By FEMI ABORISADE
Electronic dance music made its subtle debut in the late 70s, as Chicago producers took existing disco records and looped bits and pieces of them, adding computer-generated sounds to either embellish or complete a masterpiece. While the genre had a lengthy exodus from the U.S. scene, it took great hold overseas, and has returned stateside due to success on the pop charts and growing cultural demand.
Along with this growth has been the evolution of the live EDM experience. While DJs previously spun tunes in local clubs and dives, they now have enough clout to run sponsored, multi-tiered tours with meticulous light displays. Life In Color: Rebirth, a variant of the form, makes it name by throwing paint into the fray — 500 gallons of it.
The show was held at Reliant Park April 13, eventually amassing a swarm of college-aged kids 8,000 deep. The medium-sized stage, the center of gravity at which all concertgoers would revolve for five hours, was minimal in setup but enticing: two pillars of speakers, held to the ceiling like ribbons, subwoofers placed on both ends, actual ribbons which held dancers, fog machines, three floor-mounted paint cannons and the central DJ booth adorned in a circle of display panels, with additional panels mounted on the back wall.
The gates opened at 6:00, but the show proper did not begin until 8:00. It gave one a chance to peer about the grounds and observe what a visual delight these events can offer. Attendees spend much time dressing up in elaborate get-ups, ranging from faux ballerinas to a giraffe on stilts, and due to the paint element, it makes sense to wear as much white clothing as possible. Much like a ComicCon or an anime convention, simply showing up does not suffice, which is a fun facet of the culture.
By 7:00 though, all attention reverted back to the digital altar. As Adrian Lux, Rebirth’s first DJ, laid down techno beats, a timer ticked down for the first wave of paint assault. The garden variety assortment of four-to-the-floor techno was too tame and nondescript to sustain such a throbbing crowd. Eventually time slipped away, and the host beckoned that the crowd go “hard in the paint.” Massive streams of green glop showered the audience and set off, as it is rightly titled, “The World’s Largest Paint Party.” It was glorious.
But the euphoria from being doused in water-soluble goods did not alleviate the major gripe that hung over the first few hours of Rebirth, the generic EDM. Granted, copyrights and artistic view will limit the scope of what Lux could play, but most producers get around that through remixes and bootlegs as a common law rule.
The most recent strains of EDM, dubstep and trap, are full-force genres that shake and break listeners at a subatomic level. Even the lazy dubstep track from an Excision feels like an unruly banger compared to the clean, conformist fare a la Calvin Harris or David Guetta.
Either way, the casual excitement of the crowd from the bland music gave way to anarchy. A group of guys were aggressively pushing through the crowd, causing discomfort for those they squeezed past and disorienting those who were unaware as to why they were being shoved about. Trust me, being pushed around when loud bass drops and paint showers impair the senses is not fun. The ruckus was so great that the host on stage made the crowd back up three times, which helped suppress the nonsense a bit.
Other than that, most of the excitement was tethered to the paint blasts, the frivolous use of handheld paint canisters being sold for $5 and the enjoyment of live electronic music itself, not the actual tunes, which seemed to bleed through, more so than the DJ format requires. Also, the ribbon dancers danced sparsely and were largely forgettable installments.
Adventure Club, the headliner most of the audience came for, took the stage around 9:30 p.m. and immediately upped the ante. With a wealthy assortment of tracks — yes, even techno — AC came equipped to rock the crowd and validate the previous three-hour wait. Tracks that stood out include Mayhem & Antiserum’s “Spend It,” a trap banger that constructs signature snare rolls, rumbling bass and wooping synths around a 2 Chainz vocal, solid remixes of Ellie Goulding’s “Hanging On” and Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” and the AC remix of Flight Facilities’ “Crave You,” which practically stands as a dubstep classic.
By the time Rebirth was over, all attendees were sopping with paint, sweat and overall satisfaction. At a reasonable price and with the right mindset, Life In Color provides loads of sloppy, safe fun for hours, and although the music excluding the headliner might be on the low end, the elements of EDM culture — the lights, sights and sounds, the unbridled youthfulness, — is something that all EDM fans should experience. Plus, this will probably be the only time and place where spewing blue paint in a person’s face is allowed.