Electronic dance music takes hold in Utah

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When Griffin Cannon first moved into Helaman Halls as a freshman at BYU he spent most of his free time playing his acoustic guitar and practicing piano skills he learned as a child. Back then he was listening to punk rock bands like Brand New and Alexisonfire. Little did he know that his move to Utah would not only help revolutionize the music he listened to but also the music he tried to create.

“I really started listening to EDM within the last year. All my friends were listening to it,” said Cannon, who recently spent approximately $5,000 on DJ software and equipment so he could learn how to create the music he heard on the radio. “I enjoyed playing piano and guitar growing up, but this is just another way I can express myself musically. If you know notes and sheet music it’s actually fairly easy to use the programs nowadays.”

Former BYU student Griffin Cannon has spent nearly $5,000 on software and equipment to join in on the newfound music craze that is EDM. (Cody Melnyk)

With Europe seemingly being its birthplace, electronically produced music has been around for the last several decades, produced by artists like The Chemical Brothers, Prodigy and Moby. It has only been within the last few years that the genre has turned a corner and seems to have earned a permanent home on the shores of North America. What used to be referred to by many as “techno” has been re-branded as electronic dance music, or EDM, has taken over North American airwaves seemingly overnight and, like many of the early European pioneers, has made its way across the plains to Utah.

Scottish-born producer Adam Richard Wiles has capitalized in a big way on the new music trend. Better known by his stage name of “Calvin Harris,” Wiles earned more than $46 million last year playing electronically produced music, earning more than hip-hop mogul Jay-Z and pop star Katy Perry. With nightly earnings exceeding $200,000, Harris, as well as EDM, show no signs of slowing down. He recently signed a residency gig at Las Vegas mega-club Hakkasan (located in MGM Grand) to play more than 70 shows over the next two years.

“EDM has completely taken over,” said Dustin Esson, director of strategic marketing for Park City Live. “It is far beyond any other genre that’s out right now. When Park City slows down for the summer months, EDM never takes a hit. We use it as a crutch.”

Esson, who is responsible for bringing many EDM acts to Utah, including Calvin Harris in 2013, and is the talent buyer for one of Utah’s most popular night clubs, Park City Live (formerly known as Harry O’s), claims it is easier than ever to get EDM artists to come to play in the small market Utah is.

“These artists could easily go to another market, but they’re choosing to come to Utah,” Esson said. “Guys are calling us saying, ‘We want to play Utah.'”

Esson credits the energy brought by Utah fans to shows as one of the main reasons artists desire to play shows in Utah, with many of the club’s patrons coming up from Utah County.

“Thirty-five percent of our audience comes from Provo,” Esson said. “Kids are coming out, and they’re buying tickets. There’s something about the energy in these fans; kids are fanatical. You can feel that energy.”

Esson isn’t the only one who recognizes the energy that is created from live shows.

“It’s so much more than the actual music that contributes to the environment,” said Alicia Hyer, who not only works at Park City Live but regularly travels to Las Vegas with her friends to see some of the world’s biggest DJs. “It’s the music, the lights, the pyrotechnics; everything contributes to the experience. It’s just really fun.”

That experience even took over downtown Provo on May 31 when the Utah-based company “Electro-Dash” shut down parts of Center Street for a self-proclaimed “5K Dance Party.” Thousands of participants showed up for the fee-based event that included a non-competitive 5K run/walk that decked out both the course and participants in neon gear.

The Electro-Dash, a 5K dance-party took over down town Provo on May 31st. (Photo taken by Elliot Miller)
The Electro-Dash, a fee-based 5K dance-party, took over downtown Provo on May 31 with thousands of participants joining in on the festivities. (Elliot Miller)

Afterward event sponsors threw a massive dance party in the middle of the street.

“You can’t go to a party in Provo anymore without hearing (EDM),” said Duane Leduc, who attended the Electro-Dash. “It’s everywhere.”

While there seems to be no avoiding the newfound dance craze, not everyone seems to be as excited about it.

“I don’t know what all the fuss is about,” said Adam Thomas, a southern California native who has relocated to Provo for school. “I don’t think it’s really music. I don’t think it’s any better than rap or pop music.”

Whatever your stance may be, with people around the world, and especially in Utah, loving to dance, it seems the genre is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

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