Seismic Dance Event Shows More Than a Market for House and Techno in Texas

Macrodosing the Concourse Project’s multi-gen fest

The Martinez Brothers at Seismic Dance Event (Photo by Christina Garcia)

To microdose local producers RealMusic Events’ three-day rager of an electronic music festival, Seismic Dance Event, one could simply live near the grounds of their co-presenting far East Austin home base, the Concourse Project.

In terms of international dance establishments, the club looms as the most red-light-drenched, concrete cavern of a rave haunt – er, multipurpose event venue – Austin has seen in at least the last seventeen years. Located near residential areas, though certainly not to the extent of Downtown venues piled with urban condo dwellers, Seismic descended on proximate residents with over 50 DJ acts worth of bass rumbles and perceptually intrusive/welcome noise this past Friday through Sunday. To the ears of this reporter, who roamed inside the festival gates alongside 5,000 other ravers each day, sound levels boomed at an often-neighborly volume.

“Your ears are just fatigued,” explained a fellow Seismic attendee, unconvincingly. We also judged the Sunday 11pm fest end-time as downright polite.

As for the thousands of attendees – yes, 5,000 per day – at this fifth edition weekend, they willing macrodosed the fest. Who were these ravers? More than a market for house and techno hedonism in Texas, and more than game to try new non-addictive and non-alcoholic drinks and other substances – like one reported sublingually administering a chalky, candy-like powder meant to create a surge of dopamine, purchased from a merch booth. Effects were subsequently described as mild, somewhat indistinguishable from the high of having also just consumed a hot slice of pizza on an empty stomach.

These ravers were baby-faced, mostly, with a preference for black clothing – the edgy aesthetic prevalent among a crowd sporting cursive-font tees reading “Techno” and “House X Techno.” The sartorial references sidelined dominant musical currents at the fest, which might have been more handily represented as “Trance X Techno.”

Seismic Dance Event's outdoor Frequency stage (Photo by Christina Garcia)

RealMusic wisely catered to their crowd, skewing young whereas other festivals might pump headliners well into their 50s almost exclusively. Thus, the fest hosted an Official Seismic Shuffle Meetup, wherein young dancers mounted a little stage platform – with sleek lighting and nitrogen fog cannons blasting directly down – to prove whether or not, as one observer asked, “Do these kids really shuffle every day?” Dozens of dancers showed off in shirts that announced allegiance to Chicago shuffle crews or Austin sets, cheering each other through Matrix-like back bends and moves timed to English DJ duo CamelPhat’s breakdowns and beat drops. One after the other, dancers patiently waited their turn and nudged each other onto the stage, in shoes with lit blue and pink on the bottoms.

After CamelPhat Sunday night, the crowd was young-ish enough to abandon any hope for a smooth post-fest reentry to real life. Instead of a Tsunami stage closing set from 46-year-old German producer/Innervisions label boss Dixon, many opted in favor of decade-younger English duo Gorgon City’s bouncing, upbeat house on the smaller Frequency stage, just behind the large Tsunami setup. “When I was a baby raver in college, I loved Gorgon City,” said one attendee, also remembering 2013-2014, when Dixon was voted best DJ in a ResidentAdvisor poll.

Which is not to say that this was a festival of only kiddos, in the crowd or onstage. On day one, German headliner Ame (49 years young) played a mind-melting set to segue gorgeously from Australian DJ Cassian (34). For the first time since 2002, Fatboy Slim (59) returned to Austin, closing out the inside Volcano stage Saturday night. Norman Cook, having left formulaic big beat behind long ago, played a set of characteristically diverse tracks: segueing from his own “Praise You” to clips of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now,” Wildchild’s “Renegade Master,” and Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Heads Will Roll” all within five minutes – a set seasoned ravers would drool over the opportunity to see.

All in attendance filled up on dark house, techno, and progressive music, though many bright spots broke through the heavy emotional gloom. Bronx-born DJ and production duo the Martinez Brothers ripped the dance floor to shreds with puppet master-like control and Latin-heavy track selections. The xx member Jamie xx played a lovely set of genres and sounds like heavy bass, subs, and chimes, while LP Giobbi hopped and danced with joyful glee through her entire piano house performance.

And yet, a current of dungeon-like, end-of-the-world soundtracking, big-build melodic techno ran through the fest. Look only to Friday’s Volcano stage closer: uber-popular Belgian techno royalty Charlotte de Witte and boyfriend Enrico Sangiuliano.

Besides the array of acts, RealMusic’s sleek sound and lighting production caught attention, alongside attempts to beautify an otherwise concrete and dirt floor acreage through live painting, extensive projections, rich stage hues, and glowing neon for VIP bottle booths. A row of tents sold wares from fabulous local fashion-makers, pushing risque and sequined apparel even in the cold. Despite the long lines waiting to get inside while chilly winds blew, daytime crowds consistently surpassed 500 people across indoor-and-outdoor stages.

Cold weather is no dopamine inhibitor, after all.

The shuffle meetup at Seismic (Photo by Christina Garcia)

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Concourse Project, Seismic Dance Event, RealMusic Events, CamelPhat, Dixon, Gorgon City, Fatboy Slim, Ame, Norman Cook, The Martinez Brothers

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