Sensation Innerspace has lived as just a myth in many American imaginations. It's been the muse of many home-grown attempts at theatrical show experiences, and the pinnacle for house heads who know what they're looking for. Finally, Brooklyn's brand new Barclay's Center was the lucky venue to host the first American outpost of the European tradition. With that announcement, the $2.5 million dollar production immediately became a coveted ticket to land, and generated some of the highest initial hype ever seen for an electronic show in the states. Anticipation swirled with speculation for unfamiliar show goers: 15,000 people were going to be at this event, all dressed in the same color clothing, how was this going to work? But that's the beauty of the execution of Sensation – it was flawless, with every intent behind the Sensation brand brought to fruition in the Brooklyn arena.
With a setup that mimicked that which was hugely successful in the Amsterdam outpost of the tour, multiple stages were placed on the floor, accented with huge glowing orbs hanging from the ceiling. Anchored by a huge floral lotus structure that houses each DJ, showgirls were surrounded by a sea of white that was unifying, not something that washed out the crowd into an unidentifiable mass. Themes throughout the night focused on the evolution of house music as a holistic being. The club/dance floor/arena was treated a social canvas to be painted by the performer on stage, setting the mood and monitoring it throughout the night.
The night opened with an epic introduction to Mr. White's warmup set. A blue aura enveloped the arena, with all focus on the center floor. All eyes focused here with the first ethereal introduction to the full feel of Sensation Innerspace, and multiple rounds of fireworks set the crowd ablaze just as much as the stage. Mr. White's set allowed the audience to get in their groove, socialize and also enjoy the all-encompassing experience all simultaneously.
This night continued to support Danny Tenaglia's status as a living legend. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he is arguably one of the most knowledgeable producers because of his experiences in house music since the genre coined its name from the warehouses it was played in. Spinning since the days of vinyl, he is a regular on the Sensation lineup, and with good reason. Known for switching his sets up with the unexpected (and myself hating the predictable), his was naturally the performance I was most looking forward to. And the American house legend lived up to expectations: opening with eerily Halloween-appropriate NO_ID remix of Brainbug's "Nightmare," lasers and lights went into full effect for the first time all night. He clearly had a great time on the decks while throwing the vocals from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" on top of classically deep techno beats. His performance surely meaningful for the fact that it was one in his own Brooklyn, as the return of the American house music powerhouse.
Fedde le Grand was the unofficially deemed most-anticipated act of the night. What was not captured in the live set recordings was the spectacular opening for the Dutch superstar, with a special live vocal performance of Florence & the Machine's "You've Got The Love." While she sang above the center of the lotus structure, lighting in the arena turned pink tones and production slowed to calm the crowd only to prepare us for the strong set to come. With a huge set intro that included "Push The Button" by Chemical Brothers and activation of the full scale production throughout the the Barclay's Center, le Grand was able to build his set with ID's and classic techno sounds consistent with the rest of the night. And about 20 minutes in, he shocked the crowd by injecting sudden electro energy with an unexpected transition into "Bong" by Deniz Koyu, mixed with Eric Prydz's remix of "Personal Jesus" by Depeche Mode. The remainder of the headliner's set was an homage to his own remixes and more mainstream hits like Axwell's remix of "Resurrection," with a slight dip in energy at the end to gear the crowd back up for the rest of the night. Le Grand proved that he really knew how to cater to the audience in Brooklyn, and remained the most memorable performance of the night.
2000 and One told a story through deep and tech house hits. The Dutch pioneer also known as Dylan Hermelijn gracefully used his 20 years of experience and catered to his American audience with the current favorite Sasha remix of "Flutes" by Hot Chip, and later injecting pop notes with songs like Jooris Voorn's remix of Swedish House Mafia's "Don't You Worry Child." Both of these were huge hits with the crowd – whether it was people like me, who hadn't heard the track's powerful bass live yet, or those who were hearing the tracks for the first time. Moments like these when you could view others around you enjoying the music in different ways, were when we were reminded of the true intent of the atmosphere surrounding us.
Mark Knight took the stage with an intro of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York," which although totally relevant, proved that the crowd just wanted to hear Knight when everyone went bananas after he transitioned into his own hit "Alright." As the closer of the night, the British producer showed his true colors with interesting vocal mixing – when was the last time you heard the lyrics to "Percolator" over classic house?
Ending with an epic encore that praised the history and influence of house music, the entire Barclays Center lit up in white, as it should be. It was a surely humbling moment, and one that reminded me really what I had just witnessed. Any show that leaves me in awe like that is one that I know I can remember forever. I for one had mixed expectations for how Americans would handle this event – but we held it down with the same class that Sensation is so famous for in Europe. Without a doubt, Sensation USA lived up to all of the anticipation surrounding it and may have been the best non-festival event I've ever experienced. Now, we'll have to see what – or where Sensation goes next.
Photo credit: Sensation