So there I was, surrounded by 15,000 intoxicated people, all dressed in white, seven years late on the other side of the world. I’d missed my last chance to catch Sensation when I was backpacking through Europe in the summer of 2005. While my experience traveling through a dozen countries (including a particularly excellent weekend in Ibiza) was all that and a bag of chips, there was always that one missed party. That is, until this weekend.
The speakers & sound system did not disappoint. It was massive arena with stadium seating above the totally packed GA floor, filled with ravers, euros, hippies, brokers, club kids, junglists, chibi goths, bridge & tunnelers, guidos, creepers, jocks and thousands upon thousands of the same pair of white jeans & yoga pants. The chaos of large festivals like Ultra or Electric Zoo seemed utterly absent, as there was pretty much one choice of beer readily available (Bud Light Platinum), and there was one stage, so if you weren’t ok with at least one of those things, you probably shouldn’t have swung by.
Dennis Ferrer’s sound was starting to explore the speaker system and the people shuffled to a sexy, groovy, organic house sound. About thirty minutes into his set, an astonishingly funky remix of Come Together started tugging on the room. Each verse & word, drawn out along this infectious bassline with a remora of a staccato twang, drew more of the floor into unison, as people from across the world slowly recognized the Beatles lyrics, clicked into the beat, moving with it and the rest of the room.
Some people were impatient for some sort of break or drop, but five minutes after people found themselves dancing to the pre-drop tune, they seemed to forget that the music needed to go anywhere as long as it sounded this good while it was there. The set remained funky & groovy, without cheesy disco standards or any confused attempts at injecting R&B into moments that doesn’t need it. The former is annoying, while the latter just kind of quietly sad/creepy. While his set was neither of those things, I was getting a bit hungry, so I swallowed my fear and headed over to see what manner of sustenance I could find and whether I would need a co-signer to pay for it.
As abysmal as the sponsored drink choice was, the Barclays Center was decked out with an impressive amount of finery. From the dozen places to get food (surprisingly quality mac & cheese, with apparently organic cheese), the several additional bars/alcohol serving areas that remained full the entire evening, through to the home theater sound system demonstration area and absurd amounts of digital signage equipment, Barclays came out swinging. Bathrooms that were kept in excellent condition and a platoon of staff who were absolutely a pleasure to deal with, especially after you’ve been given the once over as many times as I have at parties by the house staff. Interestingly, priority for those positions is being given to residents of Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights, Gowanus, Red Hook (BK Community Boards 2,3,6 & 8) and anyone living in nearby NYCHA housing. It wouldn’t get you the job, but it’d get you in the door. Seemed to be a good idea because it was the first time in years that I’d been to a large, non-underground/illegal/private event where it actually felt like the person who took my coat or served me my next Bud Light wanted me to enjoy myself.
After I finished my “artisanal” mac & cheese, I remembered there was actually a giant show going on in the building and I wasn’t just watching it on TV, so I wandered back inside to find a stadium seat somewhere to survey the salubrious soiree swing into even higher gear, as Fedde Le Grand had cemented the transition away from the groovy organic house of Ferrer into a techy, but progressive sound. And the giant fountains shaped like flowers were going off again, pushing water straight up a good ten feet. Four of them. Why? Because your party doesn’t have fountains. That’s why. But, enough about the lotus flower shaped fountains inside of a basketball stadium. Fedde Le Grand’s set kept oscillating between techy, almost stompy house, to this euphoric anthemic prog sound that reminded strongly of the Swedish Fish Mafia. Unlike the previous set, the builds and the drops were emphasized, powerful and, in combination with the Barclays system, massive.
The “We Are Your Friends” tease (of a Justice vs. Simian track) turned out to be just an Acapella reference, leaving thousands disappointed. That is, until the unforgettable lyrics of Insomnia by Faithless began to flow out of the speakers, as the techy house beat faded away slowly into the chords that would be recognizable to anyone that spent more than nine minutes on a dance floor in Europe in the late 90’s, or 2005, if you were lucky enough to catch the re-entry when it showed back up. And as it pulled away, Fedde slipped into his face-melting remix of Paradise by Coldplay, which absolutely exploded the energy that built up over the bootleg of Insomnia that never quite broke.
They’d done it. The place throbbed, but not in an orgy of mayhem like Electric Daisy Carnival or violence like a Rage Against the Machine show, but with this almost eery respect to it. People dancing and celebrating to one beat, respectful, international and (save the bud light bottles) with a modicum of class. And this continued on for three more hours. Joris Voorn & Nic Fanciulli held it down until 2 AM. Outside the phalanx of NYPD at all train stations and surrounding corners stood in sharp relief to the partygoers, festooned in white with all manner of blinky-shiny hanging off of them, happy as Honey Boo Boo with Go Go Juice. Perhaps the feel of events from the Netherlands can be transplanted to Brooklyn? Perhaps we don’t need to, as the events in Brooklyn will have their own feel and don’t have to worry about standing in anyone’s shadow?
This is Terry Gotham, see you on the dance floor.