[INTERVIEW] Underground Collective No Expectations Talks Adversity, History, + Strategy Behind EDM Events
Based in San Diego, California, No Expectations is one of several thriving organizations responsible for keeping the underground nature of dance music alive. Until recent decades, events in lucrative venues such as drainages, warehouses, and empty fields were home to the entirety of live dance music.
From the outside, it may seem the EDM industry has outgrown its roots, now opting to occupy stadiums housing multi-stage festivals equipped with state-of-the-art production. While this recent success is astonishing, thousands of fans continue to support the booming counterculture lurking in the shadows.
No Expectations is a perfect example of a collective that retains the authentic, nostalgic atmosphere of its predecessors, combined with modern technology. This organization has proven to be a group of talented, like-minded individuals passionate for throwing unforgettable events in Southern California and their momentum is only growing. No Expectations granted iEDM insight into the current attitudes, politics, concerns, and trajectory of EDM’s fascinating underground scene.
Read iEDM’s exclusive interview with No Expectations below.
iEDM: Describe No Expectation’s events in terms of goals, attitude, featured genres, location, venues, and audiences you attract.
No Expectations: One of our biggest mottos as a collective is “The Best or Nothing”. It is an attitude that has gotten us through the hardest of adversities, not only as promoters, but as individuals. “No Expectations”, as a mantra, has been enough to lead us as individuals as well. When they hear our name, we want it to evoke emotion. We always aim to connect with humans on a deeper level. Our goal is to always outdo ourselves and watch the rest unfold. The long term goal can be bigger than we ever imagined. We’re just enjoying the ride.
Authenticity and organic reach have always been within our core strategies. We feel that with those two values alone, we will always attract the right crowd. As outsiders, ourselves, we want to create a safe space where ALL are welcome. Street promo and street art are what get the people talking. Making personal connections and using guerilla marketing tactics are what make people want to know more about the movement and get in on it themselves. We don’t want people to feel like they’re just attending our parties. We want them to feel like they, too, are a part of our cultural force.
As far as genres go, we really do not want to limit ourselves to what's popular or what's been working for others. As tastemakers, we want to continue to develop the experimental sounds of the underground and expose people to music and new artists they aren’t always necessarily used to.
We’ve held gatherings at a variety of locations. Ranging from dance studios, underneath freeway overpasses, in the storm drain tunnels, parks for community gatherings, and at a few different privately owned venues. We like to keep the people guessing.
iEDM: How did No Expectations get its start? What was the strategy behind creating your first event? Was it successful?
No Expectations: Creating a music collective was an idea long before the launch and conceptualization of No Expectations. Most of us have been involved in the electronic music scene for over a decade. Going through many phases as ravers, festival attendees, djs, shufflers, flow artists, music producers, and underground ravers. It was only right that we trusted ourselves to continue to push the culture and develop a brand where we could give a proper future for this community. Once the name and concept had developed between our two co-founders, Untrust Us began the branding and took lead as creative director. Our brother and operations manager, Jayson, then presented us with the opportunity to throw our first gathering in his dad's attic dance studio.
001 was held April 5th, 2019. Although we lacked experience as event promoters, we had a ton of experience attending a variety of events, especially in the San Diego underground, and it all came together perfectly. 001 was a sold-out event and the success was enough to turn our dream into a reality. We were fueled to keep raising the bar and continue our journey as a collective.
iEDM: As many of us know, raves were completely underground in the past. Across the world, locations were sent by coordinates to abandoned warehouses and fields. As the rave scene rises to the mainstream, what is the value in keeping the underground alive? Would you return to this point in dance music history if given the opportunity?
No Expectations: We are proud to see the mainstream progress and success of the electronic music scene. At its core, the ideals of the underground will always subconsciously be there. The scene has saved a lot of lives and has helped a lot of people find a home. No matter how big a festival or a rave is, the fact of the matter is, music with no lyrics and the culture it provides, will always attract the people who have a hard time fitting in. The music itself is rich in culture. We’re just now scratching the surface and seeing all these new possibilities in modern electronic music. However, the value of keeping the underground alive is that it makes the music and community more accessible to those who cannot afford to travel to the biggest productions in the world. It also gives the audience the opportunity to support their local artists and scene. It’s all so much more organic and shows the humble beginnings that the promoters of the past have encountered. Insomniac started in a very similar way and look at where they have gotten. To this day, they still continue to do their best to keep the core roots of the culture alive and we believe that is why they’ve been so successful. The genuineness is still there. As far as the true underground. Those parties will always be around, you just need to know the right people and be open minded to new ideas.
iEDM: Many DJs began their careers playing warehouse parties in the past. Do you believe there are still the same opportunities within the underground today, or has social media become the most important tool for artist growth?
No Expectations: The scene as a whole, yes even the underground, will always be run by politics. Getting gigs is probably harder than ever these days. Especially, considering the digital age. Being an artist is more than just playing or making the best tracks, you have to have a brand, the social skills, and the social media skills to really put yourself out there. The only foolproof way that we found for the artists of our collective to get gigs was to literally create our own collective. All in all, get creative with how you put yourself out there. Get involved in your local scene. Stay true to your art and be genuine. Trust the process.
iEDM: Some underground promoters from previous decades have risen to become moguls of mainstream events. What are the long term goals for your company? Would you prefer to rise to the mainstream level, or devote your resources to supporting the underground scene?
No Expectations: As we’ve mentioned before. We’re all about enjoying the process. The end goal is not 100% clear yet, it can be bigger than we’ve ever dreamed of. One thing for a fact, is that we know that we want to make a huge mark on the industry. Some goals that we’re working on to create the impact we’d like to see in the world include: releasing music, large production events, festivals, intimate party settings, avante garde/experimental event concepts, fashion, touring, and anything else that would allow us to live off of music and creativity. We’re always on the hunt for new opportunities. We’d love for our movement to spread far beyond our local reach. However, that doesn’t mean we’ll stop supporting the underground. The underground is all about culture. The more people we can reach with our ideals and artistic beliefs, the better.
iEDM: What makes underground events special compared to massive festivals?
No Expectations: Massive stages with maxed out production. Thousands of people from all over the world. State-of-the-art sound and lighting. Performers that you’ve been waiting a lifetime to see. It’s all amazing. But why would anyone want to party in an abandoned warehouse, a storm drain tunnel, underneath a freeway overpass, or in the middle of the desert?
When the rave is being held at any of the places listed above, there’s always going to be questions concerning the legality of it all. And, I think that’s exactly what makes the people so much more excited. It all contributes to a grotesque experience. A carefree environment where there are little to no rules. Everyone who is there. WANTS TO BE THERE. It’s a strong community of some of the most caring people you could ever meet in a live concert setting. Not only that, but you have fresh and upcoming talent. People are given the opportunity to support the artists and promoters that are working 40-60 hours a week at a job they don't care for, while also busting their ass trying to make their dreams come to reality. Supporting the underground and the local scene in general is an amazing thing and if you know how to get in, you too will be able to live these experiences.
iEDM: Some people outside of the community express concern about the safety of underground raves, specifically renegade events. How do you mitigate the potential risk of attending these events?
No Expectations: Without going too into detail, there are a number of ways to mitigate risk. All which we take extremely seriously. Just know that the promoter’s number one priority should ALWAYS be safety. The San Diego underground does a great job of this. The underground is a sanctuary and everyone in attendance needs to be well aware of that. Inviting the right people is so important. Being vigilant and making sure everyone is safe is something that each attendee at the underground believes should be core ideals of the gathering. We’ve been so blessed to have such genuine and beautiful people as part of our audience. It also helps that the OGs of the underground have been here through it all to leave it in the right hands of coming generations.
iEDM: What types of adversity do you regularly face when planning an event?
There is fierce competition among organizers of large festivals, such as Insomniac Events, Disco Donnie Presents, and Ultra Music Festival. Is this a macrocosm of the competition within the underground? Or, do smaller companies tend to take a more cooperative approach?
No Expectations: We’d say the biggest adversities we face deal with the actual planning process that comes into play months leading up to an event. As a collective of best friends who have our own separate lives outside of NE, it can be extremely challenging to schedule meetings and allocate time for a variety of other responsibilities. There’s also just a lot of stress and fatigue during our street promotion objectives. When it comes to show time, our team does extremely well at executing within our job specializations.
But the biggest challenges come to us post rave. Breaking down a rave at 9am in complete zombie mode is when a lot of the negative emotions challenge us. Sometimes it's difficult to feel 100% satisfied knowing what we could’ve done better, but the fact of the matter is, we do it for the people and the feedback is what fuels us.
We don’t find ourselves too deep in competition with the large scale promoters, but of course it's smart to be conscious of what days we choose and what else is going on in the scene that might affect our attendance. Local promoters also do a pretty decent job at avoiding date conflicts with one another as well.
iEDM: How does the Southern California underground scene set itself apart from other regions? Do you take inspiration from any other geographic areas?
No Expectations: Can’t speak on other geographic regions, but one thing for sure is that the Southern California Underground scene is a powerhouse. California, physically and culturally, is just so rich when it comes to locations, weather, artists, and all things associated with a proper underground experience. There’s been tunnel, bridge, warehouse, and desert raves happening around us for countless decades. Shoutout to all the promoters who have been holding it down for all these years.
iEDM: In recent years, larger companies have been investing into replicating the renegade ambiance, while remaining very regulated. Some strategies have included buying warehouse venues, throwing events on short notice, and advertising secret lineups. Is this a logical way to enjoy the allure without the risk? Or, is it just a flawed attempt at shutting out the underdogs?
No Expectations: We don’t think it’s directly geared at shutting anyone out. The most positive outcome of it all is that the culture of the underground is being shared at a larger scale and hopefully it inspires the community to be a little more open minded about the events they attend. Overall, finding new locations and coming up with creative ways of producing shows is always a win in our book. Stagnation is boring. It’s a good thing that promoters are breaking away from the norm and thinking outside the box. This is what furthers the scene as a whole. However, one thing these larger scale promoters might be able to do a better job at, is booking fresh upcoming talent and becoming more involved in the local scene of the regions that they’re hosting in. If you’re wanting to replicate the underground experience, reach out to more underground artists
iEDM: Do you have any upcoming events that you would like to promote?
No Expectations: NO EXPECTATIONS 005. JUNE 18TH. NULLSECT TAKE OVER.
Photos Courtesy of No Expectations
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