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What We Started

By Bradley Gibson | March 23, 2018

What We Started pulls the curtain back on the world of EDM (electronic dance music) over its nearly 40 year history from early roots in ‘70’s disco.

Beginning with DJ Carl Cox, famous for his 10 hour sets,  book-ended with talented young newcomer Martin Garrix, the film explores Cox’s influence on the evolution of dance music and Garrix’s formation of mainstream genres and meteoric rise to global fame.

Cox is the outgoing old guard in his 50’s who closes out his amazing career at the Space club in Ibiza, Spain. Garrix is the incoming new hotness at 21, having begun by creating music on his computer as a kid in his bedroom not so very long ago.

Garrix is the incoming new hotness at 21, having begun by creating music on his computer as a kid…

House music, Chicago house music, the Detroit industrial sound, and other milestones are introduced as the film races through a who’s who of EDM influencers over time. The US scene had a huge Impact on UK DJ’s. As America decided that disco was too gay / too black and turned toward punk instead, the UK picked up the beat and ran with it.

Early EDM shows came as illegal raves off the M25 motorway around London. DJ Moby suggests that party drugs played a huge role in the appeal of the scene. Authorities used “crack house” laws to shut down raves by charging promoters and threatening them with draconian jail terms for providing a place where drugs were sold and used. The attack on 9/11 plus the crack house laws killed the deal for EDM and raves for years in the US, with the scene only recently re-emerging into respectability in legal venues.

R&B star Usher explains that Pop + R&B + EDM is now the foundation for top 40 music and a $7B industry. As the prevalence of EDM pop explodes, many stars are getting onboard from Justin Beiber to Ed Sheeran, who worked with Garrix after Sheeran loved Garrix’s Animals track. EDM as an underground music movement: you missed it.

“… Pop + R&B + EDM is now the foundation for top 40 music and a $7B industry.

There are disagreements on what makes for an authentic EDM experience. Those who do live mixes slam the newcomers playing pre-recorded sets. Steve Aoki is an example, throwing cakes into the crowd and standing behind DJ gear decks with his hands in the air dancing to pre-recorded mixes for festival shows. This is beyond silly to me, but I’m as old as Carl Cox, so take that opinion with a grain of (old) salt. 

What We Started achieves the directors stated goal of being an impressively comprehensive history of EDM. So much so that the film drags: unless one is a truly deep aficionado, 90 densely packed minutes of info about EDM is too much. It would work better with more music and less detail.

Garrix says music is a language everyone can understand. That seems obvious, but like the programmed drama of EDM, a simple pronouncement feels profound when the beat drops.  

What We Started (2018). Written and directed by Bert Marcus, Cyrus Saidi. Starring Steve Angello, Martin Garrix, Carl Cox, Chip Eberhart, Moby. What We Started premiered at Ultra in Miami.

7 out of 10

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