After concluding it's milestone fifth year of action in the "live music capital of the world," it's clear Seismic Dance Event has not only found its flow, but is also actively reaching higher for the next rung on the ladder to festival greatness.
There's frequently a misplaced notion when it comes to the live events space that bigger is always better. To an extent, it's easy to see the underlying logic—a festival which sells a larger volume of tickets generally is likely to have more resources available at their disposal. More monetary resources generally affords higher profile talent bookings, more jaw-dropping production and effects, increasingly extravagant amenities and more.
Seismic Dance Event is among the few notable event brands where the best of both worlds becomes possible. The series excels in offering the resources consistent with a world-class dance music festival while maintaining the intimate feeling of an event planned by your closest circle of friends.
Those sentiments were echoed frequently by many of the event's 5,000 attendees throughout the weekend at The Concourse Project. Hailing from across the globe, many of them had traveled from the cultural epicenters of techno and house music just to be there, and wouldn't even have considered missing out in the slightest.
"Ultimately, we're driven by providing the experience we would want," Seismic founders Kelly Gray and Andrew Parsons told EDM.com. "We've prided ourselves on shining a light on our scene here, and we love hearing from Seismic attendees who travel from around the country, sometimes even internationally, that not only say these are some of the best lineups they've seen for the house and techno enthusiasts, but that the crowd vibe and people are exceptionally special."
Gray and Parsons' appreciation for the culture of house and techno is reflective throughout their decision-making. For starters, you won't find the frenetic hit-and-run of a 30-minute dance music set at Seismic. Electronic music artists have long decried short festival set times, which are mostly the unfortunate byproducts of humanity's ever-shrinking attention span.
Seismic, however, shows what's possible when the underlying interests of artists, fans and organizers are mutually interlocked. At Seismic, set times average roughly 90-minutes each and even the shortest sets are at least a full hour.
It may be a small detail to some, but scheduling plays a material role in shaping the experience. And it shows an overall deep understanding that at it's core, house and techno are about taking the listener on a journey—and that journey needs time to play out.
Moreover, Seismic is a dance music festival intentionally set up for dancing. Yes, crazy—we know. With the over-saturation of the festival landscape, the first casualty in service to the bottom line is usually the fan experience. But Seismic keeps the comfort of their fans top-of-mind. Organizers have reached the balance in providing enough room for the individual to express themselves, while at the same time preserving the ever-critical connectivity of crowd energy in order to keep the collective room engaged.
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Even amid a tough current economic backdrop, there's not even the slightest notion Seismic is compromising the experience their community has fallen in love with. In fact, the feelings in the air are that of continued ambition and reinvention.
Seismic was chock full of new upgrades from a production standpoint, most notably at the Volcano stage, an indoor club setup erupting with a combination of immersive visuals and dozens of beam lights lining one end of the room to the other. It was easy to lose track of time in the neon lights, but even after the realization of hours having passed, there were seemingly always new production elements and lighting configurations being introduced. The overall atmosphere of the main room takes a beat from some of the most iconic warehouse clubs around the world, evoking conceptual comparisons to Berlin's Funkhaus and London's Printworks, just to name a few.
Then of course there's the formidable offering of artists on the bill. At Seismic, whether you're a seasoned connoisseur or a techno and house music newcomer, you're likely to appreciate the comprehensive curation that exists around those two genres alone. From the soaring synthwave-meets-house inspired grooves of Kasablanca to the heart-pounding, 140 BPM hard techno of I Hate Models, at any given moment there's a flywheel of producers to discover and experience.
While it has only been around for a handful of years, Seismic has become a coveted destination to play among DJs hailing from across the world. Charlotte de Witte, who sadly could not make last year's event due to a last-minute visa issue, made her triumphant return as Friday's marquee event on the main stage. Representing the U.K., fans raved through the decades with the legendary Fatboy Slim. And on Sunday Australia's Hayden James began wrapping up his biggest U.S. tour to date with an appearance at Seismic.
Seismic's lineup encompassed over 50 of the world's top dance music producers, each with different places they call home, but their passion for the craft remains all the same. The same sentiment reflects back like a mirror when speaking with members of the festival's loyal and exponentially-growing fanbase.
There's a long-held, tongue-in-cheek belief that the archetypal journey down the circuitous path through EDM discovery ends deep within the house and techno rabbit hole as its final destination. Interacting with the Seismic fandom, a particularly knowledgeable group of dance music lovers eager to share their personal journeys with the music and the beloved event brand, certainly lends credence to the notion.
Culturally, Austin hasn't historically maintained the unshakable connection to electronic music consistent with Chicago and Detroit, among other major U.S. cities. But with Seismic in its ranks, there's the feeling of a new chapter in dance music history slowly being written in the Lone Star State.