What it’s Like to Love Hardcore When You Can’t go to a Rave
If there’s one thing anybody knows about me, it’s that I live and breathe hardcore. I’ve pledged my allegiance to hardcore through both my digital and physical presence over the years: I tattooed ‘200 BPM’ on my right elbow ditch, started my own Spotify playlist curating the best in hardcore every month for the past 18 months, and if you’ve run into me at EDC Las Vegas, you know I’m the one standing at the rail for the hardcore sunrise set at 4:30 in the morning. My love for this music even bleeds into my career: I have the privilege of curating Hard Dance / Hardcore for Beatport along with seven other genres on the store.
I’ve been a hardcore fanatic for over three years. I’ve always been into hardstyle and happy hardcore, but when I started listening to hardcore, I just never stopped. It began with easing into tracks at 170 BPM and slowly increasing my tolerance to uptempo hardcore that often exceeds 200 BPM. Listening to hardcore makes me feel like I can accomplish anything, be whoever I want to be, and express myself through emotions ranging from excitement to anger and everything in between.
These feelings are amplified when I get to experience hardcore live: there’s nothing like the energy of a crusty underground hardcore show or a massive festival where I’m standing among a sea of hardcore fanatics sporting merchandise and tattoos inspired by their favorite artists and labels. If someone asks me about the best day of my life, I’ll tell them all about the time I traveled to the Netherlands for the first time, alone, to experience the world’s largest hardcore festival, Dominator. I’ll gush about the festival’s seven different stages and how I got to end my night with a legendary set from Angerfist coupled with the best festival production I’ve ever seen.
Now that we’re living in a world at the mercy of COVID-19, it’s been six months since I’ve experienced my favorite music live. For those of us who live and breathe hardcore, life is rough. Hardcore is made for the live experience. When you experience a hardcore set at the end of a long night, whether it’s in a small venue or at a festival, you feel as if you’re the last one standing after a ferocious battle. In a word, it’s truly epic.
But earlier this year, Dutch healthcare minister Hugo de Jonge announced that large scale events will only be allowed to take place in the Netherlands after a COVID-19 vaccine will be available to the public. Once I heard the news, my heart sank at the thought of what might happen to legendary hard dance event companies like Q-Dance and Art of Dance if we don’t find a vaccine in time. What’s more, what will happen to my favorite artists? How many artists I’ve connected with over the years will have a viable career by then? Even if a vaccine is distributed to citizens of the Netherlands, will the United States be anywhere near a similar solution? I know I’m not alone in my concerns, and I’m probably being dramatic, but the truth is that I’m constantly mourning the sudden loss of my absolute favorite thing in the world.
Despite the heartache, there’s plenty to be grateful for: first and foremost, I’m grateful for my own health along with the health the safety of my fellow hardcore lovers. More than anything, it’s essential that we maintain social distancing and wait for live events to return when it’s safe to do so. With this in mind, I’m also incredibly grateful for the many live streams available to watch on any given weekend: Insomniac Events in the US has shown a lot of love to hardcore fans throughout the summer with live streams featuring artists like DJ Mad Dog, AniMe, Lil Texas, Deadly Guns, and more; Q-Dance and Art of Dance produced a jaw-dropping live stream in place of Defqon.1 that featured full festival production, live quiz shows to test fans’ knowledge of hard dance, and much more.
The highlight of my summer, though, has been the live stream experience organized by the world’s largest hardcore festival (also known as my second home), Dominator. Named We Will Prevail, Dominator filmed performances by hardcore legends in the festival’s original location complete with motocross racers, apocalyptic go-go dancers, and a fully-loaded stage production. I treated this live stream as if it were the real thing: waking up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning, I tied my hair into a high ponytail, put on my 100% Hardcore-branded track pants and my Masters of Hardcore sports bra to watch the event alone at home — it was genuinely one of the best days I’ve had this entire time we’ve been living through a pandemic. Simply put, these events have made the at-home music experience so much more special than I ever imagined.
Beyond live streamed events, new music from all my favorite artists is coming out all the time. I’ve made hardcore mixes and listened to new music both in my headphones and turned up loud on my speakers — I don’t need an event to express my love for the music, but I sure do miss it. I’ve taken one road trip since COVID-19 ravaged the music industry and it made me remember just how incredible it feels to listen to your favorite music in the car with the volume turned up way louder than it needs to be — when I need an escape from my apartment and I crave the energy of live music, I get in my car and do exactly that.
Looking towards the future, my biggest fear is that my favorite artists and event companies won’t be able to return due to COVID-19 ravaging not only the health of artists, fans, and music industry workers, but also the economy of each market. However, I predict that post-COVID-19, people around the world will decide to spend their money on experiences rather than material items, and I hold onto hope that the concert and festival business will thrive because of this.
It’s been six months since I’ve lived a “normal” life, one where I went to a different show multiple times per week, and it’s made me feel grateful that I cherished all the moments I’ve spent at hardcore shows, EDC Las Vegas, and Dominator. I never took these experiences for granted and I certainly won’t in the future. There are simply no words to describe the feeling of being surrounded by people who love hardcore just as much as I do, who also know the words to every song, and take it just as seriously as I do.