Summer Throwback Thursday Series: Emissions West Coast Bass Culture 2015
If you’re an underground bass music enthusiast living on the West Coast or the surrounding area, and you have never been to Emissions West Coast Bass Culture Festival….
I feel truly sorry for you.
Year after year, the Emissions family (AKA Camp Questionmark) impresses us with their dedication to creating an experience for their festival-goers that is truly unique, distinctive, and remarkable. From the perfectly crafted lineup (full of the sounds of the future, and just as importantly, the sounds of the past) to the phenomenal art installations to the absolutely MASSIVE PK and Void sound rigs, Emissions comes correct all across the board.
Whenever the quality of a festival is discussed, “vibe” is always at the top of the list of crucial factors (or at least it should be). One of the things that I personally appreciate most about Emissions is their “no bullshit” approach to bass music festival culture and the way that contributes to the “vibe” of the gathering. All Taylor Swift (or whoever wrote that god-awful song) jokes aside, Camp Questionmark really is “All About That Bass”. Their mission is simple: bring several gargantuan sound systems out in the middle of the woods, invite the best artists in bass music to play their music as loud as possible on those sound systems, and see who shows up. No gimmicks, no disingenuous marketing, no spirituality workshops (lol); just really loud bass music. Because of this, the crowd that Emissions attracts is not your standard mainstream EDM crowd. The people that come are those that care deeply about underground electronic music, and it shows. To be honest, I’ve never felt more at home at a festival than at Emissions.
Before we fully delve into who played what, which artist killed it, and which DJ should’ve probably spent a little more time on the decks in his/her bedroom, I just want to fully congratulate Camp Questionmark on a job well done. As always, the resort town of Belden, CA is the ideal setting for a festival, and seeing it transformed into the bass music utopia of Emissions Festival every year brings a wide smile to my face. Thank you for your continued dedication to the community, Camp Q!
As I mentioned earlier, Camp Questionmark puts a lot of effort into crafting a phenomenal music lineup every year, and 2015 was no different. The standards are set extremely high at this festival, and if you don’t come correct, the crowd will not react well. Unfortunately, the modern state of the electronic music industry essentially forces producers to be live performers, and some of them either are not interested in perfecting this craft or otherwise are not able to do so. Whatever the case might be, two of the larger headliners this weekend certainly fell into this category. While displaying clear talent in the studio, both Lindsay Lowend and Araabmuzik seemed to have a hard time translating that production talent into the live setting. Lindsay Lowend is a Washington, DC based producer that I’ve been watching and admiring for several years. I’ve been a fan of almost everything he’s released, from his experimental jazzy hip-hop beats to his R&B-inspired chiptune bass music. His live set, unfortunately, did not impress me in the same way his production always has. It really seemed like he couldn’t care less what his transitions sounded like, and he seemed to make no effort to blend tracks together or create a flow in his set. It seemed as if he was basically choosing whatever random track popped into his head, and immediately pressing play and just filtering the last track out. As a longtime fan of his, his lack of concern for constructing a well thought out and cleanly mixed set was quite disappointing. Araabmuzik, although very technically skilled at live MPC finger-drumming, chose to play the most obnoxious of mainstream EDM during his set (at an underground bass music festival), as opposed to the knocking 808 hip-hop beats that we’ve all come to know and love from him. While his set was definitely more technically proficient than Lindsay Lowend’s, his track selection essentially produced the same effect, as the dance floor cleared quite significantly during both of their performances.
Despite the disappointment from these two headliners, there were COUNTLESS others who played EXCEPTIONAL sets. First, I’d like to commend the dubstep badmen holding down the classic UK sound on the West Coast festival circuit. Some may say dubstep is dead, but it was as strong as ever at Emissions (and everywhere else, in my opinion, but that’s a conversation for another day). Starting off the weekend proper, Humboldt County killa Treemeista played the first set of the weekend on the Void stage, and truly set the vibe perfectly. Playing this set time isn’t always easy, but his heavy reggae-influnced dub and 808 tunes got the whole festival grooving and ready for the insanity to come. New Zealand / Los Angeles based TRUTH came ready to melt faces with murderous deep dubs, and proceeded to play my favorite set of the weekend. Spawning the whole history of dubstep from classics like “Night” from Benga and Coki to “Midnight Request Line” from Skream to a slew of unreleased dubplates from a host of current dubstep all stars, Truth’s set had that rare magical feeling has you anxious about an hour in because you’re worried that it’s going to end soon and you want it to last forever.
Of course, a Camp Questionmark party wouldn’t be complete without knockout sets from trippy 808 dons G Jones, Bleep Bloop, NastyNasty and Yheti. All four have really proven themselves to be on top of the West Coast bass music scene in the past several years, and it’s been inspiring to watch them grow as artists and live performers, always exemplified by their standout sets at Emissions every year. These four have received quite a bit of shine from us at Booms and Claps in the past, so you should know by now, but if you don’t, these are the best in the business. All of their performances on the main stage this year were incredible, and I fully expect them to match and surpass the standard they set for themselves next year.
The world renowned German label Saturate Records was well represented this year at Emissions, as it has been the past several years. Their artists all definitely stood out to me this year as incredible live performers. I was especially impressed with BOATS and Sayer, who both played some of the most unique and interesting music I heard all weekend on the Void stage. BOATS takes the traditional 808-centric style adopted by many producers on the West Coast but flips it on its head by blending the G-Funk style of late 90’s / early 2000’s Bay Area hyphy rap beats, while Sayer adopts a different approach to the psychedelic 808 sound by incorporating acid and techno elements.
On the more rap/R&B influenced side of the spectrum, Oakland’s ONHELL and Portland’s Chase Manhattan both came equipped with a full stock of original productions and remixes for their respective main and Void stage sets. Yung ONHELL played an early evening set on the main stage that set the vibe perfectly for the rest of the night. He expertly flowed between his lower energy atmospheric vocal based original productions and his more raucous rap remixes and riotous peak time knockers in a manner that got everyone stimulated and ready for the long night of partying ahead. Chase threw down a supremely mixed set of pure rowdiness at an extremely prime 2 AM timeslot that re-energized us and kept us going strong well into the early morning. His take on West Coast bass music from an ignorant rap music perspective is pretty much exactly what I’m looking for in a DJ set, and he was undeniably in rare form at Emissions. The dance floor never had a chance.
Finally, I’d like to give a special shoutout to an artist that really took me by surprise and blew me away with their technical prowess as a DJ: Daktyl. I had been listening to his music for quite some time and was always impressed with his production quality and unique take on a sound that I generally find to be homogeneous, recycled, and tired. I’ve had the opportunity to see quite a few “future bass” (for lack of a better describing term) producers play live over the past several years, and although many of them are proficient in the studio, they often have difficulty translating that talent into the live setting (as we saw with Lindsay Lowend earlier in the weekend). Because of this dynamic, I had relatively low expectations for Daktyl’s set, even though I’d always loved his tunes. What I neglected to remember is that the standards for DJing in the UK (Daktyl’s country of origin) are arguably the highest in the world, and Daktyl met those standards with swagger for days. Double dropping EPROM and Skepta, blending his own productions and remixes, and coming correct with a variety of West Coast (and UK) bass music, Daktyl had an impressive understanding of exactly what kind of crowd he was playing to and what they wanted to hear. Ups to Daktyl, 10/10. I’ll definitely be making an effort to see him whenever possible from now on.
Of course, there were many other amazing sets. Shouts to Kozmo, Pressha, Lost City, 6 Blocc, Boggan, Trevor Kelly, Noer the Boy, BOGL, Tsuruda, and so many other phenomenal artists who held it down all weekend.
All in all, it’s definitely safe to say that Emissions West Coast Bass Culture 2015 was a smashing success. Music, vibe, organization, squad, art, food: all on point. Booms and Claps have been in full support of Camp Questionmark and Emissions since our inception and we couldn’t be more excited to see what they cook up next year. Bigup the Q-Mark Massif. Brap.
Be sure to check out the Euphoric.net Emissions 2015 Recap Video for more memories!
All Photo Credit to Nicholas Valerio.