This is the kind of performance that makes me throw a side-eye to every single person who thinks that EDM is superior to music that’s made by actual living people who’ve acquired actual skills and honed their actual ears to become fantastic musicians. But let me explain:
There’s this former co-worker of mine who loses his mind on Twitter occasionally and spits venom out into the internet ether. He calls out everyone who listens to rock music as “rockists,” and it’s always an us-vs.-them sentiment that he maintains between people he knows that are into EDM and people he knows who are not. To say that it’s toxic would be an understatement, in that instead of engaging with someone who doesn’t know too much about EDM, or potentially introducing them to EDM artists they may like, he throws a “HA WELL YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THE FUTURE CUZ IT’S ALL ABOUT #EDM YOU STUPID #ROCKISTS” and ends the conversation before it begins. He doesn’t preach his gospel of EDM (though he does to people who he’s met as a fixture in the Boston electronic music scene); he spits out musical ignorance from a deliberate place and spends more time taking down other genres than he does building up the artists of the one he holds so dear. Keep in mind, this guy has never picked up an instrument and I never once saw him out at a show supporting a local band unless I brought him there as my +1 myself. He sticks to DJs and his electronic music scene, and I don’t fault him for that—what I fault him for is pretending that he’s supportive of all walks of genre when he’s not. Especially when all one has to do is scroll through his Twitter feed to see that.
SO. Every single time I see something as beautiful and fun as Jim James’ set on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, a moment that took a ton of time to set up and ages to arrange with all its moving parts, it reminds me why I love music—all music—so damn much and how much I respect musicians. I value the creativity and ingenuity EDM requires to make mixes that move people in ways they didn’t think possible, and I respect DJs who can embrace and manipulate technology to create something the rest of the world never saw coming. That said, nothing will ever, ever touch a live set for me—knowing that the person in front of you is relying on their own vocal chords or the drum sticks in their hands or the reed on the mouthpiece of their saxophone incites a thrill that EDM can’t, because the person in front of you is making that glorious noise without the help of Serato or whatever. It doesn’t make it bad. It just makes it different.
And that’s what I’m trying to get at, I guess: from Jim James to EDM to The Roots to the fuckin’ Brooklyn Philharmonic, it’s all different, but it’s still music, and calling out fans of one for being “rockists” is indubitably juvenile. Claiming that you run and support the “music scene” in your city is futile if you’re cutting down your comrades for preferring Titus Andronicus to Trentemøller. And failing to recognize talented musicians just because they have a guitar in their hands is just as infuriating as writing off a DJ for carting a laptop from show to show. So if falling all over myself with glee over Jim James’ new record (which happens to be rife with beats, synths and electronic sounds) makes me a “rockist” by this dude’s standards, I guess that’s a compliment in the long run.
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