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Mamby on the Beach Sticks Another Nail in the EDM Coffin

A fan at Mamby on the Beach 2015   Photo: Max Herman

Last year, Mamby on the Beach arrived with little fanfare. From the ever-cool Pitchfork Music Festival to the rowdy North Coast Music Festival to the behemoth (and growing) monster Lollapalooza, summer in Chicago is a season defined by festivals. And over the past few years, rather than slow down, the number and scale of the city’s festivals ballooned even further. Chicago has essentially become the epicenter of the burgeoning American music festival bubble. 

With the untimely and unfortunate death of Wavefront Music Festival and the awkward Riverwest Music Festival, older house heads—those not interested in the teenaged debauchery of EDM—had flocked to Chosen Few Picnic (a house music festival in Jackson Park) as a respite.

But then came Mamby. Inspired by the legendary and now-defunct weekly house party Mamby, the festival promised the thrill of dance music without the performative aspects that have become ubiquitous in EDM. The React Presents fest offered a smaller and more manageable experience, booking acts such as Empire of the Sun, James Murphy and George Fitzgerald.

Now, in its second year, the Mamby lineup is stronger and more dynamic than ever. Encompassing a broad stroke otherwise known as “electronica,” Mamby 2016 will feature electropop from Santigold, indie rock from Animal Collective, house and hip hop from Kaytranada, and a collection of DJ sets from acts who regularly draw crowds in town at Spybar. Noticeably absent is EDM.

Although Mamby featured only a few EDM acts last year, the palpable absence sends a strong message. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: EDM culture is on its way out. For additional proof, look no further than EDM behemoth Spring Awakening (also a React Present festival). It’s nearly May and rumors continue to swirl that the June festival has yet to lock in a location. Perhaps that’s because bookers, fest-goers, and city officials now see the appeal of skewing toward relatively peaceful dance music instead of the infamous antics of contemporary EDM culture.

Will it last? Hope so. As rowdy and annoying as EDM might be, it still sells. (Though, not to the same degree as when Aviicii still performed live and Skrillex still made music for himself.) I say, consider this another nail in the coffin of EDM.

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