music / Columns

Jam Central Station: Bassnectar

September 22, 2018 | Posted by Jeff Modzelewski



The electronic, DJ, dubstep, and EDM scenes have been a growing subset of the jam band scene for years. Artists that used to be a late-night afterthought are now major festival draws, headlining their own festivals, and touring around the country. While bands like STS9 and The Disco Biscuits continue to blur the lines between jam band and electronic act, many pure DJ’s and electronic artists have gained elite status both in and out of the jam band community. Maybe more than any other artist, Bassnectar has brought electronic music not just to jam band fans but to the mainstream as well.

Bassnectar spawned from the mind of Lorin Ashton in the diverse San Francisco music scene. For twenty years, he has toured relentlessly as a DJ and electronic artist while also collaborating with and providing remixes for artists from a wide range of genres. His live shows have grown by leaps and bounds, and now provide not only an unbeatable listening experience but a visual show that is near the top of the current electronic circuit. All of this adds to the unique experience that is Bassnectar.

Ashton got his start in the mid 90’s as an early CD-using DJ. He quickly began editing and remixing the music that he would work with, often subtly but sometimes making major changes to songs. He had a knack for changing tempos and genres easily and without sounding forced. The success that he had and fans that he gained through DJing and being a part of the rave scene led him to begin creating his own electronic music that he began weaving into his live performances. He released his first album in 2001, beginning an active schedule of recording and touring.

Over nearly 20 years, Bassnectar has released ten studio albums, six videos, numerous singles and dozens of remixes of other artist’s work. He has also has a series of podcasts to spread his music to fans. Some of these podcasts consist of releasing bootlegs, consisting of new mixes and old unfinished songs. Others are mix-ups, mash-ups, and different themed performances. Overall, he’s released dozens of different free performances for his fan, and he has used social networking and media as a primary way of getting his music to his fans.

I could talk at length about his studio work and remixes, but the real defining moments of Bassnectar’s music are the live performances. At a Bassnectar show, you might hear everything from metal to gangsta rap to political speeches to ska and polka music, all re-worked and mixed by Bassnectar. The performances are a combination of Bassnectar’s original music, remixes, mash-ups, and sampled material. He adds loops and mixes his music on the fly, and has said before that he “ricochet(s) like made off of every single being in the place.” He adjusts the sets for the city he is in and the reaction of his crowds. This makes each performance completely unique and extremely improvisational.

While most DJ performances consist of hours of uninterrupted music, Bassnectar often takes breaks in this music to add his own social commentary on issues. He’s outspoken both about what he loves about this country and society and about the evils that he sees and speaks out against. While many artists in other genres of jam-band music have embraced political issues, Bassnectar is in the minority of DJ’s that actively speak about political issues at his shows. Whether it’s adding a commentary by George Carlin or remixing a Spearhead song, Bassnectar is unafraid to voice his opinions.

It’s pretty amazing what one man and one Mac can do together. Using Ableton, Bassnectar can edit and adjust his live performances on the fly. He’s also constantly updating his roster of electronic toys and tools to create his original music as well as his remixes and mash-ups. These different tools allow him to do things in concert that used to be able to be done only after intensive studio work. With the technology constantly improving, the limits of what can be done with live DJ and electronic music are continuously expanding, and Bassnectar is on the forefront of that expansion.

As I stated earlier, Bassnectar’s live performances aren’t only about the music. His shows are truly at the edge of chaos, a mix of dance club and rave and festival all wrapped into one. He’s just as performing at comfortable at Bonnaroo as he is at DEMF, and the crowds flock to him either way. He has a band of sound and light technicians that travel with him, adding to the live experience. For larger festivals and performances he’s known to go even more over-the-top with his live show, with additional lights, lasers, and crowd-pleasing performances.

Over the past decade Bassnectar has risen from almost an afterthought to a major festival draw. He has played nearly every major electronic and jam band festival, always near the top of the card. He has gained respect not just from jam band fans but from attendees of festivals such as Ultra in Miami and Electric Daisy. In 2016 he was announced as the Resident DJ for Electric Forest, and has been just as much a staple for that festival as The String Cheese Incident. His fans are extremely loyal and add their own visuals to his shows through their outfits, signs, “rage sticks” and glowsticks. A Bassnectar show is extremely interactive, and the crowd is a huge part of what happens.

Electronic artists and especially DJ’s simply are not easily defined, and Bassnectar is no exception. His purpose isn’t necessarily to create original music for his own artistic expression. He wants to take the audience on a journey and to move his crowd, leaving the listener changed from the experience. He truly wants to give back to the crowd and society, and he’s willing to use any musical means necessary to make that happen. He’s a true original, and an artist that is a force to be reckoned with either at a festival or a headlining show.



Dickey Betts suffers head injury, recovering
Dickey Betts fell at his home this past week and suffered a head injury that led to swelling and bleeding around the brain. He underwent surgery and is said to be recovering well at this time. Betts had to cancel shows this fall due to a mild stroke. No word on if or when Betts will be able to return to the road.

Trampled by Turtles announces tour
Trampled by Turtles announced a run of early 2019 dates this week. The band has been touring steadily since this summer and looks to continue that in the near future.

January 9 Green Bay, WI – Meyer Theatre **
January 10 Wausau, WI – Grand Theater Wausau**
January 11 La Crosse, WI – La Crosse Center**
January 12 Milwaukee, WI – Pabst / Riverside / Turner Hall**
January 13 Eau Claire, WI – Pablo Center at the Confluence**
January 16 Cedar Rapids, IA – Club 5 at U.S. Cellular Center++
January 17 Des Moines, IA – Wooly’s ++
January 18 Sioux Falls, SD – Washington Pavilion ++
January 19 Kansas City, MO – The Truman ++
February 26 Tulsa, OK – Cain’s Ballroom ##
February 28 Dallas, TX – The Rustic – Dallas ##
March 2 Houston, TX – White Oak Music Hall ##
March 3 Pelham, TN – The Caverns

** Them Coulee Boys
++ Actual Wolf
## The Ghost of Paul Revere


The Festy Experience
October 5-7
Arrington, VA
Greensky Bluegrass, Gillian Welch, Railroad Earth, Sam Bush Band, Billy Strings, Della Mae, Fruition, Carbon Leaf, Bonnie Paine, The Lil’ Smokies

Hillberry Music Festival
October 11-14
Railroad Earth, Trampled By Turtles, Sam Bush, Lettuce, The Wood Brothers, The Infamous Stringdusters, Billy Strings, Split Lip Rayfield

Suwannee Hulaween
October 25-28
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oak, FL
The String Cheese Incident, Jamiroquai, Odesza, The Revivalists, STS9, Lettuce, Trampled by Turtles, Medeski, Martin, & Wood, Galactic, Turkuaz, The Wood Brothers, Yonder Mountain String Band, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead

Hangtown Music Festival
October 25-28
Placerville, CA
Railroad Earth (3 Nights), The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Trampled By Turtles, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe presents Eat a Bunch of Peaches, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, The Infamous Stringdusters, Billy Strings, Pimps of Joytime

Strings & Sol
December 7-11
Puerto Morelos, MX
Yonder Mountain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth, The Infamous Stringdusters, Leftover Salmon

December 12-16
Puerto Morelos, MX
The Disco Biscuits, STS9, Umphrey’s McGee, Lotus, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Ghost Light

Winter Wondergrass Vermont
December 14-16
Stratton, VT
Railroad Earth, Infamous Stringdusters, Keller & The Keels, Fruition, Billy Strings, Kitchen Dwellers, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, Rumpke Mountain Boys

Tropical Throe.down
January 10-14
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
moe., The New Mastersounds, Big Something

Jam in the Sand
January 15-19
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
Dark Star Orchestra, The Wailers, Green Leaf Rustlers

International Incident
January 25-28
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
The String Cheese Incident, Keller Williams

Panic en la Playa Ocho
January 25-29
Riviera Maya, Mexico

Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds Riviera Maya
February 15-17
Riviera Maya, Mexico

Phish in Riviera Maya
February 21-23
Riviera Maya, Mexico

Winter Wondergrass Colorado
February 22-24
Steamboat Springs, CO

Winter Wondergrass California
March 29-31
Squaw Valley, CA

Bender Jamboree
April 11-14
Plaza Hotel & Casino
Las Vegas, NV
Greensky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth, The Infamous Stringdusters, Leftover Salmon, Keller Williams, Billy Strings


Thanks again for stopping by. I’ll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute concert announcements. Until next week, Jam On!