As of this writing, tickets to the RL Grime and Lunice show at the Wonder Ballroom on Saturday, January 24 are going for $100 on Craigslist—a price tag often reserved for mainstream acts with years of radio play. How EDM got to this place has been the subject of several think pieces over the last couple years, including this recent one by CNN last December. The short answer is that nobody knows for certain, but many seem to agree that it’s been a confluence of the rise of festival culture throughout the United States (and world), the incorporation of EDM beats into pop music, and the democratization of the medium brought on by the use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and, more recently, SoundCloud. Yet, that depiction of causation is disrespectful to the nuances of styles under the umbrella of EDM.
Take RL Grime, for example. How producer Henry Steinway got to the place where tickets to his sold-out show are now going for $100 on Craigslist is not due to the rise of Twitter or because David Guetta contributed beats to a Black Eyed Peas single. Instead, the reason is a much simpler one: He’s just really fucking good and people just really like his music!
Steinway, better known as RL Grime, was brought to the collective consciousness of EDM fans with his 2013 EP, High Beams, which debuted at #8 on Billboard's Dance/Electronic Albums chart and #1 on the iTunes Electronic chart, as well as through a steady release of remixes of notable pop luminaries, such as Drake and Kanye West—his remix of Ye’s “Mercy” with Salva has garnered almost 7,000,000 plays on SoundCloud (listen for yourself below).
RL Grime’s sound is a confection of hip-hop and trap music, the latter of which is informed by Southern hip-hop and Dutch hardstyle. A classic trap song incorporates the use of samples, keyboards and drum machines to build up the listeners’ anticipation, and then is punctuated by the use of massive bass drops (usually taking the party to another level). However, on his 2014 full-length debut Void (released on WeDidIt Records), it’s clear that RL Grime is trying to shed his purely trap label and showcase his versatility, or his ability "to carve a lane for himself within the electronic space without losing sight of his artistic value—striving for innovative ways to push boundaries rather than clinging onto trends,” as put in his official bio.
Which version of RL Grime shows up at Wonder Ballroom—the trap version, the more European version (as displayed on Void), or a wholly different sounding one altogether—is anyones guess. But regardless of which version shows up (my bets are on a thriving mixture), “disappointment” is not a word I expect to hear.
The same can be said of the show’s opening acts: Lunice and Tommy Kruise. The former, who’s gained notoriety through his project with Hudson Mohawke (TNGHT), hails from Montreal and has put together a string of mixtapes, remixes and EPs over the last few years that puts his name recognition on par with RL Grime. The most recent of these singles, “Can’t Wait To,” has been eloquently described as “stupid crazy”, “super nastyyyyyyyyyy” and “dopest dope” by SoundCloud commenters—and after listening to it myself, I can’t object to those descriptions.
The latter half of the show’s opening acts, Tommy Kruise, also hails from Montreal and is close friends with Lunice. His music is also heavily influenced by hip-hop, and while he may be the opening act of the trio, there is little doubt that he will be headlining his own sold-out shows in the future. All of which is to say, that in the end, maybe the $100 ticket price isn’t such a big deal after all.