Close your eyes and take a little mental journey back to EDC Las Vegas 2016. Now imagine you’re in that sweet spot right between bassPOD and wasteLAND, with the fire-breathing, futuristic warfare of Bassrush on your right and the apocalyptic, chest-thumping dead zone of Basscon on your left. No matter which side of the bassline you call home, you have to admit that this is where the action was for those seeking a hard and heavy communion with the almighty bass.
It’s in this space, the eye of the storm, that you could hear the sounds of Project Z being born as two of the hardest and heaviest crews from the Insomniac fam prepare to lock horns and bring on the proper face-melt in SoCal this weekend. It’s the first of what is sure to be an ongoing series of mega-bass festivals uniting the sounds of hardcore and bass music under one legendary banner.
While the concept was first tested on New Year’s Day this year at Exchange LA, the merging of both crews and sounds into one boiling vat of sickness was more than we could have ever imagined. To the uninitiated, a festival bringing the Bassrush and Basscon masses together may seem a bit unorthodox. But for those in the trenches, the crossover between the two worlds makes perfect sense as a shared love of hard, aggressive, bass-driven vibes transcends all genre and BPM snobbery for those who are looking for that filthy, relentless, punishing rush that both styles deliver so well.
Often seen as the unruly and rebellious upstarts to their glittery, mainstream mainstage siblings, bass music and hard dance share this sense of being the underdog and of being aligned with the old-school underground, which brings these families together. At EDC Las Vegas, you would see bass-heads crossing over from stage to stage, and the DJs themselves were flipping up styles just as much on the decks. In a world where Zany drops trap and dubstep breakdowns into his hardcore sets just as easily as Carnage dips into some hardstyle, there’s no denying the power that each genre is wielding as dancefloor weaponry.
With hardstyle pulling from both its hardcore and hard trance roots and sitting somewhere around 140–150 BPM, and bass music dipping as low as 140 BPM—even slower for some heads who drop bass house in the mix—and running all the way up to the 175–180 BPM zone of drum & bass, the melodic elements of hardstyle find their analogous elements surfacing in the epic breakdowns, cinematic drops, and spiraling energies that almost always beg for release and the deliverance of the quintessential bass-face in bass music. Whether the result is head-banging, neck-snapping, trap arms, jumping, bobbing, weaving, or even straight-up moshing, the energy unleashed by each genre is nothing short of atomic and tinged with anabolic energy that just can’t be fucked with. From the melodic and euphoric to the hard and dark, whether it’s whiplash-inducing breakbeats or chest-trembling basslines that get you in the mood, bass-heads on both sides of the divide are looking for goosebumps and an energetic release that no other style of music comes close to achieving.
This preference for the harder side of things can be seen in the crowds as well. Where both old-school junglists and hardcore heads used to rock full-on gas masks to the rave, nowadays you can spot the evolution of that style surfacing in new-school bandanas and kandi masks. Bright colors are interspersed with skull iconography and the sense that the Bassrush/Basscon masses have bubbled up from some lost corner of the world of Mad Max. It’s no wonder that to outsiders, the bassPOD and wasteLAND masses can be a little intimidating, but don’t let that aggressive exterior fool you—this is a scene built on love.
More than anything, it’s this shared love of music that unites both crowds. It’s a love that is often fierce and aggressive, just like the music itself, bound by devotion to the tribe and the chance to commune with fellow bass-heads from around the world, to take part in the ongoing narrative of a musical form that the mainstream always seems to discard or ignore—but which the real bass-head knows will never die.
From dubstep to trap to hardstyle to drum & bass and all the various subgenres that each style seems to spawn, consider this your call to arms as the masses descend upon Project Z for a gathering of the tribes. The fact remains that no matter which stage you are fiending for, this night is sure to blow some doors and twist some synapses. A mix of monster low end, twisted hi-hats, sweeping pads, and electrifying energy are sure to transform the NOS Events Center into a madhouse when the Basscon and Bassrush crews unite as Project Z.
Project Z takes place Saturday, July 16, at the NOS Events Center in San Bernadino, CA.
Chris Muniz is a bass-head for life. Follow him on Twitter.