Why 2015 Is Set To Go Down As The Year of the Live Show

“A room is like a stage. If you see it without lighting, it can be the coldest place in the world.” – Paul Lynde

Change, as they say, is inevitable. When it comes to music, it is not only inevitable, but expected. This is true in dance music, a genre that has undergone massive change since its inception. What once could only be found in warehouse raves located in the outskirts of major cities, is now being sold in stock on Wall Street. In the past 5 years alone, we’ve seen the rises and falls of several subgenres. Artists have come and gone. Torches have been passed. Our favorite DJ’s and producers have constantly been searching for new ways to capture their audiences. Most have simply been able to do so by innovating and refreshing their sound. However, some have now been looking elsewhere to improve their live performances. With the technological advances that have been made in recent history in regards to the music industry, it is now possible for artists to take their sets to unprecedented heights. Whereas before, ambitious stage productions were solely reserved for pop and rock megastars and bands, it is now possible for dance music artists to throw their hats into this ring. Gone are the days where the top DJ’s are forced to pre-record their sets in order to cue up pyro, CO2 cannons, and other visual effects to their music. The bar has now been raised. A new frontier is being explored, and it’s time that everyone takes notice.

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Prydz took the phrase “Hit me with those laser beams” and absolutely ran off with it. (Photo: AJR Photography)

A few months ago, a new ground was broken, at the hands of none other than Eric Prydz. One word that can be used to describe up his career up to this point is progressive, not only because he is the undisputed king of progressive house, but because of the mere fact that he has constantly pushed the major aspects of his career to new heights. His ability to challenge the status quo with his music is well-documented. There is no other person in dance music who has been able to juggle three different artist aliases, each who have garnered their own respective acclaims and successes. In late September, he premiered his new EPIC 3.0 on a one-night affair at the world’s most famous indoor arena, Madison Square Garden. Armed with 32 lasers, a team of technicians hired solely for the one-time gig, and the largest indoor hologram that the world has ever seen, Prydz was on a mission to create a concert experience on an extraordinary level. To say that it was successful in that regard, is an understatement. Hundred-foot laser beams flickered into the MSG atmosphere. The 60-foot hologram, which was of Prydz’s face, lip-synced along to many of the tracks that he played that night. Needless to say, the technological aspects of the show left the Garden crowd in complete and utter admiration.

What should also be heavily noted is the amount of work, dedication, and sacrifice that it took to be able to put on a production of this type of pedigree. Prydz confirmed that he took several losses in order to make the show happen, “every $ is going into the production. EPIC is a passion project for me, it’s for the fans. We’ve lost money on every EPIC show we’ve ever done.” Prydz’s commitment to the fans simply cannot be put into question, given the fact that the show hurt his pocket times before. This particular 3.0 show was originally scheduled to take place during Ultra 2014, but was cancelled due to bad weather conditions, which resulted in the damage of the screen that was set to be used to project the hologram. This same commitment was highlighted by his choice to employ a VJ (video jockey) that designed the hologram himself, who also served as the team leader for the night at the Garden. The VJ, named Liam Tomaszewski, spoke to Medium.com about the importance of the live aspect of the entire project, “Being able to respond in real-time like that to the music and the crowd makes the whole experience feel so much more real for the audience.”

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The world’s largest indoor hologram, in all its glory. (Photo: Medium.com)

It seems as though that Prydz and his team have fully grasped the concept that is set to take live dance music events into the future. We all know that most DJ’s aren’t quite exciting to look at while performing, except of course for a select few. That is where the production aspect of shows comes into play, and that is also why there has recently been a increase of elite DJ’s attempting to step up their game. One question that has certainly been posed by this select group is, “Why not give the audience something truly amazing and different to look at while dancing?” Well, one can look no further than techno legend Richie Hawtin’s latest set at Sónar to see just how this question can be answered.

Richie Hawtin, like Prydz, is an artist that has managed to push the envelope with every single piece of music that he has released. Launching his career under the alias Plastikman with the iconic track “Spastik”, Hawtin has since gone on to heavily innovate dance music from a technological standpoint, being a pioneer in the utilization of drum machines in techno. A few years later, his inclination towards pushing the boundaries of live performance culminated into an offering that was be seen around the world. In 2006, he collaborated with Italian choreographer Enzo Cosimi for that year’s edition of the Winter Olympics, on a piece that Hawtin composed specifically for the opening ceremony. A month before the ceremony, he told RA of his sentiments towards the project, “Enzo and I are very much interested in pushing boundaries, both as artists and for our audiences. Working together for the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Games delivers the creative endeavor to not only entertain a huge audience, but to also introduce them to sights and sounds that they may have never experienced before.”

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Giant structures and world class DJ’s, both situated among the crowd. Can we expect more stuff like this in the new year and beyond? (Photo: Digital A/V Magazine)

Since then, Hawtin has gone on to produce several versions of his much critically-acclaimed Plastikman live show, including the much-exalted 1.5 show which made its debut at Time Warp in 2010, and later went on to tour the globe. However, it wasn’t until his landmark gig at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC where a new air was breathed into his career. The solitary gig inspired him so much, that he hurried into the studio shortly afterwards and created a new Plastikman album in five days time. The EP, titled eX, was the first Hawtin put under the alias in 11 years, and served as the foundation as what will probably go down as the most unique stage set-up of the year.

We all know that at a show, the set up usually goes as follows: crowd facing DJ -> DJ facing crowd. At Sónar at Barcelona in June earlier this year, Hawtin looked at this tried-and-true method and promptly dismissed it. What he did there was completely unparalled, removing himself as the center of attention and situating both himself and his Ableton controllers at a table located among the crowd. A giant obelisk served as the focal point for the set, filled with lights that brightened up the Baleric sky through the night. The live production, named Objekt, captured the imagination of the audience through its ability to change between patterns and shapes along with the songs that Hawtin played, truly setting an unforgettable ambiance for the Catalan crowd. Objekt was a bonafide highlight of the Sónar weekend, renowned for the fact that it pushed the limits of perception for everyone that bore witness, and perhaps provided a new way to approach live shows.

A moment of silence for the festival photographers that had to fight their ways from the Sonar main stage to the middle of the crowd snap a good picture of Richie.

A moment of silence for the festival photographers that had to fight their way from the Sonar main stage to the middle of the crowd just to be able to snap a good picture of Richie. (Photo: Billboard)

Some of you might be thinking, “What about the main stage DJ’s? The DJ Mag Top 10 guys?” It’s a given that Prydz and Hawtin aren’t in the limelight of our genre. Legends in their own right, they aren’t exactly the most extroverted DJ’s out there, and we all know that. Nonetheless, one of the biggest names in the music world managed to one-up the level that he previously set himself in terms of stage production. For this year’s edition of the ever-so-famous Coachella, Skrillex unmasked the latest version of his iconic Spaceship.

For those of us who’ve seen Sonny in action either at one of his many tour stops, or at one of his many fabled festival sets, it’s pretty much a safe thing to agree on that Skrillex and his Spaceship are synonymous, dating back to the Scary Monster and Nice Sprites days. Since then, there have been several reincarnations of the ship, with each version increasing in size, technological aptitude, and creative aspiration. For this year’s edition, Sonny set out to truly push the limits of both himself and his trusted crew, by constructing an entire new stage set-up two months before Coachella, where it ultimately debuted. As shown in his documentary Lets Make A Spaceship, the process was extremely trying, given the amount of difficulty and labor that it took to make a production good enough for Sonny’s standards. What’s more interesting about the process seen from the documentary is just how hands-on Skrillex was throughout the process, constantly making refining and adjusting his ship before it made its maiden voyage, not quitting until he was satisfied enough to present the final product to his undeniably loyal fans.

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It is this type of mentality that will bring dance music into the new year. It is what will separate the true musical artists, the ones looking to truly give their fans not only their money’s worth, but something to truly remember them by. This trend will only grow exponentially into 2015. Dubfire, half of the legendary Deep>Dish duo, recently debuted his new live show at ADE a couple months ago, and brought it stateside to Brooklyn for Time Warp this past weekend. Deadmau5, who toured with his iconic Cube from 2010 to 2013, announced not too long ago his plans to release a new live show next year, complete with it’s own tour, set to take place in large, arena-type venues. Knowing mau5, this new project will definitely be one to watch out for. This is the next step for our genre. Our music has already infiltrated the radio waves, and the thousands of concert venues and clubs around the world, It is now setting a target for the stage. There will most definitely be a competition between who can make the most awing live show set-up. Our favorite DJ’s will be battling out to see who’ll reign supreme. The best part about all of this, though? We, the fans, will benefit most. We’ll be the ones who are going to experience the anthems that we hold so dear to our hearts in new ways. We’ll be able to give new definitions to the phrase “sensory overload.” We’ll be the ones looking back years from now at our favorite shows, replaying the memories etched inside our minds. Keep an eye out for 2015.

 Words by: Daniel Chamorro

One Response to “Why 2015 is Set to go Down as the Year of the Live Show”

Comments (1)
  1. David says:

    nice article. the technology in prydz’s hologram live show is nuts

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