LIVE REVIEW: Sharps, Jessica Audiffred, G-Rex at Hollywood Palladium

When we last caught up with Mexico City-based DJ Jessica Audiffred in 2016, she was putting out high-energy, catchy tracks like the future bass masterpiece “Higher,” the trappy “K.O.,” the intense “GTFB,” and her infectious remix of Marshmello’s “Alone.” Since then, she’s played at some huge festivals including EDC Vegas and Tomorrowland Mexico and released the EP Nice to Meet You, along with a number of singles like “This Ends Now,” a collaboration with Austin-based DJ Crizzly, and the fast-paced, chaotic, bass-boosted “Like What the F.”

Audiffred paid a visit to Los Angeles for a show alongside Riot Ten, Cookie Monsta, G-Rex, and Sharps on Saturday, February 29 at the Hollywood Palladium, and her set demonstrated not only the colorful range of music she’s been putting out as a DJ and producer but also how well she’s mastered the art of getting a crowd riled up.

Even though it was just a one-night event, people showed up decked out in festival gear, from face glitter to colorful bras, and the line stretched through the block outside the Palladium. The night started off with Seattle-based DJ Sharps, whose bass-heavy set got people jumping and bouncing as the background screen displayed knives (ostensibly a play on his name). People head-banged to the music and even formed a mosh pit in the center of the dance floor and threw themselves at one another. Just when it seemed like the energy couldn’t get higher, Sharps announced, “Make some noise for Jessica Audiffred.”

Female DJs are still unfortunately and unreasonably among the minority in festival and show lineups, but Audiffred proved that audience members, male and female alike, will support women on stage just as much as men, if not more. People shouted “Jessica!” and “We love you!” from the crowd and sang along to any and all vocals she sampled.

Part of Audiffred’s success is stems from her ability to put on a great live show. She throws her head back and forth and dances with her fists in the air while performing in front of delightfully quirky imagery, from Beavis and Butt-Head cartoons to dogs in sunglasses and images of her own face breathing fire. She also made the show interactive, prompting people to put on their cell phone lights and wave them in the air at one point, then turning around and having someone on stage take a photo of her with all her fans in the background later on.


Throughout Audiffred’s set, which embodied the interesting mix of upbeat and dark vibes that characterizes her music, she sampled “Sicko Mode,” elicited head-bangs with the Latin-inspired beats in “K.O.,” and produced some epic drops in “This Ends Now.”

G-Rex followed her with music reminiscent of what you hear in a haunted house and corresponding imagery of skulls, creepy baby faces, and ghost-like hands that appeared to be crawling out of the screen. His set featured voices warped both low and high, scratchy beats, and high-pitched clicks and clacks. While his music was similarly intense, G-Rex lacked the stage presence that Audiffred exudes, but he did create a mood that was spooky and thrilling.

I left before Cookie Monsta and Riot Ten came on; I couldn’t rally up the energy to stay out long past 11. But in my mind, I’d already seen the main act, which was Audiffred. Hopefully, more venues will soon be smart enough to make her the headliner.


LIVE REVIEW: HARD Day of the Dead Festival Mixes EDM and Spirituality

On Saturday, October 26, I attended a San Pedro ceremony. With a group of fellow journeyers, I drank the extract of a psychedelic cactus sourced from Peru, danced around a circle to live music, shook rattles, played drums, lay down to focus on my own insights and visions, and had drug-induced heart-to-hearts with other participants.

The following Saturday, November 2, I went to the HARD Day of the Dead festival in downtown LA. I microdosed some iboga and met others on their own substances of choice, whether that was weed, alcohol, MDMA, or something else. We danced together, sang along to the music, went on our own inner journeys as we swayed to the electronic beats, and talked to one another by the food stands. It struck me how similar this experience was to the one I’d had a week prior.

EDM festivals are modern-day shamanic ceremonies: People use music, dance, and often substances to connect with one another and achieve a higher state of consciousness. With the occasion of the Day of the Dead, which is already full of spiritual rituals meant to connect with ancestors, this association was extra prominent at the HARD Day of the Dead festival.

The afternoon and evening included many diverse manifestations of the EDM genre. Early in the day, Vietnamese-American DJ Softest Hard bound the festival-goers together by inspiring them to sing along to remixes of well-known tunes from Travis Scott’s “SICKO MODE” featuring Drake to t.A.T.u.’s “All the Things She Said.” Then, new-beat producer 1788-L delivered a delightful combination of trappy rhythms and unexpected interludes of classical piano and other instrumentals.

Later on, electropop artist Elohim took the stage for the trippiest set of the evening, with technicolor images of pills and the definition of “hallucination” on the screen behind her. It was during her act that the connection between EDM and psychonautic exploration was made clearest. In “Braindead,” she sings about drugs and spirituality: “All I know is I know what I don’t know / And what I don’t know could fill up a whole bible.” She also played an unexpected and musically fascinating cover of Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta,” her breathy voice gently drawing out lyrics punchingly shouted in the original.

Another highlight of the evening was Blacklizt, Zhu’s deep house/techno alter ego, who blasted haunting sounds alongside a creepy collection of mannequins in front of a screen showcasing eerie images like scissors. His set reached its climax when he played “Faded (Baby I’m Wasted),” prompting the audience to belt out the lyrics, “Baby I’m wasted / All I wanna do is drive home to you / Baby I’m faded / All I wanna do is take you downtown.”

The headliner was Dog Blood, a collaboration between Skrillex and Boys Noize, ending the night on a high note with fast-paced electro-house beats and R&B influenced songs like “Midnight Hour.”

Despite the performances’ mystical undertones, it would be a stretch to say the festival honored the holiday’s spiritual traditions. Its representation of the Day of the Dead was fairly surface-level and came off a bit culturally appropriative given the poor representation of Latinx artists in the lineup. The event’s nods to the holiday and Mexican culture were essentially the symbols white America is most familiar with: a giant skull, a mariachi band, a stage flanked by skeletons.

What it did represent well was the spiritual culture of EDM: one full of trance-inducing songs, drug-facilitated connections, and crowds that move like one giant being. Whether or not it accurately celebrated the Day of the Dead, it was — like all music festivals — a celebration of life.

INTERVIEW: Alice Ivy Talks Dreamy Debut Ahead of SXSW

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Photo by Dominik Schmarsel

Much of the country is still in the midst of winter, but over in Australia, Alice Ivy is spinning summer all year round. Her debut record I’m Dreaming is a surreal pool party, hazy with liquor and puffs of the finer stuff – its collaged snippets could easily invite remixes by the DoLab at Coachella or blare over the soundsystem on a rooftop at some fabulous (and oh-so-elite) LA party.

“I suppose I’ll be taking orders from Dinah next!” A soundbite from Alice in Wonderland leads us into the laid-back dance club that is I’m Dreaming. One of the album’s introductory singles, “Chasing Stars,” is a gorgeous example of how delicately Ivy works with others; it’s catchy, clean, and absolutely on point for today’s pop EDM landscape. “Get Me A Drink” stands out as another potential hit, with tight lyrics and an easy swagger: “My ex just walked up through the front door/I really don’t wanna care anymore/WTF did he bring that girl for/I really don’t wanna care anymore.” They’re the kind of tracks that make you wonder what else the country of Australia’s been holding back (don’t worry, Alice has some Aussie producer recommendations). SXSW has a lot to look forward to when Alice Ivy hits the stage this week.

We sat down with the 24-year-old Alice Ivy, née Annika Schmarsel, to talk about what life’s like as a female producer and how she manages to pare down her work to just the right mix.

AF: You were raised in Geelong, Australia. From a quick Google I got: seaside city, famous for its Wool Museum. Give us a glimpse into what life is like there.

AI: Hahaha, wool museum. I haven’t even been there to be honest! I had a really good upbringing down here. Geelong is super close to the best surf beaches in Australia, so whenever I was on school holidays I would kick it at the beach all the time. It’s a very quiet town, but living so close to the beach was awesome. Geelong itself had a really good punk/rock scene a few years ago so when I was young I used to sneak out of the house at midnight and go see punk shows all the time

AF: What were some of your favorite punk bands from back then?

AI: When I say punk I mean punk and rock. This massive band called King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard came from Geelong and used to play at this place called the National Hotel all the time; I went to most shows. They are now selling out massive tours around the world. I grew up listening to a lot of Motown and Soul Music though.

AF: Love King Gizzard! You sound pretty cool for a high schooler (a lot cooler than a certain Minnesotan who only listened to oldies).

AI: So cool! They literally played in the tiniest rooms in Geelong when I was growing up, it’s insane how well they are doing now.

AF: Tell us about your high school band, Sweethearts. I’m very intrigued by this all-girl group that got to tour Europe at age 12.

AI: So I auditioned to play in this all-girl school band (twenty-five 12-18 year olds). We would cover old soul Motown classics by Marvin Gaye, Etta James, etc. We would also play originals. Playing in this band was super cool because it gave me proper touring experience at such a young age. I toured Europe a couple of times playing the Montreaux Jazz Festival and the Poretta Soul Festival. Also understanding how shows work, writing with other people and getting used to performing at such a young age has had a massive influence on where I am at now in my music career.

AF: You’ve said you’re a fan of “sitting down and listening to whole records”. I’m Dreaming really does have consistent tone and pacing throughout. It’s an album that infuses a room with mood, a mezcal cocktail of a record. Did you end up leaving a lot on the cutting room floor in order to give it this particular feel?

AI: Sitting down and listening to a whole record is the best thing in the world. I feel like today everyone just listens to singles through play-listing and of course radio, so I wanted to create something that would make real sense if you sit down for 35 minutes and listen to the whole thing. So I chose my big songs on the record, and once I established those I wrote [/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][new songs] or decided on the [existing] songs to fit in between. Songs such as “Bella” I revisited and re-worked a little bit so it would fit nicer. I wanted to keep the album super dynamic, so it flows up and down, and feels as if you are being taken on a journey. Choosing the songs was the hardest thing in the world.

AF: I absolutely love all the sound clips from films you interspersed throughout. Was that a concept you had or did it just sort of happen organically starting with a particular song?

AI: Thank you! Honestly it happened organically with the songs! Sometimes I even start a song with a radio sample and work my way around that. A good example is “Charlie.” The radio samples on there are old commercials from the 1950s, soon after the second world war, talking about makeup. I loved this period of time because it was like we won the war! Everything is perfect! Technology was evolving! Yet the Cold War and nuclear disaster was a very big thing. “Charlie” has that feel to it; the horns are so perfect they are almost fake. The feel of the song is like you are on top of the world, nothing can stop you. Not sure if this makes sense in words.

AF: Was the Alice in Wonderland intro a last minute add then? It seems like such a perfect way to encompass the overall feel.

AI: On ‘Touch” I actually also started with a little vocal sample and then mucked around with chords and a drum beat. Then I worked with Georgia Van Etten in the studio to work on little top lines. I really loved the idea of creating something that would take the listener down the rabbit hole.

AF: In 2017, you listed your Korg Minilogue as your favorite new piece of equipment. Not gonna lie: my husband and I just got one. We’re definitely in the beginning stages of figuring it out. Do you normally just jump in writing songs on a new piece of equipment or do you find there’s a lengthy experimentation phase you go through?

AI: I always need a bit of time getting used to a new bit of gear. It’s cool though; working with new gear also influences the kind of direction you are taking your music in. I bought the Korg Minilogue and then I wrote heavy synth driven songs such as “Get Me A Drink” & “I’m Dreaming,” stepping away from more of the ‘soul’ kinda stuff. You are gonna have so much fun with the Minilogue! It’s actually the best thing ever. You can do so much with it.

AF: What artists are you listening to right now?

AI: I’m listening to a bit of Australian stuff. Nai Palm just released an amazing record, Flight Facilities are great. But I’ve also been thrashing that new Mr Jukes record – the features on it are mind blowing. And I can never really walk away from SZA, Frank Ocean and Flying Lotus.

AF: I’ve heard rumor you’re coming to the U.S. for SXSW. Are there any other U.S. tour dates we can expect on that trip?

AI: Yeah, I’m hitting up SXSW! I’m super sad though because I have two Australian festivals either side of SXSW so I don’t have time to play any more shows. Will be back later during the year though!

AF: You currently run an all-female production class at Melbourne’s Arts Centre. Why is heading up this class important to you?

AI: Melbourne has been so good to me. There are heaps of youth organizations that help young producers start off their careers, there are amazing government funding bodies. About a year ago I realized that I may be a bit of a role model to young producers, especially females. I think that it’s super important to put back into the community and so whenever I have the time, I try to do as much as I can. The Arts Centre classes are a safe open space for young females to express their art. Music, especially electronic music, is so male dominated – the only way to change this is to put your time back rather than just talk about how hard it is being a ‘female producer’ making electronic music.

Get Me a Drink – Alice Ivy live at the Northcote Social Club from ash koek on Vimeo.

AF: What female producers are you seeing out in the scene that are really rockin’ it right now?

AI: I’ll list some Aussies who are smashing it right now. Ninajirachi, Nyxen, SaatsumaEilish Gilligan. Especially Ninajirachi; she’s 18 years old and doing massive festival circuits around Australia… so cool.

AF: What advice would you give a high-school age girl looking to become a producer? What are some of the first steps she should take?

AI: I’ll send a list of dot points!

  • Take your time with everything. Don’t feel like you ever have to rush art.
  • Collaborating with other people is the best way to get better at your own craft. Give it a go!
  • If they are in reach, reach out to the people that inspire you. They will generally make the time for you and you can learn so much.
  • Be patient. Every artist needs to do the hard yards first. Good things will always come if you put in the good work.

Alice Ivy’s new album I’m Dreaming is out now on Spotify and iTunes. If you’re headed to SXSW this week, be sure to catch her LIVE[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

HIGH NOTES: How EDM & MDMA Became Inseparable

When you think of MDMA — also known as ecstasy in pill form or molly in powder form — you probably picture nightclubs, music festivals, and other settings where crowds sway to electronic dance music. But 50 years ago, you were far more likely to find it in therapists’ offices. MDMA’s journey from a therapy aid to a party drug is long, winding, and controversial. In the midst of a movement to bring it back to its medicinal roots, it’s worth asking: Where does it belong?

MDMA was first created by a German pharmaceutical company in 1912, not for human consumption, but simply as a means to synthesize a medication to stop bleeding, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies’ Brad Burge tells me. It resurfaced in 1965, when the famous psychedelic drug designer Alexander Shulgin made his own. When he tried it in 1976 — the first reported use of MDMA by a human — he was stunned by the way it “opened up a person, both to other people and inner thoughts, but didn’t necessarily color it with pretty colors and strange noises,” he told New York Times Magazine. He recommended it to therapist Leo Zeff, and soon, clinicians were using it to treat anxiety, depression, and PTSD. They noticed it made patients feel all warm and fuzzy and brought their guards down, making it a trendy couples’ therapy tool in the 80s. Psychologist and psychedelic advocate Timothy Leary tried it with his wife in 1978. “No one wants a sixties situation to develop where sleazy characters hang around college dorms peddling pills they falsely call XTC to lazy thrill-seekers,” he warned.

Leary’s fear basically came true, if you replace “college dorm rooms” with “nightclubs.” To leverage the same effects that helped couples bond, people who were given MDMA by their therapists began bringing it out with them. The first club to sell it was Dallas’s Starck Club in the early 80s, Burge tells me, but it quickly spread to LA, New York, Austin, London, and other U.S. and European cities. The first people to mass-produce it for recreational use were the Harvard and MIT professors behind the Boston Group, which promoted it as a less addictive alternative to coke. A southward “Texas Group” sprung up by 1983. Due to its euphoric effects, it earned the nickname “ecstasy” in 1981, though it was at least sometimes taken as a powder — what we’d now recognize as molly (short for “molecule,” referencing the myth that it contains pure MDMA).

The way MDMA leaked out of therapists’ offices largely explains its association with electronic music. The genre gained popularity in 80s nightclubs — the same settings where MDMA made its first public appearances. During the mid-80s and 90s, EDM usurped disco as clubs’ genre of choice. The phrase “electronic dance music” first popped up in the U.S. around 1985 — the same year the DEA held hearings on MDMA in response to several high-profile overdoses, making it a Schedule 1 drug.

Initially, the co-evolution of MDMA and EDM was a coincidence; they happened to become popular around the same time. But their properties also made them uniquely suited to each other. One of MDMA’s effects is heightened sensory perception, including “increased enjoyment of music and repetitive action,” according to the Beckley Foundation. Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that EDM is one of the genres with the most repetitive structures. “There is some correlation between stimulants, like amphetamines, and compulsive, repetitive behavior, so you could make the case that amphetamine-based drugs are particularly well-suited to repetitive movements and music,” Julie Holland, MD, author of Ecstasy: the Complete Guide, told me. The deep, concussive bass sounds you find in almost all EDM songs seem to be particularly pleasurable on MDMA, says Burge. MDMA can also make colors more vivid, which Burge says contributed to users’ enjoyment of the flashing lights surrounding DJs and dance floors.

It’s a chicken vs. egg question. Did DJs spin beats to please rolling people’s ears, or did rolling people gravitate toward them to begin with? Cultural theorist Douglas Rushkoff, author of Cyberia: Life in the Trenches of Hyperspace, tells me it’s not quite either. “I think the easiest way to understand it is that both MDMA and EDM are components of rave,” he says. “It was rave designers who were looking to create an engine for mass transformation. EDM at 120bpm plus colored lights plus 5000 people plus an appropriated public space plus MDMA = rave. It’s a recipe, the same way the Grateful Dead and LSD and oil slide projections were the recipes for the Acid Tests.”

Another reason EDM suited MDMA users (and MDMA suited EDM-heads) is that the drug makes people want to dance. Perhaps more than any other genre, EDM shows are less about watching the performer than moving to them. Instead of the stage, people at EDM shows look around at one another, with the DJ barely visible.  

Aside from providing a surge of energy, MDMA increases dancing impulses for emotional and even spiritual reasons. That’s where the packed dance floor comes in. The peak of a roll “sees the majority of the crowd soon realizing that speech and one-to-one contact is no longer a sufficient means of reaching out and accepting the thousands of other people present. That’s why they turned to dance,” Rushkoff writes in the forward to E, the incredibly strange history of ecstasy.

“This is the ‘magic moment’ of the rave that so many people talk about for months or even years afterwards,” he elaborates in the essay “E-Prescription for Cultural Renaissance.” “Unlike a rock concert, which unites its audience in mutual adoration for the sexy singers on stage, the rave unites its audience in mutual adoration for one another. The DJ providing the rhythm is more of an anonymous shaman than a performer, mixing records from a remote corner of the room. The stage is the dance floor, and the stars are the revelers themselves. The group celebrates itself.”

Burge views this drug-enhanced connectivity as an escape from our modern, disconnected society. “We’re feeling increasingly isolated as a culture, with technology and increased mediation… spending less and less time in physical places,” he says. “And so the group sometimes describes a tribal feeling of dancing in these large groups of people in a synchronized way has this feeling of connection and intimacy that people are seeking with EDM culture.”

Shulgin himself has remarked on the way squished EDM audiences support the spirit of community that MDMA fosters. “It seems that MDMA allows most people to accept other people — that is one of the reasons the drug is so successful at raves,” he said in Julie Holland’s “The Godparents of MDMA: An Interview with Ann and Sasha Shulgin.”

At the same time, there’s a move to bring MDMA back to the therapeutic settings Shulgin first deemed it appropriate for. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies has been conducting experiments on its use for treating PTSD. The first two trials have shown promising results, and if the third goes as well, the drug could get FDA approval as soon as 2021.

But for now at least, the drug has found a home at the clubs and festivals that have integrated it into the raving experience. EDM and MDMA have become inextricably linked, not just with each other, but also with the culture they’ve co-created: One where the dancing is a spiritual ritual, the audience members are the performers, and all of them are unconditionally welcomed.  

In fact, Holland doesn’t see MDMA’s medicinal and musical uses as separate entities. “There is something therapeutic about recreation, and about dance, and about a sense of community and tribal gathering,” she told me. “That feeds into some very deep, long, evolved hard wiring for us, the tribal dance component. So, for some people, that sort of feeling — where everyone seems connected, you are part of the whole, there is a ‘group mind’ on the dance floor — that experience can be in and of itself therapeutic.”

HIGH NOTES: A New Column About the Intersection of Music and Drug Culture

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image via Shutterstock

It’s hard to talk about drug culture without talking about music culture. From the abundant weed references in reggae to the psychedelic imagery in 60s rock songs, drugs have irrevocably shaped music. And, in turn, music has shaped how drugs are used and thought of.

Just look at festival culture. There’s no setting quite like music festivals where drug use is so widely accepted and publicly celebrated. As of March 2015, 25,605 Instagram posts about 15 of the world’s most popular festivals talked about MDMA, 9,705 talked about weed, and 4,779 referenced coke, according to a study.

Why is this? Of all the places people can get high, why have concerts, clubs, and festivals become among the most popular? What do we gain from getting high as we listen to music? What might we lose?

On the first Monday of every month, I’ll explore those questions in a new column about music and drugs, along with ethnographic questions like: How does a drug become a club drug? Why are certain drugs associated with certain genres (even to the point that they’re named after them, as with psychedelic music)? How do drugs shape other aspects of music-centered cultures?

I’ll also delve into political issues like: Why are the drug-testing stands you see at European festivals absent from American ones (hint: we’ve got the RAVE Act to thank for that)? And scientific ones like: Why does MDMA make music sound so good?

I’m also here to help you navigate the world of drugs and music yourself. I’ll talk about how to stay as safe as possible at festivals, get the most out of musical settings where you’re planning to take drugs, avoid the combinations that truly are dangerous, and make comedowns and hangovers less awful.

My interest in this topic is personal. Like many people, I got introduced to drugs through music festivals. At the time, I knew shockingly little. After all, most festivals’ sites and signs echo what we learn in health class: “say no to drugs.” The reality is, many of us say “yes.” We decide that despite the risks, what we get out of drugs is worth it. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Perhaps it’s this shame that’s made identifying with music a stand-in for identifying with drugs. I plan to drop those pretenses and acknowledge how central drugs have been to various musical subcultures. Through both music and drugs, people seek to alter their minds and expand their perspectives. And hopefully, this column will do that, too.



Time Warp, an annual electronic music festival in Mannheim, Germany, represents all the worst things EDM culture has become. But before I get into the poor safety conditions, the utterly depressing morning after, and the most antisocial ravers I have ever seen, I’ll start with the one good part: the music.

I arrived around 12:30 p.m. and instantly started swaying to RØDHÅD’s dramatic buildups fading into understated dubstep beats. Behind him were extraterrestrial-looking designs, and the sound effects made me feel like I was inside an alien-attack arcade game. Then, Dubfire’s psychedelic set hypnotized me with low, growling vocals and crashing wave sounds as fish swam over the screen.

Next door, glowing red fangs appeared to swallow the stage where Chris Liebing performed, and beams of light shot down from the ceiling like lasers darting to high-pitched percussion.

But the highlight of the festival (or at least the pre-9 a.m. portion, because how does anyone make it past that point?) was Nina Kravitz’s set. Behind her were projections of bats, spiders, cobwebs, and ghosts. Some of the music gave off an appropriately witchy vibe, with menacing whispers and operatic instrumentals. Other portions transported us to a rainforest, with chirping and waterfall effects. At one point, she mixed Da Hool’s “Met Her At The Love Parade,” an ode to Germany’s famous (though now-defunct) EDM parade. We had to wait for ten minutes just to make it into the hall, once again proving that EDM’s gender problem does not result from a lack of good women DJs.

The first and second stages were connected, and if you stood in the underpass between them, you could catch two sounds at once, blending the tunes just by moving your body. I lingered there to hear the clash between Adam Beyer’s haunting orchestrals and Richie Hawtin’s upbeat, futuristic synths.

If you spent the entire time staring at the stages, the event lived up to its expectations. But aside from the fact that this would probably be a safety hazard due to the heat, that’s not all I go to music festivals for. I go to meet interesting people and make meaningful memories with them. And that’s where Time Warp fell flat, big time.

When my boyfriend and I asked to sit next to a group, they side-eyed us as if to ask why we would talk to them and turned away. We tried again with a guy sitting alone against a wall, but he’d passed out before we could open our mouths. Excluding those I came with, only three people spoke to me: one to apologize for burning a red circle onto my hand with his cigarette, and two to ask if I had ecstasy on me. When a festival runs from 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday to 2 p.m. on a Sunday, drugs go from a fun addition to a survival strategy. And people barely survived.

During my first attempt to get water, the stand only carried beer, so I had to find a new one. Once I did, they were out of water bottles and could only sell me a small cup. Meanwhile, just the feeling of my ponytail on my neck was unbearable, and I had to step outside every few minutes to escape the heat. Equally often, I saw someone escorting a semi-conscious friend out. At one point, smoke filled my lungs and trains of people flooded out coughing. Throughout the night and into the morning, I witnessed stretchers carried into the first aid tent.

I remember at the end of EDC Vegas last year, buses and cars lined up to bring us home. In the one I entered, someone put on Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” and we all stood up and danced our way home. After EDC, everyone looked thrilled. After Time Warp, they looked defeated. That festival ate us alive and spit us out with blank expressions on our faces and giant bags under our eyes. I have never seen a sight as dreary as the zombies silently retreating from the concert halls to the Porta-potties that morning.

As an American expat in Germany, the party scene has been one of the biggest culture shocks. I now go out when I used to come home. I’ve grown accustomed to the orange and blue swirls of crushed pills on club floors. Along with an aversion to “commercial” music that makes them scoff at the DJs filling Vegas clubs, Europeans treat EDM like some extreme sport you must make your body suffer to take part in.

Maybe I’m just not well-versed in the art of raving. But I guess I’m OK with that. I’m still firmly in the camp that we can appreciate electronic music without sacrificing fun, safety, health, or camaraderie. And why not admit it: I’m not above that involving Justin Bieber.

How EDM Helped Me Heal from Anxiety

It’s June 2016 and I’m testing how low I can get before breaking down. I’ve worked until midnight and gotten up at four to churn out more writing assignments. Seeking comfort from the stress, I reach for the chips in my cupboard, eat more than I intended, panic, and make myself throw up. Unable to focus on an empty stomach, I do it all over again. I move my laptop to Starbucks and order iced cold brew after iced cold brew, telling myself to focus until I’ve finished my 18th article of the day. My stomach feels like negative space.

I write a resignation email for my most stressful job and fantasize about sending it, knowing I’ll never have the courage. I don’t need the money, but the thought of turning down work makes me recoil. I must be successful and success means more bylines and more money.

This is a pattern I’ve become all too familiar with. But at least this time, I have something to look forward to. After another four hours of sleep and 15 articles, I’m headed to Vegas for Electronic Daisy Carnival, an electronic music festival I’d never heard of until the press trip invitation arrived in my inbox.

To accommodate my crazy work hours, I fly in the night before and pull an all-nighter. I sign in for my shift at 3 a.m. from a casino cafe and churn out 7 articles until it ends at 11. Just when I think I’m done, my editor keeps me late to post an update on the Orlando alligator attack.

Meanwhile, a college friend’s blowing up my Facebook chat, begging me to join her in Ibiza in two weeks. I can’t because of this goddamn job. Getting time off is impossible.

Skrillex and Diplo’s “Where Are U Now” wakes me up from a three-second, sitting-up nap. Emboldened by the catchy riff punctuating Justin Bieber’s refrain and fantasies of Ibiza opening parties, I write another resignation email. This time, I type my supervisor’s email address in the “recipients” box.

I still can’t hit “send,” but getting close makes me feel wild. I pack up, put on a tiny $3 romper, and walk along Las Vegas strip. As I pass Serendipity and hum along to Calvin Harris’s “This Is What You Came for,” I visualize myself lounging by the fountain, eating over-priced, calorie-packed ice cream. That would be self-indulgent. Unproductive. Bad. Glorious. Free. How freeing it would be to be bad. I don’t dare enter, but the thought alone loosens my mental shackles.

Something has to change this weekend. Either life as I know it will be destroyed, or I will. Either the part of me that forbids eating ice cream and dropping work will die, or the part of me that wants it will. I secretly root for the former.

As I enter the Las Vegas Motor Speedway that night with a parade of EDM heads in wings, animal faces, and bathing suits, that little voice in me that wants to fuck work and go be an ice cream eating fairy kitten princess says, “Hey, there. I missed you.” I pass giant glowing flowers, foreboding owl statues, and a tiny schoolhouse where people are coloring. This is the closest thing adults have to Disney World.

My pace picks up. I don’t know where I’m running, only what I’m running from: everything outside this land over the rainbow the Nevada dust had dropped me in.

In a pavilion where Russian DJ Julia Govor is playing, I make timid, barely detectable movements, flashing back to middle school dances. Then, I see a dude doing a little catwalk in a floor-length fur coat and bull horns.

Oh, OK, so nobody gives a fuck. This is not middle school. This is not a networking event. Toto, we’re not in New York City anymore. No matter what I do, someone next to me will be crazier.

But nobody’s judging the crazy person either. I want to be the crazy person. The one people compare themselves to so they can shed their misdirected shame. I run from stage to stage doing exaggerated moves I learned in zumba class or ballet or wherever the hell I picked them up. I smile at everyone, not caring if they smile back, but they do.

A cute guy intercepts me to ask where the bathrooms are. I tell him I don’t know, and his glance lingers on me. “Can I kiss you?” he asks.

“Sure,” I shrug, because why not, and we make out amid the blending cacophony of DJ sets. He gives me his number and tells me to let him know if I come to LA.

I can’t believe this is actually a way to live, I think. This is a world where I don’t have to prove anything to be accepted. Where I don’t need a pretentious OKCupid profile to get a kiss. Where don’t need a job to feel good about myself. Where my only job is to have fun.

The next morning, I hit “send.” Three minutes later, my boss asks if she can change my schedule to keep me. Maybe, I think, but not if that rules out Ibiza. “I’ll come,” I Facebook chat my friend.

On the bus to the next day’s festival, I spot a woman with rainbow hair. I see something in her I want to bring out in myself, so I sit beside her and recount my spontaneous makeout sesh.

After flirting with a new guy in line, I see her again at Anna Lunoe’s show. Then, as the neon lights glow against the blackening sky, she gives me molly on a rooftop overlooking the ferris wheel.

On my way back to the stage, the guy from the line asks why I didn’t answer his text. I hug him and walk on, throwing off my shirt. I can do better.

I meet the LA guy by the bathrooms, and we make out again. After chugging his water bottle, I say with honesty I didn’t know was in me that I’d like to go off by myself again. Stupid boys. I’ll have more fun alone because I’m fun. I’m a fairy kitten princess, dammit.

I merge with a crowd jumping and shouting through JAUZ’s mix of System of a Down’s “BYOB.” This is the best moment of my year, I think, and then I think about how contrary that is to everything I believed. The thing that made me happiest was not when my income hit six figures or when I published 20 articles in a day or when I lost five pounds or even when Whoopi Goldberg discussed my writing on The View. It was when I was was doing something so incredibly unimpressive (unless screaming “why do they always send the poor?!” louder than anyone else is impressive). Maybe you don’t have to suffer for the best things in life.

The next day, I realize that in an attempt to film the festival, I accidentally recorded my trip. “The themes in my life,” I listen to myself telling my rainbow-haired friend, “are discipline and deprivation. Whether it’s food or work, it’s all the same.”

When I hear that, I know hanging onto that job would be just as destructive as hanging onto my disordered eating. As Anna Lunoe and Chris Lake’s “Stomper” fills my hotel room, I tell my boss that if she wants me to stay, she has to pay me more. As I anticipated, she can’t.

I panic with the urge to go work on other jobs to make up for that one’s loss. Instead, I return to Serendipity, get an ice cream sundae, and don’t throw it up or keep eating after I’m full. I chuck the half-empty cup in the trash and call up a guy I’ve been crushing on as I walk along the strip. Then, I stop inside Sephora and buy makeup, something I’d always considered too indulgent. On the way, a guy sees my arm band, says “EDC fam!”, and hugs me like we’re long-lost relatives.

Over the next two weeks, I jog around my neighborhood listening to Elliphant’s “Not Ready”:

“I guess I’m not ready for reality / A young woman in a new world / I have a big responsibility / to live life wild and free like a bird / Now is the time to be dancing.”

My first night in Ibiza, as Chris Liebing fills the Amnesia opening party, I ask a German guy I would’ve deemed too hot for me before if I can bite him. We fall in love in just two days, and I leave in tears. But on the plane home, I realize New York and I are over anyway. I’m going to travel the world like I’ve always told myself I couldn’t, and Germany’s my first stop. I spend my flight to Dusseldorf transcribing an interview with Mexican DJ Jessica Audiffred, who told me,

“People want to experience a festival. People want to get crazy. They just want a place where they can let their emotions go. They just want to have fun. They just want to get wild and electronic music can give that and a lot of other things. Just to be in the festival scene, you realize why people go. You realize why people are interested. I think electronic music is a way for people just to be free and just to be themselves and have fun and let everything go.”

Slowly, my inner fairy kitten princess takes power back from the workaholic, money-driven person I never wanted to be. Now, nine months since EDC, I’m partying in a new country practically every month, I haven’t made myself throw up since last summer, and am still with the guy from Amnesia. And I’ve got rainbow hair.

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The right photo was taken the week before EDC; the left was taken the week I arrived in Germany.

My world used to extend from the Kips Bay studio apartment where I worked myself to the bone and stuffed my face to the 28th Street Starbucks where I filled my empty stomach and heart with cold brews. Now, it’s expanded through the beaches of Ibiza, the nightclubs of Berlin, the casinos of Vegas, and the Brooklyn clubs I used to pass by because I was “too busy.”

But there’s much more fairy kitten princess left in me, telling me to chuck it all and be a DJ, and she grows louder every time I hear “Stomper.”


LIVE REVIEW: Maya Jane Coles @ Output


I periodically look for DJ sets near me on live music listing sites like Oh My Rockness and EDM Train, but despite how famous she’s become in recent years, I didn’t stumble upon Maya Jane Coles’s show at the iconic Williamsburg club Output until I happened to be researching her online. In fact, female DJs were noticeably absent from last month’s show scan. Thankfully, while looking for Coles’s 2017 appearances, I found out she was playing on New Year’s Day. Not only that, but she was part of an all-female lineup also featuring Jade and Mightykat.

This show was unusual in another way: It began at 2 p.m., so attending it was one of the very first things I did in 2017. And it was a great way to start off the year. I entered around 4, during Jade’s set, which was full of steady techno beats interrupted by swaying synths and fading vocals. The highlights were the buildups, which culminated in recordings of a voice counting to four and a whistle, and her sampling of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.”

The packed club was full of blinking lights that switched from red and blue to pastel colors as the night went on. The crowd yelled as Coles took the stage, barely visible behind the mixer. The set took us on a deep house journey, making you feel like you were underwater and then in space. She sampled from her hit “What They Say” multiple times throughout the night, bringing it back to elicit cheers each time the energy started dying down. My expectations were high after hearing Coles’ recordings, and though her live mixes were mostly unfamiliar, she didn’t disappoint.

In many ways, EDM is one of the most male-dominated musical genres. But once you’re inside a dark club and entranced in the music and lights, the surface characteristics of the person spinning the beats are barely detectable, let alone relevant. In that way, EDM also holds the potential to be gender-blind — which makes me hopeful that club and festival lineups will continue to even out in 2017. As more people like Output’s New Years Day performers show off their talents, more people will see that the ability to make people fist-pump, shuffle, and shout knows no gender.

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Jessica Audiffred

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Photo by Christiaan Almazan

As EDM has gained mainstream popularity, more female DJs have become recognized in a field stereotypically reserved for men. Among them is Jessica Audiffred, a Mexico City-based DJ who also has her own label, A-Records, and hosts Lunchbox, the first bass music radio show in Mexico. 

Her story provides an inspiring example of an artist who got excited about her genre and just threw herself into it head-first. AudioFemme talked to Audiffred about the EDM scene and how she got where she is.

Suzannah Weiss for AudioFemme: How did you first get into DJing?

Jessica Audiffred: That was about five or six years ago, when I finished my psychology degree and I started to hang out with a lot of cool DJ friends. I’ve always liked electronic music ever since I was a little girl, so it was a really organic step to me, just to ask them, “please give me some DJ classes.” So I went to their houses, and I was there for about six to eight hours every day for about five months, and they started to put me in their parties, and I haven’t stopped.

What do you love about it?

It’s just a different feeling. Other than just making music in your house, you’re sharing that with the public, and just watching the reaction of every tune you have — you can control their feelings and their emotions. You’re just there throwing a good (or bad) time for them.

How is the EDM scene different in the US and Mexico?

In Mexico, we’re not at that point where you just can throw bass parties. You have to go there to play big commercial stuff and artists like me or like many DJs I know who play bass music or dubstep or whatever, we have a hard time playing there because people are not ready yet. There’s not much of a problem in the festival scene because you can play whatever you want, but in the club scene, it’s difficult for us who don’t play commercial big-room stuff.

Why is it harder to play less mainstream stuff in Mexico?

There’s not much of a culture around electronic music in general. They just want to go see the main big EDM acts. They just go to be like “I know him and that’s what I want to see. I don’t want to see anyone else. I don’t care about anyone else. I just want to take a video and a picture of me singing that famous song and that’s it.” It’s really sad for us because there’s not much of a scene there. But it doesn’t matter. I think that all of the people who are playing bass music and something different, we’re managing to get into a really cool group where we’re opening the doors in Mexico for that genre.

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Photo by Christiaan Almazan

What DJs do you think people need to pay more attention to right now?

There’s a lot of OWSLA guys. They should have more spotlight on them, like Vindata. I love them so much.There’s this Jersey girl Uniiqu3 who makes really awesome Jersey club.

It seems like there’s a scarcity of female DJs at clubs and festivals. Are there fewer of you, or does it just seem that way?

That’s definitely the case because female artists don’t produce that much. They don’t get to sit down and make their own tunes. That’s what we’re lacking: female production in general, not DJs. There are really cool female DJs out there. Producers — that’s the missing point.

What festival do you think EDM fans must go to?

I think Coachella for sure. It’s a different vibe. There are a lot of genres the EDM world wouldn’t listen to if it wasn’t in a festival, so I think it’s a really cool vibe and there are a lot of great musicians there, not just DJs.

What genre do you think is the most underrated right now?

There’s a hype right now for future bass, which is really cool because back then, you wouldn’t have known anything about future bass unless you’re really into it. Footwork, Jersey club, and Mambathon are really cool too.

It seems like EDM in general has gained a lot more mainstream popularity over the past few years. Why do you think that is?

Because people want to experience a festival. People want to get crazy. They just want a place where they can let their emotions go. They just want to have fun. They just want to get wild and electronic music can give that and a lot of other things. Just to be in the festival scene, you realize why people go. You realize why people are interested. I think electronic music is a way for people just to be free and just to be themselves and have fun and let everything go.

It’s awesome that you’ve had so much success in a field you’re so passionate about. What advice would you give others looking to do the same thing?

Make music — like, learn how to play piano. Learn how to play any instrument. Go to a production class or sound engineer class. You have to be real. You have to be yourself. You have to have something different from anyone else. That’s mainly it — you just have to do music.

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Photo by Christiaan Almazan

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Over the past couple decades, EDM has gone from a small subculture to a mainstream, worldwide craze. Artists like Diplo and Calvin Harris constantly pop up in celebrity news headlines, and a long roster of celebrity DJs from Elijah Wood to Joe Jonas (and wannabe DJs like Kylie Jenner) are taking up the practice. The frenetic dancing of EDM audiences rivals the energy only of heavy-metal moshing, if even that. Basically, DJs are the new rockstars. 

I say this now, but I was years late to the game. Until last weekend, I thought of DJs as the people who spun beats at nightclubs or curated songs on the radio. 

What lifted this rock I’d been living under? 

I attended one of the most epic music festivals in the world, Electronic Daisy Carnival. EDC springs up every year all around the world, from New York to Brazil. But Las Vegas was the perfect place to lose my EDM virginity. Electronic music booms through the city’s famed hotels and casinos, screens on the insides of cabs advertise DJs, and it’s home to posh nightclubs like Omnia, where Calvin Harris performs. 

Famed Vegas hotel Caesar’s Palace was packed with people from all over the world waiting hours on line to procure passes. Mountains loomed in the desert sky as they paraded by the thousands — some in animal costumes, others in wings, and some just in bathing suits  — toward the entrance to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where carnival rides, art installations, and majestic-looking sets stood.


It felt like the Nevada dust had swept me to another land. Feathered creatures marched around on stilts. People in circus uniforms climbed light poles. Giant sculptures resembling space crafts shot flames. In a small house labeled “School House,” attendees colored with crayons and old-fashioned schoolteachers distributed gold stars. And as the event’s name would suggest, technicolor electric daisies bloomed from the festival grounds. 


From the top of the stadium bleachers, I heard a cacophony of electronic music styles emanating from the varied stages. At a pyramidal pavilion called Neon Garden, Russian DJ Julia Govor set the tone early Friday evening with sensual, outer-space-like techno beats. Meanwhile, at the playground-like Upside Down House, hip-hop mixes got festival goers jumping.

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A mini festival within the festival took place at the Smirnoff House, a home/art installation where select DJs performed and guests colored on the walls. The packed crowd went wild as Martin Solveig, a French house DJ who rose to international fame with 2011’s “Hello” and has released hit after hit since, played upbeat tracks like “Do It Right.” 

But it was the main stage, Kinetic Field, where the fuse burning throughout the night exploded. On a stage guarded by two enormous human-owl hybrids, eclectic up-and-coming electronic artist Jauz remixed songs ranging from Queen’s “We Are the Champions” to Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World.” The night reached a climax when he asked the audience to get out their metal horns and banged out a punchy rendition of System of a Down’s “BYOB.” 


Kinetic Field was also where the innovative Australian DJ Anna Lunoe became the first female artist ever to take the main stage at EDC Vegas. Saturday’s highlights included her infectiously harmonized “Stomper,” Tommy Trash’s haunting version of Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang,” and Axwell Λ Ingrosso’s swaying electro-house.

Despite the eclectic lineup, the stages had one peculiar thing in common: No matter where you were, you were likely to hear a remix of either INOJ’s “I Want To Be Your Lady Baby,” The Chainsmokers’s “Don’t Let Me Down,” or, of course, Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” One cool thing about EDM is that it reflects the current state of our culture’s music right back to us.


In EDC tradition, weddings were held in a 400-square-foot “Chapel of Nature” between stages. For the first time this year, legal same-sex marriages took place there. One couple named Chris and Skye’s wedding was live-streamed and given a reception at the Smirnoff House. The officiator asked that they “take good care of each other and rave on forever.” 


That could be the slogan for EDC as a whole. Festival-goers doled out high fives as they danced past one another. Strangers asked me if I was staying hydrated. Another guest spotted my pass around my wrist by the hotel the day after and greeted me as part of the “EDC fam.” On my flight back, I was already planning my next EDM festival. 

If EDC is not on your bucket list, pencil it in right this minute. Whether you even have a bucket list or not, just go. Because even when you have not slept for two days straight and you’re being evacuated from a stage because it just caught fire and your legs are collapsing because you’ve been jumping on them so hard, you will love every second of it, the 5 a.m. end time will still feel too soon to leave. 

BAND OF THE MONTH: A Place Both Wonderful And Strange


Sorry For Your Loss, the debut album of the ‘occult electronic dance music’ duo A Place Both Wonderful And Strange, is like an eerie journey into a dark forest; it’s terrifying, yet beautiful, and you can only arrowope you’ll make it out alive. This duality in Niabi Aquena and Russ Marshalek’s music perfectly fits the duo’s Twin Peaks references. “Pedestal” prominently features longing vocals and mysterious whispers provided by Niabi, while the sounds of wind and static surround her. The song’s theme is echoed in the last track, “blue is like drowning and drowning is like this.” “DONT,” however, shrugs off beauty and is straightforwardly creepy, with a taunting, sinister voice and an accompanying music video that shows religious fervor in a darker light.

Though they have a lot of upcoming projects in 2016, Niabi and Russ took the time to talk to us about the occult, their love for dogs, and how they started their duo (you’ll find a stream for Sorry For Your Loss at the bottom of the page).

AudioFemme: How did you two meet? 

Niabi: We’d begun the dialogue of wanting to work together after he booked my solo project for a Tori Amos covers night of her album “Under the Pink.”  I covered “Icicle” and Russ covered “The Waitress.” We both gravitated, as individuals, to a more beat-orientated, abstract version of our covers, so when he asked if I’d be interested in joining him, it felt quite natural and logical.  

Russ: When I moved to New York I was throwing shoegaze parties, and Niabi, ever the shoegaze aficionado, would come out. When my former band played our second 92Y Tribeca gig and were asked to curate a night of moody, Lynchian music, we booked Niabi’s solo project and she got a great response. We tossed around the idea of making music together for a long, long time, but we finally started poking away at it at the end of last year. The energy just felt right so we figured we should at least nail down the tunes we had made together.

AF: Where are you from originally? 

Niabi: I’m from the Shenandoah Valley, in Virginia. We’re talking very rural here. I grew up on a dirt road and my address was a route number. We heated our home with a wood stove; my mother being the one, as a single parent, to chop the wood. There was no cable, no internet. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything though. I feel very lucky and grateful to have the upbringing that I did.

Russ: Atlanta, Georgia. I miss it at times. I sometimes wonder if I’d tried harder down there if I could’ve had the successes I’ve had in New York. Sometimes I fantasize about taking my band and my dog and my fiancee and running away back south.

AF: You call your music a “raw, visceral mess.” Can you expand more on this? How does it affect your art, and life in general?

Niabi: After playing in a bunch of bands, including my solo project, I got so tired of striving for perfection. I felt real dismay, not feeling like I could be more playful and experiment without major judgement from others and myself.  So now working with Russ in APBWAS, it’s wild and I don’t really know how it happened, but I feel so free to be myself and be experimental without fear of failure.  If something doesn’t stick, it’s okay, and when it does – holy hell how neat.  So everything has gotten a lot more raw and a lot more natural, [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][both] in our process of creating and certainly when we play live as well.  

Russ: I have no formal musical training, which probably won’t come as a shock to anyone. So a lot of my creative process is literally slopping around in ephemera, taking samples to places where they’re unrecognizable, crafting sounds based on how much I can possibly tolerate. Niabi’s the first person I’ve ever worked with who can, well, work with me in this way. For me, it’s how I live my life, too. I live and love big, messy, and without apology or forethought, and I think that reflects in the music, as well as the performance. We’re two people but we’re big, loud, and messy.


AF: I read about the Goths for Dogs show you were involved in. It’s an amazing idea- though, since you describe your genre as Occult Dance Music, I thought you’d be more into cats. Which animal is your favorite, and why? 

Niabi: I love all animals, it’s difficult to name one as a favorite. Right now, I only have a dog. His name is Odie and he’s a blind senior with many missing teeth. “Goths for Dogs” raised money for both of the rescues where we got our current animal friends. To quote one of my favorite art films, Nadja: “I have walked behind the sky, we are all animals.” So that is my answer.  There is no favorite, we are all animals.

Russ: I fucking hate cats. As a dear friend said, “If I wanted to throw money at something that doesn’t care about me, I’d invite a man over.” I definitely didn’t choose my dog, Mr. Frito Burrito, he chose me, and he is my favorite animal. He worked on a video with us for Goths for Dogs, by the way:

AF: In your music video for “DONT,” I really liked how you placed such a dark, moody song over the religious archival footage. I was wondering if you could explain: Does association with the occult mean a different kind of religion, or the absence of religion? 

Niabi: I’d say a different sort of religion. I’m deeply spiritual of a person, gravitating towards a more Wiccan practice of earth based ritual. The moon and recognition of celebrated earth holidays, solstices, and equinoxes are a very big part of who I am. Of course I am referencing of some very old knowledge here that is actually the influencer of modern Christianity. The thread between paganism and Christianity is not only tangible but historic.

Russ: For me, the occult association is a different kind of religion. Practicing witchcraft, for me, is about personal empowerment as well as appreciating the forces that are beyond my control. It’s made me a much more grateful person.

AF: You picked a great band name. What is the strangest place you’ve been to, or situation you’ve found yourselves in? What about wonderful, or beautiful? 

Niabi: It takes a lot for me to consider something strange. Although if I would have to, I’d say humans’ gravitation towards negativity and hatred.  I don’t understand how others intentionally try to hurt people. In risking like sounding like a total fucking hippy, I just wish there could be love everywhere and with everything. On beauty, I’d like to offer another quote that I’ve held for many years. I adore mid century art and design and of course love Charles and Ray Eames. I think that he nailed it when he stated that he wanted to find “the uncommon beauty of common things.” Beauty is everywhere if you just open your eyes and look.

Russ: Without getting into it, I every so often have extreme auditory hallucinations. And definitely that is the strangest, because suddenly, in the actual tangible physical world, I experience the deepest and most terrifying parts of my brain, the parts even I keep secret from myself, acting as though they’re real, and present. Some of it is what bleeds into our song “Way Out.” For beautiful: Iceland. Iceland Iceland Iceland. We’re trying so hard to get into Airwaves [Music Festival] this year.

AF: What can you tell us about your upcoming projects?

Niabi: There’s much on the docket for 2016, personally I’m very excited. Our second album is to be recorded upstate in a real cabin with a real wood stove, which I’m very excited about given my mountaineer-woman upbringing.

Russ: I’m terribly influenced by our friends/mentors-of-a-sort Azar Swan, and they talk about their upcoming albums by labeling them LP#, LP#, etc, until they have real names, and so I’ve taken to calling everything LP2, LP3, and LP4, because those are what’s on the docket right now. LP2 is going to be recorded in a house up in the fuck-off woods of Phoenicia, a place that’s really magical, and it’s going to be a version of our touring Keys Open Doors: Hidden Life of Laura Palmer show.

Niabi: During the recording of our second album, we are also going to play with the beginning songs of our third album, which will be more of a collaboration with Vanessa of The Harrow and Synesect and the magical Shanda. 

Russ: LP3 we’re writing and recording with Vanessa Irena aka knifesex, aka my fiancee, and our dear friend Shanda. Niabi and I really want to try and make that one an album that’s very much taking the idea of weird electronic dance music and applying some song structure to it. I’m thinking huge, world-stopping choruses.

Niabi: Our intention with the third album is for something more structured, slightly more commercially accessible, with songs that have a chorus and maybe a bridge.  Our fourth album will be recorded at the end of the year, however at the moment I can’t say anything more beyond that we have a very exciting producer who we’re working with and it’s going to be incredible.



ALBUM REVIEW: Williamson “Backesto Park”

Backesto Park, a new electro-post rock record from San Jose California artist, Williamson, is the ultimate record to put on as the workday ends and Friday melts into the weekend. Williamson has had his work featured in films like Cameron Crowe’s Aloha and in Joss Whedon’s TV series, Dollhouse, and now it can be the soundtrack for your unwinding. Named after his neighborhood, the 14-track record Backesto Park is an epic undertaking. Without discounting the value of individual songs, to this listener, it works best as a cohesive listening experience. There are times when you want words to sing all the things you feel but haven’t found the language or courage to utter, and there are times when you want the beauty of music without words to just let you be. I like to think of it as an enhancement, as music is a drug, is it not? It can evoke aggression, or calm you down faster than a benzodiazepines. In my experience of listening to Backesto Park it acted as a beautiful enhancement, in line with the caramel that may also contain THC and CBD – to mellow out the experience of getting home at 5PM, with nothing to do but relax.

The album invokes electronic more in the realm of psych such as the sounds created by the electronic collective Soundtribe Sector 9, yet is delightfully mellow, like the natural hallucination that comes with the sounds of an electronic jam band such as Lotus. It took me back to the time right after I graduated college, before moving to New York City, somehow in the woods of Vermont at a music festival whose name I could not tell you, collecting sunflowers and basking in the freedom of an unknown life ahead of you – with the naivity being 22-years-old requires.

Samples of word appear on some tracks, such as “You Don’t Understand,” coming in like radio static as you change the channel back to your favorite song. “You Don’t Understand” seamlessly melts into the terrifically-named “Jellyfish Hustle.” Indeed, like a magical creature (I know jellyfish exist, but in that awesome way that I don’t understand) the song inhales and exhales with the fluidity of water. Taking a moment to chill on the discussion of the music itself, each song title will make you smile, and look forward to learning the answer to: “What does ‘Aspiring Mooncropper Seeks Work'” sound like?” It sounds awesome.

If you don’t have any weekend plans yet, it’s okay. Simply put this record on and sit for a moment to breathe it all in, and know that things are just as they should be.

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FESTIVAL PREVIEW: Elements Music & Art Festival 8/22


This Saturday BangOn!NYC is holding their mysterious music and arts festival Elements. Along an industrial waterfront in Brooklyn, the vibe should be somewhere between Berlin’s Boiler Room and the bug-infested desert of Burning Man. A few subway lines away from wherever you reside, the one-day event promises to be a slice of music and escapism without plagues or planes.

Elements will have four stages- Earth/Wind/Water/Fire, along with large-scale art installations, delicious food trucks, humans, fairies, hopefully giraffes, all sorts of magical creatures spinning around from the sky to add to the intensity of your experience. Dig the full line-up above. Or better yet, don’t even read it, just show up Saturday dressed as whatever your inner child wants and dance like summer never ends.

VIDEO REVIEW: The Jane Doze “Lights Go Down”

The Jane Doze

When music’s spun by women, it just sounds better. The Jane Doze is not one, but two beautiful – and more importantly, stupidly talented DJs. The duo has shared the stage with legends such as Calvin Harris and Diplo, although we think the real stunners here are Jane Doze. These heart-breakers also have a heart of gold, their new video for “Lights Go Down (feat. Curtains)” shares the story of their fan and friend Kirby who was diagnosed with cancer. After connecting with her through Twitter the two traveled to meet her in her hometown of Houston, Texas. Thankfully they were also able to recently celebrate her cancer remission.

Watch the video for “Lights Go Down” below. It will not only get you dancing, but give you the warm fuzzies. A portion of the song’s proceeds will be donated to First Descents, an organization that provides outdoor adventures for young adults affected by cancer. Cheers to hope and healing through music and nature.

TRACK PREMIERE: Kat Solar “Infinity”


Kat Solar, aka Katrina Connor from Detroit, is a pop artist putting her drama background to work, whether it’s performing cabaret-like routines with a full cast of dancers or shooting ambitiously choreographed music videos. Since her last album Snake Eyes, the performer has been working on a different class of new material, which she calls dance-inspired songs that explore “love and all its myriad possibilities.” Her new single from the upcoming album Infinity is sparkly pop meets EDM, full of theatrical anthems and catchy beats. Check out “Infinity” below!

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BEST OF: Three Seminal Electronic Albums of 2012

ReGeneration-Promo2012 saw a handful of genres altered by a growing number of electronic music producers.  These artists have convinced listeners in the mainstream to embrace electronic music, and are subsequently changing the conventions of pop, rock, indie and everything in between.  Last April The New York Times released an article about the growing demand for EDM.  The article quoted Michael Rapino, chief executive of Live Nation Entertainment saying “If you’re 15 to 25 years old now, this is your rock ‘n’ roll.”  Here are three electronic inspired albums that have broken stereotypes and will continue to resonate in the coming year.



began as a documentary inspired by a challenge given to electronic music producers. The project resulted in a ground breaking album that hybridized genres in unsuspecting ways.  Released February 2012, this ambitious endeavor paired five headliner DJs with a music style out of their typical music production range.  Skrillex teamed up with members of The Doors, The Crystal Method tackled classic country style, Pretty Lights took on the challenge of incorporating early R&B, and Mark Ronson melded his music with the jazz tradition. A moving collaboration between DJ Premier, NAS, and the Berklee Symphony Orchestra produced the title track “Regeneration”, which entwined the explosive sounds of a full orchestra with hip hop beats, rap lyrics and a lyrical record scratch solo.  The outcomes of this album concept were widely varied, and embraced many challenges.  The most exciting revelation of this project was discovering the link that connects music fans to a particular mode of expression, and exploiting that link to coax fans out into new musical territory.  A dialogue was sparked between music listeners of different ages, backgrounds and traditions, and this particular spirit of collaboration continues to inspire new music projects.  I found a new level of respect for these DJ/electronic music producers as they invited listeners to hear time tested styles in a daring new format.



has captured the hearts of electronic and pop music fans this year with her third album Visions.  Her exposed vocal expressiveness and technical savvy of production and performance have centered the media around her.  But what is particularly defining about her style is her rejection of mainstream media.  This may sound shocking as she was not long ago featured in Vogue magazine, but her values are clearly visible in her art, music and live performances.  Grimes has rejected expensive music video production in favor of DYI.  She draws her own album covers.  She performs with electronic music gear that she’s picked up over the years, and has learned to play with an array of hardware on stage alone, rather than streamlining her act with a hired band.  She is not the typical pop model, and her emphasis on doing things for herself are an inspiration to many aspiring artists in a wide range of mediums.  Visions is filled with catchy pop hooks and the satisfying synth sounds that have filtered into many popular acts this year.  Yet she is also wildly original in the way she expresses herself and lets her music unfold in a beautifully unpretentious manner.


120921-how-to-destroy-angelsHOW TO DESTROY ANGELS

is Trent Reznor’s most understated album, yet the music churns with a deadly undertow.  Looking over a career that has encompassed a long run as lead singer and songwriter of  the band Nine Inch Nails, and a transition to successful film composer, the next step in his musical journey has been a satisfying one for fans.  The six song 2012 EP An Omen captures the evolution of this multifaceted artist.  The band includes Reznor, his wife Mariqueen Maandig, and longtime collaborator Atticus Ross.  How to Destroy Angels oscillates between loosely  organic, acoustic sounds such as plucked strings, and tightly knit, precisely positioned electronica beats and effects.  The album pushes forward a dark electronic style that stirs with a deep restlessness.  Maandig’s gentle vocals overlay the music in a way that is at once breathtaking and unnerving.  Expansive, building tension encapsulates the energy, excitement and unease many music listeners may be feeling as we move into a new age of technology, advance, and the unknown.