I was an outsider at a Bassnectar meetup, and it wasn’t the cult I expected
My best friend Maddie is a “Basshead,” a diehard worshipper of the DJ, Bassnectar. She’s been to 33 of his concerts, lives in hoodies bearing his symbol, and if she ever gets married, wants to hear those aggressive womps as she walks down the aisle.
For reasons I’d never understood, there’s a massive underground community of folks just like Maddie, who idolize the man behind the deafening sounds of bass. They convene online, in Reddit groups and secret Facebook cliques, and in-person, embarking on religious pilgrimages to see him perform all over the country.
Maddie has never met the vast majority of her fellow Bassnectar devotees, but feels some sort of weird familial bond to them. Using one of their community Facebook groups, she arranged a meet-up with dozens of Basshead brethren she’d never met, at a bar where she planned to buy drinks for all of these strangers. She begged me to come along, and I agreed, as sort of a social experiment.
You see, I don’t like Bassnectar… at all. When I first saw him perform at the age of 18 at Ultra Music Festival, it sounded like ear-splitting mechanical grinding, like he’d remixed the sounds of an AOL dial-up tone with 30,000 fire alarms going off in unison. The next several times I saw Bassnectar live, I became all the more convinced that this wasn’t music, it’s just really loud noise.
And at the same time, I’d watch this guy command an ocean of humans like Moses parting the Red Sea, and wonder how the hell these people had fallen under the spell of this EDM cult leader. Was it drugs? Hypnosis? Chemtrails? I planned on finding out.
That’s how I found myself here, at a bar with maybe 20 Bassheads, a clear outcast without the “bassdrop” symbol pasted onto every article of clothing. Every member’s sense of fashion was unified in having no unifying theme, combining faux fur, denim, tye-dye, sequins and acid wash in eccentric vests, scarves and fedoras. They talked about past Bassnectar sets and upcoming Bassnectar shows. They slurped down pitchers full of cocktails, chanting “chug!” when I didn’t down my drink fast enough. I felt overwhelmed. Maddie looked overjoyed.
To overcome the feeling of otherness, I had to catch a Basshead one-on-one. Then, I could learn about the complexities of their lives outside of a singular obsession with Bassnectar. Of course, they were capable of conversation far beyond womps and wubs. They were good-natured, warm and empathetic, evident in the very fact that they were here, a gathering of total strangers looking for new friends and a greater sense of community.
We’re part of the least religious generation in history, but we still need something bigger in our lives. So we’re replacing religion with science or music or nature, and finding that faith in something beyond the church can be endlessly deep and rewarding.
In Bassnectar, these people have found order, ritual, spirituality and a feeling of fellowship. And while it unites them, it doesn’t ostracize outsiders. In the end, I could break the news that I prefer musical artists that play musical instruments without getting burned at the stake.
The night’s main event was a light show at the nearby planetarium. For an hour, the venue blasted Bassnectar’s music and displayed psychedelic graphics on the domed ceiling. It was my opportunity to see the Bassheads' passion with fresh eyes — to finally feel a sense of belonging in their community, sharing an appreciation of the music that unified this wonderful group of people.
I slept through the entire thing.