We know what you’re thinking: not another bloody list of the best bits of 2011. But it was such a fantastic year for dance music and clubbing that it would be a disservice not to!
Here’s the Dance Music Blog’s highlights:
Who could forget the shocking natural disaster in Japan in March this year, when an earthquake hit and devastated the northeast of the nation. The tragedy and loss of homes, lives and livelihoods sent shockwaves around the world and, touchingly, the international clubbing community bandied together to show their support. Philanthropic parties are still being thrown to help raise money for the Japan Relief Fund, and a group of house music stars like Seth Troxler, Jay Haze and Damian Lazarus pooled their resources to start Red Dot Relief, a bid to raise money and awareness across dance music DJs and fans. The wider effect of their work, for which they attended Miami Winter Music Conference in March and asked for DJs to donate their label showcase and appearance fees to the cause, is not particularly clear, but their hearts were certainly in the right place at the time.
It was another fantastic year for Barcelona’s celebration of electronic music, Sonar, which once more presented a new set of trends for the worldwide dance scene. UK bass was its biggest star, with showcases from London label Night Slugs, Glasgow-born Numbers and Red Bull Music Academy’s annual daytime tent making a huge impact on dance fans from around the world. That impact is set to deepen in 2012 too as Sonar festival head to São Paulo for a two-day event in May and Tokyo the month before.
The killer RBMA World Tour spread 467 groundbreaking artists over 25 days in ten cities, from Cape Town to São Paulo [NB: link to Rebolledo blog post above please], culminating in the mind-blowing Revolutions in Sound event in London. There, the academy took the capital’s iconic landmark London Eye hostage for Revolution in Sound and filled its 30-odd pods with the country’s best DJs, producers and musicians for an intimate audience of just 12 while everyone else tuned in from the headphone disco below or at home via Red Bull Music Academy Radio. It was a both a revolution in grand-scale events in London and in bringing underground music to such a mainstream and world-famous setting, with many a DJ making their own mini revolutions – addressing their fear of heights to play a set – during their time in the sky.
Mary Anne Hobbs returns to their airwaves
When Mary Anne Hobbs left her late-night experimental post at UK station BBC Radio 1 last year, it left a silky-voiced void in British broadcasting. But this year the high priestess of dubstep returned and with a fresh mission: to bring cutting edge music to primetime radio. And with her two new slots on London station Xfm, both an evening weekday show and a Saturday night show, and with the DJ mixes that she commissions from the likes of Thom Yorke and SBTRKT edging into 51,000 listens when she uploads them online, it feels like she is succeeding.
Carnival goes ahead and is better than ever
When the London riots gripped the UK capital just weeks before the country’s biggest street party, the Notting Hill Carnival, was due to go ahead, there were doubts about whether or not the festival would be cancelled. Thankfully, for its thousands of fans, it went on as planned, with a feeling of togetherness and solidarity hoisted high in the air. Red Bull Music Academy and Major Lazer’s party saw sets Dillon Francis, Jackmaster and Oneman, Brodinkski, Lunice, Black Chiney and David Rodigan, plus a secret live performance from reggae legends Toots and the Maytalls. Red Bull also threw its first party as part of St Paul’s Carnival in Bristol in which Roller Express wowed the crowds of thousands with a special four-hour set featuring DJs Toddla T, Redlight, Zinc, Joker and singer Donae’o.
It’s been an amazing year for Red Bull cohorts Boiler Room, whose online radio platform has exploded this year out of a warehouse in south London – where they stream live videos of DJs playing sets to thousands of viewers at home – and across the world to all the biggest dance music events. They are the main video portal at Red Bull Music Academy’s events too, from their stage at Sonar in Barcelona to Major Lazer’s Carnival party in London. They’re best known for shining a light of underground UK scenes, labels and parties, but all the DJ big guns (Richie Hawtin, Diplo, Dub Fire…) can’t wait to get behind their wobbly webcam now too.
Once again Red Bull set off around the world to find the future stars of turntablism. In the UK, DJ Yoda was chief judge, ably assisted by your very own Dance Music blogger Kate Hutchinson and Mixmag’s Nick Stevenson and backed Glaswegian mash-up merchant Big Al. In the Canadian finals on December 17, however, it was local lad Hedspin that took the champion title. For all information on the next Red Bull Thre3style, see redbullthre3style.com.
The flashiest city in the land has also become one of this year’s runaway clubbing successes, sticking two fingers firmly up to the recession. A new hedonistic hotspot, it has the slick hotels, gleaming pools, good looking crowd, purpose built clubs and money to lure in the biggest DJs. Enter Steve Aoki, American’s uber scenester DJ with a black book that reads like the line-up at the district’s Electric Daisy Carnival, who has brought some of the tastiest names in commercial electro-house like Afrojack, Laidback Luke and A-Trak with him to the city. Meanwhile, according to The Guardian, when the world’s most successful electronic trio, Swedish House Mafia, play in Las Vegas, the club’s bar spend rises by around 500 per cent.
Dubstep explodes in America
Move over emo rock: dubstep is the sound that has whipped American yoof into a frenzy this year. British dubstep innovators like Skream and Benga are household names, while the UK’s new breed of dubsteppers who have taken the sound into harder, wobblier and ‘filthier’ territory, like Circus Records’ Fluv Pavilion and Doctor P, were selling out huge theatres during their first US tour. America’s biggest dubstep star, Skrillex, may have been accused of ruining dubstep with his Deadmau5-aping, electro-house informed style of bass-quacking, but the 23-year-old shows no sign of stopping with his own Owsla label representing the full spectrum of commercial electro-fuelled music and Grammy Award nomination under his belt.
In 2011, we were introduced to moombahton, a genre that everyone thought would die out faster than you can say “grindie”, but has in fact taken the global bass world by storm. An interpretation of reggaeton slowed down to a house tempo, globetrotting DJs like Gallic producer Brodinski and Dave Nada, the sound’s originator, have released genre-defining mixtapes and compilations, moom man Munchi won a revered DJ slot at Sonar this year, and Diplo has been teaming up with moombahtonator Dillon Francis to release his own take on the sound. Here’s hoping that it survive 2012.
No mention of dance music in 2011 can go without talking up RBMA’s three-week stint in the Spanish capital for 30 lucky participants. This year was better than ever, with inspiring lectures and performances from the likes of Erykah Badu, Doom, Andrew Weatherall and Bootsy Collins. And if you weren’t one of the DJs, artists, producers and musicians who got to take part, you could still be a part of it virtually, as usual, and listen to all of the amazing lectures online. We can’t wait till next year.