Fox Valley EDM scene’s respectfulness defies subgenre elitism

Third Base in Greenville, Wis. is a place for electronic music enthusiasts to convene. • photo by Mozel Erck

Electronic music and the people share a distinct culture, but in a scene that so readily promotes “Peace, Love, Unity and Respect (PLUR),” does it live up to the description? A growing disunity between electronic subgenres might largely be the case as the scene becomes more and more commercialized, but in the Fox Cities, at least, the electronic music community is generally a much more accepting crowd, fitting of the PLUR distinction.

The saying PLUR originated from a speech by Frankie Bones in the early ‘90s after one of his first performances in the USA. Frankie Bones is a techno and house music DJ most famously known for bringing the “rave” culture to the United States.

House: recognized by a repetitive four-beat measure somewhere between 120 and 130 beats per minute (bpm) with a kick drum on every beat.

Techno: contrary to popular belief, “techno” is not a way to describe all electronic music, for it is a distinct subgenre of its own. It is one of the oldest versions of EDM, which may be why it is referred to that way.

The raver’s unofficial motto has become PLUR and something people began to preach and practice. Today there are many varying opinions on PLUR and the electronic music culture as a whole.

Tyler Boston, also known as Astralyze, is a 20-year-old DJ and producer from the Fox Cities. He has been listening to electronic music since the seventh grade and has been attending shows all over the midwest for three years.

The difference between a DJ and a producer: DJs mix music to seamlessly blend from one song to the next staying on the beat. Producers make electronic music. Many producers also DJ.

Shows: music events where there is a DJ or producer playing music electronically for a crowd of dancing people. Some people would call this a rave, depending on personal standards of what constitutes a rave.

Astralyze produces and mixes a subgenre of electronic music called dubstep, more specifically riddim.

Dubstep: characterized by its dark sound, use of synth and minor key, heavy bass and dissonance.

Riddim: a subgenre of dubstep that is named after the Jamaican pronunciation of rhythm and known for a distinct rhythm. The sound is also often influenced by reggae music.

“I think the scene is a lot like high school. There are these cliques, and the cliques are separated by what genre they listen to. There are stereotypes like kandi kids, bass heads, riddim kids, bros or frat boys, techno snobs, heady kids or wooks, elitists. These aren’t derogatory terms for the most part. I would be proud if someone called me a riddim kid,” Astralyze says.

Boston respects preferences from all genres, but he says he’s subject to criticism from subgenre purists regularly.

Some people favor drum and bass, some prefer house, others dubstep and so on and so forth.

Drum and Bass: has a noticeably quicker beat at 160-180 bpm with an emphasis on the drum work and bassline.

Because producers, for the most part, stick to one main sound (unless under a different alias), people may prefer certain subgenres flocking together and creating stereotypes. For example, the stereotype exists that people who like the artist Bassnectar have dreads, wear scarves and sell hat pins.

The Fox Cities have a little place in downtown Appleton called the LED Room where anyone with any preference is welcome.

The LED Room, a dance club in downtown Appleton, welcomes all subgenres of electronic music. • photo by Mozel Erck

Christopher Merkl is a 25-year-old local DJ who goes by Aztech. He is in charge of Friday-night events at the LED Room.

“While running my own events there for three years, it gave me the opportunity to connect with other DJs and event promoters around Wisconsin. I’ve been all over the area doing mostly small, but some big, local events and that is what really got my name out there,” Aztech says.

Merkl is aware of it, but never pays much mind to it because the venue where he manages his events welcomes all styles and genres.

“I do hear a lot of DJs and producers who argue over Dubstep events or artist who get to play the events. I pretty much just live in my own little world and keep to myself. We all have different point of views, and there is enough room for everyone,” Aztech says.

As far as the electronic music scene goes, there are cliques and maybe some “snobs,” but the Fox Cities are fortunate in their small corner of EDM world to have some of the best, most accepting people.

“The Valley has some of the most respectful partygoers in Wisconsin. They know how to tear it up at a show and still be courteous and aware of their surroundings,” Aztech says.