Sep 152010
Authors: Sean Bucher

 Thousands of people dressed in bright, handmade costumes fit for a tea party in the Mad Hatter’s garden surrounded Fort Collins resident Kyle Nolan, 23.

Swirling red and blue lights pulsed while large crowds jumped and danced in unison as the concert started, a sight Nolan had never seen before.

“My first electronic-driven show was STS9 (Sound Tribe Sector Nine) and Pretty Lights at Red Rocks in July of 2009,” Nolan said. “I had absolutely no idea what to expect.”

Nolan recalls feeling impressed but unsure and slightly uncomfortable, until he heard a song and remix he was familiar with by Pretty Lights titled “Finally Moving.”

“I stood up, started dancing a little, and almost in unison with the transition drop from the original to the remix, the clouds opened up and just started dumping rain,” Nolan said. “The whole crowd started screaming, and to this day that song was my favorite live song.”

For fans like Nelson, the experience of house and electronic shows and festivals is something unmatched.

“House music shows have such a positive vibe that you really can’t explain,” Nelson said. “You can really tell everyone is there to enjoy the music.”

For some like Colorado DJ Seamus McCarty, it’s the unique feeling that each show offers. Rarely are any two shows alike, McCarty said.

“The fact is that almost every ‘set’ they play is completely different and has a different energy and vibe to it,” McCarty said.

Even musicians like Jack Botsford, more commonly known as J Flash, experience the tension before while preparing for a live show. He will be performing tonight at the Aggie Theatre.

“I usually don’t get much sleep the night before a show,” J Flash said. Fans and artists both agree there is no feeling quite like it.

“I had heard about how insane the crowds were,” said Kati Kasch, 23, a Denver resident and frequent attendee of the shows. “When I arrived, I found the crowd to be extremely welcoming. The whole club gave off a vibe of friendship and a desire to enjoy it all.”

The origins of a house beat

Many people like Kasch and Nolan trace the origins of the genre back to early 1980s Chicago. It then transitioned to the European club scene in the 1990s where DJs perfected the sound that many fans love today.

Particularly, DJs like Britain’s Paul Oakenfold and Grammy-nominated Paul Van Dyke have made their name performing at venues the world over to crowds of all sizes promising unique sounds and big beats.

“The roots of house music had been set in stone a couple decades before that. With the disco type sound to it with the hard pounding bass,” McCarty said.

Along with original content, performers take popular songs from artists like Britney Spears and Usher and turn them into harder-hitting, more manipulated songs.

It has been called the culmination of multiple styles like funk and soul, pop and R&B converging on one another.

“The hard pounding bass, that is called a 4/4 beat because every time, the beat hits the bass hits along with a hard bass,” McCarty said.

Music stations like KTCL-FM Channel 93.3 in Denver now devote multiple-hour blocks throughout the week to the music genre with programs like EZ at 11 p.m.

Even large broadcasters like SiriusXM have devoted multiple channels to broadcasting live shows and original content from artists.

For many, the house and electronic music scene has been drawn in a negative light.

Fans like Nolan believe the stigma that grew from the “rave” scene has turned people off to house music when it should be just as easy to listen to it as its pop music counterparts.

“The word ‘rave’ draws a lot of negative attention because of the excessive drug use and illegal underground nature of the shows in the ‘90s,” Nolan said.

Colorado acts like J Flash, SAVOY and Pretty Lights have been performing for years, playing small clubs and sometimes even smaller basements. These bands are playing all types of venues and disregarding the “rave” stereotypes with one goal: to give music to the masses.

“Honestly, it can be anywhere. I will go to a house party and enjoy it or go to a club and enjoy it,” DJ McCarty said.

Popular culture saw perhaps its biggest taste of the music style when French musicians Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, better known as Daft Punk, hit No. 1 in the United States with “One More Time” in 2000.

“The experience is unlike any other type of concert,” Kasch said.  “It is all about love, fun and friends.  Everyone is dancing, the lyrics are uncontroversial and the attendees are the kindest and open-minded I have come in contact with.”

The future is about making people ‘dance’

Coupled with mainstream hits like Benny Benassi’s “satisfaction” and positive buzz-around live shows from acts like STS9, who played two sold-out shows this past weekend at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the scene has never been bigger.

“It’s hard to travel Colorado and not find at least one show a week,” said senior communications major Alyssa Phannenstiel, who attended STS9 at Red Rocks last Friday.

McCarty believes the music has maintained such a loyal following because of its attempts to stay underground.

“It’s not about how long it has been around or where I see it being in five years,” DJ McCarty said. “It’s about making people dance. And as long as it is still doing that in five years, I don’t have a problem.”

By staying true to its roots, DJs and concertgoers believe the music will continue to evolve and entertain.  Coupled with the access to recordings and albums –– often time available for free download –– acts like SAVOY and EOTO (End of Time Observatory) have seen an increased fan base.

“Savoy puts on a show. From the lights, to the small venues and especially the crazy energy, it makes it one of the most fun and memorable nights,” Kasch said.

Venues like the Aggie and Mishawaka Amphitheatre will play host to shows on Thursday from J Flash and Friday from EOTO.
“The last time I played The Aggie it was crazy,” said musician J Flash. “I always look forward to playing Fort Collins.”

Concertgoers Nolan and Kasch agree –– it’s all about the live show.

“I have been going to shows since I was 13, mainly of the punk and metal variety, and those shows are about getting hammered and beating the crap out of each other,” Nolan said.  “House music shows have such a positive vibe that you really can’t explain; you can really tell everyone is there to enjoy the music.”

Despite its cult-like following, house and techno music recently reached a massive audience again at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. On Sunday, Joel Thomas Zimmerman aka: DJ Deadmau5 — pronounced “dead mouse” –– was the house DJ for the night’s festivities.

“(The exposure) is enormous for dance music,” J Flash said. “A few years ago, you would have never imagined seeing a DJ headline a show like that.”

McCarty, on the other hand, hopes the new exposure for the genre doesn’t ruin it.

“We just keep it underground for good reasons. The music industry has ruined many genres of music simply for the love of money,” McCarty said. “That’s why I hope (electronic dance music) never goes mainstream.”

Dance festivals like Ultra in Miami, Electric Dance Carnival in Los Angeles and Colorado’s own Global Dance Festival have opened up even more exposure to the musical genre and drawn fans like Kasch.

“The festivals are my favorite due to the fact that you get to see many different artists from different categories such as dubstep, techno and electronic,” Kasch said.

“I love playing Red Rocks and Global. There’s nothing like it,” said Flash, agreeing with Kasch.

With numbers continuing to grow among concertgoers and downloads, this new surge in house music is sure not to fade for some time.

“House music is about love, freedom and expression, McCarty said. “That’s what makes house so special.”

Staff writer Sean Bucher can be reached at

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