Attendance numbers at electronic dance music festivals are staggering. According to the Las Vegas Sun, this year’s Electric Daisy Carnival welcomed 400,000 festivalgoers through its gates over its three-day stretch. Even for the seasoned EDM aficionado, however, there still is a genre within electronic dance music’s wide expanse of styles that is largely unfamiliar: drum & bass. Yet fans of this technically exact and skillfully produced genre pledge a lifelong allegiance to its aurally challenging sound that is unrivaled by any other EDM style. Even so, this doesn’t necessarily result in drum & bass being a wise financial avenue to walk down, at least not domestically.
Los Angeles ignores this fact entirely. The city boasts the most drum & bass ventures of any city in North America. There is the beloved weekly Respect, now in its 20th year; Insomniac’s heavyweight Bassrush for all bass music, whose Funktion arm focuses on drum & bass only; the sporadic but spunky Killahurtz; the irrepressible Timeless; the newly minted Red Mega Zebra; not to mention Control at Avalon and I Love L.A. and so many others. And there is Xcellerated, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary on Saturday, July 28. For all the promoters of these parties, it’s a labor of love and dedication.
“We’re the smallest drop in the EDM bucket — even if I hate to use that term,” says Jeremy Fitzgerald, the one-man operation behind Xcellerated. “We are a very niche culture.”
Fitzgerald, whose day job is general manager of Union Nightclub, where Xcellerated has made its home since February 2016 (prior to that it was at Los Globos), got pulled into the scene through the drum & bass stages at Insomniac raves in the early 2000s. It’s those very experiences that are motivating and inspiring Xcellerated. Says Fitzgerald, “It was such raw energy. No matter how small the stage was, it was represented and the culture was there.
“Two decades later, the culture, in my eyes, is disappearing,” he continues. “There is no drum & bass stage anymore. There is representation, but it’s mixed with trap, riddim, dubstep and played back-to-back while the sun is going down when people are still queued up to get in. The new generation coming in, they don’t know too much about drum & bass. I feel I have a job to do, introducing them to the founders of the scene, the record labels that created the sound, as well as bringing up the new talent by creating big lineups, keeping the ticket price cheap and keeping the doors open between the different rooms we have at Union so people can experience different brands.”
To mark Xcellerated's fifth anniversary, Fitzgerald is bringing five headliners representing five different subgenres within drum & bass’ multiple facets. Annix, who played at the very first Xcellerated, bring the jump-up vibes from the U.K., while Random Movement provides the liquid vibes from the United States — two of Fitzgerald’s favorite styles. Denmark’s Shield makes his Los Angeles debut with his half-time choices and minimal rollers. The U.K.’s Emperor also makes his Los Angeles debut with his hard-hitting and precise bangers. And Total Science bring the history of the genre to the present, representing as some of the most respected O.G.s of the scene.
“I try to think outside of the box,” Fitzgerald says. “I’m in Insomniac’s backyard here and not all the talent is available or affordable to me. I know realistically what the budget should be per room. I look at what people are doing internationally with their parties. I look at all the new talent that’s killing it out there. I bring them here for their U.S. debuts and put them up at my house. And I’m partnering with promoters like Innovation, who do Innovation in the Dam, doing Innovation in Los Angeles in August, and Invaderz from Belgium, doing Invaderz L.A. in October. I’m also going to be doing label nights, which will be announced soon.”
Fitzgerald is fully ensconced in the game. When he was initially approached about doing a drum & bass party, he resisted strongly, having had too many money-losing drum & bass experiences when he first stepped into the promoter side of things in the mid-2000s. But the nightclub business is in his blood. His stepfather, an airline pilot, provided him with the opportunity to travel and he did, experiencing nightlife across the world at a young age and getting hooked. His father was the owner of the renowned Century Club and partners with Studio 54’s Mark Fleischman. He placed Fitzgerald in the industry in the manager position for the club as soon as he graduated high school, and Fleischman mentored him.
All this has served Fitzgerald well. He won’t overextend his budget just to get a big name. With the choice of many different rooms and capacities at Union, he can move Xcellerated from the large room upstairs to one of the smaller rooms downstairs depending on the lineup. If there are no tours or free dates on a certain month, or if a big festival is happening, he’ll skip a month but then have a couple of Xcellerated events in a different month if the opportunity presents itself. Union’s late license allows him to book more talent and also to host a lot of local DJs in the other spaces of the club.
Says Fitzgerald, “I get hit up by promoters in Europe who see my lineups and ask how many people I get, I say, ‘Anywhere from three to nine.’ And they say, ‘We do 3,000 to 9,000 too.’ And I say, ‘No sir, 300 to 900.’
“But I’m getting there,” he continues. “I’m proud of what I’m doing. I have a true love for this music. It’s a passion. It’s a curse. It’s a drug. I just want to make sure these parties are bitching and the culture is represented to its fullest.”
Xcellerated’s Five-Year Anniversary Event with Annix, Emperor, Random Movement, Shield, Total Science takes place at Union on Saturday, July 28; tickets and more info here.