The explosive popularity of dance tracks in mainstream American pop music is attracting top DJs and producers to events like Live Nation's 15-stop Identity Festival to experiment with the millennial generation's insatiable desire to party, or what they call "rage."
What's the future of the electronic dance music (EDM) movement? Ahead of today's ID fest in Atlanta, USA TODAY went backstage with some of the artists in Bristow, Va., a D.C. suburb, to ask what's on the horizon.
Inspired by Inner City's 1988 dance classic Good Life, Los Angeles-based electro-house DJ/producer Gartner (aka Joey Youngman), 30, is devoted to making dance music "a feeling, a vibe." For him, "America is the best place for dance music right now," because U.S. audiences are "way more enthusiastic. (In America), 14- and 15-year-olds are hearing it for the first time and are getting excited."
He anticipates a bright future for EDM: "It has cemented itself as one of the handful of mainstream styles of music that will always be there, like rock and hip-hop."
Next up: Gartner's new EP, Casual Encounters of the 3rd Kind, arrived July 30. His fall bus tour, Love & War, kicks off Sept. 27 in Baton Rouge.
Often referred to as the "gods of hardstyle," a fast, bass-heavy type of dance music, Dutch brothers Wouter Janssen, 29, and Sjoerd Janssen, 28, are bringing a hard edge to mainstream EDM. Creating dance music is like growing up playing baseball, "it's part of the culture in Holland, you grew up with it in school," Wouter says.
Americans' acceptance of a diversity of musical genres allows DJs to get more creative with their sets. "Kids in the States, for example, they love Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Afrojack - and Showtek," Sjoerd says.
"EDM will change in two years or five years, (with) different DJs in the lineups, but it will still be EDM. It's a mind-set, it's all about the party. People are going to love the harder style of the electro genre because it's party music."
Next up: Showtek is currently working on "Crazy Collabs," a series of collaborations with the "maddest musicians" on the planet. Hell Yeah! (with Tiesto) and How We Do (with Hardwell) are featured.
EDM heavyweight Eric Prydz, 36, who headlines Identity's main stage, is hard to categorize. From house to electro to progressive, the Swedish DJ and producer incorporates "so many different sounds into my tracks. ... Some tracks are melodic and uplifting, but the next track I make may be a bit harder."
The future of EDM "is just going to get bigger and bigger," Prydz predicts. "It's a matter of time before the true size of EDM will be shown."
He compares today's EDM to '70s rock: "The bands are still selling out arenas around the world."
Next up: He also records using the alias Pryda, but his 2013 album will be released under his own name.
Le Castle Vania
A big fan of Mars Volta, Joy Division, Daft Punk and Knife Party, Atlanta-based Le Castle Vania (aka Dylan Eiland), 29, has "a lot of rock influences, indie influences, elements of disco, and drum and bass." Often described as indie electro, Le Castle Vania has dabbled in styles throughout the genre. For him, as long as EDM allows "people to leave their day to day and just go party," there's a future of continued growth.
"EDM has so many different faces, it's bipolar, but it has love and open arms," he says. "It's a genre for every type of person."
Next up: His next album, due later this year, will incorporate live instrumentation - including himself playing drums. New track Play Loud is available as a free download ("Music wasn't intended to be sold") on his website, lecastlevania.com.
Legitimate EDM artists must learn to "respect the crowd," says Russian DJ/producer Artem Stolyarov, 22. At a time when almost anyone can produce sounds and the term DJ is thrown around, he says a successful house musician must focus on the end product, "the music, for sure," and not just the lights. "Especially in the USA, it's more about the music you play and create. If people like your music, people will come to your shows."
He sees the evolution of EDM as one of continuous change. "I used to produce trance music, but now there are more progressive-electro vibes, and next year it can be totally different. I don't know what to expect." But he knows that dance music will always be a part of his career, "EDM is my everything. Maybe in the next five or 10 years, if I'm a lucky guy, I'll produce music for films."
Next up: New single Together We Are made its debut at Identity, and he's collaborating on a track with Porter Robinson.