Exploded Drawing, an underground happening devoted to elevating the art of creative beat-making, celebrates ten years on Friday with a free virtual bash featuring acclaimed West Coast producer Daedelus alongside Atlanta’s Deantoni Parks, Austin’s Graham Reynolds and more. Though event creators Andrew P. Brown (aka Soundfounder) and Ben Webster (aka Butcher Bear) had dreamed of a large anniversary event, this is the third streaming event the pair has hosted since the pandemic shut down large gatherings, and the pivot to online has been rewarding in its own way.
"Finding ways to connect with artists all over and keep up with people we've worked with and we love and respect has been a big blessing," Brown said on a recent episode of Austin360’s streaming show, the Monday Music Mashup. He hopes the online events will "keep the flame lit" until it’s safe to celebrate in person.
Brown and Webster launched the party in 2010 to explore the kind of musical innovation that was exploding in L.A., where creators like Flying Lotus were pushing boundaries on composition in the digital realm.
At the time, electronic music events in Austin were largely genre-specific, "like you had your dubstep, or you had your drum and bass or whatever," Brown said. The events tended to be DJ-focused, with very few producers performing their music live.
Brown and Webster wanted to focus on creativity and originality. "We realized pretty quickly that we were going to have to create a new space for that, because it just wasn't happening anywhere," Brown said.
Inspired by experimental rockers Fugazi, punks Minor Threat and artists on the DIY punk label Dischord Records, they designed the event with inclusivity at its core. Those artists "really kind of set the gold standard for how you can respect your audience and give them power, to have everyone be on the same footing," Webster said during the Mashup.
"I do think that the financial aspect of it is very political," he said, noting that the traditional Austin nightlife experience, where you might go out and spend $40-$50 at a bar, is out of reach to many people.
They sought out all-ages spaces and set the cover charge at a modest $5. Their goal was to create a space where "everyone from all walks of life are able to come in and have the exact same experience," Webster said.
And the people did come. While the first few events drew less than 100 people, "probably by the fourth or fifth one, we were seeing like 150, 200 people, and it really has just kept building," Webster said.
Over the past decade, as the party has evolved, the genre itself has exploded. From its early days in rave culture, electronic music has been built around a youth movement, and as beat-making software has become more accessible, a vibrant generation of young creators has emerged. Meanwhile, innovators like Flying Lotus have become huge draws on the festival circuit, supplementing the sonic experience of their shows with rich visuals that lace together found footage, old film clips and patterns of light.
Early on, the Exploded Drawing crew expanded their program to include visuals, and even in the recent online events, bedroom producer sets are enhanced with abstract splashes of color.
Brown recently watched the documentary "Dirt Road to Psychedelia: Austin Texas during the 1960s," and in the vintage clips, he saw striking parallels between the experimental music scene of that era and the scene he and Webster built through Exploded Drawing.
"They have footage of the original Vulcan Gas Company, where, you know, Velvet Underground, and every psych band in the ’60s and ’70s played, and they have a huge screen with crazy visuals," he said.
Both events feature a "crazy DIY space" where people "walk in, and they're just struck by this big screen of psychedelic imagery that goes well with the music," he said.
"It made me feel really good to kind of feel like we're helping carry that torch for Austin, like psychedelic music culture," he said.
Exploded Drawing’s 10th anniversary stream kicks off at 9 p.m. on Friday at YouTube.com/explodeddrawing.