Wired2nd Annual Athens Electronic Music Festival 06.21.2003
by Brian Blessinger
photos by Kristen Darga
Attention fledgling promoters!! Attention electronic music fans of all ages shapes and sizes!! In Athens, Georgia, over 12 hours on June 21st, the future of American dance music was born.
Let's admit it... the party scene has been suffering lately; the whole music industry has. In most major urban areas, two or three production companies control the majority of the venues and access to big-name talent. Like Atlanta's Liquified, these crews have worked hard for years to cement and maintain their status in their respective cities. For many of the little guys, the first time promoters and those not in major population centers, the last couple of years has seen diminishing returns.
Athens' Dash Productions have been throwing a weekly at longtime local clubbing haven, Boneshakers, for well over a year. Recently, they have seen some success at traditional "rave" venues in Atlanta. But last year, Kristen Darga, the non-dj'ing organizing force behind Dash, had a brilliant idea.
Athens has a long history with electronic music, and close ties with the much larger Atlanta scene. The University of Georgia is the main reason for this, attracting intelligent suburbanites up from Atlanta and environs by the thousands every fall. Many traveling DJ's find Athens to be vibe-heavy, with educated and enthusiastic crowds a guarantee. So, to celebrate the uniqueness that is Athens, and to make their mark on the local scene, Dash planned the first "Wired-Athens Electronic Music Festival," which took place last June.
The event was a smashing success. Boneshakers management and Dash agreed to set the date again, during Athfest, an annual celebration of Athens' music and art sponsored by local businesses and in the past, the town government. Most venues play host to local bands and the populace braces itself for schmaltzy self-congratulation from the hipster community-newspapers, clubs, bands and local labels all participate. "Wired" has become Boneshakers' unofficial contribution to Athfest's fun and games. The structure of the first event was one of its most revolutionary and enjoyable aspects. Athens has a 2 A.M. curfew on alcohol sales that further stipulates that all bars be empty of patrons by 2:45. Club and party goers from most other areas are used to being able to stay out all night, so this feeling of "breaking up the party" too early has long been a problem in the little A-town. Dash chose to kick the "Wired" series off at 2:00 P.M., with 24 DJ's playing between 2 and 2.
The idea was to attract electronic music fans from Athens and Atlanta to celebrate local talent and the sense of community that exists between the two scenes. This year the efforts at community building extended beyond Georgia to include Adam Wright and junglist JFK(known for scratching with his prosthetic-leg) of Nashville's 4-Score Entertainment. Of the other 22 dj's, half were from Athens and half were from Atlanta. This did something a big budget event with a big-name line-up could never accomplish. The movers and shakers of Atlanta and Athens all found themselves on common ground. An impressive cross section of Atlanta's industry insiders made the hour trek, including Liquified's Devin Walkey, Jewels and Lo-Tek of Jivemagazine.com, a variety of local label heads and club bookers, and dj's, dj's, dj's.
The concept can be replicated anywhere, and it should be. America's dj's, producers and promoters need to develop a greater sense of appreciation for their regional And local talent; it's the best way to get word out about your own projects. Al are working towards the same goal, whether that be a decent night out or the development of a sustainable "alternative" lifestyle. Punters deserve all of the above; they also need to learn to value both their environment and the local artists they support. For too long the feedback loop that jazz first galvanized, that punk recaptured in the 1970's, And that "rave" was supposed to be about-creative works manically devoured and translated into energy by a crowd, which both inspires and shapes any subsequent output-was lost to the American party-goer. High priced overseas superstars do not provide the same give-and-take that is vital to an event like "Wired." Defining and celebrating community, reaching out to other regional scenes, this is the template for future success for electronic music performance, along with adjusting set times to daylight hours to accommodate a potentially larger portion of the curious. And in the daylight, people have a different kind of fun and are more talkative. There was definitely a "family" atmosphere at this year's "Wired."
Highlights of the day included a five hour downtempo session under a sparkling blue sky, starting with Athens locals Assembly (playing all original productions) and Ganesh playing blissful, dubbed out breaks. Then Devin and Bread of Liquified dropped a mish-mash of selections ranging from Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" to "The Girl From Ipanema." Atlanta's Bobble wandered through the twilight hours with a set of minimal, tech-y house, leaving the decks as the sun went down and a trance-fest ensued, starting with Dash's DJ Ezra. Indoor highlights included Athens' Stout playing a stomping breaks set early in the evening. The night was crowned by two technically perfect, floor-filling hours of funky house music, first from Atlanta club legend Kevin-O. The closing set from Dash's rising star Ross Hambrick who jacked, twisted and generally destroyed the floor with a set that included some of his own tracks.
The free and open exchange of ideas and information (and music) was what made "Wired." People who "know" each other from years of shouted conversations at dark rave caverns and smoky clubs were all kicking back in the sunshine to absorb and appreciate area talent. I heard more original music at "Wired" than I have in years. This has become a definitive event for Northeast Georgia, a way to connect with and help choose tomorrow's superstars, or just cheer on today's local heroes. This is the salvation American dance music; learn to love what's yours and share it with the world(at a reasonable price), all the while tilting wildly at the local hipster-mafia windmills along the way...you can't go wrong, it's too punk rock.
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