Photos by Keenan Panti
Most of the time when we think of the word “concert,” we associate the term with live music. We go to a concert to enjoy the sounds through our sense of hearing, a sense we often take for granted. Consider, however, what a concert would be if we weren’t able to hear the music? What would that be like? That’s a question Maclain Drake wanted to find the answer to, but in a way that would benefit those who were forced to live it. He’s come up with a unique concept for a concert that provides an experience for both the deaf community and for those can hear. EDM Utah sat down with Maclain to discuss Vibe: A Concert for Deaf Culture and learn a little more about this unique show and the inspiration for it. Vibe concert can be experienced at SKY SLC, Friday January 20th. –Brian Artman
EDM Utah: How did you come up with the concept for the Vibe show?
Maclain Drake: I’ve always wanted to do something different for the deaf culture even though I never grew up in it. With my hearing loss I’ve always been a part of it to some extent. Growing up I realized I was very fortunate in that I didn’t have to overcome some of the things they might have. When I go to shows I realize it could be a completely different experience. I was talking with a friend and they said, “Oh man these shows are awesome.” And I said I don’t know, I feel like they could do so much more and he asked why. I don’t think they are catered for everybody they only catered for a party crowd. I feel like an artist would want to reach out to everybody and I think they can with just some simple techniques. Through that conversation the concept for Vibe was born and I thought, ‘why not throw a concert for deaf people?’
EDM Utah: Do you have any anticipated challenges with it?
Maclain Drake: Yes, I haven’t had many challenges with it [thus far]. One of the few is that there’s not a lot of technology that exists to throw the kind of event I’m trying to do. There are organizations who try and throw events that are specifically catered for deaf people, but the technology that’s here in Utah and availability is almost non-existent.
EDM Utah: What kind of technology is that?
Maclain Drake: I was thinking that they would have technology like LED walls that could hook up directly to a mixer and [play a visual aid that went with the] music and show every sound wave you want. No one is really making anything like that. The only place, which I just found out about a couple of weeks ago is out in Portland. The only reason they started making it was because nobody was doing it. I tried to make giant water speakers to incorporate what they do at Spencer’s with those little speakers that everyone’s seen that react to sound. I tried to figure out how to do that or go to a company—most [of the companies I went to] just said no because they’ve never tried to do that. There isn’t demand for it. It’s been really difficult in that respect and also it’s just kind of hard to explain the event.
A lot of people are just foreign to the idea because I think a lot of people just think deaf people can’t hear music and they don’t experience those things. Even though they have organizations designed for this. People just don’t understand how that’s physically possible. They just think you experience a show by listening. When people think about it, they feel vibrations and I see these things, and that’s why it’s so awesome to be in this kind of atmosphere. No one goes to a concert just to hear something. There’s something about going to a live show that makes everyone get a high on something. Back when Porter Robinson and Madeon went on tour I think they really cared so much about the visual concept of what you’re seeing. Everybody loved it. So even if you didn’t understand the music, it was still such a high to be there. I think when artists do that then people have more respect to them—rather than a DJ that just comes on stage and goes ‘I’m gonna press play and they’re going to play all these visuals that I had no say in and that I don’t really care about [anything but my musical contribution].’ I think the artists who really take the time get people who love going to their shows.
EDM Utah: What do you hope people will experience with the show from both the deaf and non-deaf communities?
Maclain Drake: I think I hope they both experience the same thing. I think it’s more about awareness. The whole show is to make people aware rather than throwing this crazy concert. I mean, it’s gonna be crazy with everything I’m trying to make happen. I’m hoping that there’s just no difference between the two. Whether people see an interpreter onstage or they see fog coming out of the machines, I hope they both experience it in the same light. I don’t want people to think this is specifically for deaf people and that people who can hear are just not going to enjoy it. Because that’s not what it is. It’s just making people aware that we should have more of a demand for these kinds of technologies or these kinds of shows. Everybody wants to feel included, but when we just do the same standard stuff that everyone has been doing we don’t really move forward as a society. I think everyone wants to feel more inclusive but it’s kind of hard when you don’t really know the best way to do it. Or somebody doesn’t take a risk and throw this kind of concert.
Maclain Drake: Just realize that it’s an event that’s completely new. I think there’s going to be aspects to both communities that you’re going to see and be like, well that’s different. It doesn’t make the show any less of what I’m trying to make it, which is essentially an EDM show. There’s going to be interpreters there. Why? Because that’s how people interpret between the deaf culture. It’s not weird, it’s just how they communicate. Just like people who are Spanish communicate with Spanish. There’s no difference. I’m going to be making menus for the deaf people so they can look at it because some people don’t even like an interpreter. Not a lot of people understand that, but there are actually people who are deaf who can read a menu and just be like I want that, and they don’t need an interpreter. And for the deaf community, just realize it’s a show.
EDM Utah: How will the music selection be different than a typical bass heavy EDM show?
Maclain Drake: Well it will definitely be bass heavy. Actually that’s one of the aspects I added to it. It’s going to be specifically 150 Hertz and down in terms of the sound wave, which is the actually sound wave you feel vibrations on. That is what all the artists are going to be playing. Doesn’t mean it’s going to be all trap, doesn’t mean it’s going to be all trance, doesn’t mean it’s going to be all progressive house. Each artist has a different style and they’re still going to be the same artists that they are, it’s just that you are going to feel the show. That is essentially what I’m trying to get across. You’ll still be able to hear all the other notes and I’ve incorporated other elements to make [the show] more visual.
EDM Utah: Are there any artists that stand out to you than seem to play a style that would be more fitting for deaf fans?
Maclain Drake: Actually I just reached out to Kill Paris the other day because he was one of the first artists that hit those low frequencies. I remembered going to a show, and when it’s live you can definitely feel those notes. I reached out to him and let him know that I appreciated him doing that early on, because for me it just means so much more when an artist can do that. He might not have done it intentionally and it might have been just for the effect of the song. Sound Remedy as well—I can’t believe he retired—but I saw him live and he uses those low notes to communicate a whole story.
EDM Utah: Sky has a particularly sweet sound system when it comes to all frequencies. Did that play a part in your choice of venue?
Maclain Drake: You know, I think honestly what it came down to was when I approached SKY about it their concern was how can we make this show everything you want it to be. It wasn’t necessarily they had the best sound system. It was just that they were more personable about it. They’re all about bringing different communities in, they’re not about this party atmosphere. I think the thing that sold me so much on them was the fact they cared so much. Because I think I could have done this at any club or any venue I wanted to, but I don’t think they would have been as caring about the situation. It really comes down for me to how personable people are as opposed to just hey we’re just throwing another crazy party and we don’t care what you do. SKY was more about, we want these people to be taken care of and respected, and I respect that more.
EDM Utah: Any closing words for us?
Maclain Drake: I would say if you don’t quite know if you should come, we have The Cvptvin, he will definitely make your night fun. If you don’t like trap we have trance from Pulse Regime—they’re very talented up-and-coming artists. I’ll also be performing at the show so that will be nuts. It’s going to be another concert for EDM and you’re going to enjoy yourself. You will see things you have probably never seen before. I just want everyone to come and enjoy themselves, whether you can hear or can’t hear. Everybody should come and enjoy this awesome event on Friday, January 20 at SKY SLC.