(Original Photo By: Aron Altmark of Visual Endeavors)
“These events are more than just a stage and some music. These events are where people meet and have experiences and I think the important part is just making something that everyone walks away from with awesome memories with the people around them. That’s really the only part that I care about. Just everybody having a good time and being able to see and do things that they never thought they would be able to.”
If you were to ask anyone that is deeply connected to the electronic dance music community what events mean to them, chances are you would get a pretty similar answer. So much of the dance music culture revolves around the idea that it is more than just the music that makes it such a special experience to have. This quote, however, comes from the incredibly talented VJ, Ian Alvarez. As a video jockey, and co-owner of the event production company, OneEleven that eventually led to the rise of Kaleidoscope Music Festival, Alvarez has worked tirelessly throughout his career on creating some of the most amazing experiences ravers and festival-goers could ever hope for.
Growing up, Ian had aspirations to do something that involved creative construction. Among the long list of careers he considered: architect, engineer, pilot, were top contenders. To say that Alvarez found the perfect mixture of the key components in all those professions would not be a far-fetched idea. However, it wasn’t until he attended a certain event that he shifted his focus to the music industry.
Ian attended Electric Daisy Carnival for the first time in 2008 as a sixteen-year-old. Soon after, he realized that this was something that he needed to make a more permanent part of his life. Like many who wish to become a part of it, he tested out the turntables.
“I had turntables in high school that I bought off of one of my teachers. He ended up teaching me how to DJ in my class, so I started doing house parties and events that were a little bit bigger. Then, after a couple of years I started to think that I wasn’t really the best DJ on the face of this earth, and that I wanted to do more of the promotion and production side of stuff. I didn’t really know how I was going to go about it until a friend of mine showed me this video-mapping software. The type of software that I was using at the time was called Modul8. Right around the same time, a friend of mine was going to school up in Eugene, Oregon and we decided to start an event company up there. I had tried to get some things started in San Diego but there was a really big market and huge companies that were already in place, so it was difficult to get something started. We decided to go to Eugene and go for the college market. We figured that it might be a little bit of an easier place to get started. Once that was going and we made some money, I realized that this was actually a real opportunity and something that we could actually do.”
Even with the wheels of his career starting to turn, Alvarez still faced a lot of the obstacles and low points that so many of us run into at one point or another. Whether it was dealing with the hardships of his parents divorce as an only child, things not working out with major projects that he was a part of, or simply the inevitable hardware failures that can sometimes happen at a show, the most important thing was to keep going and not let it get in the way of the big picture. Things may not always go according to plan, but as he says, that’s just the nature of the business.
“With advice, there are a couple of things. First of all, don’t get so hung up on a specific position. Like I said before, I wanted to start off as a DJ. I would just say to take the opportunities as they come and if you get an opportunity to do something, it may not be exactly what you want— but it can still get your foot in the door. That could end up being, later on down the road, what you want to do. But just take the opportunities as they come to you.
I’d also say, which is what a lot of others will tell you too, don’t get too discouraged. You’re going to get beat up a lot along the way. It’s not necessarily anything personal, that’s just kind of the nature of the business. And then the big thing is remembering to still have fun with it and take the punches as they come. If you have an opportunity, just go for it. Do it, and figure out what you need to do to make it work.”
Needless to say, Ian Alvarez has done just that. Every once in a while, our hard work has a way of coming back around to show us just how special our time and dedication really is. Alvarez’s time on the Seven Lions tour, especially at EDC Las Vegas, was one of those moments. It was one thing to come back to the first place he experienced dance music as a fan, now on the other side of things as a performer. But when people are raving about the visuals as much as the music, it becomes a whole different feeling of accomplishment.
“I keep going back to EDC which was probably one of the best moments. A couple of times the visuals were specifically mentioned via social media and it was just cool to think of the fact that that was something people were actually bringing up, specifically. That kind of enhanced the show beyond actually being there. To have people specifically mentioning that, because I feel like sometimes it’s not something people are consciously thinking of, I thought was really cool. I notice little things that go into production because that’s my job, but it was just really nice to know that there is somebody out there that doesn’t necessarily work in that area who notices it too and has it add to their experience.”
Being able to give festival goers and event attendees the kind of experience and memories that have them talking about it long after it’s over brings it all back to what Ian has been trying to do from the beginning. When asked about how he would like to continue that experience within the dance music community, he left us with these wise words:
“I think that it’s a little frustrating seeing the kind of negative attitude towards the music industry and festivals, more specifically the dance music scene. I think that, and I’m not entirely sure what the solution is to fix it, whether it’s changing age limits or whatever, I think that part of it is also on the people attending it. Whether we’re working or just in attendance, we just have to remember to take care of each other and look out for each other. I usually try my best to hand out bottles of water to people I see that are struggling. I think a lot of times with the people that are working or attending, there isn’t enough general caring towards everybody else. A lot of times we’ve kind of gotten wrapped up in what it is that we’re doing and our own experience but I think people need to focus a little bit more on the community.
When I first started going to dance music events in LA, a lot of them were more underground events and warehouse parties, and I know that a lot of that has kind of died so I’m not saying that we really have to go back to that, but it was one of those things where everyone really watched out for each other and that’s what I feel like we’ve kind of lost. I want to try and do my best to exemplify that when I’m at events and do my best to try and influence people in a way that they will maybe think about it a little more the next time they’re out. It would be nice to see people that are in the spotlight or a position of power, or really just anyone in the industry, focus more on generating this community and influencing people.”