Bassnectar Freakstyle - Grand Rapids, MI - 2019

Conscious Electronic’s Top Tours of 2019

2019 is the final year of the decade, and it’s certainly been one that has transformed music. As electronic music becomes more mainstream than ever, the parallel rise of underground producers is happening with strength and speed as well. Social media is a phenomenon that has gripped the globe and become an important tool for music—as well as politics, culture, and human interaction in general—allowing anyone who has a message to speak up. Not to mention, the falling prices of music-making equipment, coupled with the availability of tutorials, software, and more, mean that anyone with the desire to create can easily do so.

It hasn’t all been easy for creators, though. The rise of streaming services during this decade means that more and more artists look to the profits from their live shows instead of relying on sales numbers to make a living. This has led to touring becoming the bread and butter for many musician’s incomes. As the demand for live music soars, production value in a competitive market has risen as well. Of course, fans reap the benefits, as festivals have become a year-round culture, providing a platform for artists to exhaustively travel the country to share their music. To recognize the cream of the crop in our Best of 2019 editorial series, the editorial staff at Conscious Electronic are proudly looking back at the ten most memorable tours from 2019.


10) Tycho – Weather

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Scott Hansen, known professionally as Tycho, has already left a permanent mark on the world of music. Hansen’s distinct aesthetics and musical style have inspired a generation of artists, ensuring his legacy will be a long-lasting one. The minimalist art design on each Tycho album—and the beautifully lush, retro-futurist, synth-heavy music contained within—will remain a testament to his living moment in music history. 

Tycho’s fifth full-length LP, Weather, was preceded by the singles “Easy” and “Pink and Blue,” the latter of which featured vocals by Saint Sinner. A continuation of longstanding musical themes, the album was well-received by fans and critics alike. It contains the same sounds that Tycho’s listener base has come to know and love from the producer: sweeping atmospheric melodies, soothing harmonic structures, and a drifting soundscape of tunes that feel like driving the speed limit down a coastal highway at sunset. 

Weather was released alongside a world tour and an innovative app that would create a playlist based on the weather in the listener’s area. Although he’s no stranger to touring, the Weather tour and the peripherals that accompany the album see Tycho at his most realized. Confident and polished, Hansen has approached each date with a palpable stage presence and veteran sense of poise, secure in the knowledge that his fans are expecting what they know and love from him. Backed by his band and the ethereal vocals of Saint Sinner, with his iconic triangle logo projected behind him, Tycho’s production reached an apex both in composition and performance on the Weather tour.


9) Illenium – Ascend

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Upon his third studio album release, Illenium reached his first-ever No. 1 spot on Billboard‘s Top Dance/Electronic Albums Chart with the LP’s Jon Bellion-assisted record earning RIAA gold more recently. Along with these accolades, Illenium embarked along his album-accompanying Ascend arena tour in late September. Or course, the tour boasted his full live band with Said The Sky on keys, Dabin on strings, and Day on percussion. Given how Dabin and Said The Sky are leaving next year to pursue their own careers, witnessing them on stage together was as bittersweet as it was heartwarming. These are bandmates who clearly know one another, love sharing the spotlight together, and can anticipate each other’s moves at every step.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the Ascend tour marks Illenium’s career-high point. Never mind the stellar technical production or the insane energy of his adoring Illenial fanbase, many of whom traveled far and wide to witness the spectacle. Never mind the spot-on performances from Illenium and his talented cohort of bandmates, openers, and collaborators. Never mind the electrifying pyrotechnics, breathtaking laser show, towering LED backdrops, and storyline visuals. Illenium’s Ascend tour not only showcases his intense yearning for collaboration on many fronts, it spotlights the burgeoning movement that Miller has built around his sound and message.

In just a few years time, Miller has gone from a no-nothing producer/DJ to full-on rock band frontman and main stage headliner. What Illenium has been able to do is cultivate a movement for lovers, for friends, for sad boys and screaming girls alike. Ascend is just the next step in his artistic evolution, albeit not one that will soon be forgotten.

Read our full tour review here.


8) NGHTMRE, Slander, Seven Lions, The Glitch Mob – The Alchemy Tour

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When the Alchemy tour was announced, fans were initially in disbelief, unsure if they were reading the flyer correctly. How could three legendary acts be sharing the same billing? Who would play first each night? How would scheduling work? Would there be a good synergy between fan bases and pleasant crossover appeal, or would the three distinctly different artists find themselves and their fans clashing, either aesthetically, literally, or both? 

The answers to these questions were answered on a hot August day in Southern California. The Glitch Mob, Seven Lions, and finally NGHTMRE and Slander took to the stage and delivered legendary performances one after another. Luckily for their legions of adoring fans, the synergy between the groups was palpable, and the fanbases got along perfectly. The Glitch Mob, secure in their status as electronic music legends, played a variety of new and old tunes, confidently bringing their signature style to an enthusiastic crowd. 

Seven Lions came next, delivering an amazing variety of genres, sliding easily from dubstep to drum and bass, even bringing psytrance and techno into the mix. The sun dropped below the horizon as the crowd sang along, vibrating effortlessly with the veteran DJ. Finally, the moment that a huge segment of the crowd had clearly been waiting for arrived, and the iconic Atom was unveiled as NGHTMRE and Slander took the stage. 

Bringing their high-energy, high-volume series of bangers to the exuberant crowd, the trio made a lasting impression with their closing set. Impressively capping the event’s energy, they managed to handle the pacing of the night perfectly. As difficult as it is to manage an all-day event’s timing and energy, the group of producers pulled it off seemingly effortlessly. The three superpowers of electronic music proved that it is possible to share a headlining tour with a trio equally powerful acts and continued to do so as the Alchemy tour swept the nation.

Read our full tour review here.


7) Haywyre/KOAN Sound – In Parallel

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When it comes to true artistic form, Haywyre and KOAN Sound are two names that venture far beyond commercial sounding EDM. The Bristol-based duo released an inspired Polychrome LP last December, while the Monstercat favorite is still riding the waves of his two-part Panorama EP series, Discover and Form.

Both headlining acts in their own right, their sounds couldn’t compliment each other better. Whereas Haywyre takes a predominately key-led approach to glitch-hop, KOAN Sound harkens on liquidity bass lines and ethereal melodies in their funk-fueled, glitchy bass stamp. That’s why Haywyre and KOAN Sound were a match made in heaven on their 21-date world tour, dubbed In Parallel, which hit cities from London to San Diego this past fall. The result was a humble affair which pulled out fans at the intersection of jam and bass. Good vibes, raw talent, and multi-instrumental flair was the name of the game on this impressive joint tour, which is why In Parallel cracks our Top Ten at No. 7.


6) Madeon – Good Faith Live

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Madeon reached a monumental stepping-stone moment in his young creative career. The 25-year-old mash-up newcomer turned electro-pop sensation, born Hugo Leclercq, released his seminal sophomore studio album in Good Faith. The album, which is a charismatic exploration of dance-pop ballads, slid into CE’s No. 1 spot on our Best Albums of 2019 shortlist. He’d been teasing the full-length effort since January, with plans to release the album mid-year, although there was a delay due to some creative and personal roadblocks along the way.

During that prolonged wait, fans were extremely patient since Madeon was working hard on his live show concept, which debuted live and across airwaves at Lollapalooza back in August. In all actuality, Good Faith Live began much earlier at Porter Robinson’s Second Sky festival. During his set, Madeon stunned the crowd with what were five new IDs at the time, which would later make their way onto the album. For those who witnessed Good Faith Live at Second Sky all the way through Madeon’s closing December dates, they were the lucky few who got to see a tour progression which was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Good Faith will go down as so much more than an album, which draws on indie-electronic, gospel, smooth rock, and more. It’s so much more than an album-accompanying tour for that matter, with Madeon dancing, singing, and playing live against a behemoth LED wall of visuals he filmed personally alongside his creative team. Together, they form an artistic concept signaling the prominent second wave of Hugo’s creative identity. More than that, Madeon let his fans into his personal life the entire stretch of the way via his Beats 1 Good Faith radio show. Without a doubt, 2019 will assertively go down as the year of Good Faith. 


5) Tame Impala – World Tour

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Australian-born Kevin Parker defines what it means to be a one-man creative force. Singlehandedly writing all of the music for Tame Impala, he also reportedly plays all of the instruments for each track during recording sessions. Bursting onto the scene with 2010’s Innerspeaker, Parker’s musical expression has grown leaps and bounds since, with the culmination of his craft arriving with 2015’s third studio LP, Currents. The album was a global hit worldwide, both universally lauded and considered a seminal piece in indie rock and to music world at large. Drawing on a host of influences and employing a distinctively bittersweet, analog sound, Tame Impala’s music has irrevocably been called “the voice of a generation.”

Despite experiencing wild commercial and artistic success, Parker largely disappeared from the public eye, performing rarely and not releasing any new music for years after the success of Currents. Speculation began to build, with fans eagerly jumping at any new tidbits of information, and snapping up the three-track Currents B-sides release in late 2017. Finally, in 2019, their patience was rewarded when Tame Impala was announced as a headliner on Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival

An accompanying world tour was announced, with dates across the globe from May through October. Employing a blend of one-of-a-kind lyrical prowess, psychedelic adventure, catchy, danceable rhythms, and retro analog vibes, Parker’s commanding musical power is continuing to captivate audiences everywhere, packing and selling out large venues in a variety of countries. Now, with a newly-announced, highly-anticipated album on the way with The Slow Rush, Tame Impala is seeing unparalleled success and critical acclaim, all stemming from Kevin Parker’s full realization of his musical craft. 

Tame Impala also has a summer 2020 arena tour in the works, which is expected to coincide with their next album release.


4) RÜFÜS DU SOL – Solace

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Australian indie-electronic three-piece, RÜFÜS DU SOL, entered into a new phase of artistic maturation in late 2018. The moment began when the trio made the bold decision to uproot themselves to Los Angeles to write and record their third studio album, Solace. The multi-talented livetronica band, composed of lead singer Tyrone Lindqvist, keyboardist Jon George, and drummer James Hunt, bunkered themselves down in a tiny house off Rose Avenue during the recording process. There, they would draw their inspirations for the album which touched on their personal experiences visiting Joshua Tree as well as living in Los Angeles.

That was more than a year ago. Still, the band found themselves immersed in the second leg of their NA Solace tour from April through October of 2019. They would reach incredible new heights along the way, launching their own imprint in Rose Avenue, performing on Jimmy Kimmel, and hosting Coachella’s Antarctic Dome. But for anyone whose attended the Solace tour, they all can definitively lay claim to experiencing a soothing, emotionally authentic, and serenely cathartic night with RÜFÜS DU SOL.

The tour itself was many things, but most of all it was a statement RÜFÜS DU SOL has reached a pinnacle point in their artistic career. Not only did the trio showcase their ability to pull extremely vulnerable moments out of thin air, not a single one of their sets was ever the same, displaying RÜFÜS’ drive to create real energetic connections. Moreover, the visual production was a spectacle while still managing to spotlight the artists and their music, which was probably more so a product of RUFUS’ powerful stage presence.

The most impressive thing to arise from the Solace tour was seeing the constantly sold-out stops at some of the country’s biggest ballrooms and theatre spaces. If nothing else, the mere fact signals RÜFÜS DU SOL is primed and ready for the large arena format. Only time will tell as the band is readying themselves for the bi-continental Americas Tour, taking flight in January 2020. 

Read our full tour review here.


3) Mersiv – Beautiful & Filthy

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Mersiv is one of the many artists that has emerged in recent years from the orbit of Bassnectar, the godfather of bass music. With hip-hop a capellas laid over grimy danceable bass beats, Mersiv’s live shows have become well-known for fusing the same styles that orginally made Bassnectar popular, although with his own twist. Calling it the Mersiv Sound Project, producer Anderson Benoit Gallegos has quickly made a name for himself with his signature “pretty-dark-loud” sound and become a fan favorite in the bass scene.

Releasing his debut album, Digital Eden, in mid-2019, Mersiv was met with a warm reception upon its sudden release. He premiered the album the morning of his show at Red Rocks where he was slated to open for Zeds Dead. The project proved that he was able to transmute his brand into a coherent and successful artistic vision, delivering a thoughtful and vibrant 10-track effort. He was then able to parlay his new music and successful live efforts into a well-received live show, his Beautiful & Filthy tour. 

Featuring Ableton wizard Mr. Bill as well as promising up-and-comer Supertask, the tour was a must-see for bassheads across the country. Filled with a variety of bass music and excellent visual production, the tour exploded over social media into a must-see by many fans. What makes the Beautiful & Filthy tour most notable, however, is the meteoric rise that Mersiv has experienced and handled with grace. All too often does a young producer get a taste of the spotlight and immediately mishandle their newfound fame. That is not the case with Mersiv. An acclaimed album and an accompanying celebrated tour put Gallegos well on his way to being an established member of bass music’s elite. 


2) GRiZ – Ride Waves

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It’s been nothing short of an incredible year for GRiZ. An insanely prolific release schedule, coupled with an astonishingly long run of shows, all added up to a career-defining year for Grant Kwiecinski. Four different mixtapes in the Bangers EP series featured GRiZ’s signature brand of head-nodding future-funk, as well as elements from trap, dubstep, house, and everything in between. Of course, the year also included the single “Griztronics” with Subtronics that initially made an Electric Forest crowd go crazy before hitting social media with a gigantic splash, going viral on multiple platforms before garnering over 6 million streams at press time on Spotify alone. 

All of this does not even make mention of GRiZ’s full-length effort of 2019, Ride Waves. A decidedly auteur project, the album sees GRiZ leaning into his strengths as a producer, making fun, polished, and uplifting music with a message. His de facto motto, “Show Love Spread Love,” is in full effect with this album, bringing a message of self-acceptance, love and tolerance to his craft. One of the few openly gay producers in the electronic music scene, GRiZ is a powerful voice in social justice and has not hesitated to use his platform to give power to his generation’s issues. 2019 has seen him rise to the A-list of music stardom, bringing his unique vision, funky melodies, and heavy bass beats to enormous stages across the world.

The accompanying tour for Ride Waves is the pinnacle of everything GRiZ has striven for over the years. Packing out venues and putting smiles on fans’ faces are what Kwiecinski has always done, but this time it feels different. Armed with a fully realized production vision in “the Imaginarium,” a full live band, a drum and brass line, and a slew of special guests, GRiZ delivered a series of jaw-dropping performances time and time again, seemingly never running out of energy. Not to mention, the set lists featured fresh, varied music and loads of unreleased tracks from his accompanying EP releases. The evolution of his sound and the pull of his overall movement all seemed to be reaching an apex at the same time, and that makes GRiZ’s Ride Waves tour a lock in for the number two spot on our shortlist.


1) Bassnectar – Freakstyle

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Bassnectar’s touring days have long since past, so readers may be wondering why we’ve shortlisted his three-night Halloween run on our Top Top Tours of 2019. After all, Bassnectar’s 2014 Noise Versus Beauty tour was technically considered his last regular run of shows, at least in the traditional touring sense. Lorin Ashton, the face behind Bassnectar, has himself gone on the record saying how exhausting this type of tour format can be. He prefers a few events spread out over the course of the year over a string of many dates which require intensive traveling, back-to-back appearances in different cities, and lugging semi-trucks full of equipment all over the country.

Nowadays, the Bassnectar team has completely re-envisioned what his “tours” look like, opting instead for the more festival-adjacent “curated-event” format. Over the past few years, this has taken shape through four major seasonal events, each donning their own unique vibe and ethos, with each year building off the next. As his more massive gathering, BassCenter is the premiere autumnal event, taking place every Memorial Day, and NYE 360 is the prime wintertime event, held in some of the largest sports stadiums of the deep South. Every year, the stages evolve and grow larger, morphing and shifting into different shapes and concepts. That is, until Bassnectar feels the event dies out completely or evolves into another style of event altogether. 

Take the newly-conceived Freakstyle as a case in point, which was born out of the three-night Freestyle Sessions run that Bassnectar has been bringing to Denver for over the past three years. When a last minute venue cancellation caused 2019’s second night to be cancelled at 1st Bank Center, which was due to the compromised structural integrity of the building, Bassnectar’s team scrambled to find a venue that could hold the event for the third and final evening. They quickly secured the Denver Coliseum, but not without having to make some conciliations and omissions. There was just an impossible amount of labor involved in transferring the entire Freestyle rig across town in a single day’s time, especially given it’s complex design construction. So the Bassnectar team decided to bring the most important past: The sound. 

Thus, the Dark Party was born, also called “Freakstyle” by Bassnectar’s cronies and fans. Pitch dark and sweaty, the night was an event for the history books. Bassnectar framed it as an underground rave like the ones he came of age with in the nineties. There were only a few lights and lasers lights set up, with Bassnectar standing crowd-level at a small DJ table, and of course his enviable PK sound rig with loads of subwoofers. In terms of sound, Freakstyle was talked about as the loudest, most intense Bassnectar event anyone had ever experienced. That’s not a statement that should be taken lightly either, as any bass heads will tell anyone that Bassnectar’s curated events are always intense—even to a sometimes overwhelming degree. For those who missed out on the event, it was their biggest regret of the year.

The fans weren’t the only ones feeling regret, however. Ashton himself expressed how sad he was over not being able to play out his second night’s Dreamtempo-themed set. Flash forward to Halloween 2019 and Bassnectar held a bonus three-night event in Grand Rapids, Michigan, dubbed Freakstyle: Day of the Dead Dark Party. Freakstyle sold out in record time, with Bassnectar adding a third night to appease fans. The event also signaled the next evolutionary step in his Freestyle Sessions gatherings. But the history goes back even further than Denver.

For years, Bassnectar had been attempting to erect the completely underground-styled rave events where he could break away from his “Hollywood-style” appeal and be as experimental as he wanted to be. The first iteration of this themed event actually came about with 2016’s BassLanta, where a crowd of 10,000 packed themselves into Georgia Convention Center’s underground levels. The location was kept entirely secret until the last minute so as to give off an aura of the fabled secret warehouse rave parties of yesteryear. As Bassnectar proclaimed on the event invitation, “We are going back to our roots – the underground parties of the 1990s: one room, one floor, no seats, sweat dripping from the ceiling, secret location…”

When the event evolved to Freestyle in 2017 and moved to Denver, where his biggest fan base in the country resides, it was a natural location for the “underground”-themed event. The timing was also perfect considering how Bassnectar needed something to replace his previous Colorado-based events, BassCenter 9 and Red Rocks. Bassnectar strived to keep the vibe of Atlanta going, but he fought constant battles with his management who pushed for bigger venues, louder rigs, brighter lights, and more lasers. So when the third night of Freestyle Sessions was slated as Freakstyle, it was Ashton who would finally have the last laugh. 

As it’s dark party offspring, Freakstyle donned much more stage production than Freestyle’s third night. Held in Grand Rapids’ new 10k-capacity venue, Van Andel Arena, the production still omitted the LED screens, but donned a towering wall of lights and more lasers than one could imagine (I believe I counted 40 at one point, realizing later than I may have even missed a few). It’s hard to say whether Freakstyle will return to Grand Rapids next year, but the event did spark controversy in the Bassnectar community. Fans were skeptical at the event’s ticket price sitting at around $80 per night with the Bassnectar team scaling back production. It seemed like scheme to get more money lining the pockets of event producers while delivering less production. However, for those in attendance, the visual production was anything but scaled back. In the end, the funnier contradiction was that Freakstyle really wasn’t a “dark party” at all.

Given Freakstyle’s rich history and intention, coupled with it’s sold-out status and unwavering production, Bassnectar’s Day of the Dead Dark Party comes in at our Top Tour of 2019.

 

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