isn’t understood.