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What Coachella taught us about the future of dance music

August Brown, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

INDIO, Calif. -- For about a decade after Daft Punk's landmark 2006 performance, EDM was ascendant at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

There have always been DJs and electronic acts at the fest -- the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy played early gigs there -- but this strain of high-velocity European dance music, played by superstar DJs in the dance-focused Sahara tent and Coachella main stage, drove a lot of the festival's 2010's growth.

It may have also stirred the first grumblings of pandering to mainstream crowds.

But now as the fest grows younger and tastes shift, hip-hop has overtaken the Sahara as the party music of choice. The underground-focused Yuma tent has largely focused on veteran club music DJs like Stephan Bodzin, Nicole Moudaber and Guy Gerber.

And other than Zedd -- who has since largely moved on to pop music -- the main stage this past weekend didn't have a prime-time EDM act. This means that ambitious acts that want to stand out have to evolve and maybe act more like a live band if they want to command a stage.

"There are over 100 acts competing for attention. Coachella is about moments -- the acts that succeed out there are going to be the ones that give people a reason to share their experience," said James Hunt of the Australian band Rufus Du Sol.

 

The group tried interesting ways to provide them. Hunt's band recently played a sold-out run at the Shrine in L.A., so the members knew they would likely have fair turnout for their show. On the Outdoor Theater on Friday, the band's singles like "Treat You Better" and "You Were Right" -- each significant hits on streaming -- had the fizz and power of club music but played with a full band setup that made visual sense on big stage at prime time.

But they also scored an original 360-degree film in the Antarctic, a planetarium-style arena where their cosmic vibes felt more intimate and immersive.

It was a welcome respite from the Coachella heat but also a whole new way to hear their music: the kind of moment you walk away remembering.

That felt like a way forward for dance music at the festival.

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