Favorite Music of 2011 - Part 2 - Events

Popularity for DJs soured in 2011. DJs of all genres and tastes are in high demand, and the promoters of Chicago worked their asses off all year round.

And with the massive success of the North Coast Music Festival in 2010, promotion company React opened up their own night club, The Mid. The Mid saw an unprecedented amount of talent week after week after week.

Through the year, the following events were my favorites, and almost all of my favorite tracks of the year ended up on the turntables at them one way or another.

1. Kings of Progressive House

Nick Warren & Hernan Cattaneo @ Sound-Bar, Chicago // December 16th
Sasha @ The Mid, Chicago // March 12th
John Digweed @ The Mid, Chicago // March 23rd

All 4 of the best in Progressive House visited Chicago throughout the year. John Digweed and Hernan Cattaneo stopped by twice! All of these guys are my favorite DJs, and having the chance to see them all live in a single year absolutely blows my mind.

But out these nights, Nick Warren and Hernan Cattaneo was the clear Event of the Year for me. After trying to see Nick live for the past 8 years, the top person on my music bucket list was finally crossed off. They spun for over 4 hours, and fed off of each other the whole time. Nick was create some massive builds, and Hernan continued the plateau of that build into his couple of tracks. Back and forth, back and forth, it was absolutely brilliant. Here's my words about it from the day after: December 18th

Sasha's set from March was unlike anything I'd heard from him lately. He had been building up his Never say Never vibe which was mostly Tech House, and Indie tracks. It was a very light, glowing, and joyful sound from him. By his March set from The Mid pulled him back into the pure darkness. It was a dark set filled with Progressive House and Techno. It completely blind sided me, and carried the rich atmosphere that made me a Sasha fan in the first place.

Digweed's set from March felt like a showcase of all the talent he would later release in the year. It was right in the middle of WMC, and it felt like he was road testing a whole lot of tracks for the upcoming weekend. Among them was my favorite track of the year, Meridian, and many other beautiful and banging tracks. It was on a Wednesday as well, so the vibe wasn't really as crazy as the weekend, either.

I kind of wish I would've went down there for Digweed's follow up set in May, but I was busy in Madison that weekend. Having him on a proper weekend date would have been special. :)

2. North Coast Music Festival

Carl Cox, James Zabiela, Ida Engberg, Steve Bug

With PAX scheduled one weekend before Labor Day, I had all weekend to take in Chicago's massive Electronic Dance Music festival. And I wrote a detailed diary of everything I did that weekend.

Day 1 - Friday September 2nd
Day 2 - Saturday September 3rd
Day 3 - Sunday September 4th

While it was heavy with mainstream acts, North Coast had so much going on at anyone time, there was something for everyone. Many of the acts that I attended were refreshing and classic compared to the many Electro House, and Dubstep acts of today.

James Zabiela spun and scratched some amazing breaky tracks on Friday. It had been so long since I have heard any breakbeats live, I had almost forgot what they sounded like. His set at the festival was only a taste of the mayhem he brought to Sound Bar that evening. He mixed breaks into some amazing progressive house tracks. It was fantastic.

Carl Cox blew my mind the next day as he performed a massive genre bending set that ripped into the crowd around his stage. He spun Maxime Dangles - Dihaiz towards the beginning of his set, absolutely ruined the crowd, and kept up that energy and electricity throughout the rest of his set. It was incredible.

For an after party, Five and I went to see Andy Moor at Vision. While not a sanctioned North Coast after party, it was another highlight on my weekend. It was great to hear harmonizing hard trance that didn't feel too generic.

At the end of Sunday, I went to Transit for a night of that classic House sound I grew up hearing in Minneapolis. Steve Bug played a solid smooth House set, and Ida Engberg pumped up the energy with her brand of Techno.

It was a fantastic (and beautiful) weekend, and one of the best of the best of the entire year.

3. M83 @ First Avenue, Minneapolis // November 16th

On a Wednesday in November, I drove up to Minneapolis and finally had the chance to see M83, one of my favorite bands. I am a huge fan of their songs Teen Angst, Couluers, and their new lead single Midnight City. The event was part of their tour for their new double length album, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming.

And seeing them live for the first (real) time was a dream. They played all of their amazing hits from the new album, and all of their amazing hits from their previous album, Saturday = Youth, and plenty of amazing tracks from their past. Hearing Teen Angst live and Couleurs live had been a dream of mine for a while, and it was another moment of crossing things off my music bucket list.

As soon as they started playing Midnight City, all of First Ave was hopping up in the air, and tearing the roof off of the place. It was tremendous, and a true show of how everyone there was feeling the exact same vibe. From hipsters to business men, from moms to teens, from loving couples to singles, everyone embraced in the love pounding from the stage. It was absolutely one of the best moments of the year.

4. Twisted in Madison

Shpongle @ The Majestic, Madison // April 26th
Ott @ The Majestic, Madison // March 18th

My favorite psychedelic artists were on tour in 2011, and both of them made their way to Madison for two very special nights. Twisted is the record label both them are a part of, though I think Ott may have split from them.

Ott was fresh off releasing a new album, Mir, with the beautiful and surreal track Adrift in Hilbert Space. He had been to Madison the year before, but his 2011 experience showed a more enthusiastic and motivated Ott. He was no longer just performing the same songs he already had. His new album invigorated him, and that energy passed on to the crowd.

The whole night was a journey into his unique sound, and it was fantastic being there with like minded fans from the area.

The same thing happened again one month later with Shpongle, aka Simon Posford, label boss of the Twisted label. Simon took us through a journey of Shpongle's greatest hits mixed in with several tracks from other artists on the Twisted label. He was DJing in Minneapolis the year before, but to hear him locally at the Majestic with so many other fans was truly special.

The event was as music visual as it was aural. Shpongle brought with him the Sphongletron, a unique stage setup the used LEDs, back projectors, and a power front projector that illuminated the Shpongle head on the front of the Sphongletron. The Shpongle light up during songs, and the lighting moved around the head to give the impression of a physical moving light. And then! The head started to move! The head opened up his mouth, and his tongue started licking around his face. And then! The head began to twist and turn along with the trippy music. At first, I had no idea what was going on. It looked like the physical statue was moving and contorting on its own. It was amazing and mesmerizing.

It was a night as unique as their respective sounds, and fantastic to seem them just down the street from where I lived. :)




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