Vibrations of change will soon be rumbling an arena near you.
Next weekend, two electronic dance music acts whose music you're not likely to hear on the radio will entertain thousands of young people at Hampton Coliseum.
Pretty Lights, the stage name for Derek Vincent Smith, and Bassnectar, also known as Lorin Ashton, will serve up the gut-rattling bass buzzes, android bleeps and pulsating rhythms for euphoric crowds of party people mostly under age 30.
If predictions hold up, it will be the largest electronic music concert that's played Hampton Roads in recent memory — possibly ever.
The fact that as many as 8,000 people on two consecutive nights will crowd the Coliseum to hear acts with no substantial hits will seem strange to some. Count among them the director of Hampton Coliseum. He's done some head scratching over the strength of advance ticket sales.
"I would be lying to say I expected this," said Joe Tsao, who has run the Coliseum since 1995. "Did I have some inkling that it would be a good event? Yes. I never thought it would be this strong."
Tsao tossed off a joke about how the powerful mystique of the Mothership, a nickname given to the Coliseum by fans of the Grateful Dead and Phish. Then he got a bit more serious and dissected the event's unique attributes.
"It's a good show because these are two great EDM (electronic dance music) artists," he said. "It's happening on a great weekend of the year and at the Mothership. All those things add up to a good event. That's why people are coming."
He admits that when he was first approached about the show, he was expecting a more modest-sized crowd. Last fall, he traveled to Greensboro, N.C., to attend a Bassnectar concert. He wanted to get a feel for what these dance parties — called raves back in the 1990s — were like.
"When I told my kids I went to Bassnectar, they perked up," said Tsao, who has two children in college. "They didn't think I knew what a Bassnectar was. And I didn't know my kids listened to this stuff."
Jason Bruner, who runs the Virginia Beach music promotion company Quiva Productions, said that college students are among the show's primary targets.
Bruner has promoted electronic dance music events in Hampton Roads and he's helping to get the word out about this week's Coliseum shows.
"With college kids not having exams or school work and having a lot of Christmas cash, maybe, I think it's the perfect time," he said. "The hype is really good on this."
It seems that a trend that's been simmering in other parts of the nation for years has finally reached Southeastern Virginia.
Earlier this year, The Atlantic magazine published a story under the headline "Buy the hype: Why electronic dance music really could be the new rock."
In it, writer Jonathan Bogart makes the case that a new wave of artists including Skrillex, Deadmau5, Swedish House Mafia and Bassnectar are carving what could be permanent changes in the American pop music landscape. While the artists aren't household names, their production ideas, distribution methods and sonic innovations have seeped into the mainstream.
"The industrial-siren, incessantly pounding sounds of EDM have also been popularized on Top 40 radio by producers like David Guetta, RedOne, Dr. Luke and Calvin Harris, but the music's real home, according to its youthful fan base, is in warehouse raves, DJ sets at not-particularly-upscale clubs, and increasingly at live festivals, where both attendance and excitement has been upending the previous two decades' conventional wisdom about the preference of American youth for rock, hip-hop or country."
The Electric Daisy Carnival, an EDM festival in Las Vegas, entertained as many as 320,000 people over three days in June. Similar, but smaller, festivals include the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival, Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit and Signal: The Southeast Electronic Music Festival in North Carolina.
While earlier electronic music movements have been proudly underground, the current flowering seems to be more inclusive, Bogart argues in The Atlantic. While the music has been criticized by some as simplistic, the writer says the style relies on sounds with a visceral rather than intellectual appeal.