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A Trance Fan Gets Pleasantly Surprised By Bass Academy (Review)

Two Words To Sum Up My Experience: “Holy. S#%T.”

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Dance Music Northwest or its leadership.

I thought I knew what I was getting into when I chose to represent DMNW as the reviewer for Bass Academy 2018. PK Sound: loud. Headbangers: everywhere. All the bass, dubstep, and trap music? You bet. Justin Bieber. Wait. What?

TL; DR Bass Academy 2018 Review:

+ Easy, quick entrance
+ Amazing production (when everything worked), with all the lasers, pyro, and visuals you can handle!
+ 240K Watts of PK Sound. It HIT.
+ Different sub-genres of bass music; not just an onslaught of headbanging music.
+ Free water station, heavy Conscious Crew presence.
+ Plenty of seats in the stands, offering a calmer place to get off your feet to watch all the action.

– Production issues plagued a few sets.
– The crowd did not feel Eprom b2b Woolymammoth.
– One too many medical emergencies. Even Borgore acknowledged an incident as it was unfolding in the front rail. Come on fam, we’ve got to do better.

For the most part, my assumptions were spot on. Hearing the Biebs’ Baby booming at 240K Watts of that loud PK Sound, though? That was one of the many things I was not prepared for at this USC dedicated bass massive. The Seattle-based promoter claimed that bassheads would receive a “full curriculum” in all things related to the genre, and they were not kidding.

Photo: ParallaxNW.com

As the title of this piece suggests, I am a big trance fan. Just the night before, I stood awestruck inside The Underground as Irish trance legend Bryan Kearney performed an amazing three-hour set. Waking up at noon last Saturday, I knew I would have to switch gears, mentally speaking. So, I threw on my best all-black ensemble and a few hours later was on my way to the Tacoma Dome, blasting Skism’s Never Say Die Volume 5 mix along the way to gas myself up (per a friend’s recommendation).

I’ve dabbled in bass from time-to-time, since being exposed to the genre and the PNW basshead/headbanging community at my first Paradiso in 2015. I wanted to show my best friend what Bear Grillz was like in person, back when he wore a full getup, so into The Wreckage we went! We stayed for the full set and even went back for more later that evening; the crowd’s energy was infectious, and something I had never seen before.

Bass Academy 2018 featured that same infectious energy. Entering the venue was a breeze, which was a blessing considering how hard it was raining! Walking in, I could feel the power of the PK Sound system as Northwest favorite AMF opened the evening with a set that brought out the headbangers as they filed onto the dancefloor.

The Justin Bieber, Spongebob Playing Duo of Kompany and Tynan (Photo: ParallaxNW.com)

This year’s lineup featured a few back-to-backs and co-headlining performances by Borgore and Zomboy. Honestly, of the eleven artists on the docket, I was only familiar with FOUR: the two headliners, PhaseOne, and UZ. Woolymammoth? Tynan? Stooki Sound? The rest of this year’s performers? I can’t recall ever listening to any of their stuff. But in my two years of covering the EDM scene, I’ve learned that keeping an open mind can lead to some wonderful discoveries-  so an open mind I kept.

After AMF, the ride REALLY began. Kompany and Tynan dropped a riddim laced b2b set in addition to the aforementioned Bieber and the Spongebob Theme song; these guys were definitely having fun.

As the Tacoma Dome began to fill up, the energy seemingly left the building during the following set: Eprom b2b Woolymammoth. I didn’t know what to expect when these two took to the stage, and apparently neither did the crowd. Playing music that I can only describe as grimey, underground trap music (whatever you call their sound, PLEASE  let me know in the comments!), there were very few vocal hip-hop tracks, no big drops, no one was headbanging or dancing. It felt like the crowd took this time to use the restroom, socialize, or grab a seat in the stands.

I thought I would be serenaded with heavy bass music the whole night and quickly learned that would not be the case, and it started with this set. I can appreciate Bass Academy exploring other hard, grimey genres, but considering the type of audience USC typically draws at its massive bass events, they might have missed the mark here with this booking.

Photo: ParallaxNW.com

The party quickly turned up to 100 when Australian Phase One and guitar shredding Sullivan King took the stage for their debut back-to-back. Opening with My Chemical Romance’s Black Parade, these two went on to perform one of the hardest sets of the night- effectively blending bass music and heavy metal in a way I’ve never heard before. At times, it felt like I was at a heavy death metal show with King screaming into the mic at the top of his lungs and whipping out his electric guitar to do some serious shredding.

The two artists alternated crowd interaction responsibilities during the set; one would hype the crowd in front of the massive DJ deck, even headbanging with the rail riders, while the other crafted the next track. The chemistry between the two was amazing and I couldn’t help but feed off the energy myself as the mosh pits started to break out- even a small wall of death!

Stooki Sound and UZ had the responsibility of keeping this renewed energy going with their underground trap heavy set. While there wasn’t much headbanging, the crowd was very into the action- forming multiple mosh pits on command, and even did a sit down! At one point, the power on stage cut off (which happened multiples times throughout the night). During a quick repair, Stooki led a “happy birthday” chant that was dedicated to anyone who was born that day. Hearing 8,000+ people sing this melody is a fun memory I won’t forget.

The Main Event: Zomboy (Photo: ParallaxNW.com)

Borgore followed with a fun, dubstep filled set that featured some filthy takes on Katy Perry and Brittney Spears, in addition to the overtly sexual dubstep anthems that initially propelled the Israeli DJ/producer into stardom. At this point, the mainstage area was packed! Zomboy closed the evening- taking to the mic to express his love to Seattle/Tacoma; calling us the Bass Capital of the World. I couldn’t agree with him more.

I wouldn’t call myself a headbanger or basshead after Bass Academy, and with all the trolling, different genres, huge crowd, and assaulting PK Sound would I enroll in Bass Academy 2019 You bet!

What was your favorite set at Bass Academy 2018? Let us know in the comments below!