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Over the past decade, the electronic dance music scene has exploded and bled into every corner of our lives.  While the scene’s origins can be traced back to underground warehouse parties in the 1980s, it’s now in every club in Vegas, all over the radio, in all forms of marketing/advertising, and there are “massive” electronic dance music festivals in every major city in the US all year round.  While it has penetrated all forms pop culture, it’s been watered down in the process.  Rising star, I_o wants to bring the scene back to the roots.  Despite having massive events such as Ultra Music Festival, Electric Daisy Carnival, and Electric Zoo under his belt, I_o is taking on the burden to return EDM to its purist form in those grungy edgy techno warehouse raves of the 1980s.  After dropping his most recent project, Acid 444, he kicked off his 444 Tour at 1720, the closest legal venue in Los Angeles to an underground warehouse.  After I read up on the backstory of this up-and-coming DJ while listening to his chilling sinister beats online, it was a no brainer; I needed to see the chaos live.

Tucked away in the pre-gentrified industrial warehouse district of Los Angeles, the venue, 1720, features a couple of fully stocked bars, a main room, a smoking patio, and a VIP patio.  While completely legal and up to code, 1720 features a rather gutter feeling when you enter it.  The roofing structure is bare-bones; with piping and steel exposed.  It made sense why I_o would want to kick off his tour here.  Everything about that place felt particularly on brand – dimly lit and just a little bit dangerous.  I grabbed a beer and made my way over to the dance-floor to see I_o grace the stage.

At exactly midnight, I_o appeared.  Donned in baggy black attire, tattoos, multiple rings on multiple fingers, long hair held in place by a black bandanna across his forehead; the guy looked like someone who’s about to fuck up your world.  He didn’t disappoint – from the jump; jam-packed with low rolling basslines and repetitive kick drums, his set took every soul in the venue on an epic aggressive sonic journey through the night.  His set dominated the house and techno spheres.  Banger after banger, he made you almost wonder if everyone in the venue was going to make it out OK.  There were a few samples which had some feel-good trancey elements, but the majority of it made you feel like you were headed straight into an odd technocratic dystopia – “a place where nothing matters but everything exists.”  Whilst chain-smoking cigarette after cigarette, I_o dropped a no bullshit two-hour set littered with eerie vibes and sinister sounds right up to 2 AM. 

I’ve seen a lot of electronic dance music acts and I really admire I_o’s vision.  It’s drastically different from all the cotton candy stuff out there that’s been popular.  He is different and has a unique brand unmatched by any other up and comer.  While regressing back to it’s grimy techno roots, I_o engages haunting futuristic elements to coin his own signature style.  He’s showing no signs of slowing down.  I’m sure he’s going to be at the next massive near you, with set times booking later and later into the night, but if you get a chance to see him headline a small warehouse-sque venue near you, you need to buy some tickets… and prepare to die

Kris Kuganathan

Photojournalist - Orange County

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