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Afrojack and Diplo at Pier 94: How the heavyweights predicted the future of dance music

It was the night before the night, the eve before New Years Eve, and Pier 94 had filled up with 7,500 New York City dance fans well before 11pm. Afrojack was the night’s headlining act only 24 hours before he would host his Jacked affair at the same venue, but the unanimous hype within the crowd was for the man they call Diplo. Putting these two heavyweights on the same bill was a unique move that captured an unprecedented vibe that lasted beyond 3am.

Having seen Diplo several times over the past year, and Afrojack at least 10 times in the same duration, I closely observed track selection and crowd reaction to grasp all that there was to behold in hopes of catching on to yet another EDM trend. There was a feeling at the pier that couldn’t be ignored, and by the time Afrojack was wrapping up the night, the light bulb in my head had flashed. For most, their sets provided one of the rowdiest nights of the year to bring 2012 to a close; for me, I had come to the realization that these guys have captured the essence of what dance music will thrive on in 2013.

Rusko was ready to finish his opening dubstep set, one that the crowd was seemingly content with leaving behind in 2012. Following roaring chants, Diplo then took the decks, and the crowd’s deranged reaction could be felt throughout the warehouse-turned-rave grounds. The emotions that took over my body gave me a nostalgic feeling and instantly reminded me of a time when dance music was beginning to take it’s hold of the states – one that I would personally compare to my account of Laidback Luke delivering mayhem to a dance-starved Pacha NYC crowd back in 2010. The Billboard cover boy opened with The Partysquad and Boaz’ “Oh My,” moved into Driicky Graham’s “Snapbacks & Tattoos,” and the next hour and a half would be a frenetic party lead by trap remixes and heavy hip-hop drops.

The Partysquad and Boaz – Oh My (Club Mix)

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Assaulting the crowd with his Flosstradamus-assisted remix of “Climax,” RL Grime’s version of “Satisfaction,” and the Carnage Festival Trap Mix of “Spaceman,” Diplo instantly became the puppeteer of thousands. To say the crowd was ‘dancing’ would be an understatement; by Diplo’s own standards, they were ‘twerking.’ A-Trak and Tommy Trash’s “Tuna Melt” provided electro relief before “Original Don” took hold, and RL Grime and Salva’s take on “Mercy” had the audience ready for a unanimous sing-a-long drop of “N*ggas In Paris.”

Kanye West – Mercy (RL Grime & Salva Remix)

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With New York City eating out of the palms of his hands, Diplo announced the brand new Major Lazer track, “Jah No Partial.” As if that didn’t have the mass deluge worked up, he then pulled the trigger on A$AP Rocky’s “Fuckin’ Problems.” Taking the microphone once again, Diplo pulled women on stage for his infamous “Express Yourself.” The seizure-inducing drop had the females on stage doing the notorious handstand, booty-shaking dance — and they weren’t the only ones. By the time he looked to wrap up his set, he had already proved to be the undisputed master of party conducting. However, when he ended things with his remix of “Sweet Nothing,” I went from impressed to speechless. Diplo walked off stage and headed back to his trailer to watch highlights of the Clippers game while girls ‘twerked’ for him, and his statement was already made – trap music will be a premiere form of live dance music in 2013, and he will be the accepted commander.

Calvin Harris – Sweet Nothing (Diplo & Grand Theft Remix)

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Afrojack’s trademark intro began to blare throughout the warehouse and the towering Dutchman approached the booth, unveiled his face from within his hoody, cracked open his bottle of Grey Goose, and took the microphone. “New York, New York… are you guys ready for my last set of 2012?” he asked. “If you guys are ready make some fucking noise!” he shouted, as if he truly believed the crowd would be ready for his newest productions.

Always one to bring the “new shit,” as he calls it, Afrojack’s set wasn’t far from what many would expect. However, his incredible stage presence and vigorous drops had his crowd enthralled per usual. The true highlight of his final 2012 set was the brand new music from deep within his arsenal, music that will most likely make the final cut of his debut artist album for 2013. Following his introduction was an unidentified track, and following his remix of “Hands High” and “Atom” was his exclusive rendition of the YouTube dominating “Gangnam Style.” Taking a globally commercial track, Afrojack’s spin is as dark as any of his late productions, and the crowd collectively lost self-control upon its drop.

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Reverting to familiar material, he continued to play “Take Over Control,” which still hasn’t — and may never — become stale. After that, it was on, spending the next 30 minutes drifting between new tracks with only “Annie’s Theme” available for recognition.  After an aggressive move to “Cannonball” and “No Beef” accompanied by an out of character champagne shower, he turned to the last remaining songs slated for his upcoming album – “Rocker” and “Air Guitar.” The rest of Afrojack’s set was all too familiar, yet just as entertaining as it has always been, letting loose popular tracks such as “Reload,” “Prutataaa,” and a finale that included “Rock The House” and “Can’t Stop Me.” My wish to experience “Sovereign Light Cafe” live for the first time went unsatisfied, but that was negated tenfold by the instilled optimism for his upcoming releases.

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Between three hours of Diplo and Afrojack, the year ahead for electronic music flashed before my eyes. Whether or not you enjoy trap for listening pleasure, the live experience serves a party unmatched by modern big room set lists. Diplo has reinvented the art of throwing a party, turning back to the original purpose of DJing – drowning a dance floor in fun. Between his infectious trap selections and rage-provoking hip-hop drops, Diplo turned to every trick in the book to rock his crowd, and if he follows his own formula, should be one of the most demanded DJs in 2013.

Afrojack, on the other hand, gave us foresight into the future on the production end. While his first single off his upcoming album, “As Your Friend” with Chris Brown, caters to the commercial scene, his Pier 94 outing indicated that the darker Afrojack will play a prominent role on his impending album. Between his “Gangnam Style” remix and the rest of his original material, it is safe to say Afrojack will be the producer to beat in 2013. Pier 94 was not only the place to close out a phenomenal 2012, it was the place to catch a glimpse of what dance music will be like – on both the DJ and production ends – in 2013, with Diplo and Afrojack as the projected flag carriers in the new year.

Photo Credit: Andrew Rauner

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