[Editorial] Electronic Music Counterculture: Festivals And Artists Taking Over America


Stop and take a deep breath. Think about how far we’ve come over the last 10 years – from Paul van Dyk to Daft Punk; Tiesto to David Guetta; deadmau5 to Skrillex; Calvin Harris to Martin Garrix. We’ve seen an unparalleled explosion in an industry that many critics prematurely dubbed as a ‘shrinking fad’ or ‘passing phase’ and the media seems to be on an unrelenting mission to constantly remind the world how popular EDM is. This is the ultimate underground to mainstream story of the millennial generation.

On the heels of a landmark Coachella double-feature, I ask myself: We have our EDC, we have our Ultra, we have our TomorrowWorld, now what? Where does it go from here? EDM is the mainstream. We need our hippies, our indie; we need our counterculture. Slowly growing up among us is a world of electronic alternative music. Over the last 5-ish years, these outside-the-box tastemakers have been gaining traction, as well as a crap-ton of fan loyalty.


According to Wikipedia, there are 199 music festivals in the United States. 199 festivals presenting an uncountable number of genres and styles. One of the almost-200 listed is Southern California’s HARD Summer, which recently dropped its 2015 talent lineup. During the hilarious 6-minute announcement videoHARD front man, Gary Richards, let slip a piece of information that (maybe) is more important than who’s actually playing the at the annual event: “HARD Summer’s not a rave, it’s a music festival.”

Events like HARD Summer Festvial (CA), Hangout Music Fest (AL), Governors Ball Music Festival (NY), Bonnarroo Music and Arts Festival (TN), What The Festival (OR), Electric Forest (MI) and so many more aren’t just over-sized, outdoor raves. These are events that do the thinking for us – they are constantly bringing something new to the table – they keep us from getting bored. We don’t leave these events saying ‘I saw everyone who I love’, we leave thinking ‘I fell in love with…’. These are some of America’s counterculture festivals. They know who we want to see before we do. Do you remember Flume‘s (pictured above) rant on commercial EDM last year?

“Commercial EDM, the crowd is fucked up kids basically. They don’t care about the music, they want to hear one or two songs and that’s it. I prefer to play to people who actually give a shit about the music.”


Ultimately, Flume is right; it’s about the music. He’s scheduled to play Governors Ball, Bonnaroo and Electric Forest in 2015. If EDM is the modern-day Rock N Roll, then artists like Flume are bringing out the hippies. Part of the counterculture movement is a spotlight on new technologies that infuse live instruments with traditional DJing. Big Gigantic will hit 4 of the above 6 mentioned festivals; GRiZ and Gramatik will each perform at half. Lastly, ODESZA (pictured above) has quietly anchored themselves as an American festival staple. The duo from Seattle will play at all 6 events, in addition to seven other U.S. festivals this summer.

With thriving industry giants like EDC, there isn’t much room to grow vertically. Parallel movement can be as productive and progressive as rapid growth. We aren’t getting bigger, we’re getting better. Like a good bottle of wine, sound develops and matures over time. Industry tastemakers, like Gramatik and ODESZA, are introducing an entirely new generation of alternative electronic music to the world. Mainstage dance music doesn’t need to carry the full burden of the millennial culture. The rapid growth of electronic counterculture is here to stay. It can be found scattered throughout festivals like HARD Summer, Hangout, Governors Ball, Bonnarroo, What The Festival and Electric Forest.