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Diving Into the EDM Shit Show Hyperglow

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Hyperglow Tour - COURTESY OF HYPERGLOW TOUR
  • Courtesy Of Hyperglow Tour
  • Hyperglow Tour

I've always had a hard time getting into EDM — electronic dance music, that is. Dubstep, one of its most popular subgenres, is known for surging bass lines, breakneck, syncopated rhythms and, of course, "drops" — ecstatic peaks that occur after mounting tension. I generally find the style abrasive, aggressive and devoid of the glamour and catchiness that I like about other dance genres, such as disco, new wave, synth-pop and electroclash. But, until recently, I'd never tried very hard to experience the culture or to figure out what other people see in it.

When I found out that Hyperglow Tour, a traveling, New Jersey-based EDM glow party featuring various DJs, was coming to South Burlington's Higher Ground on Friday, February 23, I decided to take the plunge and immerse myself in the unfamiliar scene — black-light body paint and all.

Music editor Jordan Adams getting ready for Hyperglow - JORDAN ADAMS
  • Jordan Adams
  • Music editor Jordan Adams getting ready for Hyperglow

First, I called up one of the local support DJs for a little pep talk: 24-year-old Barre native Cory Roya, who performs under the name Abstractivve. Roya, along with local DJ duo Kastaway and New Jersey's Blaise Venga, were supporting the Long Island-based headlining duo Yookie.

Roya was on the bill when Hyperglow came to Higher Ground last year, too.

"They put a lot more work into the [Ballroom]," he said, as opposed to the smaller and, in this case, more spartan Showcase Lounge.

I mainly wanted to know if Hyperglow is more like a big party or if people are there because they love the music and want to watch the DJs.

"It's kind of a mixture," said Roya. He would prove correct.

"Do you like to dance?" I asked.

"I definitely get down when I go to a show," he said. "But at my own shows, I usually just hang out [after I'm done]. When I'm onstage, that's when I go as hard as I can."

Given that "glowing" seemed to be a big part of the experience, I headed over to Party City in South Burlington in search of iridescent body paint.

Upon entering, I noticed a group of teens holding a large package of glow sticks. Happily, they showed me where to find them.

"You aren't going to Hyperglow, are you?" I asked. Indeed they were. In fact, two of the girls in the group, Savanah Jarvis of Burlington and Karen Hamilton of Grand Isle, both 15, were on the event's payroll.

"We promote for them," said Hamilton. According to its website, Hyperglow promoters hang posters and push the event on social media.

"Am I going to be the oldest person there?" I asked, given our 20-year age difference.

"No," they assured me, simultaneously.

"There's definitely a lot of aged people there," said Hamilton.

Aged — like a fine wine or cheese. I'll take it.

"She definitely just called you old," quipped Jarvis.

I didn't find what I wanted, so I headed over to Spencer's in the University Mall. A sales associate directed me to exactly what I was looking for: a six-pack of multicolored, blacklight latex body paint.

"Hyperglow?" she asked.

"Yup," I said, snatching up the second-to-last pack on the shelf.

After settling on a concept — full-face rainbow gradation — a friend helped me apply the runny substance to my visage with foam brushes and cotton swabs. Fun facts about latex: It's unwieldy, and it tightens uncomfortably as it dries.

Face adorned, I zipped over to the club. As I pushed open the Ballroom door, sheer sensory overload overtook me. I was legitimately gobsmacked.

Hundreds of opalescent revelers gyrated and bounced in the middle of the room to Kastaway's set. Many folks were clad in revealing clothing, such as tank tops and short shorts. They wore glow sticks in every way imaginable: bracelets, necklaces, crowns, earrings and done up in hair like chopsticks.

But those were just the basics. My favorite sightings included: a bro in a shag vest embedded with pulsating lights; the word "tits" scrawled across a fella's back; a gent in a tiger onesie; a young woman with a Yoda hat; and a person in a black body stocking, lime-green Borat thong and giant, plush unicorn head. It was like Burning Man meets the Jersey Shore.

After an underwhelming lighting transition signaled the official start of the show, I noticed something: I was the only person wearing latex body paint. In fact, I was the only person whose face was completely painted in bold, vivid colors. While most people wore white — to react to the UV lights — hardly anyone sported body paint, and those who did had minor embellishments only. I went way, way too far. Fuck my life.

Onstage, a few bros got the crowd going with hype slogans such, "Make some fuckin' noise!" A troupe of female dancers in neon haltertops and booty shorts spread across the stage, along with a costumed person who looked like a disco Optimus Prime. Enormous plumes of CO2 and bursts of confetti periodically rained down upon the crowd as Blaise Venga got into his set.

What struck me as odd was how much down time there seemed to be. At every drop, the crowd went nuts, jumping in the air, pumping fists and waving its many hands. But, without fail, after about eight bars everyone reverted to a near standstill. Hardly anyone danced between drops. This scenario repeated over and over.

Now that I'd properly taken in the scene — including the far less popular sideshow in the Showcase Lounge — I realized the only thing left for me to do was get right up in the throng. I worked my way in as far as I could but still was approximately 10 bodies away from the stage. The core was nearly impenetrable. To my dismay, I found that none of my signature dance moves were quite right for this kind of music. Maybe that's why no one else was dancing much, either.

Further stage antics included a pie-eating contest, an impromptu haircut and a crowd-surfing Power Ranger. Eventually, the DJ started playing remixes and mashups of hits such as Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," Destiny's Child's "Jumpin', Jumpin'" and DMX's "Party Up (Up in Here)." Hyperglow quickly devolved into a wholly generic party and had very little to do with EDM.

Yookie finally took the stage and brought things back to what I had expected: throbbing, mind-numbing chaos. But the crowd seemed no more or less stoked than it had been during a previous mashup of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" theme song and DJ Kool's "Let Me Clear My Throat." Hyperglow seemed to be just a big ol' party. And that's totally fine. It's just not my scene.

Before I took off, I decided to check out the Showcase Lounge one more time. Kastaway were back on the decks, throwing down some particularly gnarly beats. About two dozen folks were spread throughout the room, nearly all of them dancing continuously. They grooved alone, in pairs, near the stage and against the walls.

Oh, I thought to myself. I get it. These folks don't need all of the hoopla. They just love the music. I watched the motley crew get down for a few more minutes. Without black lights, body paint and overblown hype, the group ate up every beat — not just the drops. I was glad to have encountered at least a handful of true EDM fans.


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The original print version of this article was headlined "Bass Feelings"

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