Identity Festival Puts One Foot In The Rave, The Other In The Mainstream


Louis DeLuca/Staff Photographer


Special Contributor

Published: 11 August 2012 06:07 PM

In a concert industry that revolves around name brands, electronic dance music spins at its own peculiar speed.

Who’s onstage? Who cares? It’s more about the experience than the musician.

As parties go, Friday’s second annual Identity Festival tour was hard to top, with thousands of sweat-stained teens and 20-somethings dancing nonstop around the lawn, seats and parking lots of Gexa Energy Pavilion. Bare-chested dudes, some in clown masks, hypnotized friends with glow gloves and glow nunchaku — glow sticks are so last century — while women sported bikini bottoms and furry neon leg warmers while rocking illuminated hula hoops. Late in the evening, a furious break-dance contest broke out in the crowd that rivaled the finale of Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.

Electronic music moved from the warehouse into the mainstream in the 1990s, but the Identity Festival still keeps one foot in the rave: Its all-general admission format added to the festive mood as fans moved constantly from the packed dance area by the main stage to the seating area and up to the amphitheater lawn, where there was more room to groove. A second large stage was planted in the parking lot, where the pulsating bass set off a daylong symphony of car alarms.

Doctor P, alias of British DJ Shaun Brockhurst, took the second stage at dusk and injected a dose of comedy into the event with campy videos of 1960s dancers and psychedelic armadillos. But humor was otherwise hard to find onstage. This was largely a festival full of dark synth loops, cold mechanical beats and the eerie sound of digital oscillators building to a crescendo.

Every now and again, a fleeting voice would emerge. Nero, the British duo that had inexplicably shrunk to a single member Friday, stirred up the crowd with its remix of Calvin Harris’ soul-pop song “Feel So Close.” Earlier, Swedish DJ Eric Prydz found the sweet spot between Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” and the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”

But most of the DJs stuck to instrumental music that was interchangeable in its thump-thump-thumpiness and its debt to Fatboy Slim. The overall goal seemed to stay as anonymous as possible, especially after sunset on the main stage, where Prydz and Wolfgang Gartner turned invisible amid the eye-scorching collage of 18 rectangular video screens.

It was a rude awakening for anyone hoping to see traditional rock stars, but not for concertgoers who realized the real show was in the crowd, not onstage.

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