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 couple hundred people gathered at the TLA for L.A.-based dubstep musician Mimosa’s concert last Wednesday are like vultures swarming carrion. Their actions appear natural, biological, organic. They’re hungry.

A more precious simile: They’re like tiny kittens cuddling up to their mother’s furry gut for warmth. The way they converge in front of Mimosa’s DJ booth—a fortress-like arrangement of digital screens displaying spiraling colors, patterns and shapes—in one massive, powerful circle of collective energy is instinctual; they’re pumping their fists, yawping, swinging uncontrollably, bouncing off each other’s sweaty, convulsing, sub-bass-controlled bodies while piercing laser-beams zip inches above their bobbing heads.

“I want one of those,” an ecstatic man says, pointing to a flailing dude wearing a jacket with dozens of dangling neon green, yellow and orange glow sticks that flop around like jellyfish tentacles, vibrating manically along with each bass blast. They sync up perfectly with the radiant yellow hula hoop spinning around the waist and arms of the spandex-wrapped and entranced girl with whom he’s dancing.

Everyone’s dancing. Some not very well—they look like Elaine from Seinfeld, stiff and awkwardly poking about. But that doesn’t matter. No one here’s judging anyone else. Each person’s happily doing their own thing, and everyone’s doing it together—bouncing differently to the same booming, pounding, shifting drum.

When Mimosa—raging behind a Macbook, his faux-hawk whipping around like a rabid squirrel’s tail—squashes the sonic tension he’s so carefully built by unleashing a hard-as-nails, low-end accompanied beat, the whole damn club goes next-level bonkers. (see photo slideshow at philadelphiaweekly.com) “There’s so much amazing fucking energy in here,” yells a wild girl to the ceiling, eyes closed. She’s not talking to anyone in particular—she’s addressing the night itself, hollering the vibe.

Dubstep, a form of electronic dance music (EDM) that emerged in London in the early 2000s in underground clubs like Forward, with artists such as Skream and Benga leading the pack, is blowing up across the United States. According to the October cover of the typically rock band-toting music magazine Spin, contemporary dubstep and electronic dance music artists like Skrillex, Justice and Tiësto are victoriously leading “the new rave generation.”

Last week, following a sold-out Skrillex concert at the First Bank Center in Denver, in an article titled “Skrillex Helps Power Dubstep Deeper Into America’s Heartland,” the Chicago Sun Times wrote, “After umpteen previous declarations that various forms of electronic dance music were poised for a takeover of the nation’s popular tastes, 2011 has been the year it finally happened on a wider scale.”

When we look back at the past from the comfort of our spaceship-homes in the future, will 2011 be the year dubstep broke?

In Philly, evermore, the answer seems to be a resounding yes.

Yup. Philly, the city that’s prided itself for so long on the straight-ahead rock ’n’ roll sound of Bruce Springsteen. Philly, the town that never met a Grateful Dead ticket it didn’t buy. Philly, the city where John Coltrane found his lungs. Philly, the birthplace of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s orchestral soul.

Call it the New Sound of Philadelphia: Dubstep. It’s varied. It’s loud. It’s violent. It’s youthful. It’s drug-fueled. It’s fast as fuck—140 beats per minute, typically.

Philly loves the stuff.

For those who missed out on the rave scene in the mid-to-late-1990s, it’s happening again, and it’s happening here in Philadelphia in a major way.

“I was a fan the first time around,” says Philadelphian Todd Rodeghiero about the electronic music scene of the ’90s. “But this time it’s already much, much bigger.”

Along with partner Mark Marek, Rodeghiero launched Trckd Media Group/AOE in 2010. They’ve since organized some of the larger dubstep and electronic events around Philadelphia, throwing ragers at venues like the Starlight Ballroom, Susquehanna Bank Center and the TLA.

The national dubstep craze is in full-swing, with significantly more tours stopping by Philadelphia (see tagline), and the local scene’s been slowly evolving over the last decade. Diplo and Low B’s Hollertronix events at the Eukie put the city on the map in the early 2000s, and Diplo’s annual Mad Decent Block Parties have undoubtedly contributed to local concert-goers’ increased interest in all things dubstep and dance.

In its earliest manifestations, the dubstep sound was atmospheric and gloomy. It’s hauntingly slow beats, pulverizing bass and echoing wobbles were chilling. But the chills didn’t provoke just heady existential suspense and tension, but also dancing.

In a 2010 Guardian article, “Grime and Dubstep: A Noise You Could Believe In,” music writer Simon Reynolds argues it was partly its “relationship to the real” that made dubstep (and its close, but more aggressive, rawer and hip-hop-oriented relative, grime) more than just humdrum dance music. By this, Reynolds seems to mean the music spoke for some sort of late-capitalist frustration and alienation—a loss of hope—brewing in London at the time. It captured the darker, semi-dystopic moods of the young generation. But, as Reynolds argues, dubstep’s menacing promise never truly materialized. Instead, the sluggish, eery beats fostered a more contemplative spirit, as opposed to an active or cathartic force . There was certainly rage, but it remained cloaked beneath blankets of ghostly beats and towering bass.

The opposite’s the case for the so-called dubsteppers who’ve recently captured the attention of audiences in the U.S. Far from contemplative, artists like Skrillex have more in common with 1980s hair-metal bands Poison and Guns N’ Roses than Burial (one of the dubstep artists from those early London days who exemplified the genre’s minimal, downtempo sound).

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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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