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Identity: Biggest EDM fest to hit Indy, ever

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The Crystal Method, a main stage headliner at Identity.
  • The Crystal Method, a main stage headliner at Identity.

Some in electronic music's top tier are leaving the clubs for the outdoors, at least for this summer.

The electronic-only music festival Identity is visiting amphitheatres nationwide this year, Verizon Wireless Music Center on Aug. 11 being the first.

Slater Hogan, a local DJ and club promoter, promises a day of "booty-shakin' dance beats." He and his DJ partner, John Larner, have teamed with Live Nation and other area entities to help promote the show locally.

"Some of the biggest names in the game are coming to Indy for the first time," says Hogan, who has won Best Local DJ two years running in NUVO's annual Best Of poll. "This show will be off the chain."

Larner says Identity will be unlike any electronic music show this state's ever seen.

"We'll have four separate shows running DJs all at the same time," he says, including a stage featuring local talent. "Never before in Indiana have there been so many headlining acts in one show and at one time."

Club vets The Crystal Method are one of those headliners. The L.A.-based duo was part of another touring electronic festival in the late '90s called the Electric Highway Tour.

"We've been waiting for another one to happen, so we're excited," says Ken Jordan, one-half of The Crystal Method along with Scott Kirkland.

The closest approximation to Identity that Jordan can think of is the Electric Daisy Carnival, an annual electronic music festival that originated in southern California and has since spread to cities in the west and south.

"(Identity is) full-on traveling, tour buses, everything," Jordan says. "We're really excited."

Normally electronic music is associated with packed, confined spaces with minimal lighting, not a cavernous outdoor amphitheatre in the daytime. Larner says the transition won't be any different for club music than it is for rock 'n' roll in a daylong event.

"It's going to be a little different for people around here, but a lot of the big festivals like Electric Daisy all start during the day," he says. "So it's par for the course for music festivals."

Nor should fans worry about a repetitious sound at Identity.

"I think the lineup hits a lot of different crowds," Larner says. "You've got the dance crowd covered, but you're also going to see a lot of the jam-band crowds, hipsters and a ton of clubbers from all over the Midwest. We've been selling tickets in St. Louis, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Illinois. It's going to be an amazing day and night for electronic music."

Jordan also is confident there's enough artistic diversity in the lineup to pique fan interest.

"I can't imagine listening to trance or house for 12 hours straight," he says. "It's good there will be a lot of styles there."

The electronic scene may be enjoying another upswing in terms of mainstream popularity. Larner notes that crossover acts like The Black Eyed Peas, Pitbull and LMFAO have ushered club music onto the radio. He's noticed a change in the culture itself too.

"More and more clubs are leaning towards more up-tempo music and kind of getting away from hip-hop," Larner says.

Hogan also attributes the ascent to a trend that sees artists once considered avant-garde producing albums for some of pop music's biggest names.

"What you hear on the radio is now making its way into the clubs, and remixes of hip-hop tracks are more accepted now than ever before," Hogan says. "Kids can also access so much more music through the Internet. They are no longer restricted to the local radio stations or MTV to mold their tastes of music. All these things have been positive influences for the dance music scene."

Hogan notes there's dance music events in Indy most every night of the week. The Melody Inn and Subterra have cornered Tuesdays, while The Mousetrap and Blu Lounge offer big beats every Thursday (the latter is where Hogan and Larner host their long-running Keepin' it Deep).

There are also options for the under-21 crowd. The Grime Time Collective now hosts an all-ages party every Thursday on the south side. And national electro artists like Girl Talk and Identity DJ Skrillex are playing all-ages venues here like the Egyptian Room.

"Just the fact that all these shows are going on means that the scene is growing and people want more options when they go clubbing," Hogan says.

The Crystal Method were part of the 1990s electronic music surge, when artists like Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers broke through to the mainstream. Their debut, 1997's Vegas, went platinum.

"We always thought our music was more underground," Jordan says. "Just recently it's blown up a bit and that's great. But I think it will always go up and down in popularity."

He's not personally concerned about any sort of popular backlash though.

"We don't sound like Lady Gaga, so I don't anyone's ever going to fully equate electronic music with pop, even though some of the style has been co-opted by pop music," Jordan says. "We look for little visceral feelings in our sound and rhythms and beats."

Perhaps an important part of The Crystal Method's appeal is their frequent collaborations with vocal artists, particularly those of the rock persuasion like Metric's Emily Haines and Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots.

"We'll start working on a track, and if we feel it needs a vocal or some other musician then we start thinking of who might be right for it," Jordan says.

Writing scores is now one of the biggest components to The Crystal Method's artistic venture. Their work his been featured in multiple movies, trailers and video games.

"Our music has always lent itself well to that without us trying to do that on purpose," Jordan says.

He remembers the thrill of hearing their track "Busy Child" in a Gap commercial soon after Vegas was released. But Jordan's never forgotten why he became a DJ in the first place.

"There's nothing better than having a big crowd just going off to your music," he says of the live setting.

He's seen more of that too, over time. Underground electronic music started with mostly young people in the culture.

"Now we've got a couple generations coming to these events, so it's really cool," Jordan says.

Identity headliners:

Kaskade, Steve Aoki, DJ Shadow, Manufactured Superstars, Rusko, Nero, White Shadow

On the local stage:

Topspeed, Kodama vs. Hollowpoint, Action Jackson, Hugh Jeffner, Gabby Love, Clay Collier, A2, Rudy Kizer

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