Phutureprimitive Brings the Dusty Festival Vibes to Clubland
By Derek Staples
Although he plays dozens of music festivals per year, don’t expect to see Phutureprimitive on the bill of any of the Big Four anytime soon. The Bay Area glitch-hop/IDM producer has been releasing steadily for a decade, establishing himself as the premier DJ for sunrise sets during transformational festivals. For the uninitiated, Transformational festivals are those that promote wellness workshops, leave-no-trace policies, and permaculture seminars as heavily as they do their music talent — think Burning Man and regional, underground equivalents. Due to the very nature of these festivals, documentation is rare; it’s all about living in the now, which is hard to do while peering through a camera.
To bring this inspiring presence to a club setting during the latter half of 2014, Phutureprimitive enlisted the talents of ritual dancer Caeli La, visual animator Thomas Williams, and, most importantly, his passionate fan base. Using a Kickstarter campaign, Phutureprimitive raised more than $12,000 to design and build a custom, video-mapped, three-dimensional stage production — definitely not an easy task for an independent artist. The projection rig is just one element that differentiates Phutureprimitive from his heady bass music contemporaries. While acts like The Polish Ambassador, Ott, and Shpongle also put considerable effort into their visual productions, Phutureprimitive has created an open-hearted culture around his “Dance Out Your Demons” philosophy. In a sort of self-help exercise, Phutureprimitive distributes paper, tape, and markers before each show for revelers to scribble down their fears, insecurities, and doubts, attach them to the bottom of their shoes, and then work out those ills through the course of the night.
I made my way to Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom and Tavern to check out the result of the crowd-funding campaign. As the venue is mid-market at best for electronic music, I was shocked to see a few dozen dancers already soaking in the beats of the house PA system when making my way inside. There was little the venue could do to hide the newly completed physical setup; the object’s pristine whiteness hinted at the sensory overload to follow. While the term EDM is being used more and more to describe bottle-service vibes, the evening was anything but. Opener Kaminanda seemed to arrive fresh from the playa, dust on his baggy joggers and all. His plodding glitch arrived from those same psychedelic lands. When not staring into the glow of his sticker-coated laptop, he was getting lost in his Goa enchantment, a row of troll-like figurines keeping guard on his controller as he grooved away from the DJ table.
These moves transitioned nicely when he came down into the audience in anticipation of Phutureprimitive. Kaminanda never retreated back into the hollows of the venue, sharing laughs with the audience before the headlining set, and then eagerly swaying with the dozens of bodies that coalesced into a glowing ball of contentment mid-floor. The energy for Phutureprimitive was unlike anything I had encountered. To be transparent, his music isn’t as unique as someone like Welder or Tipper; it’s his ability to infuse the serenity of distant female echoes and a shimmery melody with a beatifically chaotic bass line and to sustain this presence over four hours that pulls such a composed group of ravers. If one could combine the excessive joy of The Polyphonic Spree, camaraderie of The Grateful Dead, and pure bass bliss of Bassnectar, that would approach the ambiance of a Phutureprimitive evening.
This sense of spiritual well-being is far from the molly-fueled stereotype of the 2014 bass-music culture, a caricature that would still be welcomed, and eventually tamed, by this transformational experience. Phutureprimitive might have been at the front of the room, but the event was for the audience: the live artists throwing paint to canvas, the hoopers losing themselves in a whirlwind of colors, and even the introverts who felt comfortable enough to escape from their bedroom for just a few hours. That sense of “welcome” isn’t always so easy to obtain.
Interested about a profession within EDM? Continue on for 20 tips from one of the scene’s keenest young figures.