You couldn’t ignore the feeling that something special was happening in Brooklyn, New York on Friday night — as it appeared, a majestic flock of white souls were pouring into the brand new, spaceship resembling Barclays Center. Approaching the arena at 8pm to see a never-ending scatter of people dressed in white from head to toe, I was overwhelmed with nostalgia. The visual was one thing, but the excitement in the air – unavoidable upon entrance — brought me back to my last Sensation experience exactly 7 months earlier in Hasselt, Belgium. Before setting foot inside the arena, standing amongst the 15,000 other concertgoers, it became evident that this night would go down in dance music history.
Before getting lost in the dream world they call Innerspace, I headed deep into the lower levels of the arena where the cerebral forces behind Sensation were busy making the magic happen. Passing the pyro office and into the interview room, Fedde Le Grand – the event’s headlining act – was preparing to usher in a new era of live music in North America. Suited in a white blazer, Fedde was thrilled yet collected. Having played the event over 30 times worldwide Fedde knows better than anyone else; and when asked about Sensation’s stateside translation, his experience spoke for itself.
“Everyone is dressed in white, it unifies people and adds something to the atmosphere,” Fedde responded upon the topic of what makes the event so unique. “It’s almost like Cirque De Soleil,” he continued, “the production in combination with the actual music… it’s the total package.” Finding himself playing his set between deep house all-stars, Fedde took the time to explain his role on the music end. “I take the lineup into consideration and where I am in the lineup… I will probably play half undergroundy and half the sound where people know me from,” he explained. He continued to undermine his individual contribution, going on to say “No one [DJ] is here solely for themselves – we are all building a night together.”
Parting ways with Fedde and finally entering the imagination-packed stadium, I joined the crowd, stepping into the massive sea of white on the general admission floor. Upon entrance, I was mesmerized by the countless production elements that covered every inch of the arena. Giant spheres hung from the ceiling above a giant lotus shaped construction that hosted the rotating DJ booth, and smaller configurations of the same aesthetic were found in each corner of the showground. Already an amazing sight, the enchanting production had hardly began, and each factor had carefully planned, circus-like antics that would progress with the evening.
Resident Emcee, Mr. White, was wrapping up his set as a water screen hovered center stage and blasts of water shot out from the miniature lotuses. Dennis Ferrer took control next, and the giant balls in the sky became filled with light. In Sensation fashion, Ferrer set the tone with boppy, unidentifiable house. The most uplifting portion of this set was a techno bootleg using a vocal of The Beatles’ “Come Together,” but no single track — of Ferrer’s set, or any set for that matter — could be held responsible for the all-embracing energy.
Around 10pm, a euphoric voice began to echo throughout the arena, captivating ears while the spheres of light began to drop above heads – Fedde Le Grand was introduced and a vocalist appeared inside the water screen that was beaming down from the center of the ceiling. She soulfully chanted the lyrics to “You’ve Got The Love,” and four angelic women rose high into the air, waving pyrotechnics before the introduction climaxed with blasts of confetti – and not to mention — bass.
Fedde steadily kept the club vibe flowing, drifting between deep house beats as Ferrer did before him. It was not until 40 minutes into his set that he dropped a recognizable track – a bootleg of Deniz Koyu’s “Bong” with Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” that came in sync with exhilarating waves of CO2.
Joris Voorn was introduced next, and eager for a specialized glimpse, I journeyed to experience Sensation and its spectaculars from an aerial view. From above, the crowd appeared as an ocean of white splendor, unifying 15,000 as no event had done before. Fans spanned the entire venue and were enjoying the show from all angles without care to catch a good view of the DJ himself. Joris kept the beats coming and the balls of light moved in waves, syncing with the tide of tech house.
By the time the closing act was introduced, all production facets of the Innerspace experience were in high gear, dramatizing upon the nightclub that had been formed. Nic Fanciulli took the reigns, and waves of pyrotechnics emitted from the glowing lotus. Fanciulli brought the club atmosphere to the next level late in the night, beasting through groovy tech house that had everyone bopping simultaneously. Like the sets before his, the highlight could not be reduced to a single track, but the overall contribution to Brooklyn’s clairvoyant affair.
As Fanciulli wound down the crowd and closed out the miraculous evening, it was beginning to settle in that what had just occurred was the most unique and groundbreaking dance event to ever occur on American soil. Sensation was not a festival, and it sure wasn’t just a show – it was an evening.
Every light, laser, blast of water, and firework had strategically been activated to create a mesmerizing visual experience. Mr. White, Ferrer, Fedde, Voorn, and Fanciulli, did not play sets to highlight their individuality, but rather put sounds together – that in sync with the surrounding sights – told a story of its own. The audience — accustomed to hearing commercial records — embraced the nightclub vibes, and for once, bopped around dancing opposed to singing along.
Sensation brought an old school vibe to the modern era that can’t escape its electro-saturation, putting to rest the idea of big room domination. For the first time at any American dance event of such proportions, the DJ didn’t matter. The experience was enjoyable from near and far and there was no sign of DJ-worshiping fans forcing their way for an up-close view of their beloved superstars. Not only was Sensation Brooklyn the greatest dance music event to ever touch down on American soil, it marked a moment that would forever move dance music and its live music experience forward. After all, Fedde was right – Sensation was the total package.