The glory of the festival media pass is always unpredictable for the music journalist, but the adventure is always guaranteed.
For Neon Desert 2017, a sit-down with headlinining DJ Hardwell revealed less of how his new single with Austin Malone, “Creatures of the Night” related to my festival war cry and was more of discovering the humility of an EDM genius with a purpose to change the world with more than just beats.
Netherlands-born Robbert van de Corput, 29, has expedited the average life journey of success and reached the heights of the title as #1 DJ twice before the age of 25. The first major fist pump of his career presented itself as a record deal at the age of 14, only 2 years after first experimenting with electronic dance music.
Hardwell’s first decade of DJing proved his ability to consistently move mountains of crowds one beat drop at a time, boasting a festival resume that includes Electric Daisy Carnival, Tomorrowland, Ultra, Coachella and countless others. As his career continues to peak, Hardwell’s influence now has a new burst of hands in the air that don’t belong to the average concert rager.
In December 2015, Hardwell’s project, United We Are, joined forces with GuestList4Good Enterprise to educate thousands of India’s youth by way of The World’s Biggest Guest List Festival (WBGLF).
“At a certain point in my career when I became more successful, it’s really something amazing to give something back to the world in general,” Hardwell said. “When I came to India for the first time I was heartbroken by seeing so many homeless kids. Doing a concert to get so many kids to school is an amazing feeling.”
In its first year, the “party-for- good” production in Mumbai was attended by 80,000 fans and live-streamed by more than 10 million others, with sponsors flocking to support the cause.
Festival proceeds translated into an educational currency that supported more than 18,000 Indian children via international non-profit organization, the Magic Bus Program. According to their website, Magic Bus moves children out of poverty by way of mentors and a sports-based curriculum that instills healthy habits in education, health, gender equity and leadership.
Close to 300,000 children benefit from the program, with over 70% graduating high school and entering college. In 2017, the organizers will target 100,000 more, and will continue to spread efforts all over the world.
The Hardwell dance vibe at Neon Desert felt like it was enough to split the asphalt on Mills and Mesa. Mid-jump, it dawned on me that the same intensity would carry through to WBGLF and create social earthquakes in the economic dichotomies of the countries served by the Magic Bus with the sorcery of music.
And like the second wind that soothes the aching feet and tired arms from pounding and flailing in my tiny bubble of EDM street bliss, Hardwell is going hard beyond his career in music, and now dancing into the minds that will influence the leaders, educators, musicians and cage rattlers of tomorrow.
In the past year, other musicians have steered in their own social media and fan base influence onto the road to education. In a March news conference, hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper donated $1M to the Chicago Public System to benefit the arts and enrichment programming.
The artist recently headlined JMBLYA in Dallas and Austin, a festival that partners with Neon Desert organizers through promotion network ScoreMore Shows.
A Twitter impulse in early May by hip hop singer/songwriter Nicki Minaj resulted in thousands of dollars in payment favors for tuition and loans for students around the U.S. Later, the model officially announced her intentions to launch a charity based founded on the spontaneous generosity.
At a time when budget cut proposals threaten an already unsound federal education system, there’s a newfound delight in the sweet sounds of those charging up the masses through the religion of beats, rhythm and soul.
Dance on, rage on, and get louder.