Edward McMorrow’s attendance speaks to that. The 29-year-old has driven down from Connecticut because he likes Robinson and heard great things about Echostage. “It’s not like the pretentious bar scene with people grinding on each other,” McMorrow says. “It’s about dancing and embracing color and life. . . . It’s Haight-Ashbury for 2012, man.”
Appropriately, others in the crowd wear T-shirts that recycle flower power sentiments in Day-Glo fonts: “MAKE LOVE NOT WAR” and “DROP BEATS NOT BOMBS.” Women sport daisies in their hair (fake) and tattoos on their necks (real).
Jhoselinne Viscarra and Allisson Amaya, both 18, stroll into the club looking starry eyed, figuratively and literally. With constellations of sequins applied around their eye-shadow, they appear to have discovered Shangri-La off Bladensburg Road.
“Raving is supposed to be in a warehouse like this,” Amaya says. “This is amazing. Look at all these people!”
‘Making the music I enjoy’
Robinson is backstage trying to keep out of sight before showtime. He drove long hours to get to Echostage, too — from Chapel Hill, N.C., where he lives with his parents and would likely be a sophomore in college had he not started producing breakout electro-house tracks during his senior year of high school.
After nearly two years of nonstop touring, the producer-DJ says his desire to hunker down on new material caused him to cancel four months of tour dates. Except for this one. Glow hosted one of Robinson’s favorite performances at Fur nightclub on Patterson St. NE in February.
“Maybe my best show ever,” Robinson says of that gig. “I was able to play cool, weird stuff and people were still down and interested.”
He’s as sincere as his fans, which makes recent talk about EDM plateauing in 2012 feel hollow. But Robinson tries not to concern himself with that.
“I’m not interested in moving EDM forward,” he says. “I’m mostly interested in advancing my own music and trying to make the best songs that I can make. . . . If EDM goes down, I’m going to keep making the music I enjoy, regardless. I want to convince myself that I can outlast a crash.”
That kind of music-first attitude is exactly what an untested genre needs from its young leaders, anyway. Robinson wants more from his music, more from his peers, more from his audience. Whenever he plays his signature track, “Language,” he’s hoping for a deeper response.
“I’ll see people cry in the audience to that song,” he says. “And that’s so much more interesting to me than making someone just jump up and down.”
It’s hard to find any tears spilling when Robinson finally cues up “Language” from the stage. Instead, a young woman in cheetah-print jeggings sings along with the lyrics — “I need room to breathe” — before immediately disregarding them and smothering her dude in a lip lock.
Robinson’s music triggers all kinds of physical responses. He’s a moderate maximalist, grafting an arsenal of explosive, ocean-floor bass timbres to a taut, four-on-the-floor grid. Echostage does its part to amplify the sensory overload. With beams of violet light blasting out on the crowd, animated smoke plumes glow on an LED billboard behind the DJ booth while actual smoke plumes come pfff-ing from machines on stage.
During “The Seconds,” a song that whiplashes between icy ambience and avalanches of synthesizers, Robinson shadowboxes with the beat, grabbing at melodies in the air in front of him. Fans respond with their own gestures, throwing their arms toward the ceiling as if trying to catch his sounds, or maybe announcing their surrender to them.
In an hour or two, when the speakers go quiet and the lights go dim, they’ll all be throwing their arms back into their coat sleeves and heading off into the December chill. But not yet.
To read additional interview excerpts with Porter Robinson, visit the Style Blog.
Reggae artist jah Lude performs at Echostage on Dec. 31. Flux Pavilion, Doctor P, Cookie Monsta, Funtcase, Brown & Gammon, Nixsin and Glock perform on Jan. 1. Excision, Paper Diamond and Vaski perform on March 23.