By the end of the 90s, rock was either pretentiously self-indulgent in the underground or blandly unimaginative in the mainstream, while dance music was mindlessly decadent in the big clubs and depressingly conservative at the other end.
In retrospect, it makes perfect sense that the two worlds would start looking to each other for inspiration.
DJs get inspired by 80s synth pop. Indie musicians play with drum machines and sequencers instead of distorted guitars. Gender-bending stage shows like Peaches attract attention, along with the dance punk of Le Tigre and Chicks on Speed (pictured right).
Toronto's take: Queer-punk dance party Vazaleen borrows from the rave scene and adds sleazy gay rock as the soundtrack, attracting queer punks, gays fleeing the straight house scene, indie rockers hungry for transgressive fun and art school kids.
The look: Weezer's Rivers Cuomo perpetuates the popularity of Buddy Holly glasses.
Ex-club kid Larry Tee dubs the crossover between punk and dance "electroclash." Most musicians saddled with the term deny it applies to them. Cool kids interested in dancing discover early 80s no wave and post-punk. New wave is suddenly an acceptable influence for young guitar bands. In Europe, the dance scene embraces combos of techno, rock and synth pop, sending Montreal producer Tiga's cheeky cover of Sunglasses At Night to the top of the DJ charts.
Toronto's take: "Open format" DJ parties in unconventional venues (i.e., rundown pubs, loft spaces) pick up steam, playing both indie and mainstream music side by side.
The look: Gogo dresses.
Upstart NYC label DFA unleashes two hipster anthems, the Rapture's House Of Jealous Lovers, with its insistent cowbell, distorted disco-punk bass line, discordant angular guitar slashes and yelping vocals, and LCD Soundsystem's Losing My Edge, which sounds like Mark E. Smith ranting over a techno beat. The UK's Soulwax release As Heard On Radio Soulwax Pt. 2 under their 2 Many DJs persona, introduces the mashup to the world. Shortly afterwards, everyone and their mother is combining pop music a cappellas with unrelated instrumentals.
Toronto's take: A grimy basement bar called 56 Kensington becomes ground zero for forward-thinking dance parties straddling various scenes. Electro-themed Vazaleen-spinoff Peroxide keeps things queer and day-glo, Expensive Shit bring some DJ technique to the indie dance scene, and Fuck Faces (which will later grow into the Dmoney party empire) bring hip-hop DJs into the open-format scene.
The look: The slouchy 70s-style hobo bag.
M.I.A. (pictured right) bursts onto the scene with the single Galang, which sounds like hip-hop from an alternate universe. Unknown duo Justice enter a remix contest at a Paris college radio station, reworking UK indie band Simian's Never Be Alone into a new song called We Are Your Friends. They lose, but Daft Punk-affiliated label Ed Banger picks it up and nurtures it into a hits; the track wins best video at the 06 MTV Europe Music Awards, causing Kanye West to jump onstage and freak out.
Toronto's take: Indie rock event Santa Cruz (mostly) unironically appropriates the singles dance format. Big Primpin' invades oddball Rolling Stones tribute bar Stones Place for a monthly "hip-hop for homos" night, imbuing the dive with unexpected cred. Extravagant DIY costumes become part of the gayer, artsier side of the scene.
The look: Ashton Kutcher makes trucker hats mainstream.
M.I.A.'s Piracy Funds Terrorism free online mixtape made with then-boyfriend Diplo introduces Brazilian funk carioca (aka baile funk) to the English-speaking world. The synthetic sounds and light-hearted party attitude of crunk infiltrate hipster consciousness. MySpace comes online, revolutionizing how bands make their name. Musicians ask themselves if they actually need a record label, or even a record, for that matter.
Toronto's take: The ongoing 80s revival inspires the rediscovery of acid house as well as a brief comeback for hip-house. Hipster parties spill out of dives and into warehouse spaces. Junior Boys' debut, Last Exit, is the toast of the blogosphere for its icy combination of new wave and R&B.
The look: Preppy boys raid Value Village for pastel-coloured Lacoste polos.
Bloc Party's debut album, Silent Alarm, is released to critical acclaim. Easy access to obscure music on the Internet and the growth of music blogs fuel the number of genres associated with hipsters. Even heavy metal is infiltrated, with acts like High on Fire and Sunn 0))) finding unlikely support with the trucker hat set, and 80s rock tour shirts become a hot commodity. DJs like DFA's James Murphy and Metro Area's Morgan Geist push obscure disco classics onto audiences. In L.A., DJ Steve Aoki's popular genre-bending parties attract young celebrities as well as the cool kids, and his label, Dim Mak, releases tracks by many of the buzz acts of the moment. The Le Tigre remix of the Gossip's gay rights anthem Standing In The Way Of Control keeps disco rock on DJ playlists. About a million bands use the word "wolf" in their name.
Toronto's take: The Social opens, providing a bar built for this scene rather than adopted by it. A grimy pub called the Queenshead sees surprisingly long lineups for the Thursday-night Shack Up party. Jesse Keeler's post-DFA 1979 dance project with producer Al-P, MSTRKRFT, starts making waves. An oddball seafood restaurant in Kensington Market called the Boat hosts indie rock shows and parties and is surprised to find that it suddenly needs a bouncer. Promoters AD/D begin throwing parties, taking over big venues like Mod Club.
The look: Ladylike girls raid Granny's closet for floral-print frocks.
UK dance-rock band the Klaxons jokingly describe themselves as nu rave and the music press takes it seriously. Fans oblige by showing up to gigs pseudo-ironically sporting glow sticks and other rave clichés. Hot Chip go in a dance-influenced direction with their second album, The Warning, and the single Over And Over is NME's single of the year. Thanks to Spank Rock every DJ with a laptop and skinny jeans is dropping lo-fi B-more breaks alongside rock remixes and electro bangers. Teki Latex of Parisian Euro-crunk outfit TTC invents the iPod battle, which is franchised all over the world.
Toronto's take: Klaxons' label, Merok, releases the first limited-edition 7-inch single by T.O. duo Crystal Castles after hearing their rough demos on MySpace. Two years later, CC will grace the cover of NOW Magazine (two months later NME follows suit). Shit La Merde tears things up at Sneaky Dee's, and Dmoney expands to a variety of themed nights.
The look: London party waifs Kate Moss and Sienna Miller slip into skinny jeans.
Kanye West's Justice freakout leads him to collaborate with Daft Punk on the track Stronger. West's tour DJ, A-Trak, starts the Fool's Gold label, which gives voice to the growing hip-hop/electro crossover. Justice's debut full-length, ?, is released, making the Ed Banger sound the soundtrack to dance parties everywhere. The initially derogatory "blog house" is reappropriated to describe the flood of homemade remixes clogging Internet and DJ playlists. Most DJs are now playing their sets via laptop and doing their shopping online.
Toronto's take: Nightclub icon Peter Gatien opens Circa in the middle of the club district, and AD/D take on Friday nights, proving the scene is ready for the mega-clubs. Wrongbar opens in Parkdale at the end of the year.
The look: Fashion label Balenciaga sends its take on the traditional Palestinian keffiyeh down the runway, and multicoloured knockoffs hit H&M racks overnight.
DFA release another groundbreaking and trend-setting album, this time by unknown disco and house revisionist act Hercules and Love Affair. Lead single Blind features otherworldly NYC torch singer Antony Hegarty. Hipster rapper Kid Cudi (pictured right) releases Day 'N' Nite on Fool's Gold, and the bangin' uptempo mix by Italian remix wizzes Crookers becomes one of the year's biggest hipster dance anthems. For yet another weird Kanye connection, West brings Cudi on board for several tracks on his album 808s & Heartbreak.
Toronto's take: Wrongbar lives up to the hype, and Circa establishes itself at the centre of the club scene. Those silly slotted sunglasses are distributed at V-Fest as promo swag, making it look like an army of hipster clones invaded Toronto Island.
The look: Lumberjack plaids and oversized buffalo checks.