Today marks a celebratory day in the music industry. Every year, the global music community comes together to honor the iconic Roland TR-808 drum machine, an instrument that changed the face of contemporary music as we know it. The TR-808 has inspired countless artists over the years, especially in the hip-hop and electronic dance music corners of the industry.
Among those artists is Lorin Ashton, a lanky kid from Northern California who grew up as quite the anomaly. Raised on a hippie commune, and developing a love for metal-core in his teenage years, Ashton was the son of two Ivy League professors, who would go onto to find himself on the playa out at Burning Man and begin the Bassnectar project at the age of 24. Like most electronic producers, Ashton developed a deep appreciation for the TR-808 because it was one of the earliest programmable drum machines that gave users the freedom of creating their own rhythms over having to use preset patterns.
Developed by the Roland Corporation in 1980, the TR-808 Rhythm Composer was completely analogue, meaning its sounds are generated non-digitally via hardware rather than samples of prerecorded sounds. This was also a time when electronic music was just becoming mainstream. The TR-808 experienced a pretty harsh debut due to being outshined by it’s closest competitor, the Linn LM-1 Drum Computer, which was much more expensive option. Consequently, the TR-808 was a commercial flop out of the gate. It received mixed reviews for its “unrealistic” synthesized drum sounds and lack of “pro” features and was later discontinued in 1983.
But the commercial failure of the TR-808 became the impetus for some of Bassnectar’s most popular tracks, including “Don’t Hate The 808.” “Generate,” and “The 808 Track.” Nowadays, the TR- 808 has been used on more hit records than any other drum machine and Bassnectar stands as one of its most visible advocates.
To us Bass Heads, it’s more than just a number. It’s an integral part of the music we love,” says the Bass Network team in a past blog. “Whether it’s the time of day, in a phone number, or on a license plate, we love the sight and sound of 808. And on August 8th, it’s practically a holiday for Bass Heads”
Given the enormous influence the TR-808 has had on music and pop culture since the 1980s, as well as with Bassnectar and his fanbase, it’s only fair to celebrate 808 Day by ramping up the hype over Bassnectar’s biggest event of the year. Taking place at the end of the month, bass heads will invade the Hampton Coliseum — nicked named the Mothership for obvious reasons — at the twelfth edition of Bass Center.
Bass Center is known as the place where Bassnectar listens to his fans’ requests for rarities. Always a man of the people, Ashton never ceases to deliver. We sourced the Bassnectar fan pages and message boards to see which fan-requested tracks have been dominating the online conversation.
So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are CE‘s most-anticipated tracks for BassCenter 2019.
Bassnectar – Matrix (Opener)
Last played: Spring Gathering Night 2, Rosemont, IL, 2018.
This one has been back in the rotation for some time, ever since Bassnectar dropped the bomb on his Aspen Winter X Games crowd back in 2017. Then, he played the Divergent Spectrum track the following year at his Spring Gathering event in Chicago. Since then, however, all fans have gotten are teases — at Freestyle Sessions and Bass Center XI in 2018 and on the final evening of Deja Voom alongside Monuman’s “Rise.” Needless to say, it’s time.
Bassnectar & Jantsen – Red Step
Last played: Okeechobee (Friday Set), Okeechobee, FL, 2018.
Here’s another Divergent Spectrum track that is long overdue with the heads. Bassnectar last played the full track on the Okeechobee main stage, following one of his rare West Coast LoFi sets on Okeechobee Beach the pervious evening. Since then, the track has been teased only briefly during Freestyle Sessions’ Dreamtempo night when Bassnectar mixed in “Red Step” with Joker’s “Snake Eater.” Suffice it to say, fans have been requesting the track with alarming frequency in the online fan forums.
Bassnectar & Gnar Gnar – Dreamcatcher
Last played: Freestyle Sessions (Night 2), Broomfield, CO, 2017.
Since it’s arrival on 2016’s Unlimited Combinations, this one has been an ultra-rare family track over the past three years, only being played out at two curated events in 2017. Considering how the track was revived at Deja Voom, the only hope of fans who weren’t there is that 2019 will be a year that follows suit with two appearances.
It’s no secret that Gnar Gnar has been one of Bassnectar’s favorite collaborate since Into The Sun. The two have also worked together on “Generate,” “I’m Up,” featuring Born I, and the Reeps One-assisted “Whiplash,” creating a wealth of songs for Bassnectar to choose from at any given moment. All of those, “Dreamcatcher” boasts an expansive sound and immersive bass line that make it fill out any large arena quite nicely.
Bassnectar – The 808 Track (ft. Mighty High Coup)
Last played: Basscenter XI (Night 1), Hampton, VA, 2018.
When it comes to “The 808 Track,” Moonrise 2015 is always something that comes to mind in the bass head popular imagination. Bassnectar’s headlining performance happened to fall on August 8, so it was only fitting that Bassnectar felt inspired to create one of his most talked-about festival sets to this day. The song, which itself is an ode to the TR-808, arrived on Bassnectar’s Wildstyle EP. Over the past few years, the track has made an appearance only at curated events, including BassLanta, BCX, overcrowded NYE in Atlanta, and BCXI. So it’s entirely likely that “The 808 Track” is becoming a Bass Center mainstay track in the current rotation. Only time will tell.
Bassnectar – Verbing The Noun
Last played: Halloween Masquerade (Night 1), Grand Rapids, MI, 2016.
Here’s an Underground Communication track that hasn’t seen the light of day in quite some time. There’s something about every track on this album that’s developed a chimerical allure these days, especially as Bassnectar has begun to pull them back out of the vault. Last year saw “Underground Communication” and “Kick It Complex” (mashed into “Blow”) at Freestyle Sessions and a “Select Frequency” mash-up and “Bomb The Blocks” outro at Electric Forest. Now, “Verbing The Noun” is the track on everyone’s lips as bass heads begin campaigning for their favorite tracks at Bass Center — and, yes, bass heads actually politic for their top picks at this event.
Unicorn Pick: Ellie Goulding – Lights (Bassnectar Remix)
Last played: New Years Eve 360, Birmingham, AL, 2015-2016.
This one is for the wishful thinkers. The dreamers. The newcomers. As his most-requested rarity as of late, Bassnectar uses this one sparingly to catch his fans by utter surprise. As his most “mainstream” track, Ashton has said that he doesn’t like to deliver “Lights” often because it became so overused during his touring days that he felt the overbearing expectation to always play the track live.
When he dropped his remix of Ellie Goulding’s “Lights” at NYE 360 at the seminal ball drop moment, after a commanding Imogen Heap lead-in, the moment stopped the entire BJCC crowd in their tracks. Chills, tears, hugs, and euphoria are the only ways to describe what is, to this day, one of the most coveted Bassnectar moments
So it’s likely that Bassnectar won’t be playing this one live until people stop asking for it. But given how Bassnectar is full of surprises, Bass Center would be the perfect place for the highly-sought-after remix to the light again. Who knows, maybe dreams do come true.