I believe everyone goes through their teenage years exploring the multiple facets of life until they have that one experience that makes them say, “This.”
“This” can mean many different things to people, but one of the more common ones is with music. They have their Beatles moment, their Doors moment, their Rolling Stones moment, that steers them in one direction of musical exploration. At least, until they have the next musical “This” moment to push them in a different way.
My musical “This” moment came around twenty years ago, when I was only 17 years old. A few different events snowballed and pushed me to pursue a certain style of music that was just entering the mainstream then. Now, it’s known as EDM, electronic dance music, and is as prevalent now as grunge music was twenty years ago. Back then, however, it was on the cusp of being a much larger part of music culture around the world.
The catalyst of this time of musical exploration for me happened while watching MuchMusic, back when it actually played music videos and live concerts. For a teenager growing up in Whitehorse during the mid-to-late-90s, there were very few ways to discover music: parents, older siblings, Columbia House, and television. Radio up there was a complete joke- you were more likely to hear something that was popular five years ago than something culturally relevant to teenage ears. Columbia House was cheap to use (especially when parents paid), but could be a crapshoot with musical choices. No way to pre-listen to albums before purchasing, and more often than not, there was some negotiation between siblings to make choices that the others would enjoy as well to maximize the amount of new music in the house to listen to. The safer choices usually prevailed.
The moment on MuchMusic was truly magical for me. It woke me up to something completely different that barely existed in Whitehorse. Back then, MuchMusic would air live footage from the big festivals from the United States (Woodstock ’94 and ’99) and occasionally some of the festivals in the United Kingdom. In 1996, they happened to air the Phoenix Festival, happening at Stratford-Upon-Avon, and I tuned in to catch the likes of Beck, Foo Fighters, Neil Young, and more. Instead, I happened to catch The Prodigy.
Their performance was absolutely electric. The energy with their performance combined with the crowd just blew me away. The act made such an impression on me, I have been able to find it easily on YouTube to relieve whenever I want now. Skip ahead to the 12 minute mark if you want to experience where I happened to catch the act.
With the crowd jumping, a freak with green hair jumping along with them on stage, and the deep, heavy beats, I was hooked. The big problem was I didn’t know who they were. I couldn’t hop onto the internet and find out, and the graphics at the bottom of the screen only announced the track titles.
The second moment was a related to how most people discover music: through older siblings. It wasn’t an older sibling that helped me with this though, since I am the eldest in my family, but a fellow high school student. We were travelling to (of all places) my current home of Kelowna for a theatre festival with some other students. My friend happened to go out and purchase one of The Prodigy’s albums. I started listening to it and recognized some of the tracks, so I knew what to look for once I got home.
The big moment was purchasing The Prodigy’s latest album, Fat of the Land1. The big scandal at the time was Walmart pulling the album from their shelves because the title of one of the songs was Smack My Bitch Up. Understandable at the time, but now it’s almost laughable with how pervasive the language is in our culture. People wouldn’t even bat an eye if they heard the word on the radio or television now.
This album had me hooked from the beginning sounds of the track mentioned above through to the final track, Fuel My Fire, which has drum ’n’ bass undertones. The album still holds up now, twenty years after its release, with big beats that still have my foot tapping the floor and head bobbing away as I write this.
The influence the album had on me is undeniable. It lead me to start listening to artists like Leftfield, Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, The Orb, Orbital, Underworld, and so much more. Even now, I still listen to big beat house music to fuel my workouts and hiking adventures, and find electronic music the most soothing when I need to get stuff done at home.
All of this is in thanks to catching a glimpse of a music festival from the other side of the world on a summer afternoon.
- Incidentally, this album came out shortly after another major albums was released: Radiohead’s OK Computer. Chumbawaba’s Tubthumper, Spice Girl’s debut album, and Hanson’s MMMBop also came out that year, amongst other big names. ↩