Dance music is all the rage these days. That time you thought giant robots were battling at your recent family reunion? Nope, that was just your 12-year-old niece listening to dubstep.
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But not all electronic dance music was created equal. There's EDM, which, you aging out-of-touch rockist, stands for electronic dance music. Nowadays often associated with giant clubs and festivals full of pacifier-toting ravers who wear electrical tape on their boobs, it's not always the most contemplative or adventurous music. That's more the domain of L.A.'s beat scene, which happens in smaller clubs before folks who wouldn't want you to call them hipsters.
Confused? Peep our illustrated guide, below.
EDM: With relentless builds and drops fused into a sonically aggressive foundation of beats and beeps that play like a soundtrack to intergalactic warfare, some critics have labeled mainstream EDM a cheap thrill. It is thrilling though. Especially in a live show context when one is fist-pumping along with thousands of other fans and soaking in the vibrations of deep bass whomp that one can't help but feel in their core. Acts like Swedish House Mafia and Avicii whip up the same frenzy with a more pop-oriented sound based on huge hooks, singalong lyrics and samples from other artists in and beyond the genre. Herd mentality, perhaps. Group ecstatic experience, quite often.
The Beat Scene: The beat scene cultivates experimental soundscapes more focused on expertly and unusually arranged syncopated beats and samples that are often rooted in hip hop. The sound is typically subtler and less in your face than that of EDM, (think art school vs frat house), although big bass beats play a major role in the output of this art for artists salon-style community of producers.
The Beat Scene: Flying Lotus
Love or hate him, (we kinda love him), Skrillex shifted the electro game by bringing dubstep to the masses, and was nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy in the process. He leads the youth brigade of ultra-loud DJ/producers including Zedd, Knife Party and Tommy Trash. Flying Lotus is a beat scene hero on the power of lush, sophisticated compositions that engage brains without blowing ear drums.
The Beat Scene: Low End Theory
With residents including Daddy Kev, FlyLo, Gaslamp Killer, Nobody and D-Styles, Wednesday nights at Low End are a weekly ritual that beat scene devotees speak of with religious conviction. Club nights Control and Avaland at the Avalon feature EDM up-and-comers who often graduate to gigs at the higher capacity Hollywood Palladium after they blow up.
Below: But, what do they wear?
EDM: For ladies: short jorts, shorter skirts, bra and panty sets, rainbow wigs, sequins, tutus, furry boots, breasts decked out in almost nothing and neon anything. For dudes: board shorts, neon knock-off Ray Bans, v-neck t-shirts with verbiage like “I like my girls how I like my dubstep,” or no shirts at all. Glowsticks for everyone.
The Beat Scene: For dudes: pristine hightops, fresh to death jeans, flat brim hats, and high-end hoodies. For girls: high waisted pants, red lips, anything from Reformation.
See also: Top Five Girls Who Look Like Skrillex
EDM: 18+ kids from the Inland Empire
The Beat Scene: College kids from the Inland Empire and their older brothers and sisters who live in the nearest metropolitan area.
If you want to feel old, go to an Avicii show or hang out in the electronic tent at Coachella for a few hours. EDM is a youth movement, while the beat scene tends to skew a bit older as a function of its more underground, city-centralized nature.
Below: But, what drugs do they use?
Drug of Choice
EDM: Ecstasy and vodka Red Bulls
The Beat Scene: Molly and weed
EDM: 130, relentlessly
The Beat Scene: 130, then 68, then 128, then 92, then 110, 130 again.
Train of thought while listening:
EDM: Loud, oh my God this is so loud, aggressive, really sweaty, build, drop, fist pump, DANCE!
Beat Scene: Loud, but then not as loud, menacing, but then kind of pretty, drop, bob head with my eyes closed, DANCE!
Festival of Choice
EDM: Electric Daisy Carnival
The Beat Scene: Decibel
See also: EDC 2013 Dates Announced
Both festivals are full-on electro buffets, with EDC pulling in the biggest names on the international circuit for three days of dirty dancing in the desert. Seattle's Decibel festival delves deep into the roots of electro scenes including Detroit House, drum and bass, minimalist techno and more, pulling in respected old school legends and underground up and comers alike.
Below: But, who are their favorite ladies?
EDM: Audrey Napoleon
The Beat Scene: Tokimonsta
Toki is a Low End staple, while Napoleon graduated from a waitressing job at Geisha House to gigs at Avalon to a spot on the billing of this year's IDentity Festival.
The Beat Scene: Daedelus
A man in a three piece suit typically works no matter what kind of music he's playing. (Honorable mention to Dillon Francis).
EDM: Fatboy Slim, You've Come a Long Way Baby
The Beat Scene: J Dilla, Donuts
Dilla's 2006 instrumental hip hop album Donuts, (released three days before his death), provided deep beat inspiration for a generation of producers. Old school rave fav Fatboy Slim was one of EDM's first crossover successes when 1998's “Praise You” scored major MTV play.
Non-EDM Musician Friend
EDM: Usher, Rihanna, Madonna
The Beat Scene: Thom Yorke
Low End Theory's Twitter feed exploded when the Radiohead frontman DJ'ed a set there in March, 2011. Yorke also appeared on Flying Lotus's last two albums. Meanwhile, big name pop stars have gotten in on the EDM glory via collaborations with David Guetta, Calvin Harris and Avicii.
Below: But, where do they go on vacation?
The Beat Scene: Japan
The fabled Spanish dance island is a standard tour stop for EDM artists, with Skrillex being credited with introducing dubstep to the beautiful people beach mecca. Beat scene guys venture further east with Low End Theory's quarterly events in Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo and Himeji.
Blog of Choice
EDM: Dancing Astronaut
The Beat Scene: Resident Advisor
Dancing Astronaut headlines are dominated by names like Afrojack, Nervo, Rusko and Fedde le Grand. Resident Advisor digs deeper with news on Luke Hess, Bee Mask, Tin Man and other artists most people have never heard of.
EDM: 1,000 LED panels, a DJ booth raised 20 feet in the air and shaped like a flying saucer, fake smoke, two hours worth of cutting edge projection mapping, and probably some lasers
The Beat Scene: Sturdy table, Macbook Pro