Long before there was alternative rock, there was an alternative to rock. A number of them, in fact, many of which found a home on dance floors before they ever hit the airwaves.
And in a lot of cases, it was a much better alternative. It's not hard to make a case for the chilled sound of Chic over its '70s yacht-rock counterparts, for the mutant funk of Cameo over the arena rock of the '80s, for the blurred beats of Underworld over the epic whine of '90s nu metal.
But the change of centuries brought with it a fragmentation in electronic music, one from which a unified movement has yet to fully emerge.
From M.I.A.'s postmodern hip-hop to the dubstep dementia of Skream and Spaceape, today's electronic dance innovators still lean heavily on the sounds and vision of their predecessors, be it Detroit techno, German krautrock, Jamaican dub or U.K. garage.
Still, what's really keeping DJs from London to Ibiza in business these days is a genre that was once shunned in mainstream music circles. Three decades ago, house music was largely the province of Chicago clubs whose DJs played everything from Loose Joints' "Is It All Over My Face" (no comment) to Steve "Silk" Hurley's "Jack Your Body" for predominantly gay and black audiences.
Much like disco a decade earlier, house music went on to find a popularity that its originators could hardly have imagined. It's just that, in the case of house, it took a lot longer and in the process spawned a seemingly infinite variety of subgenres.
"At the time I started producing 11 years ago, trance and disco-house were big in Germany," recalls Klaas, one of the headlining DJs at this coming Saturday's nine-hour Love Festival. "And when I started to learn DJing four years ago, right after my first successful release, the electro-house era had already started.
"House includes many different types of music, so it doesn't get boring," he adds. "Many house tracks are composed of pop, rock, trance, jazz or even classical elements. The only thing that stays the same over many years is the 4/4 bass drum."
Chris Lasoya, who's promoting the show with festival founder Reza Gerami, confirms the ongoing popularity of the jack that house built: "Trance music is still a big draw in Colorado, and that's why I have Christopher Lawrence. [See "Trance mission."] And you still have your thousand people that come for dubstep. But I think house has kind of taken over."
In addition to sets from Lawrence, Klaas and Gerami, the 16-act festival will include U.K. dubstep duo Nero, San Diego house DJ Donald Glaude and Philadelphia electronica artist Michael Myers.
Lasoya says the festival, which dates back to early '90s Los Angeles and bills itself as "America's Longest Running Dance Music Festival," is being brought to Colorado Springs rather than Denver because of the city's centralized location: "We're pulling people from Albuquerque to Fort Collins," he says of what could be the biggest electronic dance music event in the city's history. (Other 2010 Love Fests have taken place in Las Vegas and Hawaii, with another set for Los Angeles later this month.)
Although now based in Southern California, Lasoya has roots in Colorado Springs.
"I was actually in the military, stationed at Fort Carson, and lived on Austin Bluffs and Academy," says the promoter, whose Pureform Atmospheres production company helped bring the local scene above ground a decade ago, back when police here were cracking down on illegal raves. "I was always the kid in school that threw the parties in their backyard, and it's just something I kinda fell into."
So for Lasoya, Colorado's Love Festival will be a combination house party and homecoming.
"We used to do shows there at the City Auditorium," he says, "so I'm very familiar with the Springs and how things work there."