This week's cover story on Steve Aoki attributes much of his rise to the EDM shift from wallflower DJs to over-the-top showmen.
Aoki is not the only DJ to elevate the dance floor from the collective trance of rave's past to the kind of fist-pumping festivals represented by L.A.-bred Electric Daisy Carnival. Billboard magazine's Kerri Mason tells us that EDM is “not an underground experience anymore. It's a concert experience.” And so, with Miami's Winter Music Conference and Ultra Music Festival featuring the world's premier spinners, here's a rundown f EDM's top, big-stage showmen:
Not to beat a dead horse, but this guy is killing it in the performance department. His “caking” — throwing globs of birthday cake at fans — is taking interactive performance to new levels, not to mention crowd surfing in an inflatable raft and the old-standby, Champagne showers. Who needs DJing?
No one personifies EDM's journey from lonely spaces to the biggest stages like Deadmau5. He started out in his Toronto apartment as a bedroom producer, but his early tracks became so popular that he was forced to create a persona that involved a mouse head. That hat became his show, and now it's an electrified, LED-lit technological marvel known the world over. He even suggested to the Wall Street Journal this week that his success hinges on the gimmick.
Swedish House Mafia
The trio says it is calling it quits after this month (they've said that before, by the way, and it certainly doesn't seem to hurt ticket sales). They are so animated on-stage that it has created a fault line in DJ culture between true spinners and so-called button-pushers. As the three, dance, clap, high-five and point to the skies, critics have accused them of being in the latter camp, putting the decks on cruise control so they can party with the people. No matter how you size them up, though, these SHM guys are a sight to see.
Other '90s bands — Underworld, Chemical Brothers, Orbital — brought EDM to the world of stage performance. But Daft Punk, with its pyramid of light and anonymous, helmeted characters, spanned the bridge between those days and the hipster generation with an electrifying performance at Coachella in 2006 that Aoki credits for his own EDM awakening.
You could say a whole new crop of DJs, including Aoki, Avicii, Afrojack, and Morgan Page, are leading the way toward the new stage paradigm of EDM. But one oldster has been showing the way, setting the main stage at Electric Daisy Carnival on fire with flashing lights, long-legged dancers and the occasional help from sidemen like Flavor Flav. Of course it doesn't hurt his impact among fans when he goes on tour with Rihanna in the U.K. and produces mega radio hits (“Where Them Girls At”) almost as large as his on-stage presence.