Electronic dance music (EDM) has been around since the 1980s but has become increasingly popular in the last 15 years, with a strong community in Salt Lake City.
Though some still wonder about the appeal of EDM, some current and former students at Westminster College said it’s the experience at live shows and community feel that draws them into the genre.
“I think EDM has kind of turned into this really broad umbrella term,” said Matt Lancaster, who graduated from Westminster last year. “There’s over 100 different subgenres of electronic music, and for people who don’t know much about it they kind of just group everything under that umbrella and then it’s all just the same.”
Lancaster said EDM is something that can’t be understood without experiencing it firsthand.
“When you go to a live show and you’re listening to a performance on a really nice sound system with big subwoofers and huge speakers, I think you’re getting the full effect of the track,” Lancaster said. “If you just have some little earphones in or you’re listening on a laptop speaker, you’re not getting the true depth of the song.”
Annie Merrill, a senior at Westminster who has been attending shows in Salt Lake since she was 14, agreed that part of the appeal of EDM is the experience of live shows.
“It’s just so much more exciting and stimulating to see it live,” she said. “I personally love to dance and I can’t necessarily do that when I’m just listening to it.”
EDM shows usually use lights, lasers, LED screens and fog machines to add to the experience. They’re generally very loud and crowded.
Though the environment at EDM shows is a large part of the genre’s appeal, there’s also a social aspect.
Lancaster said the concerts are a good way to meet people and form friendships. The more often you go to them, the more people you meet — and the more familiar faces you run into, the more fun you have, he said.
“It’s like family; you’ve known each other forever, you’re there for the same reason and you appreciate the same things,” said Calvin Clapp, a former Westminster student who says he’s been to over 100 shows per year for the last three years. “It’s really all you need to have fun together and make some great memories.”
Frequent EDM concert-goers said the shows are notorious for having rowdy and disrespectful crowds and lots of drugs but noted not all of them fit this mold.
“It totally depends if the people are there for the music or there for the drugs,” Merrill said. “I feel like those who get really lost in the EDM scene are worse people. Typically, they’re shadier — all they care about is the drugs and they’re not there for the music.”
Though shows may be accompanied by drug use, they also attract a diverse crowd of people and help them connect with each other, attendees said.
“I’ve made so many friends through music and I think it’s something that a lot of people can agree on,” Merrill said. “That’s something that’s been observable throughout generations of music. Grateful Dead has one of the biggest followings you can imagine, the Beatles, you name it. It’s no different with EDM.”