Bring on the Drums! How EDM Will Move Beyond the Laptop in 2015

Upbeat Feel Good Song #8: Daft Punk ft. Pharrell - "Get Lucky" (2013)
Larry Busacca/WireImage

Nile Rodgers, Pharrell Williams and Daft Punk perform "Get Lucky" onstage during the 56th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  

Last May on Saturday Night Live, Andy Samberg portrayed "Davvincii," a DJ caricature who fried an egg, played Jenga and swiped credit cards while waiting to drop the bass. Onstage at Coachella, Arcade Fire's Win Butler shouted out "bands still playing actual instruments." On YouTube, a video mocking Steve Aoki live ("Don't mind me, bros! I'm just touching some stuff here") went viral. If 2014 was the year pop culture took a swing at button-pushing DJs, then 2015 will be the year electronic music transcends the laptop.

"Build up, raise your hands, insert Lil Jon vocal drop and everyone starts jumping like pogo sticks," says Jake Carpenter, a member of Chicago electronic trio Autograf. "We're starting to see a reaction to that."


Electronic artists have long combined live vocalists and instruments with keyboards and drum machines, but following Daft Punk's full-band performance at the 2014 Grammys, the breakout of drum-and-keyboard U.K. garage duo Disclosure and sold-out tours from Porter Robinson and Flying Lotus, two acts who deliver video with their audio, producers are reshaping their sets into interactive live experiences. Autograf, for example, performs with traditional world instruments that have been rejiggered with sound-reactive light sensors. Lithuanian producer Ten Walls, a classically trained musician touring Europe this winter, designed his show to mimic an orchestra. And Chicago trap duo Flosstradamus is distancing itself from the DJ label entirely.

"We consider ourselves a live act," says Josh Young of Flosstradamus, which just wrapped a two-month tour featuring rap trio Migos and an elaborate 3-D stage designed by Kanye West's creative director, Virgil Abloh. "Our shows should be immersive."

As Carpenter puts it, "If you can marry musicianship, technology and visual performance, you offer so much more than a set of CDJ [players] and fist-pumping. That's the future."

This article first appeared in the Jan. 17 issue of Billboard.


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