This past weekend I did something I did not think I was going to do ever again – I went to a brostep show at The House of Blues Boston. The show was Paper Diamond opening for Excision and let me tell you, it was everything I expected it to be and then some. Don’t get me wrong, years back when I first heard bass music and experienced my bones vibrating from inside my core I liked it and couldn’t get enough of it. I’ll forever remember seeing Bassnectar for the first time and actually experiencing the truth in a music induced orgasm, felt all over my body. Drops that picked me up and threw me around were enthralling in a way I had never experienced before. But then as factions of bass music became more mainstream, the drops started to become too predictable and although they gave my body this unique sensation, it never hit me where I prefer my music to hit me, and that’s in my soul.
Upon my arrival at The House of Blues, I got the most intense pat down I’ve ever had in my 13 years of attending shows. I get it though. When I was 15 attending Dave Matthews Band and Guster shows, we’d sneak in a few blunts to puff-puff-pass and that’d be it. Now, kids with X’s on their hands are rolling around half naked with pupils that could eat my face off. I walked in and to my immediate left was a pretty girl in a sequined tank top vomiting into a garbage can. I checked my watched; it was 8:32 pm. Poor girl…
Onto the music! With one triangular component of his usual LED diamond platform glowing behind him, Paper Diamond (Alex B) rocked his big sunglasses like a bass music Elton John and mixed atop a table flanked by two big speakers pointed directly at him. It was nice to be able to see him right out in front. Too often at these bigger venue shows, the artist becomes this larger than life figure positioned atop Mount Olympus. Paper Diamond definitely made my booty bounce a bit, mixing in moombahton and trap (two of my guiltiest pleasures) into his hip-hop inspired set. For these reasons, I preferred his set to the headliner’s.
Excision was positioned high atop the center of this stage-filling structure equipped with an automated blast door that would raise to reveal the DJ booth. The spinning skulls and transformers projected on the screens kept shouting words like “destruction!” and “bass cannon!” Like some sort of Mech Warrior, there were literally cannons attached to the stage blasting out smoke and confetti. At one point during the set, after some vocal samples exclaiming “SYSTEM ERROR. SYSTEM ERROR,” there was literally a malfunction with the platform. “Apparently the bass is fucking up the video shit,” Excision said, “and we aren’t going to stop the bass, so fuck the video.” Not a bad idea, focusing more on the effect that the music is having on the crowd might be a better plan than relying so heavily on the over-the-top visual component.
It’s when aggressive, harsh music becomes the trend that I begin to worry.
I would say the word “aggression” defined Excision’s set. Everything about his sound is very mechanical, sounding like a piece of machinery desperately thirsty for some heavy doses of WD-40, with crude bass that took over the room making all bodies succumb to the intensity. I walked around the venue, feeling out the vibe from each corner to the center, and people were going hard, losing control of their bodies, throwing up “X’s” in the air. The form of “dance” at these shows is hard to explain, because of the lack of melodic guidance to groove to. Although each and every body around me was moving, not one of them had a smile on their face. Everyone was facing the gigantic visual set up/DJ booth as it projected three-dimensional skulls, and this is what was most off-putting to me. Nothing pleases me more than feeling music so hard that it plants a smile from ear to ear, one that you can’t knock even if you try. When the ripple effect of hardcore smiling becomes infectious, to me that defines ecstacy. Ecstacy within these walls was all wrong.
Bass music is obviously meant to be heavy, and the subs are meant to be turned way up. But away from the basement clubs, these bigger venues blast excruciatingly hard, rack your brain style. The music was so loud I felt like large pieces of machinery were flying past me, and I couldn’t wait to get out. I escaped to the bathroom to find a beautiful girl with blood shooting out of both nostrils. Maybe the by-products of that machinery hit her dead in the face? Maybe she had really bad allergies this time of year?
I remember thinking, “This sounds like an alarm that just won’t go off.”
On my way out I took note of a t-shirt for sale at the merch table that read, “Excision Destroyed My City.” Boston is a special little place full of higher-level thinkers, forward moving minds, charming side streets and a shit ton of history. Why have so many negative connotations as your shtick? I know we all need our outlets and are free to let go to any musical genre that tickles our fancy, but I’m simply not really keen on this particular scene based on what it promotes and how it makes us feel afterwards. It has become one of the most widely embraced genres to young people around the US. Lets point our youth toward a form of music with depth in positivity and see what kind of enlightenment comes of it!