Back in the day I regularly attended 12-hour marathon DJ sets spun by Junior Vasquez at the Palladium in New York City. Vasquez would hold court the entire set, dropping unreleased material to classics when the sun came up. Sometimes the vibe was incredible and as special as capturing lightning in a bottle. Other times you could tell he was working out ideas, but his faithful fans loved him no less for it. Every time I left the Palladium on Sunday afternoon I knew I had experienced something truly special.
This sort of experience is rare nowadays. Club bills are getting bigger and DJ sets are getting shorter. Some say the shift is accommodating the changing taste of a generation with shorter attention spans; others believe it boils down to promoters and club owners sucumbing to market pressures. There’s probably merit to both theories.
The cultural shift in clubland hasn’t been lost on Toolroom Records boss Mark Knight. A fan of playing longer and taking clubbers on the proverbial journey rather than an Uber ride, he began talking to peers including Danny Tenaglia, Roger Sanchez and Andy C about why playing longer is often better.
His inquest is documented in Odyssey, a short film chronicling his conversations. One of the best lines comes Tenaglia, who says matter-of-factly how playing all night was a given when he first started out. “Everybody worked 9 to 5 – 9pm to 5am. That’s what was normal to me. Still to this day I don’t consider that a marathon.”
There’s also an accompanying DJ tour, All Knight Long, where clubbers in select cities will get a no-holds-barred taste of Knight’s skills.
In advance of the tour kicking off April 12 at Culture Box in Copenhagen, we talked to Knight about his inspiration behind the film and subsequent DJ tour. Continue Reading →
The final day of the Ultra Music Festival 2013 was a harsh reality and fans were arriving early and were pumped to make it an ultimate last day. Arriving at the festival grounds before the crowds poured in and scoping out the place and vast space it was difficult to envision hosting (squeezing) the tens of thousands of people that will fill every inch of this space within the next few hours. It was so peaceful and surreal for a while.
A definite buzz for the this final day of UMF was surrounding Armin van Buuren’s A State Of Trance 600 in the Mega Structure which hosted hot commodities like W&W, Cosmic Gate and Paul van Dyk. In the ASOT arena van Buuren was projected on the backdrop introducing the big event and then the countdown began. It may have been more appropriate and more intense to actually have the crowd be ready and waiting when Tritonal took to the stage but the festival gates opened at noon, and the ASOT fans hadn’t made it in and made their way to the Mega Structure before Tritonal’s set began. It was an entertaining and impressive spectacle to witness the scores of fans come running into the wide-open tent to capture a coveted viewing spot knowing exactly where they wanted to be this day. Eventually this tightly knit crowd would grow to epic proportions flowing into the adjacent Korea Tent not knowing where one crowd ended and one began. With no more space in the Mega Structure crowds packed onto the passage ramp to view the event making the walkway impassable and causing security to step in for crowd control.
On the Main Stage progressive electro-house sisters Nervo joined Sultan & Ned Shepard on the decks for the end of their set and shared congenial embraces and joined in singing. It makes sense since their collaborative single “Army” was just released last month. The bass was cranked to maximum capacity for the duration of the female duo’s set as they blasted hits like “We’re All No One.” When they played their current chart buster collaboration with Nicky Romero “Home” and offered the crowd a singing moment during the chorus it went on a bit longer than expected. Nervo looked puzzled and the crowd came to the realization that the sound was cut, but they went right on singing and didn’t skip a beat. Nervo stepped to the mic and cheered, “Miami, that’s why we love you.”
One of the more miscalculated stages was the Live Stage that perhaps next year will need a more ample venue location. Veteran DJ Fresh, formally of Bad Company, hosted an entourage on stage, on the side stage and in the crowd with his pumping inspiration of drum ‘n’ bass. He kept the crowd hyped and on their feet, in the aisles, on the chairs, on the lawn and overflowing into the main walkways with chants like, “We got the power. Let’s get this party started.” That was no problem as the crowd went ballistic when Diplo joined Fresh and company on stage. Fresh played a mix of “Seven Nation Army” and then encouraged crowd participation by instructing them to hold their hands high forward for kick and back for snare. Given their undivided attention he was excited to also announce this was his first show in America.
The Italian trio Forza electrified dancing fans in the ample valley-like, grassy dancefloor with their pulsing style of progressive house. Hosted at Mark Knight’s Toolroom Knights Stage tucked away at the deadend of a main path it was gem to find and it wins points for creativity. It continuously displayed a computer generated boom box image on the stage-flanked display screens with pumping woofers in time to the music beats.
Relative newcomer but already skyrocketing success story, Zedd played the Korea Stage opening with a subtle repeat of, “Breathing you in,” from his blockbuster hit “Spectrum” and even managed a little “Gangnam Style” sampling while friend and supporter Skrillex watched proudly from the wings.
Meanwhile Thomas Gold was wrapping up his Main Stage set with the popular Mikkas remix of the Emma Hewitt track “Rewind” as the dancing crowd was engulfed in a sea of dust. He played on with an impressive rendition of “Apologize” by OneRepublic mashed up with Otto Knows “Million Voices.”
Bingo Players displayed a baseball cap with the name of their record label but equally fitting, it’s a single, simple word that described the day, “Hysteria.”
Back at ASOT Above & Beyond mesmerized the crowd with the Miami appropriate “See The Sun” from Matt Darey Urban Astronauts and their own “Alchemy” and “Sun & Moon” from Group Therapy. Later, the man of the hour at ASOT, Mr. Armin van Buuren, began with a modest remix of today’s hit “Clarity” from Zedd and went on with stunning hit after hit like the vintage “Sound Of Goodbye.”
Major Lazer, again featuring Diplo onstage with his expected antics, pulled hordes of willing females into the front and center spotlight to dance during his affectionately titled track “Bubble Butt.” And once again, it seemed featured artists at the Live Stage could use a bigger hosting area. The same could be said for follow-up classic Snoop Dogg who alone accommodated about 100 of his closest friends stage side and thousands more in the over-packed crowd.
For many it was the ultimate closing in more ways than one witnessing the artists who posted the following on their Facebook page, “Nervous. No words to describe it. No limit to the memories. No way to say thank you enough. Ultra…here we come. One Last Tour…for One Last Time.” For many fans leaving the festival on this last day it was a similar sentiment and melancholic euphoria as to these words from Swedish House Mafia.
If it’s any consolation with each passing day we’re one day closer to the next Ultra and we can appreciate one fan’s optimistic Facebook comment, “I’m ready for ultra 2014 already!!!!!”