Electronic dance music on the rise

BY STEFAN JURAN | JULY 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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People like to dance, and few musical genres facilitate dancing like electronic music. With the rise of DJ superstars such as Skrillex and Pretty Lights, electronic dance music is steadily becoming a part of the mainstream.

Iowa City has been no exception to this fad, and the growth in electronic dance music has caused many local talent buyers to adjust.

“Ever since I started booking shows, I have noticed a large demand for electronic music,” said Brent Johnson, a talent buyer for Gabe’s, 330 E. Washington St., and the Yacht Club, 13 S. Linn St. “The numbers for these shows, especially in the summertime, have been something we can count on.”

Similar to many genres of music, electronic dance music can be hit or miss, depending on the audiences and various markets around the country. Iowa City is different from most small-city markets around the Midwest, and the variety of tastes represented by audiences in this community has pushed the popularity of music genres such as electronic to a new level.

“[Electronic] is such a large and complex genre that has grown substantially in the last couple of years,” Johnson said. “When I do book shows, I team up with a local DJ to make sure I book acts that people like at that time.”

Johnson said when it comes to music, the United States seems to be behind on what is currently popular, especially in an area such as the Midwest. But with electronic music, what is popular seems to change continually.

“There have been times that I will go to a show and play a song that was just released a day before, and sometimes the crowd is already singing along,” said DJ and Gabe’s mixology talent buyer Dan Juhl. “That this music can affect audiences so quickly is amazing to think about.”

The growth of electronic music has been noticeable in and around the Iowa City community in the last couple of years with the genre’s transition into popular music. In previous years, the electronic-music scene was scarce and was focused more on ’90s traditional house or indie-pop vibes, Juhl said, but recently, interest has skyrocketed.

“The communication between different bars and venues looking to add [electronic] shows has grown, and it seems to exist outside of just Gabe’s and Yacht Club,” Johnson said. “People are finally starting to realize that computers can be a form of an instrument, and they are continuing to learn about the artistic values [electronic] has to offer.”

One of the venues that have hopped on the train has been the Blue Moose Tap House, 211 Iowa Ave. Like Gabe’s Thursday Mixology Series and Yacht Club’s Lower Deck Dance Parties on Tuesdays, Blue Moose has adopted a weekly dance show called Free Bass.

DJ Keith Kage from Free Bass — who said he will often DJ for up to four hours in one night — noted how important the growth of electronic to other bars has been for the music scene here in Iowa City.

“When I first started to DJ, the music was more underground, you could say,” he said. “But when I started the weekly party at Blue Moose, I was able to expose this music to a crowd that we may have not reached at Gabe’s, so the popularity definitely grew that way.”

Although states such as Iowa are often hard places to launch a music career, especially abstract music such as electronic, Kage said, he believes the popularity of electronic music will grow in Iowa City because of, in part, to the student atmosphere the University of Iowa provides.

“This is the new big thing in music, and it won’t die,” Kage said. “If more places around here start having intimate weekly shows, the more likely Iowa City will be able to book bigger [electronic] names in the future.” 

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