Is trance dead? With the recent explosion of new sounds in electronic dance music, traditional trance DJs face some tough questions about where they stand in a genre they used to call their own. Must they abandon their roots in an effort to stay current? And if they don’t, will they get left behind?
Veteran trance producer and Netherlands native Tiesto, who emerged on the electronic music scene in the late 1980s and has become one of the world’s most lauded DJs, certainly hasn’t forgotten where he came from. Currently on his ninth world tour, he has begun a stealth effort at weaving in his trademark trance with the new waves of electronic and pop.
A trance-house-dubstep DJ? That, he tells his audiences, is the future.
Saturday night, 10,000 ravers donned their reflective sunglasses and boogied over to the sold-out D.C. Armory for a DJ set from Tijs Michiel Verwest, more commonly known by his stage name, Tiesto. What he served the Armory, however, was not the classic Tiesto show of yesteryear but a refreshingly aggressive, variegated take on dance from one of trance’s undisputed heavyweights.
Drawing from his new album, “Club Life - Volume One, Las Vegas,” Verwest’s Armory set featured a variety of collaborative works with fellow DJs Diplo and Kaskade, Los Angeles house princess Sue Cho and a few lurchy rounds of dubstep.
The new edge was a welcome departure from his classic trance tracks of yore.
The crowd, a sea of dancing glowsticks, fraternity tees and leather swimsuits, maintained a fiercely high energy throughout the four-hour set. Sadly, the venue proved to be the show’s only hindrance. Despite having all the traditional trappings of a warehouse rave — thundering speakers, blinding lasers and scantily clad go-go dancers — the immense space felt strangely like a high school gymnasium, complete with bleacher seating and a waxed hardwood floor.
A nod to trance purists, Verwest entered into a mid-set episode of “Tiesto classics,” extended versions of old hits such as “Adagio for Strings” and “In the Dark.” Not long after, he announced it was “time to return to the future,” diving headfirst into a wobbly dubstep rendition of Benny Benassi’s “Cinema.”
Verwest’s encore, the highlight of the evening, featured “C’mon,” his popular new collaboration with Diplo, and a remix of Kanye West’s “Lost in the World,” which he noted was still in the “experimental stage.”
Experimentation seems to be the name of the dance music game, though, and at 42, Verwest has been playing longer than most. He is trance’s contemporary ambassador, skillfully spinning it into the next generation of electronica by marrying the competing subgenres together into one evolving collection. If anyone will keep trance alive, it’s him.