It’s not rare to see Mr. Carmack’s smile onstage.
At least, that was the case when he performed at the Student Programming Board (SPB) Spring Performance in the Douglass Ballroom on Saturday night, an event that some feel signaled a shift in the UR music scene.
Born Aaron Carmack, Mr. Carmack is a music maker who hails from Los Angeles and lived in Honolulu. His style is a mix of EDM and synth, which his personal website describes as the “hinge to the doorway between dance music and hip hop.”
The audience was filled with students from RIT and UR, and a dose of Rochester locals. Members of the crowd brought glow sticks, light-up hula-hoops, and LED light gloves.
“This year we’ve been trying especially hard to get diverse events,” senior and SPB co-president Lauren Birnbaum said. “We had an alternative act come during the fall, and we have a specific genre in mind for Dandelion Day, so we thought that this would be a popular and fun genre for the semester.”
Carmack used his time onstage to promote his upcoming album with new music, and to announce that the night marked a month of being sober, to which the audience cheered.
The show was opened by the DJ Dopamine, UR’s own junior Amine Rouchdi, who played “hype-electronic type” music for the show. Rouchdi refrained from playing his own music, claiming it was “not ready for the world yet.”
Rouchdi has been a DJ for roughly seven years. He originates from Atlanta, Ga., where he was inspired early in high school to seek out dance music.
Rouchdi began producing his own music two years ago, along with junior Nick Henrichs, who performs under the name Szoul. They use the software Ableton.
“We take vinyl records that we buy and use virtual synthesizers, and we just kind of put that together with hip-hop, electronic beats, and just try to mash it up into this kind of music,” Rouchdi said. “It doesn’t fit any genre, it’s just kind of what we are inspired by.”
Rouchdi and Henrichs both feel that Rochester’s music scene matches their style more than the UR audience does.
“Basically, the music there touches back to the lack of the scene of electronic synth music and like, that scene is in Rochester at the Bug Jar, they’re all about that,” Henrichs said, having performed there last December.
The UR DJ scene has grown consistently in the last year, with performers such as junior Maverick Cummings performing in a number of campus events, mostly at his fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi. Cummings also notes that his work will likely extend beyond campus because he feels it will be better received.
“I think that’s kind of the sentiment [to EDM/DJ music] that you’re there to be yourself and be who you are,” Cummings said. “I think with college frat parties that everyone is so concerned with coming off as being weird or insecure or not being liked that that maybe factors into it.”
Cummings has been making music since his sophomore year, also inspired by Carmack’s work, which, at the time, was sporadically posted and taken down from SoundCloud to garner interest. “Making the music just comes down to good quality,” Henrichs said. “And you expect your audience to just be able appreciate the quality and goodness of music in its purest form. And then basically they can hopefully appreciate it and audiences expand from that.”
Birnbaum mentioned that genres for events thrown by SPB are decided by the feedback they receive via their online polls, meaning artists such as Carmack are invited due to student interest.
“I think what’s been helpful this year more than any other year is that we’ve gotten feedback from the student body,” Birnbaum said. “We really appreciate that and we can’t really represent everyone if we don’t hear their voices to begin with.”
Rouchdi noted that an appreciation for EDM/DJ music comes from experiencing it first hand.
“What gets people into music usually is seeing the show and getting to experience what the music is made for. A lot of people here don’t go to a lot of festivals or don’t have a lot of experiences at concerts, and that’s I think, the biggest reasons why,” Rouchdi said. “I feel like maybe it might be a little too late for people, but definitely seeing it in its purest form at a show, the experience is changing people.”
The increase in campus DJs and student-requested performances such as Zeds Dead and White Panda at D-Day back in 2015, however, show that the music scene at UR could be reaching a turning point.
“I think there’s a group of people like myself who are restless,” Cummings said, “who want something different, want something new, and want to change things.”
Correction (2/28/17): A previous version of this article said Carmack hails from Honolulu. He actually hails from Los Angeles, and just lived in Honolulu for some time.