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The San Diego Underground: Lighting a fire from within

Underground bass music in San Diego is more than thriving — it's becoming an entire movement.

San Diego-based renegade curators like Pirate Pandas, Project Seismic and No Expectations aren't just strengthening the underground scene with their events, they're influencing the EDM scene as a whole.

Pirate Pandas started throwing renegades all the way back in late 2014 with one of their very first events they called Namaste. Since then, they've established themselves as masters at what they do.

If you've never been to a renegade style event, it may be because you never even knew they were happening.

Renegades are secret parties thrown pretty much in the middle of nowhere. To get to one of these underground raves, a lot of times you either need to know someone going, or receive special instructions.

One of the most important aspects of a renegade is keeping them lowkey for the sake of conserving and respecting the underground scene.

"For many people, all they have are these events and the communities that have formed around them," Pirate Pandas shared. "It's a makeshift family, a place where you are allowed to freely express yourself and just exist without ridicule or judgment."

There is such a diversity of people at these shows, creating an inclusive community where bass music enthusiast who may have felt out of place at larger, more mainstream events can come together and get lost in the music and energy.

"We create places where strangers not only accept you for who you are, but oftentimes celebrate it"

Dirty Bass 10/15/22. Photo by @sdshowz

Pirate Pandas currently have a few ongoing event series. These include their combined art and music series called Co-Create, which recently hosted Josh Teed, as well as a techno series called Signal Lost.

Pirate Pandas' main bass music series is called Dirty Bass. These events have featured headliner artists including Onhell, Bostn, Chef Boyarbeatz, Jordnmoody and most recently, Shanghai Doom.

Dirty Bass 2/18/23. Video by @jeremy_sazon

The last Dirty Bass event was not only Shanghai Doom's first Pirate Pandas renegade, but also their San Diego debut.

"Pirate Pandas was such a vibe. It was the perfect blend of a proper club show and a pop up rave," Shanghai Doom said. They said if there's one thing they know for sure, it's that "the pirate can't panda unless the panda pirates." So true.

The professionalism of the production, from the sound systems to the lights, compares to that of your favorite club. The Pirate Pandas team prioritizes ensuring the artists playing their events have the production they deserve, while still maintaining the underground vibe.

With that being said, these renegades are so immensely different than attending shows hosted in "normal" venues.

While we all still love seeing our favorite artists play on big stages around the world, there's an indescribable magic to these secretive, intimate shows. There's no fancy bar, no restroom attendants (or sometimes even real restrooms for that matter), no coat check - it's just you, the people around you and the music.

No Expectations, who held their first event in April of 2019, have moved to the forefront of the San Diego renegade scene as well. Their events have had absolutely stacked lineups, featuring Nitepunk, Jawns, Slang Dogs, Reaper, and Xotix (for their collaboration event with Pirate Pandas).

Reaper x No Expectations 10/28/22. Photo by @still.squill

No Expectations shared why and how they started their events and developed their mantra. They were motivated to make a change by the lack of originality and venues in the San Diego scene.

"Our first event took place in the attic of our friend's dad's dance studio. We continue to host at unconventional locations," they explained.

Their team was also inspired by attending renegades themselves, including Pirate Pandas events.

"Their production team actually helped us with quite a few things our first year of production," No Expectations said, referencing the Pirate Pandas team. "It's been fun being able to collaborate and learn from each other."

No Expectations have also expanded, bringing a taste of the San Diego renegade scene to Denver twice now and soon to San Francisco in their External event series.

Project Seismic was established a few years later in December of 2021.

Since launching, Project Seismic has put on some wild shows. Back in September they collaborated with Pirate Pandas to host an insane lineup including Eugene, Quackson, and Low Poly.

"We've been blown away by how receptive and supportive the community has been to us in the past year," the Project Seismic team said.

Like the rest of these collectives, Project Seismic's goal is to give a platform to up-and-coming artists to perform and share their music.

There are unbelievably talented producers that are not getting the recognition they deserve, and the San Diego underground scene is making it a point to shine a light on them.

In January, Project Seismic partnered with Psychosis Events bringing rising dubstep/riddim star Emorfik to end his most recent tour in none other than the San Diego underground. The show completely sold out, starting off Project Seismic's year with a massive bang.

Emorfik x Project Seismic 1/27/23. Photo by @tylerthephotoguy

There's no denying the fact that something special is happening in San Diego right now. The underground scene is stronger than ever, and it's spreading like wildfire.

"The sick thing about what's happening in San Diego is it's a total rejection of the existing dance music infrastructure. People saw that the big promotion companies existed as soulless cash grabs and decided to take matters into their own hands," Low Poly said. He has both performed and been in the crowd at multiple renegades in San Diego.

The energy at these renegades is infectious not just in the crowds, but even for the artists playing.

"The passion bleeds into every aspect of the shows. The crowds show up with open minds, the production teams are creative and stylish, and the lineups (which are extremely well curated) bring their absolute A-game". He even says it himself, "Personally, I'll take playing in a graffitied out tunnel over a bottle service club any day."

Bostn @ Dirty Bass 6/25/22. Video by @jeremy_sazon

To experience one of San Diego's most unique events, follow @piratepandas, @noexpectationsxx and @projectseismic for updates. Also checkout some of San Diego's other powerhouse event curators like Daisy Chain and Vibey Desert.

Last of all, please always remember to respect the integrity of these events by looking out for yourself and those around you, bringing only positive energy and not exploiting details you receive.

Whether you're a veteran in the scene or just getting into it, the San Diego underground welcomes everyone. First and foremost, they are a community. Love and respect for one another and for the music is what not only keeps the fire alive here, but is making it burn even brighter.


Dubstep News Reporter, Kelly Jardine, can be found on Instagram and Twitter.

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