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Electronic Youth 

Electronic DJ Dials performs worldwide, but his rave-roots sprouted here in the ’Kan

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Noah Cunningham’s first rave wasn’t in a warehouse or an abandoned building. It was an Inland Northwest rave — and that meant it was in a wheat field.

He was 13. His mom dropped him off there. “I get my mom to drive me out there with my friend at like 8 o’clock at night,” he says over the phone from his San Francisco studio. “They’d mowed this big circle and put this gigantic inflatable dome in this wheat field and had lined couches all around inside of it.”

“I was like, ‘Wow, this is freedom. This is fun.’ My mom came to pick me up at 10 o’clock and asked me how the show was and I was like, ‘I don’t know! It hasn’t started yet!’” Cunningham, now 26, is known worldwide as DJ Dials and has toured in the past year to London, Glasgow, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. But he says his love for electronic music — be it dub-step or electro-clash — is one that he found here in Spokane.

He says he actually remembers the exact moment: he was shopping for school clothes downtown with his mom.

“There was this little record shop called Real Vibe Records and this guy was scratching. I thought that was the coolest thing I’d ever seen in my life,” he says. “That summer I went and saved up a bunch of money. I mowed lawns to buy a pair of turntables.”

Since then, he’s worked up from playing Spokane dances and car shows to clubs, raves and festivals around the world. During that time, he says that music fans — electronic music fans — watched as rave culture sprouted, shot up and fizzled fast around the music they loved.

“It wasn’t about the crazy party or getting laid, it was really about the music,” he says, contradicting conventional wisdom. “The rave culture got stuffed out pretty quick.

They went from these basement and warehouse parties to gigantic. People were making lots and lots of money. Then the drug thing kicked in… it really got ruined quick.”

Spokane was friendly to electronic music and rave culture for a time, he says. Long enough to catch him.

“That’s one of the things that I think is really special about Spokane. Even though it’s a really conservative place, there’s a really passionate youth culture,” he says. “They don’t want to be oppressed by the tyrannical strip malls of Spokane.”

But then, like it did nationally, the local rave scene became mainstream.

“People in the underground started word-of-mouthing it to their popular culture friends. And they take it, warp it and make it theirs. They take it away from the kids that were there for the right reasons.”

Cunningham says he never considered himself a raver. But today, as he tours the world playing mixes of house and trance and glitch-hop, he takes pride in seeing the surviving remnants of that culture.

“I never have seen it die.

I’ll still walk in Spokane and see some [Insane Clown Posse] dude with phat pants on,” he says. “There will always be an audience for it.”

Melter Skelter Dance Party with DJ Dials, Locke, DJ Orange and Benjamin Jorgens at Empyrean on Friday, Dec. 18 at 8 pm. Tickets: $5. All-ages until 11 pm. Call: 838-9819.

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