Strobe lights reflected off the eyes of onlookers in quick succession. In the VIP loft of a yacht gliding around New York City, everything melded together: The chaotic build of a drum beat pulses through the walls. Girls in summer clothes gyrate in the glamorous gauze of flashbulbs. The beat builds. Men clap in ritual to the rhythm. Then, a pause. The air stands still with electricity. It’s coming… Drop.
Concert Review: Bounce Boat with Rusko
Rumbling bass explodes and surrounds us. Champagne bursts into the air in slow motion, dancing in the flashing lights. The glint of the distant city skyline gets lost behind a mass of people leaping in unison. The dancefloor below radiates energy, as Rusko points upwards and tilts his head back in ecstasy.
I watch the neon reflect against the shiny skin of a go-go dancer next to me; it bathed us all in this indescribable sweaty euphoria that evades documentation. What many try so hard to define or belittle finally became clear to me—this isn’t about music; it’s a scene. It’s a feeling. This is EDM.
I walked up the boarding ramp of the Hornblower Infinity, at that point uninitiated. I knew the music and I studied the scene, but I hadn’t felt it just yet—this cultural craze already smothered by publicity and money-hungry music execs.
As I adjusted the itchy gold VIP bracelet fastened around my wrist, I considered the substance behind EDM and what it meant, before it hit me: “what the fuck am I going to do on this boat alone?”
I explored the winding hallways of the Bounce Boat before reaching the main room, an arching two-floor atrium with a dancefloor and overlooking balcony. Before long, Subset began filling the room with dubstep beats that wandered in every direction, though they acted as ambiance. This was the calm before the storm.
The sprawling yacht provided many paths to explore, each filled with a unique vibe and a wide array of concert-goers. Sure, the stock EDM bro and chick were abundant, but this environment welcomes all fringes, from the high-profile NFL players in VIP, to the juggalo-esque scenesters wearing dozens of bead bracelets and “surgical masks” that creeped me the hell out.
Evading the path of a particularly creepy 300+ pound raver, I found the yacht’s rooftop area. Speakers broadcasted the action from downstairs behind buzzed conversation. I knew I’d found “the regulars.”
Promoters in blazers and boat shoes sipped drinks among the tattoo and gage earring folks working the event. I looked out at the crowd still filing in below, locating the first attendee wearing standard issue EDM fur boots.
“Ugh, fluffies are so done,” quipped a girl looking over the railing next to me.
“Really?” I said.
Credentials hung from her neck over a Bounce Boat shirt.
“They tell us not to even wear them anymore,” she said. I realized she was a hired dancer.
“That’s for the best,” I concluded.
She nodded in agreement as we both looked out over the churning Hudson River at sunset. The crowd bustled before the backdrop of brushstroked clouds and a city slowly coming alive.
She turned to her partner for a moment, asking a question. I looked down at her shoes, examined the tattoos of bows on her upper thighs, and finally reached her revealing booty shorts.
“So what are you doing here?” she asked.
“…What was that?” I said, emerging from a trance.
“Like, who do you work for?” she explained, waiting for an answer.
We compared the similarities of writing and go-go dancing and realized there were none.
“How did you start a career in dancing, and how can I get involved?” I asked.
“We’re from Albany so we worked a few events up there, met some people, and just kind of made connections,” she said, motioning to her partner with a metal bar through her nose. “We’re usually on stage, but tonight we’re just helping the photographers get shots, which kind of sucks.”
My eyes met the group of photographers laughing as they flicked their cigarettes overboard and returned inside. Among them was the infamous Kirill Was Here wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words “Slut Whisperer.” Curious, I followed.
The yacht now cruised passed the lights of downtown Manhattan. A brief rain shower pushed everyone inside for Infuze’s rattling set. He turned knobs with authority on stage, providing powerful drops and songs that flowed together into one.
At nightfall, the VIP balcony brimmed with an energy as if everyone suddenly felt turned on. I studied Kirill Was Here talking with his entourage of photographers. Scantily clad girls flocked to him, as I studied his process, trying to appear incognito.
He worked efficiently, discussing strategy as he located girls to bathe in champagne while posing for the occasional selfie. It was like fishing.
Inevitably, he reeled one in, dapped-up her boyfriend as if to say “no hard feelings,” and found an area for his photo op. I can explain in vivid detail what happened next, but you already know; the release of champagne, the ogling eyes, the skin, the raw sin—it’s intoxicating… until it ends.
The crowd disperses, and the flashbulbs subside. In the corner, a girl grapples awkwardly with a soaking pair of shorts and an uncomfortably wet butt. Nothing to see here.
The lights dimmed as Rusko took the stage to the sound of swing music. He greeted us in his cockney accent and began pumping bass through the downright impressive speaker system. The energy in the venue reached a breaking point; the drinks and drugs kicked in and everyone with a pulse was feeling it.
On my one side stood Mario Manningham of the New York Giants as bottle service arrived with a complimentary basket and flashing LED stick; on the other, flickering rainbow lights covered a robot that shot smoke into the crowd like Mega Man.
On stage, Rusko hovered over a mixer and emphatically slammed buttons and turned knobs, lost in the music like a mad scientist. Rusko’s enthusiasm didn’t subside for a minute.
Go-go dancers joined him and danced in robotic choreography; they wore thongs and blinking lights in their mohawks. Bounce Boat lived up to its name as the floor literally shook underfoot. It was sheer elation coated in dopamine. Everywhere I looked there was something to see.
Then came that realization: this is EDM. It’s a state of mind. It’s something you can’t know unless you’re there in that moment where everything blends together—when all the world fades away and only the present exists in one glorious, collective escape.
And then, suddenly, the music distorts and fades out. The moment’s passed. Silence.
In a fog, the crowd wandered around Bounce Boat searching for an exit. I walked in circles, unable to remember how I found my way in, while at the same time not wanting to.
“You look like you had fun,” the booty shorts wearing go-go dancer said behind me.
“You should have been on stage,” I said. “Those dancers looked like toothpicks.”
She laughed. “I’ll see you around?”
“Yeah, definitely,” I replied, knowing full-well I’d never see her again in my life.
Outside, I watched the throngs of people fan themselves with their hands and bask in the afterglow.
“I’ve been doing this for two years. I ain’t stopping now,” a girl said as she walked by.
I considered the EDM lifestyle: I knew this feeling would later dissipate and fade, giving way to the next high or low. I knew I’d soon forget what it felt like. But as the cool summer air washed over my tired body, I felt alive. I didn’t care.
Article by Nicolas White