Tommie Sunshine to EDM Haters: "If You Can't Feel This Music, You're Dead Inside"
"Without Me" topped charts just ten years ago. But in the past decade, pop culture has made a complete 180-degree turn. It's like Tommie Sunshine told us: "You could go outside right now into a crowd, throw a rock, and you'll probably hit a DJ."
As we prepare for Ultra Music Festival to turn 15 with its biggest celebration ever, you have to admit, EDM is more than "happening." It's the lifeblood of the modern music industry. How else could they sell two weekends' worth of tickets?
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"I think that this culture has gotten to a point where it doesn't matter where they throw it. It doesn't matter when they throw it. It could be in the middle of a blizzard and people are still going to show up to rage," Sunshine says.
"In popular culture, there is nothing bigger. Nothing. I mean, we're talking not just cosmopolitan cities like New York and L.A.; this is all rampant through the Midwest and the South. This is legit. This is actual popular culture. This is no longer an underground or a subculture."
If you can trust anyone's word, trust Sunshine's. He's been in the game since 1986, and he's watched plenty of fads and genres ebb and flow through the scene for decades. But he's never seen anything like this.
"If this wasn't the best time for this music, do you think I'd still be doing this?" he says. "I remember playing Ultra like six, seven years ago, and it was big, but it wasn't this big. They weren't shooting a movie, and there weren't cameras on cranes. This is some other shit. We've reached a very different point in all of this now."
Still worried about what this means for the scene and what this kind of exposure might lead to? Well, Sunshine's got news for you.
"It's as commercial as it could possibly be," he said. "I'm in a cab right now to do an interview with Matt Pinfield on MTV Hive about EDM. I'm sorry, but once it hits those channels and it hits that level of mainstream culture, it already is commercial. So for people to say, 'Oh, what if this gets too commercial?'
"What do you mean? It already is!"
Not that he thinks we've seen an end to creativity or evolution.
"The way I see the music right now is the commercial stuff is going to get more commercial and it's going to breed an exceptional underground," he said. "The underground is going to get exquisite, and the mainstream is going to get more and more gigantic. And the whole thing is awesome."
Certain EDM veterans might bitch and moan about the bloating, the watering-down, and the formulaic nature of it all. But Sunshine thinks you've got to take the bad with the good, and he sees a lot more good than anything else.
"Yeah, the ticket prices might be steep, but they deliver. You get an experience. It's not just going to hear a bunch of people DJ and standing in a dusty field," he said. "There are a lot of people that go to Ultra and the festivals that go because they want to be a part of something. They're kind of even indifferent to the music. They just want to be somewhere surrounded by people who are having a good time who all have a smile on their face. That's worth the price of admission."
Look, it's not rocket science, it's dance music, and Sunshine thinks all the haters should just shut up and feel the vibe. If you can't get on the feel-good train, then you're just crazy.
"It's very simple stuff. The only people that don't get this music is because they don't want to," he said. "You stand on a dance floor surrounded by a million people who are all very, very happy to be there, and if you can't feel that, you've got to be dead inside. What would it take to get to you if it's not that?"
Ultra Music Festival 2013. With Deadmau5, Swedish House Mafia, Tiesto, Avicii, and others. Friday, March 16, to Sunday, March 17, and Friday, March 22, to Sunday, March 24.. Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Visit ultramusicfestival.com.
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