Any kind of music that’s primarily arranged by a DJ with a deck and a laptop has never seemed like the kind of music you see live. Videogames instilled me with the sense that electronic music wasn’t really music throughout my early teens until I was around more likeminded people.
Finding out that there were large groups of people that considered videogame music real music versus the people I was raised around that only considered four dudes with moustaches playing guitar and crooning about elves or something real music, was an experience I’d definitely want to define as eye opening.
It’s not that I didn’t like the music I was exposed to as a kid – but videogames brought with them a range of appreciation for composers and musicians that seemed like they were from practically a different world entirely from what my parents and siblings listened to.
At the same time, and very much unlike an album can be, I thought for a long time that Videogames were primarily a private experience. I’d convinced myself most of the music in a videogame was meant to be built around an emotional response the player cultivated from hearing it while playing.
Being exposed to better writing about music (and videogames) educated me that, naw, that’s not the case at all and an album or a videogame can be as much as a shared or a private experience the audience curating it wants it to be.
Last week in support of a friend and fellow artist X_ponential (instagram or soundcloud link or something) I took a trip out into the northern half of my state. Following a brief trip to a local comic book store in Flagstaff, Arizona I headed further north than I thought I’d be going.
Passed and old Calvary Chapel and rows and rows of disjointedly arranged western Suburbs there’s an area where you’re no longer quite in Flagstaff itself anymore, but not really out of it either.
Passed an old Calvary chapel and dozens of disjointed spacious arrangements of western suburbs I eventually got out passed civilization and into the area of roadside towns that probably number in just a few hundred people.
If you’ve never been through it, this is the perfect time to listen to the soundtrack from a Final Fantasy game. I didn’t have an official one, but I did have the Florence and the Machine version of Stand By Me so I played that while I drove through the open desert and capstone hills. Under the cloudy sky in the late hours of the day you can see for miles and it brings to mind the open road-trip vistas of the most recent Final Fantasy itself.
It’s actually a small square of townships not quite to Tuba City and not quite to Winslow – the perfect out of the way or drive-through area that most people don’t usually do anything but stop in to host a two-day desert party.
I know our audience doesn’t really go to anything like this regularly – to get to these desert parties they always involve some directions shared through a Facebook page and they’re usually relatively exclusive in a way that sort of means you have to know a guy or a guy who knows another guy.
Don’t imagine some kind of out of the way compound in the middle of the desert – it’s always a collections of hollowed out trailers and pop up tables and stages that are mostly assembled a day or two before. Lots of gas powered generators. Honestly, if there were less rich-kid hippy chick with crust punk vests and more S&M gear it could’ve easily been a great place to guerilla shoot a Mad Max knockoff.
There’s enough pull-together among the people there to set up a pop-up community kitchen, a pool and even a cabana area for taking “community” naps. Next time….I’m gonna be taking a community nap the whole time and I’ll bet I don’t ever wake up.
Most of the people you’ll run into here are going to be there for the sense of community that this sort of co-op festival creates. Just like any normal show, that sense of community is largely going to be dependent on how well you can believe the lip service people give to the idea that everyone showed up for the same reason.
Whether you identify with the group of Festival Jocks in jersey shirts and board shorts, or the desert hippies that will tell you all about how down to earth they are there’s a clique for everybody to fit into or be ostracized by. There’s no difference in between a show like this and a comic convention if you’re in the nerd camp and wanting to get social somewhere that feels familiar.
That sense of community isn’t as disingenuous as I make it seem. These festivals are all about a bunch of people that don’t necessarily know each other or even care about the same forms of music coming together over a couple of days in the middle of the wilderness. The fact that a group of people can come this close together outside of most of society for a couple of days all wearing different costumes looks good enough from the outside.
No one from either of the two camps really crossed over to the other. That’s what sticks in my head. For as much as all of the people I met talked about it being about the music or even about the simple idea of community – there wasn’t a lot of shared bonding over either of those things.