discovering and sharing the music that moves us

Breaking Waves: Pantheon 2022, vol. 3. [Post-Pantheon Ponderings]

It’s absurd to me that Pantheon 2022 is already four weeks behind us. Between the holidays and the “Pantheon flu” so many of us ended up with, I suppose it makes sense that a month seemed to just blow by… but still! 

Where did the time go? 

Even now, there are some mornings, in those brief moments between sleep and consciousness, that I still dream that I’m going to wake up in Seattle– about to embark on what was a life-changing journey alongside so many members of the wave music community. 

I don’t write that with hyperbole– Pantheon 2022 was genuinely a life-changing event for me. 

This “Breaking Waves” entry is the first of many to explore life post-Pantheon 2022. This entry specifically contains my own musings about the experience, now that the festival has passed; interviews with artists and staff are forthcoming. 

If you have a story from Pantheon 2022 to share, or if you worked the event and would like to talk about your experience, please feel free to contact me. I’d love to chat with you. I’d also like to extend a huge thank you to Phozee aka Neil Merchant for his photographic contributions to this piece. The dude is incredible behind a camera–even when he has to fix his flash on the fly… with a staple. Y’know, absolute king shit.

Now–let’s dive in.

Let’s talk about how Pantheon 2022 went.

Appetizers & Meals | Pantheon 2022, Day 0.

Walking into The High Dive that first night of the festival, the first thing I noticed was the atmosphere.

It was one of the most comfortable small spaces I have ever been in. Seating lined the walls that led up to the stage, which had an abundant dance floor spread out in front of it. There was a wave overlay projected onto the walls; it added a degree of “chill” that I think we all appreciated.

At least, the graphics were subtle enough that they definitely added to the atmosphere… without it being too corny given the whole, “wave festival” thing. 

Check out Day 0’s vibes, photos courtesy of Phozee:

Honestly, the best way I could describe Day 0 is with this anecdote– 

In a brief conversation I had, a member of the event’s staff playfully referred to this first night as “an appetizer for the rest of the weekend”.

But I honestly walked away that night feeling like I had a six-course meal. 

The variety– the substance!

In any case, I know this person meant “appetizer” in terms of size. After all, the pre-party had a ‘small’, six-act line-up, as opposed to the massive 24+ count across the rest of the weekend.

But still. 

Between calicry’s gentle set, which empowered us all to take a deep breath that was long overdue–to Static Angel’s peppy stylings that always inspire even the chillest attendee to get on their feet– to SBU’s inspirational cosmic trip that was briefly interrupted by the crowd chanting his name in a beat of silence brought on by an equipment blip–

I could go on and on about the whole night; no two performances were even remotely comparable.

(That’s to say– if you have a chance to see any of the previously mentioned–or VAVN, ASHAN, Skot., or MRKRYL–I definitely recommend it.)

The Sights & Sounds at The High Dive:

Another thing that was notable about the pre-party is the fact that despite the electronic music blaring from the speakers, it felt almost as if we were at a rock show.

At least it did to me.

I’m not sure if it was the fact that so many of us were all dressed like emo kids, or if The Seattle Sound infected us because of where we were, but even the way people were dancing that night made me feel more “at home” in the club, given the fact that I “defected from the rock scene”. 

But the thing that made me feel most at home was the company I was surrounded by, of course. 

I will never forget the love that was expressed in that room. 

More than once, I heard names shouted across the club, only for glomp-like hugs to follow. Whether folks had been connected for weeks, months, years–it didn’t matter.  Friends were finally together “in meat space” for the first time. Screams of excitement, hugs, and occasional glances of unfamiliarity followed by giddy introductions were plentiful that night. 

It warmed my heart.  

I even had one “stranger from the Internet” offer to make the rounds with me, just to ensure that I was properly introduced to everyone and was comfortable in the space; I accepted an introduction to his incredibly sweet partner, who felt more like a bestie I knew for years rather than someone I had met just moments ago.  

I suppose that’s the beauty of the wave scene–

Strangers become homies, and homies become family– sometimes in a matter of moments. 

“I’d Love To Talk, but JC Is Playing.” | Pantheon 2022, Day 1.

“Day 1” of the festival was nothing short of chaos–in the best possible way. 

The venue was huge. Staff divided the festival into two rooms, each complete with a dedicated stage. A short, L-shaped hallway separated the two rooms. This was an awesome layout for the sake of providing seating–which was abundant throughout the space between the stages–and also for keeping the sounds from the two stages contained within their individual rooms. 


While I appreciated the staggered set times between the two stages at Substation–there was overlap between several artists that I wanted to see the entire sets of that I just couldn’t make work. But, like everyone else, I had to make my compromises, and do my best to see a little bit of everyone. 

You know, like in true festival fashion. 

Day 2’s set times.
The sets were spread out between the “annex stage” & “room 2”; all sets were staggered by 20 minutes to maximize viewership.

The Sounds of Day 1:

I do want to take a moment to formally apologize to anyone who attempted to talk to me during certain sets; you know who you are. We don’t need to rehash it now.

For those of you who thankfully have no idea what I’m talking about–

That ‘Day 1’ heading may as well be a literal quote. 

(Yes, I was caught crying at the club. Again. It’s fine.) 

I think what caught me in such a trance is the simple fact that it was North America’s first wave festival…

…in Seattle… 

and there was Just Connor up at the decks.  

To me, Just Connor is one of the unsung heroes of the scene. We don’t talk about it much–and he’s so humble, it seems to embarrass him a little when anyone brings it up–but to me? 

Seeing JC up on that stage was a huge moment. 

(c) Phozee

I mean, think about it. 

Here’s this phenomenal human being, one who inspired me to start this column–who is a foundational wave artist, a major player in establishing the OG scene in NYC, and is now spearheading a showcase in Denver with two other OGs–and here he is, also among the artists on the Pantheon 2022 line-up. 

Anyone could’ve gotten booked–and the promoters made sure to get Just Connor.  Thank goodness.

What’s more–

My first-ever wave show was actually a year (to the day!) prior to the Pantheon festival–in Seattle–and was a Human Error function.

The headliners were Noah B, Just Connor, and w/out–all of whom ended up playing Pantheon this year. 

HE// Presents… in 2021:

2021’s group photo

A mere 12 months later, and Seattle’s wave scene transitioned from booking tiny clubs with half-filled dance floors to nearly selling out a huge 3-day festival dedicated to the sound. It’s mind-blowing to me, especially because Seattle is where wave “got real” for me; it’s where I got to experience wave in a live setting for the first time.

I am still trying to process this part, honestly.

That we’re finally here– in a world where we, in North America, finally saw our first wave festival. 

Because it’s like I was dreaming–but I know it was real. 

I know it was real because I was there. 

I was there for JC–

I was there for all of it–

I was there to witness the healing powers of the darker side of wave, as M!NGO demonstrated for us–I was there to witness BL1THE’s gorgeous, euphoric live debut– to witness barnacle boi teasing us with incredible unreleased music–to witness Nick Neutronz slip his collaboration with kaleidokitty into his set–and to see how thrilled kaleidokitty was to hear it. 

Just to list a few other beautiful moments from that first night. 

Pantheon Day 1, as captured by Phozee:

“Wave is A Muthafucken Movement!” | Pantheon 2022, Day 2.

I’ll be honest– Day 2 was a blur.

The day was so packed with excitement that I honestly didn’t even have time to take notes… and I literally had my notebook in hand even while I danced for most of the weekend. 

Of the performances, I can honestly say that Aekae’s debut was one of the best sets I’ve seen this year, and I’m hoping he comes back to the States as regularly as he can. I’d also say that seeing Djedi and Juche go B2B was nothing short of magic, not just because of the way those two weave their sets together, but also because of the way they interact. It was incredible to witness. One more– I need more live Tako Tomago in my life; his vocal debut brought tears to my eyes. The dude has PIPES. 

Those are three sets I wish I could simply rewind my brain and revisit–but alas… no. 

(c) Phozee

My biggest takeaway from Day 2, however, came afterwards. 

I overheard a conversation after the festival was over that I can best summarize as this:

The wave scene is a community for anyone who has ever chronically felt like an outcast.” 

Nothing has ever rang more true for me. 

Because I, too, have chronically felt like an outcast–until I fell in with the wave kids. I never knew the feeling of “home” until I met these people. I never quite understood “family” the way I do now, either.

In fact, in the months leading up to it, various folks in the wave scene referred to Pantheon 2022 as ‘a family reunion’.

This happens quite a lot with the big events–be it Liquid Ritual’s “Conference” back in April, or Pantheon here in the States. Whenever a lot of the wave scene is going to be showing up somewhere–the talks of it becoming “a family reunion” are bound to happen sooner or later. I always thought it was sweet, albeit maybe a bit heavy-handed.

After all — we were all just going to a damn concert, weren’t we?

The Sounds of Day 2:

However, upon leaving Seattle, I finally understood why people in the community are so quick to use that phrase.

I, myself, am now quick to use it, too. 

Pantheon was never just going to be another show.

I know that now. 

For me, Pantheon turned out to be a gathering of family near and far–of folks I’ve met already, or not–that I now know accept me for who I am, for who I aspire to be. They see me for exactly who I truly am, not as some mask that I wear to get through the day, or as some function to their gain. I have found true friends who show up for each other in ways I never thought possible. I am part of a larger picture–at last. 

I’m part of our larger picture–

I’m part of our community.

The wave scene honestly and truly taught me the meaning of that word this year.

If you’ve ever been blessed to know a community like wave, then I know that you know what I mean by that.

If not, I invite you to come to a wave show, wherever it ends up being. 

Come find out.

After all, to quote YAMA as the festival was shutting down– 

“Wave is a muthafucken movement!” 

You will be seeing so much more of us from here on out–

That is a promise. 

Sights of Pantheon, Day 2, as captured by Phozee:

About Author