BY ARDEN IGLEHEART, CASSI MANNER, & MAURICIO RICH
Bass blaring, lasers flashing, fans head-banging – this is The Ritz Ybor.
Seven Lions, one of the biggest electronic dance music DJs to come to Tampa this year performed at the Ritz Ybor on Jan. 27. The sold-out event also featured local artists Blunts & Blondes, Smugglr, and Winta, attracting UT students and others from Tampa’s growing EDM scene.
Tampa’s EDM scene is unique to other cities in Florida for the diversity of subgenres that it exhibits, according to Alex Schamback, production manager for the Ritz Ybor and for Sunset Music Festival. Tampa, he said, is the second biggest city in the state behind Miami for EDM events. Tampa hosts Sunset Music Festival, which began in 2012, every year in Raymond James Stadium.
Big names perform in Tampa every year. In 2014, Skrillex performed at Hogan’s beach, and Zedd performed in 2015 at the USF’s Sun Dome. Schamback expects the popularity of EDM to grow, especially in Tampa, and partially credits artists like The Chainsmokers, who get a lot of radio play, for promoting the genre.
“A lot of people like to say that it’s in a bubble and the bubble’s going to pop, but I’ve been doing this for over five years now and everybody’s been saying that and it’s only gotten larger and larger,” Schamback said.
Breandan Carroll, a senior film and media arts major, was at Seven Lions’ show at the Ritz and also saw them last year at Sunset Music Festival.
“The show was absolutely incredible,” Carroll said about the Ritz Ybor show. “I saw him back at Sunset 2016 and was blown away as he closed out the trance stage on day one. It was a life changing experience. When I heard he was coming to the Ritz I was actually kind of nervous that he maybe wouldn’t be good as I’d hoped for, but he completely shattered expectations.”
Carroll attended the show with friends who were not big fans of Seven Lions like Carroll, but by the end of the show, Carroll’s friends were just as impressed by the performance.
Seven Lions is known for performing a variety of EDM subgenres, such as trance, characterised by a pounding beat and repetitive melody; dubstep, characterised by a heavy emphasis on the bass; and more. Omar Lopez, a sophomore business major, is a fan of Seven Lions and was drawn to EDM because of the diversity that the music displays.
“It’s because it’s such a mixed genre,” Lopez said. “For example, I was listening to an interview with Calvin Harris and he was explaining about how his songwriting is affected by so many different genres. It’s a big combination; he would listen to tracks from the ‘60s like The Beatles and use those melodies, try to convert them into dance music with R&B. It’s powerful, it has emotion, and it combines the old and the new.”
Mike Guard, a local EDM DJ who goes by the stage name Blunts & Blondes, opened for Seven Lions at that event.
Guard said that Tampa’s EDM fans have a particular enthusiasm unlike people from other cities.
“Every time I go out to any show, anywhere, I’m approached by a Tampa fan,” Guard said.
Guard will continue to open for festival headliners like Tchami, Excision, Slander, Cash Cash and more in the upcoming weeks at the Ritz Ybor.
Tampa’s EDM scene is popular, but it has been met with its fair share of critics. Last year, of the roughly 30,000 people that attended, two people died at Sunset Music Festival due to ecstasy use, and 57 people at the festival were hospitalized.
“Obviously, that type of music tends to attract a certain type of fan that engages in certain types of drugs,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told the Tampa Bay Times in May 2016.
Disco Donnie Presents, the company that operates SMF, issued a statement after the deaths were announced. The Minaret reached out to Schamback but he would not comment on this issue.
“Any loss of life is a tragedy and we extend our deepest heartfelt condolences,” the statement said. “The health, safety and welfare of our fans and community are Sunset Music Festival’s top priority and we take extensive measures to create a safe environment.”
Guard, however, feels particularly at home when he is performing in Tampa.
“It’s amazing how much love Tampa shows me,” Guard said. “Nobody turns up like Tampa.”
Arden Igleheart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cassi Manner can be reached at email@example.com
Mauricio Rich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org