Dustin Penner is currently playing in his eighth full season in the NHL. Penner hoisted the Stanley Cup as an integral member of the Los Angeles Kings during the 2011-2012 season. He started off this season as a member of the Anaheim Ducks, but he was recently traded to the Washington Capitals. On the ice, he is an effective power forward, bullying defenders in front of the net and scoring on tough rebounds. Off the ice, Penner loves listening to dance music. His passion for the music made him a perfect fit for EDM.com's Someone You Might Not Expect To Listen To EDM series. With this series, we aim to show the world the vast reach of dance music and how it has positively affected so many lives.
Penner is far from a new fan of dance music. He says, “I started listening back in 2002. I was listening to this song on the radio and asked, 'What is that?' It was 'Silence' by Delirium, remixed by Tiesto. I thought it sounded unbelievable. My roommate liked that music too, so he brought some of it over. We listened to the original 'Damaged' by Plummet. Antillas remixed it lately, but it first came out back then. There was 'Castle in the Sky' by Ian van Dahl and Darude's 'Sandstorm.' I enjoy the remix of “Damaged” by Antillas, but I really like the original. It brings you back.”
Since Penner started listening to dance music 12 years ago, it was important to find out the effect it has had on his life. “I definitely think dance music has been influential in who I am today,” says Penner. “All music influences people in different ways. This music has the ability to make you feel a range of emotions, whether it be happy, sad, intense, depressed, anxious. For me, it was progressive trance where it has the buildup and crescendos to the top, then drops. After the drop, it makes you happy, you start smiling, and you feel better. Different genres do that for different people. It's progressive trance and progressive house for me.”
Penner has one favorite act that stands out from the rest of the DJs in the world. “The gold standard I put every DJ against is Tony, Paavo, and Jono from Above & Beyond,” states Penner. “I've seen them maybe a dozen times in the past two or three years. Every set has the same energy, and you see the passion in their faces. They bring that passion that a lot of people can see visibly. I'm sure Above & Beyond have had some bad nights, but I've yet to see one. Who knows, maybe I'm blinded by fanaticism? But if I had to listen to one album for the rest of my life, it would be a compilation that they did that includes all of the artists on Anjunabeats. It's heartwarming and inspiring to see how much they care about the music. I follow them on Twitter, and if I see them playing in a city where I have friends, I always tell them to go. For example, if I see they're playing in Calgary, I'll call my Calgary friends and tell them they need to go to the show.”
Aside from Above & Beyond's passion for dance music, Penner is a big fan of another aspect of the trio. He says, “The difference between Above & Beyond is that almost no other DJs can play their own instruments for an acoustic show in a sold-out theater two nights in a row. All of their music transfers over from classical into progressive trance. They're musicians. If I'm giving awards, I'm picking the guys who can play the piano, sing, write the music, and produce it.”
Penner has many friends who initially didn't enjoy dance music, but he has been able to find the perfect formula to change their minds. He explains, “What I really enjoy doing is taking people who give me the stinkeye when I ask them to see Above & Beyond with me. They'll tell me, 'I don't want to see techno.' I tell them, 'If you see Above & Beyond, it'll change your life.' I've brought people who only listen to Biggie and other rappers, then they go to an Above & Beyond show and are like, 'Wow, I had no idea.' I brought someone like that to EDC Las Vegas with an artist pass, and this year, he keeps asking me, 'Are we going again? Are we going again?' I had to tell him to settle down—I just got traded.”
Penner is impressed with what current promoters have done with their brands. He says, “The experience that Pasquale has created with Insomniac and what UMF has done, they make people feel young again. Some people might view that as being immature, but there's a quote going around the internet that says, 'When you're young, you long to be old, and when you're old, you long to be young.' Even if you have an 8-to-5 job, you get to go to these shows and just blow off some steam.”
In addition to being a great stress reliever, dance music has always been a fantastic way for new friends to relate to each other. “This music connects people really quickly,” asserts Penner. “For example, Erin Sharoni. I met her through Twitter after the EDM.com article on her. I've been talking to her and the way the conversation flows...there's a certain mentality with people who are this into the music."
Penner also finds progressive music to be an effective brain stimulator. He says, “That's the beauty of this music. You put it on in the background, and then you just start thinking about things. It's thought provoking. Some people might scoff at that, but it's true. You can put on a seven-minute song like Mat Zo's “The Sky,” and you're just kind of grooving to it for a while...Then he drops it into the meat of it, and you just stop what you're doing. That's the shit right there.”
Everyone has their favorite memories from shows. Penner described one of his recent memorable moments for us: “I saw Myon & Shane 54 at Exchange LA. There are so many Djs where you hear the first part of the song and everybody in the crowd gasps like, 'Oh, it's that song!' With Myon & Shane 54, it happened to be their remix of Lana Del Rey's 'Young and Beautiful.' The whole crowd was singing it, and you could just feel that energy and electricity. That was worth the price of admission on its own, no matter how much the table cost or the time it took to organize the whole night and get everybody there.”
Being a fan of electronic music wasn't always an ideal experience for Penner, though. He says, “It's funny because when I first started listening to this music, it's like you had a nasty habit that would put you into rehab. People would ask, 'Do you like techno?' You would have to tell them, 'No, who said that? I don't like techno, it's stupid.' Then you'd have to go back to your room and listen to your music after they leave. Now, it's become so big and commercialized.”
Penner still occasionally encounters that problem when sharing his favorite songs on social media. Penner states, “When I post a song on Twitter, some people call it 'techno.' They automatically associate it with raving and underground parties. One reason I like this music—and why I like going to venues that play it—is because you meet people from all different walks of life who connect to this music. I've met some of my best friends through this music. You can meet people who you would never imagine becoming friends with.”
Speaking of making new friends, Penner has become close with many members of the Anjunabeats roster, including Above & Beyond, Norin & Rad, Maor Levi, Andrew Bayer, and Ilan Bluestone. He has also become friends with Gareth Emery, Jerome Isma-Ae, Cosmic Gate, and Kevin Wild, who is an up-and-coming producer and roommate of Maor Levi and Bruce from Norin & Rad. If anyone doubts Penner's love for the Anjunabeats label, check out the photo of him wearing an Anjuna shirt below.
Penner has also found advocates of dance music in unlikely places. “I once talked to a Staples Center security guard, and I asked him, 'How does an EDM concert at Staples, like Tiesto or Kaskade's shows, compare to when Metallica, Megadeth, or some famous rappers have a show here?' He told me it's the easiest one to work because everyone is happy and there's no tension.”
When it comes down to it, you get the best experience at a show when you're with closest friends and listening to music from your favorite DJs. Penner says, “Which DJs would I not hesitate to buy a table for at a club? That list is very small. It is a lot of money for a table. For people who might say, 'But he's a millionaire!' It doesn't matter. That money is now gone. I could have spent it on something else. It's all about the experience I was able to get through the memories created, the pictures I took, and the friends I made. I usually bring a bunch of people because they love it as much as I do.”
Dance music tends to be at its best when it evokes emotion from the listener. Penner is clearly a big fan of electronic music that can generate emotions, and he enjoys sharing this music with his closest friends. He said one sentence that cut to the core of why attending these shows is so meaningful, and it is a great philosophy for everyone to live by: “We only have a certain amount of years on this earth, so you may as well spend it smiling, laughing, and enjoying it with the people you care about.”
Cover photo credit: Jared Wickerham / Getty Images
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