Rock Star : DJ :: 1960’s : 2010’s Part 1
Updated: Apr 6, 2022
This is the first article of four that draws comparison from a Sixties Rock Star to a modern-day Producer/DJ. The idea behind this is that history repeats itself, and that the last ten years of the EDM scene could also be looked at in how it compares to the Sixties. Surely nothing is truly exact, and I have taken liberties and generalized many of the complexities that make these artists great, but I think in a more macro way these artist have all effected the atomic core of music in similarly impactful ways. Just as these eras are similar in that they hold a creative weight that is rare, these artist of the Sixties have gone onto influence guitar based musicians to come, much like I think these DJ’s will go on to influence electronic music producers for decades to come.
Bassnectar : Jerry Garcia
When looking back on the culture of music, or the culture of anything, it’s typical to point to certain specific figures to define a time, the igniters, the OG’s, the ones who tend to define a culture at its core values. While there are always several of these figures in an era (not to dismiss the Janis Joplins and Diplos), what Lorin Ashton has established with Bassnectar music holds as close as anything to what Jerry Garcia and the Dead did back in the late Sixties, which is ultimately the gold standard. Sure, there have been countless fan bases who have attached the word “head” to the end of their name since the Deadheads coined the term, but the Bassheads may be the only fan base that really compares. The King of Sound and the King of the Hippies, Ashton is really the Garcia of the EDM scene because the fans are the ones who tell the truth, and no one has as dedicated fans as either of them.
While the core similarity may be that these two artists are more culturally important, it shouldn’t be overlooked that both were/are very talented musicians. Garcia was in a multitude of different bands, and pooled his influences from country, blues and jazz to create a unique style of guitar playing for the time. In an Article from the Village Voice Richard Goldstein comments, “Together, the Grateful Dead sound like live thunder (Brackett 241),” and it speaks to how different they were from live bands of the time, essentially inventing the jam band. While Ashton’s music may differ in that it draws influence from his early days in metal bands, mixing heavier styles of music such as dub step, trap, hip-hop and break beat, it wouldn’t be out of line to refer to it as “live thunder.” In similar fashion, he is also known much more as a live artist, often coupling a production effort that is equally as powerful as his mash-ups, morphing through different phases often in a continuous pattern with no seeming end, much like the jams of Garcia and the Dead. He even spoke to this in a Rolling Stone article back in 2003, “I don’t honestly think I’ve created an album in maybe six or seven years. I more end up with collections: ‘Whoa, I’ve got 16 songs, that’s an album’ or ‘I’ve got five songs, that’s an EP.’ And it’s that right now because everything that I’m writing is end-goal for my live shows,” he said. “If I could just make music, play rad sets and put it up for free for listening, it’s just a lot more fun (rollingstone.com, 2003).”
Another similarity regarding their music, is that their commercial success pales in comparison to the success they both had as touring artists. Neither can boast much more than a couple top forty hits, yet both have always been able to stay in the highest demand when it comes to ticket sales. The Dead basically were on the “Endless Tour” from their start in 1965 to when Garcia died in 1995. Likewise, Ashton is still on a similar pace, a staple headliner for many festivals like Electric Forrest and EDC among others such as his own custom shows like Bassnectar 360 and Basscenter, drawing the kind of dedicated fans that travel multiple times a year to see him, if they don’t just follow him the whole tour. It could almost be attributed to the Deadheads that they started the festival scene which makes it hard to see them ever being dethroned, but the Bassheads are probably the most devoted of the EDM artist’s fans. Both boast an intense community where the entire experience is what has made their live shows the all-encompassing experience that has Garcia and Ashton have incorporated as part of their music.
While it may be distracting that these two artists have come to represent a culture of music so overwhelmingly it sometimes over shadows their talent, it can’t be lost that they have musically transformed the art of the live performance in such drastic fashion. It is because of their talent that they’ve brought in such droves of the kinds of fans that would arrange their whole lives around their tour, and that speaks for itself in a way that no critique can.
Brackett, David; The Pop, Rock, and Soul Reader: Histories and Debates; Dead Like Live Thrunder by Ralph J. Gleason; p.241
Baltin, Steve (April 17, 2013). Bassnectar on Remixing Black Sabbath and What’s Next for EDM. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/bassnectar-on-remixing-black-sabbath-and-whats-next-for-edm-174778/