"Dance music" is about as broad and catch-all a term as exists. Skrillex is dance music. Certain Bjork records are dance music. Years & Years are definitely dance music. Robert DeLong is dance music. But these artists couldn't have less in common. Skrillex is the bro-y niche of dubstep that has become the most popular genre of music for the last five years. I like to call it bro-step. Bjork was at the forefront of the IDM movement in the mid/late 90s. Years & Years peddle infectiously catchy house-pop. And Robert DeLong fuses arena ready pop hooks with the best of contemporary live EDM. But despite the wealth of types of dance music that exist, it's far too easy for folks that aren't invested in the genre to lump it all together and dismiss it out of hand.
I make that statement because for years, I was the sort of person who would do precisely that. As much as I loved 80s electronic music or 70s dance music, I was hesitant to embrace any contemporary EDM/IDM/techno/dance/house/whatever music. Part of it was snobbery...a habit I still have to actively disavow myself of on occasion. Part of it was the fact that I'm often too anxious to dance in public and so it will always be easier to belittle something you aren't connecting with instead of examining your own neuroses. But one of the first acts to make me realize I was a dumbass in this specific area of my life (cause there were/are plenty of other areas where I was/am very much a dumbass) was RJD2.
I shared the story last week when RJD2 announced his new record about getting to catch him live when I was in college
so I'll spare the details here. But, needless to say, RJD2 made me realize there was so much more to a DJ set than just futzing with a laptop for an hour or so. The man is manic on stage. He rushes from one turntable to the next (I counted four at Brooklyn Bowl Wednesday night); he pounds out complex rhythms on multiple MPC machines; he crafts genuine melodies instead of an endless series of wub wubs and bass drops. RJD2 took over Brooklyn Bowl and reminded the world what great electronic music can/should be.
Of course, there's a qualifier to that statement. I'm not sure if it's fair to characterize RJD2 as electronic music. Moving beyond the fact that RJD2 has a killer backing band, the records that RJD2 is spinning on stage a rollicking mix of funk, soul, hip-hop, rock, and anything else under the sun. There's a constant danceable beat, but there's always an inescapable melody tying everything together...often a melody that masks a hidden complexity in the genres that RJD2 is effortlessly fusing.
I'm not a dancer. I'm just not. I wish I were, but nine times out of a ten, I'm the person at a show with a great beat that's awkwardly swaying in my spot and hoping that nobody notices how awkward I am. But RJD2 at Brooklyn Bowl was different. I couldn't stop dancing. My hips were shaking. My arms were grooving. My head was bobbing. This girl was standing next to me and kept accidentally grinding against me as some guy behind her kept "accidentally" grinding against her. I'm pretty sure it's the closest I'll ever come to being in a threesome.
By the time I limped away from Brooklyn Bowl's crowded concert floor, I was soaked in sweat (which came back to bite me in the ass cause it was about twenty degrees outside with a biting wind). And if that's not a ringing endorsement for a dance show, well, then I don't know what one is. Catch RJD2 the first chance you get. You won't regret it.