EDM’s Forgotten History Finally Gets Its Literary Due in ‘The Underground Is Massive’: Book Review

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Dance music fans often come under fire for not appreciating its history. But given the scene's experiential nature -- it's fueled largely by festivals, clubs and raves -- some might argue that to really understand its roots, you kind of had to be there.

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Enter Michelangelo Matos, a veteran dance music writer whose new book, The Underground Is Massive, offers a deep dive into American EDM's forgotten past. Fittingly, it's tentpoled by seminal events like 1992's Rave America and 2000's Detroit Electronic Music Festival. If you weren't at Mendel High School when Chicago house legend Frankie Knuckles spun gym parties in the early '80s, or when Daft Punk were teenagers in a band called Darlin’, Matos takes you there. 

He is impressively thorough, but never includes an artist or event without good reason. For example, many don’t know that Rick Rubin tried, and failed, to start a techno label in 1993, or that two-thirds of the acts at the inaugural Coachella festival in 1999 were electronic. 

A more recent highlight is the 2014 Grammys, where Daft Punk took home five awards, including album of the year. Rather than dwelling on the acceptance speeches, Matos highlights the after-party where Jay ZPaul McCartney, Beyonce, Madonna, Lars Ulrich and Queens of the Stone Age danced until dawn to celebrate two men who’d “heard the future in house and techno.” It wasn’t just a great party, but rather a poignant, rare moment when the underground and the big music business – “two entities that had circled one another for a generation” – came together. 

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By using such moments to retrace the genre's peaks and valleys through decades, Matos quashes the idea that EDM is a fad. It's a staple, he says, that'll continue to weave in and out of the mainstream thanks to a loyal, inventive underground. It's easy to ask when the EDM bubble will burst, but this book inspires another, more exciting question: What's next?

This story originally appeared in the May 9 issue of Billboard