Dubstep Poised to Take Philly's Music Throne

By Elliott Sharp
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 33 | Posted Nov. 16, 2011

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The crowd reacts to Mimosa at the TLA.

Mimosa, whose TLA concert last Wednesday was presented by Trckd, agrees. “These shows are more appealing to younger people,” he says lounging in his tour bus a few hours before shaking the stage. “This is aggressive music, so it’s a good way to release tension.”

When Mimosa speaks of aggressive dubstep, though, he’s talking more about Skrillex than he is himself. His music, like on his recent LP, Sanctuary , is much more ambient, psychedlic and intricate. As his TLA set proved, it’s every bit as cathartic, but Mimosa’s more devoted to atmospheric builds that avoid bashing while still bumping.

“The production levels of this music have created a hyper-interactive experience for fans,” says Evan Weinstein, a founding partner of Steez Promo, which organizes dubstep concerts up and down the east coast. “Rock music got stale ... It’s just a few guys playing, and maybe a banner with the band name on it behind them.”

“The popularity started to grow,” he continues, “when we started placing more emphasis on stage design and production. We tried to create a stronger visual appearance with lights, walls of subwoofers, multiple video screens, custom DJ booths, lasers, and so on. It’s increased across the board—bigger numbers, bigger venues, bigger production. Everything’s going in the direction of dance music right now. It’s this music’s time.”

This Thursday night, at the TLA, Steez presents a headlining performance by Steve Aoki, a California-based electro-house DJ who’s had a huge impact on dance music’s recent rise.

In the late 1990s, Aoki founded Dim Mak Records, which has since dropped acclaimed albums by leading EDM figures such as MSTRKRFT and Tiësto, as well as indie-rockers with electro cross-over appeal, like Bloc Party and the Kills. Known for his insane, over-the-top live shows, Aoki’s also a party promoter, and his second annual Pacific Fest brought more than 50 EDM-centric acts to Silverado, Calif., in August. In Washington, D.C. on Nov. 26, Steez pulls off their biggest event yet—the Fall Massive.

“It began with an idea,” says a scary, quasi-totalitarian voice streaming on the Fall Massive website. “An idea that we will all be united under one culture. An idea that people from all walks of life will form a single unit ... this vision is massive.” Across multiple, interconnected tents and five stages in a lot at RFK Stadium, and with a maximum capacity of 15,000, Massive’s bringing together well over 50 artists representing a diverse range of the EDM scene—from London dubstep OGs Skream and Benga to Moby and Diplo.

The new dubstep scene has several key players, but chilling at the apex is Skrillex (whose Baltimore and varous Virginia performances were also booked by Steez). He’s harnessing both the aggression and larger-than-life stage-production that exemplifies the scene’s maximalist ethos, and, as a result, he’s become a spokesman for dubstep’s American invasion.

The former frontman of screamo band From First to Last, the 23-year-old approaches it from a rock ’n’ roller’s perspective. He’s managing to take the rage and grandiosity that contemporary popular rock music once had but now lacks, and translate it into the wobbly, grinding, sub bass language of dubstep. One track from his breakout album, released in 2010 on Canadian DJ Deadmau5’s label, Scary Monsters & Nice Sprites, is called “Rock ’N’ Roll (Will Take You To The Mountain).” That’s exactly what his live performances do. Well, that’s really only half of it—Skrillex takes you to the mountain, then he takes you much higher, and then he blasts you, like a fucking missile, out into space.

His music hits hard , like a sledgehammer to the dome—moshpits formed at the Electric Factory stop on his recent Mothership Tour. And his stage-production’s unlike anything anyone’s ever seen. Using a body motion suit, sensors pick up his frenzied moves from behind the DJ booth and are then visualized through a towering, 20-foot-tall DJ projected on a huge video screen behind him. It’s as if he’s a god-like monster/alien/robot leading the most epic party in the history of mankind, except the party’s on a planet nobody’s ever been to before. Call it Planet Skrillex.

He’s definitely introduced a stadium-rock mentality to dubstep, but the dude’s onto something. People needed something new that was big, loud, fast and mean, and Skrillex has provided it. He’s captured the hearts and minds of an undeniably large segment of young concert-goers, and the consequence is a major alteration of the fundamental principles of dubstep music. His version doesn’t have a “relationship to the real,” as Reynolds argues London’s early music did, but has more of a relationship to the unreal , and to the maximalist spectacle , and to the aggressive desires of mainstream audiences .

“A few hundred people might be bitching on a message board,” Skrillex says in a recent interview with Rolling Stone about purists and naysayers who accuse him of destroying the original version of dubstep. “But you can go to a festival and find 100,000 people dancing to my music. No one gives a fuck.”

One of the sets at this year’s fourth annual Mad Decent Block Party was Luvstep, the DJ team of Philadelphians Flufftronix and Dirty South Joe. Like the new breed, their production deviates from the sacred dubstep mold, but in a much mellower, smoother, chillwave and indie-inspired way. Flufftronix, a Philadelphia resident since 2008, has also hosted events in Philly under the Rad Summer banner, bringing many big artists from the London scene (e.g., Benga, Joker and Ikonika) for their first local appearances. His monthly event, PHLTH, features local artists throwing down sets packed with everything from dubstep and grime to hip-hop and electro-house.

These dubstep deviations and variations, like Starkey and Dev79’s Street Bass, are typical in Philly’s scene, one that’s not easily defined.

Last Friday, for instance, in a sweaty warehouse near the York-Dauphin subway stop in Kensington, a couple hundred people cram in for some Street Bass action at a party called Dubmasters II. Hitting the stage around 2 a.m., Dev79 destroys a set of original music and bangers by Seclusiasis artists Kastle and Siyoung. It’s nothing—nothing—like a Skrillex show. It’s classic DIY Philly shit, nothing like the dubstep exploding elsewhere around Philly and the rest of the country.

“You’re gonna get an education at Dubmasters II,” Dev79 says about the somewhat academic survey of the music’s history he sneaks into his live sets. “DJs gotta make the party pop off, but they should also bring some knowledge to the table. Many people now are playing this homogenized, dumbed-down version of dubstep, and it’s not doing anything positive for this scene’s culture.”

“It’s been crazy to see dubstep go so far,” Mimosa says about the music’s recent nationwide popularity. “Nobody expected it would reach the heights it has. The parties are much bigger, and we’re able to bring more people together for a unified experience ... there’s a very special moment that happens where all these lights are going along with the music, everyone is dancing in the same motion, and it all feels like one living, breathing thing.”

The “unified experience” Mimosa speaks of is what the new dubstep scene’s all about, and it’s another critical reason kids are flocking to the raucous parties.

Starkey attended Skillex’s sold-out Electric Factory show, and while his music differs wildly from the current king’s, he knows he bore witness to a special kind of spectacle.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 33 of 33
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1. Anonymous said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 11:12AM

“nice! although anyone who really knows the scene will tell you that flufftronix and his parties are a tiny almost non-existant blip on the philly radar. there are plenty of other producers/djs/promoters that are worth mentioning in this article that are doing big things in philly that deserve the recognition.”

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2. moonchild215 said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 01:46PM

“plenty more dja and producers in philly..moonchild,unicron,ruxbin,dr.ew..and many more...if you are going to write an article on philly dubstep then talk to the ones who are doin the weeklys and other event on the regular...please if you are going to write about the philly dubstep scene..please talk to the ones who are on there grind everyday!!”

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3. Anonymous said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 01:59PM

“Not really. As far as relevant producers making waves in the Philly dubstep scene AND BEYOND into the greater world of dubstep, I think this article is right on point with the people that were mentioned.”

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4. JackDeezl said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 02:11PM

“Though I do agree with moonchild that there were a few people left out of the article that should've been mentioned, overall I think PW did a great job of highlighting our scene for people that aren't well acquainted with it. It feels great to see that we're being noticed.
Would've been great to see a shoutout to the dudes that are throwing all the underground stuff like DubMasters II (Ruxbin, Shane SixTen, BHB, TheNewPhiladelphia, etc.)
Still though, great to see our scene getting noticed. And if you wanna check out some great up and coming producers/DJs that are helping this scene grow...
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Actual-Records/142941169055703
http://www.facebook.com/IAMBHB
http://www.facebook.com/drewdoctor
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Speaker-for-the-Dead/105864099433656
http://soundcloud.com/agentzero
http://facebook.com/jackdeezl ;)”

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5. D$J said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 03:03PM

“To the obviously asshurt commenter reflecting on Flufftronix' contribution to Philly's dub-step scene -
The only people bringing dub step to Philly pre-his moving here were the Seclusiasis crew. While Flufftronix may not be as active a "dub step promoter" in this post-Skrillex TV commercial era that we're experiencing now, his vision and bookings definitely held this city down (along with the aforementioned Seclusiasis bols) for years, before dub step became synonymous with Hot Topic.
Combined with the fact that our Luvstep project has been heard by millions of people worldwide, and is now considered a commercial and viable sub-genre within the movement...it should leave absolutely no question that he is very worthy of being mentioned in this article.

Big up Starkey and Dev 79 for sticking to their guns, and finally getting some well deserved shine!

Big up everyone in Philadelphia, pushing, promoting and producing new and exciting music in all genres and arenas!

<3 Dirty South Joe”

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6. Anonymous said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 03:03PM

“The only people missing from this article I would have liked to have seen mentioned are Krueger and Copout.. they've not been recognized in Philly so much, but -have- attracted international attention, with releases on influential French and Belgian labels in the past couple months—look em up!

As for as the DJs/producers mentioned in the comments: do something that matters outside your circle, outside your Facebook friends, outside Philly. Then maybe you'll be recognized?

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7. Anonymous said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 03:19PM

“"As for as the DJs/producers mentioned in the comments: do something that matters outside your circle, outside your Facebook friends, outside Philly. Then maybe you'll be recognized?" <------ BINGO”

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8. Anonymous said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 03:29PM

“umm...isn't this article about PHILLY? let's not turn this into a pissing contest, but as someone who actually GOES to these parties and knows these people i'd say pretty much everyone mentioned has made an impact. the scene is flourishing, the genre is growing...thanks to everyone who throws a party and spins the tracks. more articles will be written, everyone has a chance to get some shine.”

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9. Anonymous said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 03:38PM

“I think the point of the article is who is taking over the throne in Philly. And lets keep it real. The Luvstep movement does not sell a significant amount of records/downloads or concert tickets. Nobody goes to the releases in Philly. You aren't going to take the crown with Luvstep. Its not that significant by any means. I agree the mixes are cool to listen to occasionally. But lets keep it real.”

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10. Michael / Flufftronix said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 03:45PM

“Thanks for the shout! Without Mad Decent and Seclusiasis, ALL of Philly would be a blip on the map globally in terms of bass music. I'm always grateful to be thought of as a peer to these folks.”

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11. Anonymous said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 03:53PM

“I think all of the producers/DJs/promoters mentioned in this article are respected the most in Philly because they think and do bigger than Philly. Who really wants to be the coolest dubstep DJ... in Philly? You gotta think bigger or you're fighting for scraps.”

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12. dropthabass said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 04:52PM

“just wanna give a shout out to my boy architekt. hes a sick rising producer/dj coming up in the philly scene! im a regular at the underground north philly basement dubstep partys and im absolutely inlove with the feeling that comes with this music so im not misleading you when i say check out i am the architekt on youtube! dirty as h*ll”

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13. Anonymous said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 05:19PM

“philly lacks hard in quality bass music and quality sound systems to handle good bass music.. anyone who is in it knows this. we get a solid act from time to time but philly gets looked over. As for the local scene.. very lacking and mostly same people all the time. get it together philly.. your electronic scene BLOWS!”

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14. Anonymous said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 06:16PM

“Dubstep is THE WORST. I'm so fucking tired of hearing about it. Ahhhhh”

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15. Bryon said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 06:21PM

“Dev79, Starkey and that crew have been doing this before anyone. They are the true Philly Pioneers.”

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16. Anonymous said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 06:24PM

“The Philly dance scene is so FUCKED it's not even funny. We have commercial tech house DJs playing the biggest clubs and HORRIBLE dubstep at the big concert events. I've heard several (quality) house and progressive DJs that are big names say they won't even think about coming to Philly because their music is so unrecognized here. All the best parties with quality music seem to be underground at small venues. It's easy to pack those. Try bringing someone like Jody Wisternoff (who has a huge following worldwide) here and I doubt more than 20 people would show up. Unfortunately, it's all about who you know and the shittiest local djs here know everyone and monopolize the big events. Things MUST change.”

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17. yo!karate said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 06:47PM

“As a relative newcomer to the Philly dubstep/street bass movement I can attest that the scene is on the verge of an explosion...once the scene produces a Viable dj/MC/producer that can expand the already growing scene (and it WILL happen soon) philly could poise itself as one of the meccas for dubstep/street bass....as long as the aforementioned djs/MC/producers don't tear each other apart @ 140bpms


As always

F*ck the world...Save the Club Kids. Ayo!

www.Letsplaykarati.wordpress.com/music”

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18. yo!karate said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 06:47PM

“As a relative newcomer to the Philly dubstep/street bass movement I can attest that the scene is on the verge of an explosion...once the scene produces a Viable dj/MC/producer that can expand the already growing scene (and it WILL happen soon) philly could poise itself as one of the meccas for dubstep/street bass....as long as the aforementioned djs/MC/producers don't tear each other apart @ 140bpms


As always

F*ck the world...Save the Club Kids. Ayo!

www.Letsplaykarati.wordpress.com/music”

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19. Anonymous said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 07:15PM

“www.soundcloud.com/koldfront
Philly Label with upcoming releases from Nightwalker, Genr8, EndBoss and more gangsta ishhhh!

check one!”

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20. Anonymous said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 08:51PM

“mehh this article is pretty weak; no real mention of the local djs who are putting in work and throwing the legit events

also the big parties mentioned aren't that great, just a bunch of amateurs running around on methcathinone

and since when is steve aoki dubstep?”

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21. adam said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 09:39PM

“Sadly, the only dubstep that comes through philly is the popular brostep which is god awful to those of us who really love innovative, forward thinking bass music. Case in point, 40 people showing up to see the mother of dubstep Mary Anne Hobbs spin at silk city. Would love to see bookings similar to her and Joker a few years back. These back to back shows of Borgore/skrillex/flux pav, etc is just not cutting it for those of us who know what is going on.

This isn't to hate on the philly crew as they have been doing their thing and in the end, they need to make a dollar too. But serving to the lowest common dominator gets old for those of us looking for some legit bass music.”

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22. dr. ew said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 09:39PM

“big ups to Starkey and Dev79 !! also mad love for the article extolling how different the Philly dubstep scene is.”

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23. Dregster said... on Nov 17, 2011 at 06:23AM

“Oh please, stop it. Dub step, Thug step, Bro step, and the like, are all fads. And terribly boring fads at that. It's dance music for people that can't dance. For people that would rather document a party than experience it. The kind of people that take video of... dj's... on their cell phones. Absolutely lame. What has happened is a large part of philadelphia, mostly new jersey, and the youth have forgotten how to actually enjoy a dance party. Aka, lost it's soul. That's the real story here. Seriously, Korn has done an album with skrillex... since when has Korn ever been on the cutting edge of anything? Yes they were large, but definitely not on the tasteful/progressive side of anything. Well, actually, they were responsible for inspiring a wave of terribly tasteless easily forgettable music along the lines of limp bizkit and slipknot. Way to go dub step, you are the nu metal of the 21st century. Please.

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24. DZA said... on Nov 17, 2011 at 07:52AM

“Articles like this always bring out the haters en masse. It's cute. Stay classy.”

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25. Anonymous said... on Nov 17, 2011 at 09:10AM

“Dregster is obviously someones mom who is upset”

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26. Booskie said... on Nov 17, 2011 at 02:28PM

“Dubstep is proof that any tard can play around in a music software program and call the dump they create "music."”

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27. Agent Zero said... on Nov 17, 2011 at 04:38PM

“Love to see you try Booksie.”

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28. Anonymous said... on Nov 17, 2011 at 11:41PM

“hmmm thats funny, the scumbag/white trash capital of the US is now obsessed w/ dubstep....didnt see that coming”

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29. ? said... on Nov 18, 2011 at 05:16PM

“dont forget DJ SUGA SHAY AKA THE DUBSTEP DIVA”

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30. Tom Seraph said... on Nov 19, 2011 at 01:18PM

“Dubstep WAS my favorite band but man, DUB SET is that hot new ish!!! Check out their new Justin Bieber Skrillex remix!!!”

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31. the ecstatic man said... on Nov 21, 2011 at 04:14AM

“Yesssss, totally got quoted.

On a less-ecstatic note, calling MiM0SA "dubstep" is like calling Mozart "some guy on the piano". That genre is out of control, and I'm very disappointed that a music journalist has fallen for the meme that dubstep has become.

On a more-ecstatic note, MiM0SA fuckin' THREW DOWN.
There was no possible better use for that $12...
If you are a true electronic-music enthusiast, you must see him.
And do it soon before his ticket prices double.”

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32. The Realest Dubstep Head said... on Nov 25, 2011 at 02:15PM

“I'm really trying to figure out why Khadafi Dub is not mentioned at all. Every big name artist or all the biggest shows in Philly i see his name is on every flyer.

Also nobody can argue that Dubstep Mix, Global Warming Promo, and Steez Promo bring all the biggest shows to Philadelphia. In regards to Dubstep in Philadelphia these are the people bringing the most people out and pushing the genre to the next level.

I don't think anybody can present an arguement to go against this! If u do your prob high on something or stuck on stupid.”

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33. Anonymous said... on Mar 1, 2012 at 05:50PM

“Check out Xaler. This new star on the rise will be playing a show with Steve Aoki in Philly this summer.
"LIKE" him on facebook for free downloads and more!
http://www.facebook.com/weneedtoxaler”

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