Dropping a beat on dubstep culture

By Madeline Savoie


A long line of people begins to form outside of the Congress Theater. Taking over the theatre this evening is The Mothership Tour, featuring dubstep artists Skrillex, 12th Planet, Two Fresh, and Nadastorm. Around 6:30 p.m. the doors open and the line begins to slowly shuffle into the theater as each individual goes through a quick search before being allowed entrance to the venue. The old fashioned ballroom, now used as a concert venue begins to fill mostly with 17+ teenagers, young twenty year olds, and a scattering of those 30 and up. A few under 21 year olds get caught by security when trying to buy some drinks, but other than that the atmosphere is quiet except for a soft buzz of noise acting as the calm before the storm.


The dubstep concert begins. The wobbling bass line turns the crowd into a pulsating wave of tightly packed sweaty bodies; all regard for personal space is quickly forgotten. The variety of ages does not stop the crowd from unifying to enjoy the atmosphere the music creates, enhanced for some by the use of drugs and alcohol, and all are thrashing about to the beat. For anyone new to the dubstep genre, this atmosphere could be overwhelmingly abrasive, but for the avid listener, it is only a part of the dubstep scene.

Skrillex, stage name for 23 year old Sonny Moore, is known for his dubstep remixes and technology filled light shows which accompany his music at concerts. The computer technology lighting he adds to his shows is triggering notions that dubstep is a part of an almost rave- like experience.

For some like Andre Garcia, Div. 276, this atmosphere only increases the attraction to the music. Garcia says that embracing the rave-like atmosphere is the most essential component of the dubstep experience. Garcia himself is lead singer of the metal/hardcore band, Beyond the Rapture, so is no stranger to music some shy away from.

“There are a lot of people who say they love dubstep and really only know about Skrillex,” Garcia said. “They probably don’t even go out to the raves and really experience what dubstep is actually about.”

Owen Jones, Div. 277. Jones, also a musician himself, playing as a drummer in the alternative rock band Give Back, has been interested in dubstep since it first became popular in America a few years back. Due to his knowledge of the origins of dubstep he agrees with Garcia’s comment that Skrillex is often considered the only form of dubstep by fans who have recently jumped on the bandwagon.

Jones says Dubstep originally started out as a chill, relaxed kind of music with simple drum and bass combos but artists like Skrillex and Deadmau5 have turned it into an almost heavy metal like genre. Jones, a self proclaimed lover of all music, enjoys the newer branch of the dubstep genre for what it is, but humorously relates the more modern sounds of Skrillex to that of, “vomiting sounds,”in the most appreciative way.

“As dubstep became more mainstream, producers mixed it with more party music,” Jones said.

An article from the New York Times, of 2008 ,called Evolving and Mutating, Dubstep Splits Cells and Gives Life to Dance Floors by Kelefa Sanneh describes this change in dubstep, and these “vomiting sounds” incorporated into the baseline:

“The timbres are scrambled and the tones are obliterated; instead of a melodic groove, you get a huge, serrated blob.”

Though Jones agrees with Garcia that dubstep cannot solely be identified under Skrillex’s name, he disagrees that the rave scene comprises the sole purpose of dubstep. He does feel the rave scene is assisting in the electronica genre’s acceptance into culture as a whole, but does not think that dubstep music and the rave scene should be placed hand in hand.

Jones does believe this stigma against dubstep and electronica music exists as did similar notions that heavy metal “When people say, ‘Hey do you want to go to a dubstep show?’ the other person responds with, ‘You mean a rave? ” said Jones. concerts encompassed the drug scene twenty or thirty years ago.

Jones himself believes that dubstep can be appreciated as music on its own but thinks that at Lane, the listeners of dubstep are definitely interested in the party aspect.

“You don’t go to dubstep shows for the music you go for the experience,” Jones said. “You are going to go to do drugs and watch the crazy spectacle. Whoever beforehand, went to house parties now goes to dubstep shows.”

Paige Tuttle, Div. 560, understands the popular opinion that dubstep is essentially there to accompany a rave atmosphere or enhance a drug experience, but denies that these opinions are true.

“You can listen to any music and do drugs, a vast majority of the people [at dubstep concerts] do drugs, but it’s not like if you listen to dubstep you do drugs,” she said.

Tuttle thinks that people who listen to dubstep do enjoy the atmosphere surrounding the music concerts, but she personally can appreciate it simply when she is just focusing on her homework. Tuttle enjoys the beats and the constant repetition of certain sounds that is incorporated into dubstep.

Sophia Dominguez, Div. 275, acknowledges that a rave-like, drug enhanced atmosphere does exist in the dubstep genre but feels there is no need for drugs in order to enhance the experience.

“I think drugs are a part of dubstep but the experience by itself is kind of like a drug. It makes you feel so high,” Dominguez said. “People use drugs to intensify the feeling, but it’s already pretty intense.”

Dominguez, who recently attended the recent Skrillex concert at the Congress in November, strongly believes that the atmosphere of a dubstep concert is like no other concert, but not because of the rave atmosphere.

“The Skrillex concert was about how you are feeling and interacting with other people around you, and how the music is making you feel,” Dominguez said. “At other concerts it’s about connecting with the artist, with dubstep it’s all about the feeling between you and the music.”

When describing dubstep, Dominguez had to compare multiple types of genres in order to describe the uniqueness of the genre.

“Its an electric type music with the feeling of rock music and the intensity of hip hop, all in one little package,” Dominguez said.

Drugs or no drugs, Gina Lagattuta, Div. 270, feels dubstep concerts are not about the music at all.

“I wouldn’t think of it as a concert, I think of it as a massive rager where people are getting crazy,” Lagattuta said. “Everybody is close together and touching everyone and you aren’t really appreciating the music, it’s more of the crazy rave like atmosphere.”

Lagattuta personally does not feel comfortable in this atmosphere but understands people’s attraction to the party scene.

Lily Hart, Div. 270, had to ask a friend what dubstep was the other day, she knew so little about it. Her friend informed her that, “it’s all the rage these days.” From what she has heard of it so far, she thinks its intensity as a genre makes it hard to be universally popular.

“I think of Skrillex and imagine people at a rave that type of scene.”

She says that the music is just a factor in the whole experience, and dubstep is not always about the music. Though she understands many may not be open to the genre, she herself would go to a dubstep show.

“I’m always open to new music genres and I think that I might like it,” Hart said.

For those like Hart who is open to the dubstep scene, or Lagattuta who does not have much interest for it, Jones has some words of advice. He says dubstep encompass more than just Skrillex or Deadmau5.

“Don’t just go with the number one Youtube hit when you look up dubstep,” Jones said. “Dubstep is more than super crazy raves, it’s not always the crazy music you think it is.”