Weekend Societies: Electronic Dance Music Festivals and Event-Cultures

Call for chapters
Weekend Societies: Electronic Dance Music Festivals and Event-Cultures
Edited by Graham St John

Electronic Dance Music (EDM) festivals have flourished worldwide over the last 25 years. From massive raves sprouting around the London orbital at the turn of the 1990s to events operated under the control of corporate empires, EDM festivals have developed into cross-genre, multi-city, transnational mega-events. From free party teknivals proliferating across Europe since the mid-1990s to colossal attractions like Belgium’s Tomorrowland, and from neotribal gatherings like Southern California’s Lightning in a Bottle and other “transformational” festivals, to such digital arts and new media showcases as Montreal’s MUTEK and Berlin’s Club Transmediale, EDM festivals are platforms for a variety of arts, lifestyles, industries and policies. Unlicensed paroxysms, sanctioned extravaganzas, aesthetic frontiers, activist mobilisations, colonies of cosmopolitanism, they occasion manifold cultural practices, performed by multitudes to a cornucopia of ends.

The present proliferation of EDM festivals is an echo of the profusion of dance cultures and their night and day worlds. These weekend societies strike interest for cultural researchers as they are exemplary among event-cultures that have grown ubiquitous in contemporary social and cultural life, providing their memberships with identification and recognition independent from traditional sources. And yet event-cultural movements are diverse in their organisation, intention and populations. From the occupation of a former Soviet airbase at Lärz, Germany (Fusion Festival) to the repurposing of the RAF’s Long Marston Airfield at Stratford-upon-Avon (Global Gathering), from ethically-charged and “boutique” events with commitments to local regions and indigenous communities to subsidiaries of entertainment conglomerates (e.g. SFX Entertainment) touring multiple nations annually, EDM festivals are expressions of “freedoms” that are revolutionary and recreational. Co-created do-ocracies inspired by Burning Man or corporate sponsored bureaucracies in the mould of Miami’s Ultra Music Festival, churches of genre or ecumenical free-for-alls, DJ-driven or fusional by design, offering sustainable solutions or orgies of excess, with habitués worshipping brand-name DJs or showing support for independent sound systems, diversity is evident across management styles, performance legacies and modes of participation.

From Jamaica’s SumFest to Detroit’s Movement Electronic Music Festival to Portugal’s Boom Festival, EDM festivals have become stages for the performance of meta-cultural aesthetics (e.g. dancehall, techno and psychedelic) and their potential synthesis. With Barcelona’s Sónar, Serbia’s Exit, and Mexico’s BPM as examples, events became critical vectors in regional service and tourism industries. Attracting worldwide festivalgoers, sometimes as pilgrims, other times as tourists, these events serve as cultural crossroads. With stakeholders and ticketholders carrying disparate motives, styles and expectations they are contested sites and realms of potential. As cultural flashpoints, EDM festivals continually incite fledgling operations under variable missions: reclaiming tradition, maintaining independence, selling culture, evolving the human condition, all transpiring at the verges of the dancefloor.

Contributors might address how event operations expose differences, create distinctions and enable possibilities. Does event management demonstrate the repression, regulation and co-optation of culture? Are they vehicles for cultural appropriation? Fields for the accumulation of cultural capital? Frontiers of innovation and originality? Expressions of cognitive liberty? Theatres for dramatizing alternatives? Do participants reclaim the past or embrace the future? What gender, sexuality, class, race and ethnic distinctions might their operation expose? How do cultural and commercial interests, heritage and cosmopolitan concerns, intersect in these carnivals of conviviality?

Contributors might focus on the unique fates of individual EDM festivals, sometimes evolving from impromptu parties into corporate empires, other times succumbing to co-optation and repression. To provide several examples: Emerging in the late 1980s amid the euphoria of reunification, Berlin’s Love Parade ended in disaster in 2010 when 21 people died in a crowd crush in Duisburg. Held annually in the Czech Republic from 1994, the free party teknival CzechTek was finally dispersed by an army of riot police in 2005 sparking a wave of protests. Commencing in 1997 as a Los Angeles rave and later becoming a major touring event, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway edition of the Electric Daisy Carnival self-identifies as “the world’s largest EDM festival” (attracting 300,000+ people in 2012). And born in 1995 at the unfinished Crimean Atomic Energy Station near Shchelkino, Ukraine, the “virtual republic” of KaZantip is recognised as the world’s longest running EDM festival (five weeks). As studies of these and other EDM festivals will illustrate, a complex array of regional, economic, social, cultural and political factors combine to determine the fate of single events transpiring at the intersections of the local and global, leisure and religion, spirituality and technology, repression and revolution, counterculture and capitalism.

This volume encourages contributions from scholars of EDM festivals interested in these and related developments. Contributions from all disciplines, research methods and theoretical perspectives are encouraged. Authors may deploy a variety of representational styles, from auto-ethnography and ethnomusicology to historical documentation and socio-cultural analysis.

The following are suggested themes (the list is not exhaustive):

– EDM festival histories and cultures
– Festival economies
– Entertainment empires
– The commodification of experience
– Cosmopolitanism
– EDM events and cultural heritage
– State controls and regulation
– Law enforcement and intervention
– Harm reduction
– Global cities and urban regeneration
– Teknivals and independent sound systems
– Festivals vs gatherings
– Management practices (e.g. corporate, cooperative, co-creative)
– Festival travellers, tourists and pilgrims
– Event design
– DJ performance
– Sonic cultures
– Genre wars
– Queer worlds
– Cultural appropriation
– Meta-genres and aesthetics
– Visual art and new media
– Drugs, prohibition and use
– Psychopharmacology and sensibilities
– Social media
– Mobile apps
– Touring festivals
– Festival circuits

Please submit a 250–300 word abstract of your proposed chapter with a short biography to Graham St John: g.stjohn[AT]warpmail.net by 30 March 2014.

Approved chapters will be due by 30 November 2014 (chapters will be strictly 7,000–8,000 words long – including references and endnotes).

Direct any inquiries to Graham St John: g.stjohn[AT]warpmail.net