It seems that lately the general trend with music festivals has been: bigger, flashier, more lights, flames, fireworks, costumes, dancers, confetti, lasers, LED panels, etc. Often times it feels like the main attraction has changed focus from the music to the stages, marketing, and overall spectacle of the event. All those aspects certainly hold an appropriate place in the live music world; they serve as a useful tool to transport fans into another universe and provide extra visual stimulation to complement the music. But at what point does it all become too much? Can you really have too many lights, lasers, and the like? Bassnectar’s two-night “gathering” in Atlanta, GA earlier this month seems to confirm that, yes, there is such a thing as too many visuals at live music events.
Bassnectar announced the Atlanta gathering earlier this year, in April. The Bassnectar team tried to maintain as much secrecy about the event as possible, revealing only a GPS drop pin on a map, and a short description about how the event would differ from other music events: “We are going back to our roots – the underground parties of the 1990s: one room, one floor, no seats, sweat dripping from the ceiling, secret location…” The goal was to put the focus on the music and the people, and remove attention from the artists and the stage.
Just days after Labor Day, thousands of Bassheads descended upon the secret location in Atlanta for the two-night gathering with Bassnectar, Hudson Mohawke, Lunice, Truth, Big Wild, Atliens, and Hustle Up. Although the event was not held in an actual warehouse (in 2016, the logistics of having an officially sanctioned event of this magnitude would make that quite difficult), it was clear that Bassnectar was trying to recreate the warehouse vibe of the old days.
As fans arrived at the location, they traveled down to the bottom floor of a dimly lit, wide open space. There were no gimmicks. No fireworks, costumes, dancers, or flames. Sure, there were lasers, lights, LED panels, and confetti, but all were used sparingly. Indeed, on the first night, Bassnectar played several songs with hardly any lighting at all for large swaths of time, occasionally illuminating a small array of lights to set the mood. At many points, there wasn’t much to see at all, but you could feel everything. With the focus on the environment and not the artist, the surroundings felt barebones and minimalistic, allowing the music to do the talking. A normal festival or concert is often tight and packed. This event felt looser; an emphasis on negative space with large open areas that echoed music off the walls and through your ears. The goal of the event was not to have a large group of people packed around a stage, but instead, a large group of people letting their senses run wild, roaming the dark space both physically and mentally—a paracosm.
Bassnectar is incredibly talented at creating a unique atmosphere for his events. It’s one of the reasons his fans remain so loyal and attend countless Bassnectar events across the country: each one is uniquely different. Much of this can be attributed to his obsession with sounds, samples, set and setting. He [thankfully] doesn’t spend much time on the mic, but when he does, Bassnectar is cool, calm, and collected. A stark difference from the crowd in front of him that is visibly going apeshit crazy for his performance. Basslanta is a quintessential example of Bassnectar’s passion for music, his fans, and being unique. It was a gathering that bucked the trend of bigger and flashier, and instead was an exhibit of how a properly balanced artistic event can foster a much more memorable experience.
Note: One of Bassnectar’s goals with this event was to maintain a sense of mystery, paying homage to the old days of underground parties that were secretive and revolved around the music, rather than the marketing. In writing this article, I wanted to highlight some of the positive aspects of the event, without revealing too much of the mystery. For the full experience, you should check out a Bassnectar event for yourself, if you haven’t already.