Kaskade returns to San Francisco for the massive Identity Festival. Plus: Bad Shoes, Zuzuka Poderosa, Optimo, Adrian Sherwood, and more parties to crash this week
SUPER EGO And so, interest in user-friendly dance music has come to the point where it can support a full-fledged, all-ages, traveling arena festival tour, a kind of mid-period Lollapalooza for ravers of all stripes called Identity, which features a pretty thrilling grab bag of 35 acts in 20 cities, and rolls into Shoreline Amphitheatre on Sat/3. Well, why the hell not? It's good to go big once in a while.
(Unlike Lollapalooza, however, Identity carries nary a hint of grassroots activism or cosmic enlightenment — although there are "glow products" for sale in the Vendor Village. Also, for something called "Identity" there's an awfully pale-faced sausage-fest lineup. Both of these things, however, may just be an accurate reflection of contemporary electronic dance music mega-party affairs in general.)
Alongside marquee names like DJ Shadow, Crystal Method, Pete Tong, and Hercules and Love Affair and intriguing, less-familiar-Stateside acts Rusko, Nero, and Steve Lawler — not to mention heroes of hype Steve Aoki and Skrillex — is someone very familiar to San Franciscan clubgoers. Headlining Identity is Kaskade, a.k.a. Ryan Raddon, who made his early career in the city at OM Records before leaping to Billboard Dance Chart fame and becoming SF's entry into that overwhelming, slightly horrifying, always fascinating pop-tech monster ball that includes Deadmau5, Tiësto, and David Guetta.
"It wasn't really my ambition to get so big that here I am headlining this massive tour, which can be exhausting," Kaskade told me over the phone as he prepared to jet off between Identity dates to play the UK's famed Creamfields Fest. (As someone whose appearance at a block party sparked a full-on riot in LA last month, Kaskade's down-to-earth, surfer-dude demeanor is a bit disarming.)
"My passion is really more about producing than DJing, although doing I.D. has been awesome and exposed me to new sounds and different audiences. It's a great party. And it does feel more and more that the pop sound is coming around to what I've been doing. A wave of electronic music seems to be taking over right now. I don't specifically compose for pop singers like Guetta, but I can see how my sound fits in with what's happening, and that's why it's reaching more people."
That sound is a thoroughly accessible, silky smooth, slightly melancholic series of usually vocal-based anthems that always seems to be shimmering on a Mediterranean beach somewhere (expensive sunglasses come to mind) even as it inexorably builds to its climaxes and breakdowns. New release "Eyes," with singer Mindy Gledhill is emblematic, the aching breeziness pioneered by local OM and Naked Music labels in the early 2000s pumped up on the big-money, stadium-sized steroids of Kaskade's current home, Ultra Records, based in New York City.
Headlining Identity has buoyed Kaskade's mainstream standing, but hopping aboard has had other advantages as well. "One of the best things about the Identity tour is that I get to work on my own stage show, to turn the music into a whole experience. Most of the time as a DJ, I just come into predetermined venues like Ruby Skye and at least have a good light rig. But now I can really expand my musical ideas conceptually, with video projections and amphitheater effects. Opening up to that kind of thing, along with hearing what the other Identity acts like Datsik and Le Castle Vania are doing — I don't get to go to other peoples' shows very much because I'm always playing somewhere — that's changed some of my ideas drastically."