Emissions West Coast Bass Culture Festival 2013 – Review & Photos


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Are you one of the thousands of people afflicted with Chronic Bass Face?

  • Are you bothered by high-frequency noises?
  • In your daily life, is it difficult for you to process treble when you walk in to a bar or club playing today’s top-40-appropriation/pop-music hits? Does that shit make you want to swiftly kick a blonde bitch with no booty?
  • Do you accidentally “run the trap” at the office – garnering shady glances from co-workers who suspect you aren’t twerking hard enough?
  • Do you constantly crave SUB-subwoofers to permeate your damaged cochleae?
  • Do you feel isolated in a world of mids and tweeters?
  • Is today just not future enough for you?

If this sounds familiar, you might have Chronic Bass Face. There is no cure for Chronic Bass Face but it can be managed with a combination of time travel, exposure to sparkly rocks, and positively charged Neodymium. Chronic Bass Face is highly contagious, and those so afflicted should volunteer to quarantine themselves. Sufferers of Chronic Bass Face will find sanctuary in Belden Town, California, at the Camp Questionmark Emissions West Coast Bass Culture Festival.

Talk to your DJ about Chronic Bass Face and find out if Emissions is right for you.

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I woke up to birds chirping instead of the usual BART train screech. “Where am I? How did I get here?” I panicked for a moment, and then relaxed when I heard the distant thump of big bass music. The journey North was not so far. Only 2 hours driving in the dark from Oakland, but as a self-admitted internet junkie, I tensed when I found I was without cell phone service in this mysterious spritely land. A digital detox was long overdue so I stashed my crack pipe I MEAN CELL PHONE and found peace as I leisurely executed an epic barista operation on our neighbor’s Coleman stove. The coffee was good, but the infrasound of a sub-frequency was calling to me. I prepared myself for the adventure. Bathing suit: check! Sunscreen for my sensitive desk-jockey skin: check! Earplugs for safe bass: check! Champagne: check! Time to get crunk!

A gaggle of us moseyed towards what sounded like a pack of elephants doing a country line dance. The ground shaking, I passed all kinds of new animals on the way. Wolf-hooded folk prowled and hoops swirled around the waists of hummingbird ladies. I headed down the hill, excited to groove to Smasheltooth, one of the West Coast’s more ferocious and self-expressed tigers, laying down a set full of mad bouncybeats on the beach. She reinvigorated and remixed obscure reggae and a handful of nostalgic R&B tracks with a crowd-pleasing stage presence and some help from an exhibitionist friend dancing like a freaky chippendale on the speakers in a zebra-striped speedo. It was a straight Zoo.

Smasheltooth’s set had gotten the best of my attention and the most of my booty-shaking that afternoon and I eventually retreated to my dry-docked inflatable raft with my [patent pending collabo with Jai’s Thuggchainz] Champurse within reach, relaxing and taking it all in. I elected to turn my back on the stage for a view of a fork in the Feather River, a camouflaged power transfer station hiding in the lush low-sierra foliage, and an orange truss bridge with a cheeky martini glass accenting the “Belden Town” sign; Evidence that we were not the first rowdy bunch to descend on these quaint campgrounds.

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I sat on my landlocked raft, watching the river ripple and rush, my mind finding rhythmic coincidences in the motion of the water and the beats coming from the beach shack behind me… I wondered… How far underground do the ants burrow? The spider webs, do they catch these vibes and flutter like a paper cone… Do the bird songs change key to harmonize with the abstract buzzes and clicks and waves of sound that we bring to their world? Or do they just straight up FLEE like Godzilla has shown up. I thoroughly enjoyed the beachfront set. DJ’s Boats, Hypha, Ryury, and LePortal ushered me through this contemplative phase until the sun set and it was time to get back to camp for a wardrobe change and some good old fashioned what-can-I-find-in-the-cooler-and-shove-in-my-facehole. So this is festie-life, eh? And you guys do this all summer? WORD.

My opinion of the general operations and venue accommodations of this festival are mixed, but mostly positive. On the one hand, those were the cleanest mother-‘effing porto-potties I have ever used. Seriously. Well done, everybody, way to stay calm and use the bathroom like a normal person and not pee all over yourselves. Save for a few blasphemous anomalies, for the most part, that whole situation was on point- and that is a VERY important point. There was even an actual shower up at the top of the hill! I did not feel the need to take advantage of the fresh water shower as I am more than satisfied with those of the champagne variety. On the other hand, I thoroughly resented the lack of a giant wheelbarrow and/or dogsled to transport the mass of random shit I probably didn’t need from the check-in tent down to my campsite. This resentment was wiped when I found that the camping areas were jaw-drop gorgeous. There was plenty of river-front property to go around, and the meadows where tent cities were erected felt spacious. A sense of community and a summer-camp vibe was manifested by the active participants of our temporary town. The historic location once hosted gold miners and no doubt some “ladies of the night” and maybe even some outlaws or something old-timey like that.  There was a main building with rooms that may or may not have had furniture. I did not have the privilege of viewing said rooms but I trust that the one and only Mr. DJ Shadow would likely request such luxuries.

I have a confession: If you don’t count 4 years of Burning Man (I don’t) and a rogue underage visit to Coachella in 2001, Emissions was my very first music festival.  I was not as well rested in the days leading up to this nonstop go-zone as I would like to have been, and I’m sad to say I missed some major acts that I was looking forward to. The schedule for performers started at 2 pm on Friday and went straight through to 2:30 am on Monday morning with only two 3-hour breaks from 6 am – 9 am on Saturday and Sunday mornings. At a certain point time lost meaning as it tends to do when one is without obligations, clocks, or sleep. With over 80 acts booked for the lineup I was quite frankly overwhelmed and was faced with life changing decisions, like should I go see that one guy that I’d heard and love, or check out new peeps I was curious about. Life. Changing.

The only obligation I found myself committed to was to see DJ Shadow, who was there to headline.  Everyone reading this should already know about the blah blah blah too future set that blah blah blah yeah that.  So like, that whole thing happened, and DJ Shadow still does his thing and while a handful of Miami d-bags couldn’t handle it, the rest of us are pretty much not tripping about his supposedly too-future style. I mean, WE LIVE IN THE FUTURE, come on people get it together.

I got back to the main stage in time to catch the tail end of Trill Scott Heron’s set. A slick “Suit & Tie” remix was playing and the crowd was getting thicker. Folks were huddled along the ridge of a slight incline for a better view. The night chill was setting in and so was the anticipation to see DJ Shadow. Sound check on a drum pad gave us a taste of what to expect in the next hour and a half. Shadow introduced his set with an old fashioned scratch session eventually revealing an homage to the name of the festival, a clever surprise. He made a point to remind us that there was no laptop on stage with him, and with that moved into his opener, “Scale it Back,” a collaboration with Little Dragon released as a single last year. I’d heard this track a million times and he played it with a fresh style, twisting her voice and weaving it with snare trills and big booms.

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I looked around at one point, and realized that the familiar annoyance of having a sea of cell phone screens in the air was missing. Another perk to being out of range was that the performances were not being encapsulated and regurgitated addictively. If you really wanted to share  your experience you could use the phone booth by the vendor village to call your mom.

Shadow’s DJ style includes relatively frequent commentary on the mic, which at times I appreciated since it’s not often we hear the voice of our selector these days, but at a certain point there seemed to be an air of apology or warning, saying things like “I play weird shit, I know.” He made me smile when he told us that he was Bay Area born and raised. “…Most of this music I’m playing is from California. This is the shit we listen to. This is the shit we rock to. So if you don’t know this shit, you’re learning.”  He gets back into the tunes and we hear some familiar trap beats, hands flicking knobs, a master of equalization. He pops back on the mic: “Not hits, beats. All beats, all styles.” A “Crunk Certified” picket sign was bobbing by the front of the stage. Shadow slips into something more comfortable with an unctuous echo from an electric guitar. A verse sneaks in, and a muddled airhorn pokes through the mix. Then into an R&B track with some buttery whomp pounding out at us from the wall of speakers in front of the stage.

Next he integrated some drum & bass beats that seemed like vestigal features but the crowd was eating it up and giving very few fucks about the mixed up set that was really thoroughly “covering all basses.”  More electric guitar riffs that could be from Van Halen punctuated by another comment justifying his choices with his love of all music, which was followed by a Stormy Weather sample, a shout out to Lady Day. He breaks into some heavier D’n’B with hella’ snare and some reggae hooks. A classic Beatles song had the crowd jumping but the bouncing mob was too busy to respond to the cut in the chorus with a few people shouting “Come Together?” The audience is clearly in a state of bass bliss at this point, a dude in front of me was literally headbanging. Shadow closed the set with one last remark: “I hope that was something you didn’t expect, some shit you liked, some shit you hated.”

The party continued with ill.Gates playing some super funky crunky and as always, illin beats. Luminox and Minnesota kept the energy high with the full moon watching on and a ceiling of stars littering the night sky. The early morning sets were particularly notable with G Jones, M!NT, and Trill Murray.  All three played excellent sets that resonated all the way down to the beach stage where I rested, star gazing on a lonely inflatable swan by the river.

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The 3 hour break in music was welcomed, and exhausted dancers made their way back to campsites for a nap before the bass got started again at 9 in the morning on the beach stage. I got back to the beach to catch Stylust Beats‘ second set of the festival which was a hyphe hip hop vibe getting people up and dancing again. He ended his beach set with the full original of “Bohoemian Rhapsody,” a complete 180 from the style he had warmed us up with. I guess he took a tip from Shadow and went for shock factor but it didn’t shake the crowd, which was singing along guitar solos and all. I had to be dragged away during Indaskyes set to go pack up my campsite, I felt like I was finally settling into my groove! I was not looking forward to the trek up the hill from my campsite to the shuttle pickup, but all good things must come to an end. I was especially bummed my ride had to swoop me away before I could see the Portland duo TigerFresh and Exodub tag team the beach shack as Hood Prisms, but I knew I would see them back in Oakland at the Gushing Lotus monthly First Friday afterparty at Base6 gallery so I didn’t cry too much on the ride home. The trip home was marked by a significant lack of bass. The soundtrack for the drive was well curated but I was experiencing sub-frequency withdrawal the entire way and for at least the next week. Something just didn’t feel right. It’s a good thing the whole summer is still ahead of me, because I’m going to need more bass in my life. Luckily I have the internet to help me with that until I can venture again to a place where I can dance for 2 days straight with bass lovers like me.

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