The state fair usually brings cotton candy, carnival rides and country music to mind, but apparently furry boots and fishnet tights are joining the ranks, at least judging by the concert set at this year’s Washington State Fair. The Puyallup Fair isn’t just sporting a new name — it’s sporting a new lineup as well.
United States of Consciousness, event organizers who specialize in electronic dance music (EDM), brought the EDM concert Digital Affair to the Washington State Fair this year, giving traditional fairgoers a taste of the rave subculture. Big names like Chuckie and Excision headlined.
Going to the fair this year was an odd mixture of familiar activities and new twists. For one, I was going with friends — not my family — and for another, I was on my own budget, which severely limited the amount of deep-fried foods I ate and the number of rides I went on. The familiar funnel cakes, elephant ears and roasted corn on the cob were there, but the prices were new — probably jacked up to fund the renovation of the fair grounds.
Most of the rides were the same as ever, but gone were the days of the $7 unlimited ride bracelets — $30 ride bracelets that are only valid midweek are the new norm — or paying $3.50-6 per ride. My excitement at the newly renovated wooden rollercoaster and the newly built inversion coaster was deterred by the $10 price tag on each as well.
I quickly grew bored of touring the hobby hall, which seemed to contain more salespeople marketing their “as seen on TV” wares than actual hobbyists anymore, and headed over to the event I’d been waiting for: the Digital Affair concert.
I entered the gates to the grand stand and left the world of family fun and farm animals behind. Gone were the overweight adults and tiny children. I was suddenly surrounded almost entirely by people my own age, late teen and early twenty-something-year-olds. The crowd was not as big as I had expected it to be, perhaps due to the $55 price tag — the most expensive concert at the fair this year save for Carrie Underwood.
The fair organizers would have been better off reserving the stage for another country artist. United States of Consciousness should have known better than to put on a show so soon after Freak Night tickets went on sale. Most Washington ravers had probably already blown their money for the two-day Halloween festival, leaving them with few resources and little desire to dish out more cash for a sure to be less impressive show.
The concert-goers seemed uncertain of how to dress for this cross-cultural event. A couple of girls were in full-out go-go gear, complete with microscopic booty shorts, push-up bras, animal hats and furry boots. I can only imagine the looks they must have gotten walking around the fairgrounds dressed like that. Most people aimed for more subtle tributes to rave culture, like beaded bracelets and colorful bandanas.
The show itself was excellent. I wasn’t around for the opening DJs, but I spent a solid three hours dancing non-stop as the M Machine, Chuckie and Excision laid down beats. Smoke machines, lights and huge screens with abstract designs made for an almost club-like atmosphere. People actually screamed with anticipation as Excision came on, and I found myself making a giant ‘X’ in the air with my crossed wrists at the end of his set along with everyone around me.
Still, the show would have better with more people and at a more club-like venue. While I enjoyed the music and show itself, having an EDM show at a country fair was just a strange juxtaposition, and I’m not sure it was entirely successful. Cowboys stuck to their country music and rodeos, and even the draw of big names like Chuckie and Excision wasn’t enough to coax a large number of ravers down to the fair. Maybe next time the Washington State Fair will think twice before clashing cultures like that. ◼︎