BY MOIRA McCORMICK | FOR THE SUN-TIMES
Live EDM is stuck in a rut, says Flosstradamus, and it’s their mission to yank it loose.
The DJ/producer team of J2K and Autobot — Chicago’s own still-ascending stars of pop’s hottest genre, electronic dance music — has spent the past decade performing and/or spectating at EDM-laden festivals (including last summer’s Lollapalooza) and clubs around the globe.
And what they’ve seen in these different concert settings is a whole lotta same-old, same-old, said Josh Young (J2K) during a recent conference call along with Curt “Autobot” Cameruci, as Flosstradamus was winding up its own traveling spectacle, HDYNATION (“Hoodie Nation”) Tour. The visual and sensory extravaganza arrives Dec. 26-27 in homecoming shows at the Aragon and the Mid, respectively.
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 26
Where: Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence
Tickets: $33.50 (18+over)
When: 10 p.m. Dec. 27
Where: The Mid, 306 N. Halsted
Tickets: $30 (21+over)
“EDM, unfortunately, is dominated by people that just go up and DJ behind LED screens,” Young said. “Like Curt says, it’s pyro, cryo and graphics, over and over again. It becomes pretty monotonous.” HDYNATION Tour was specifically conceived as an antidote to “EDM patterns and habits: adding a theatrical element to a genre where there is very little.”
To that end, Young and Cameruci enlisted the visionary designer Virgil Abloh, fresh off of creative-directing Kanye West’s epic “Yeezus Tour,” to make their brainstorms concrete. Abloh, a turntablist himself with the #Been #Trill[sic] collective, had spun DJ sets on the previous Flosstradamus tour, thus “getting the feel of our crowd — and seeing what our side of EDM looks like,” Young said. “When we approached him to work on this tour, he was really stoked.”
In a prepared statement, Abloh pointed to Cameruci and Young’s being “at the forefront of pushing the festival club culture” as a particular catalyst for his involvement: “[W]hen they asked me for advice on telling the story of their post-apocalyptic #HDYNATION world on stage, I immediately was inspired … to help them bring our collective vision to life.”
Though Cameruci politely declined to specify the price tag for this lavish road show, which is self-financed, he did disclose that “Josh and I are not really coming out that much on top.” But as he and Young stressed, HDYNATION Tour was fashioned primarily as a token of heartfelt appreciation for HDYNATION itself: the Flosstradamus fans. “This is definitely a passion project for us,” Young said.
“We’re very fortunate that the [EDM] industry is booming right now,” said Cameruci, “so we’re able to make really good money in the summertime doing festivals.”
“It’s our chance to give back to fans who might’ve seen us six times this year already — or more,” Young said. “Give ’em something special, make it worth their while. We wanted to bring, basically, a third dimension to electronic music, a submersing, 3-D experience for the fans — to make HDYNATION an actual, physical destination in your city, in whatever venue we’re playing.”
Flosstradamus’ stage set, a blighted, urban-industrial hellscape serving as HDYNATION HQ, features arresting props and constructions. “Early on, I had the idea of having an actual car onstage,” said Young. “I thought that’d be fun to sort of preach from the hood — because I’m more the hype man, holding the mic — and then Curtis is DJing on a structure about 14 feet high. We’ve integrated corrugated iron and razor wire to make it feel as realistic as possible.”
Between the cinematic stage design, an unusually high degree of audience participation, and the marauding music of Flosstradamus, HDYNATION is “not a show where you’re gonna be looking away a lot, chatting to your friends,” Young said. “Once you’re in there, we got your attention — and we plan on keeping it.”
Note: The full production will be staged only at the 5,000-capacity Aragon Ballroom; the much smaller Mid (750 cap.) will host “a classic Flosstradamus DJ set, with both of us spinning,” said Young. “It’s something that’s kind of rare for us … and an after-party sort of vibe.”
Moria McCormick is a local freelance writer.