Curated and headlined by Kaskade, a popular American house DJ, the Identity Festival is a package concert tour stuffed with artists performing nothing but electronic dance music — or EDM. The bill spanned three outdoor stages and featured more than two dozen acts, including Rusko, DJ Shadow, Steve Aoki and the Crystal Method.
We’ve seen these sort of multi-act barnstorming tours in other genres before. The Country Throwdown tour recently celebrated two years on the road, while the Warped Tour has mustered America’s punk rock troupes every summer since 1995.
But this is the inaugural tour for Identity, and it comes at a time when EDM may have finally eclipsed its own heyday: the “electronica” boom of the late ’90s that brought us Moby, the Prodigy, the Chemical Brothers and other crossover artists.
For a new generation seeking communion, this was a chance to hear 21st-century music at deafening 21st-century volumes, surrounded by your 21st-century tribe. It was more about the people than the performances.
Fans danced with abandon in various states of over- and underdress. Overdressed: the woman wearing the Optimus Prime helmet as she did the robot in the punishing August sun. Underdressed: girls wearing nothing but face paint, their underwear and leg warmers made of Muppet pelt.
The day’s defining set came from Rusko, the British dubstep producer, who barely touched his mixer during his 80-plus minutes on stage. Instead, he punched the air and flapped his arms, as if trying to flag down an airplane.
As electronic drums chattered, bass lines churned like wet cement before exploding into hyperventilating cadences. Like so much great heavy metal before it, it was idiotic and immersive and impossible to dislike.
Even the uninitiated would have recognized dubstep’s wobbling bass lines from recent tracks by Jay-Z, Kanye West and Britney Spears, all of whom have flirted with the outsize sound lately.
But Rusko ended his set on a much more subdued note, spinning a lilting tune from reggae singer Pato Banton. It was a casual nod to dubstep’s roots. The genre first emerged in London years ago, stemming from the elegant, cavernous bass of dub reggae.
Nowadays, dubstep sounds like the information age belching — as evidenced by an afternoon set from Datsik, a Canadian DJ who served up a slurry of growling bass, gunshot sounds, hip-hop chants, video game bleeps, even the “Inspector Gadget” theme song.
As black beachballs bounced across the crowd like flotsam from some dystopian spring break, a shirtless man waved an eight-foot PVC pipe bristling with little glow sticks, all arranged to look like luminescent cactus quills.