Like any parent of teenage daughters, Lina was concerned about their health and safety when the COVID pandemic hit in the Spring of 2020, and she knew that sacrifices were going to have to be made until the pandemic ended. What Lina didn’t expect was the sudden loss of a community that she had grown to love in the years leading up to the shutdown.
In 2014, Lina had recently divorced when she started dating a man who was a Bassnectar fan and urged her to go with him to a concert at the iconic Red Rocks venue in Colorado. Lina, an immigrant from Colombia who moved to the U.S. when she was 11, had grown up mostly on rock and heavy metal, but she was intrigued by her boyfriend’s description of the Bassnectar scene.
“For me, growing up in a country that wasn’t my own, I always just felt like an alien,” said Lina. “At that first Bassnectar event, I felt so much unity and positive reinforcement around me that I felt like I belonged somewhere, and I wasn’t just a weirdo. I felt included.”
During the last decade, Bassnectar shows have been some of the top-grossing tours in the music industry. The Bassnectar experience is rooted in bass music but the experience includes large video screens with a constant stream of provocative imagery and messaging emphasizing love, peace and social justice. It was started by a DJ named Lorin Ashton, who got his start in the 1990’s in the Bay Area and expanded to wider audiences after making his mark as DJ Lorin at Burning Man. By 2002, he was performing as Bassnectar.
For the next two decades, thousands of loyal fans, self-identifying themselves as Bassheads, would travel around the world to multiple shows to congregate with their community. In between shows, they translated the themes of kindness and empathy that coursed through the Bassnectar events into random acts of kindness and charitable efforts in their own hometown communities.
At her first show, Lina had found her tribe, and she wanted to immerse herself in that experience as much as possible, so she went to four more Bassnectar shows at different locations around the country in 2014 and spent all of her next five New Year’s Eve celebrations at Bassnectar events until COVID shut the world down in 2020.
While Lina enjoyed the music at the heart of the events, it was the people and the messages of kindness and empathy along with the support of voting rights and social justice issues that were important to Lina and kept her coming back.
Lina brought her parents to one of the shows, and they compared it to Grateful Dead concerts they had attended decades earlier because it felt like “everyone is standing for something.”
“They loved it,” said Lina.
When Bassnectar held a curated event not far from her hometown in Florida in 2018, Lina took her daughters, then 11 and 9, and made their way to the front of the stage where Ashton would be performing.
“As soon as he came on, everyone was making room for my girls,” said Lina. “Nobody gets- left behind. I felt so safe, and my daughters loved it.”
When the first COVID surge started in March of 2020, Bassnectar became one of the first major acts to acknowledge the health hazards of large gatherings and canceled a much-anticipated event called Deja Voom in Mexico.
Like Lina, 31-year-old Washington, D.C. resident Goran had already purchased tickets to Deja Voom and four other Bassnectar events for 2020. A self-admitted shy and reserved person, Goran had listened to Bassnectar’s music for years before a friend convinced him to go to the Spring Gathering event in Chicago in 2018. The experience changed the direction of Goran’s life.
“It was a place where I felt unlike anywhere I had ever felt before,” said Goran. “Being in the community and feeling a sense of comfort. Being able to be myself. Feeling at ease even in the middle of such a wild show.”
Goran had just recovered from a series of health complications. Being among the Bassnectar community made him realize that he could use the lessons learned from his journey to help others going through a health crisis. When he returned home from Chicago, he changed careers to become a health coach and continued going to Bassnectar shows for the next four years as a tonic for his own continuing recovery.
“It shaped the person I have become today,” said Goran.
In the summer of 2020, just as the Bassnectar community was coming to grips with a time of extreme isolation and the loss of what had become an essential support system for them, they started seeing a series of disturbing allegations being made against Ashton online. A number of women came forward with sexual misconduct allegations, mostly in chat rooms and social media and amplified by an Instagram site called Evidence Against Bassnectar, which relied on mostly anonymous posts.
Within a few days after the first allegations had surfaced, Ashton published an open letter on his social media channels, challenging the veracity of allegations, but acknowledging that he was stepping back from his career to take responsibility and accountability:
A longtime fan named Kate had already been a steady voice in the Bassnectar community when the allegations first surfaced in the summer of 2020. She spent the rest of the year contacting and exchanging messages with fans who were suffering not only from the isolation of the pandemic but also a difficult emotional reappraisal of the community that had been so important to them. In a few cases, she made contact with some of the accusers.
“What people don’t understand about the Bassnectar ecosystem is that it was really safe for women,” said Kate. “Unlike other shows where a young woman might be worried about being molested or drugged, men were acutely aware of boundaries and purposely respectful because of the ethos of the community, and that all started with Lorin. It’s one of the most immersive music shows that you could experience. It was a unique form of art in the world. There is no other musical performance that has ever been like it, and I don’t think it can be recreated, so the world lost an elevated piece of art when it was taken down.”
Kate says anyone who supported Ashton or Bassnectar in those first few months after the allegations were subjected to bullying and harassment.
“One guy got his car keyed, because he had a Bassnectar sticker on it,” said Kate “Fans who wear Bassnectar t-shirts or logos are called ‘rape apologists’ in public.”
“A fan who lost his father during the pandemic shared his pain on a Instagram fan site and talked about how he was missing the healing nature of the community,” said Kate, “and instead of showing compassion for his situation, angry trolls demanded that he take down his picture that he had submitted for the site, because it showed ‘innocent’ people in the background, and he felt bullied and asked to remove his post.”
Lina had a similar in-person experience when she wore a shirt with a Bassnectar album cover to a bass music show in late 2021.
“This woman was staring at me and started walking towards me,” said Lina, “but her boyfriend physically held her back, and she yelled out ‘You know you’re supporting a pedophile!’, and people looked at her like ‘get her out of here’. Even her boyfriend seemed ashamed of it. He came up to me later and apologized to me. I didn’t let it bother me.”
Ten months after the first allegations surfaced online, two women named Rachel Ramsbottom and Alexis Bowling filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against Ashton and his record label and management company, claiming they were victims of sex trafficking. Eventually, two more women were added to the lawsuit, but one of them has since been dismissed as a plaintiff after being challenged by Ashton’s attorneys.
When the lawsuit was filed, Ashton’s attorney, Mitchell Schuster said, “These outrageous claims – which were clearly designed for the media, rather than for the courts – are completely without merit and we eagerly look forward to proving so.”
In the most recent court filing, a case management order, attorneys for Ashton stated, “The plaintiffs are merely former romantic partners of Mr. Ashton who, in the era of the #MeToo movement, are jumping on the cancel culture bandwagon in an attempt to profit from the pressure they hoped this litigation would bring.”
Due to the time needed for discovery and the depositions of witnesses, the earliest the trial would begin is September 1, 2023, and it’s expected to last approximately three weeks.
Outside the courtroom, life goes on for the Bassnectar community as well as Ashton. Lina, Goran and Kate have all attended bass and other music shows since the pandemic restrictions were lifted, while Ashton was recently spotted at the Lightning in a Bottle Festival in California:
Online rumors have also been circulating that Ashton is behind some recent new music releases under the name, Locoqueen:
Since the rise of the cancel culture era, we’ve seen performers like Jimmy Fallon, Morgan Wallen and Louis CK overcome allegations of racism and sexual misconduct to continue with their careers. Film industry experts believe Johnny Depp will be fielding multiple job offers after his victory in a high-profile defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, who made abuse claims that were refuted by dozens of witnesses in the televised trial. For some Bassnectar community members, they say nothing that has happened in the past two years would keep them from attending a show if Ashton decided to return to the stage.
“I would and most of my friends would too,” said Goran. “When Bassnectar comes up in person, it’s a much different experience than an online discussion. Even people who say they wouldn’t go to a new Bassnectar show aren’t angry at me for saying I would.”
“Accusations are just that until someone is convicted,” said Lina. “I don’t feel like Lorin should have to say anything. I would be okay with him just coming back.”
When asked if she would go to a new show featuring Ashton, Kate was a little more succinct – “Fucking absolutely!”