Dubstep: This Generation’s Disco?

Concerts

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I walked into the bathroom, and some dude with glazed eyes immediately asked me if I wanted mollies on paper.  I was about to refuse the offer, but before I could answer, my attention turned to the bathroom stall where someone was purging themselves.  I didn’t have to answer, as the dude offering, just left the bathroom.  Dubstep shows… Is this how they usually are?

I was invited to check out a live-art exhibition at a dubstep show in Glendale called Quality Control on January 4th.  A friend of mine, Mear One, was going to paint on stage while dubstep DJs worked their craft on stage.  Mear One is an artistic genius.

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The art aside, let’s get back to the music … I’ll be honest with you.  I don’t really know, or understand, what dubstep is.  I looked it up on Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dubstep] and they seem to do a pretty good job at breaking down it’s characteristics- albeit most of it went over my head- but I think that Allmusic.com’s description of it better suited my needs and describes it as “tightly coiled productions with overwhelming bass lines and reverberant drum patterns, clipped samples, and occasional vocals.”

This wasn’t my first time going to a dubstep performance.  I had spent a few minutes at Coachella in 2012 checking out a dubstep DJ, but I didn’t stay that long, and I can’t even remember who the DJ was.  Gaslamp Killer, 12th Planet, SBTRKT and Skrillex all seemed to have pretty a pretty good 2012 (financially), but I never really understand what the “hook” of the music was.  Why is/was there an audience for dubstep?

Maybe it’s simply the “new” (even though the music has been around since the late 1990s) style of music.  Something for the kids to claim as their own.  The thought crossed my mind when I noticed a mosh pit in the center of the audience.  It harkened back my memory of the time when Nirvana and grunge came.  Grunge was the “new” sound of the times, and people tuned and listened because they hadn’t heard anything like it before.  Maybe dubstep is/was that “new” musical trend.

Maybe so, but at least with grunge, the lyrics were 50% of the music.  People tuned in, not only enjoy the music, but to also live the lyrics in the music.  Grunge, like heavy metal, evoked that kind of intense sentiment that made its listeners mosh.  On the other hand, since there really aren’t lyrics in dubstep, the audience moshes because the bass lines “make them”.

Click through on the link to see the mosh pit at the show: http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMj67XF1G00

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I still think that the “sound” of dubstep is exciting.  I think that you can easily use that sound in conjunction with real songwriting to write meaningful music.  But there still only so many times I can bear someone telling me, “Check out that bass line, bro. Soooo dirty. It’s gonna drop …. Wait for the drop … Here it comes… Uuunnnngh!”

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Maybe it’s partially because I’m probably a little older than the typical dubstep crowd.  I’m a little too old to pop mollies in the bathroom.  I’m not popping ecstasy so that I can “feel” the music.  But I still like the sound and I still think that with the right artists, you can transform the underlying dubstep instrumentals into something a little more meaningful.  Give the dubstep sound some heart.  Give it some meaning.  Don’t just leave it as a bass lines and drops.

Some people have called dubstep this generation’s disco.  But I think that if dubstep is going to stay relevant, it’s music needs to be written with relevance.  I mean, even disco, loathed by many as a passing fancy, has songs to this day that are still relevant, but that’s because those songs, however “cheesy” they may have been, connected with the audience on an emotional level.

Can dubstep can have that kind of longevity?  It’s hard to say … but until you give that sound some more soul … some more heart … I think you’ll be hard pressed to see a person 30 years from now saying, “Oh, I love this song with it’s wub-wub-wub, and bass drop”….

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