The Techno Tourist Trips To: The Pacific Northwest – dBx

There are certain enduring desires that act upon Techno Tourists, constantly influencing them, shaping their path, and ultimately determining their position, direction and momentum. These desires are innate and timeless; they manifest themselves as the constant drive for exploration, adventure and good times. We are Techno Tourists; it defines us. We are adventurers of the modern world, driven by the eternal spirit of exploration. And so we explore.

America is a huge place. So huge, that until a couple of months ago even the seemingly familiar Pacific Northwest of the US was uncharted party territory –some virgin clubbing terra nova within our own country still untouched and awaiting our TT footprints. For the last several years we had kept a spyglass eye on Decibel Festival in Seattle, and after hearing about “The Slow Boat” in late 2011, the festival was promptly added to our “Must-Conquer-ASAP” list. As history would have it, less than two years later -as if led by the divine guidance of the gods of music- Decibel Festival extended an invitation to The Techno Tourist to become travel partners for their 10-year anniversary. Deal.

Any seasoned adventurer will tell you that the key to exploration success lies in proper provision and planning. And yet, for all our tedious preparation, there remains the undeniable fact that every single time, something will catch us completely by surprise. One might argue that this renders planning pointless, but much to our enduring pleasure we have found that the enormous amounts of research we do, the years of experience we have catalogued, and the adventure awareness we now possess ensures that whenever we are blind-sided by a total surprise—the surprise is good.

Though our cab ride may have been less exhilarating than our last foray into uncharted party lands and the endless repeating landscape segments, this time around, were glittering Starbucks rather than Ukrainian watermelon stands, this was expected. The surprise in Seattle was more encompassing. It was the people: their attitude, their sincere helpfulness, their respect for music. From the minute we stepped into our first Decibel party, it became perfectly clear that the crowd was highly musically educated and shared a creative, sustainable camaraderie, rather than checking in on Facebook to slap another duckface to our newsfeeds. There was no sea of neon; YOLO and RAGE were not represented. These people are a proud and genuine product of the city’s musical heritage.

In our travels around the world we have been privileged to experience countless variations of clubs, events and festivals.  Unlike the soulless, corporate, manufactured pop music for the masses most sub genres of electronic music (until recently at least), have developed out of passion, with profit coming secondary at best.  This attitude doesn’t stop in the studio or DJ booth; it trickles down through the promoters and venues, and flows into the fans before cycling back up to drive an autotelic tradition. A scene will often have its genesis in a primeval ooze of makeshift parties held in illegitimate venues.  As word spreads, energy flows in and the scene expands. Additional spaces join and play host to these ever-multiplying night-into-day extravaganzas.  The creativity of the party makers is of utmost importance. Their expression is key. Every event has to be outdone by the next. Stagnation is unsustainable, evolution unstoppable. As in the rest of nature, only the most adaptable survive, and at each new stage the parties become more tuned to their respective environments.  While we all classify as party animals within the order of organisms, every city and every region hosts their own indigenous species.  With the risk of making our opinion painfully obvious: the species of the Pacific West Coast are pretty damn awesome.

On an even higher level, one could say that a main developmental factor involved in the evolution of a species is its immediate geography. Decibel Festival is located in a unique environment, a metropolitan setting that cannot be replicated just about anywhere. Hosted in a distributed variety of (legitimate) venues throughout Seattle, Decibel successfully overcomes all of the challenges associated with throwing an urban, non-centralized festival. As we learned once we got-to-talking with the local inhabitants, much of the success can be attributed to the culture of knowledge offered by its rich music history, now engraved in the people, venues and even the city itself.

Across the board, the Decibel organizers did an impeccable job.  The party spaces ranged from re-envisioned live music venues like Chop Suey and Showbox, to purpose-designed Q Nightclub, which housed a fully integrated, top of the line Funktion One sound system. The visuals in all of the venues absolutely blew us away.  A perfect mix of trippy and fun, projectors illuminated the walls of every venue to create a full sensory experience (which even extended to a few specialized Yoga classes). Furthermore, the unlimited re-entry privileges of having a Decibel pass allowed partygoers to bounce from venue to venue at will, ensuring that everyone efficiently enjoyed their favorite artists. Well done indeed.

Decibel Festival is a destination for those who feel a deep passion for music, music history, music development, art, sustainability, experimentation and education—all with creative integrity. The culture of Decibel is one that sprouted at the grassroots level and we can agree with the organizers that after even after 10 years this ethos remains. Only now, it is in full bloom.