Electronic dance music’s culture is deeply rooted in the live experience—the music and the live setting inextricably tied in a way that perhaps supersedes any other musical genre out there. As live events started to drop off the calendar this past spring, there was no way of knowing the global health crisis we were beginning to face would not only cancel the vast majority of live music events in 2020, but it would fundamentally alter our understanding, and appreciation for, the live events industry as a whole.
But then something remarkable happened. We saw a rapid, decisive shift to virtual settings, relying on technology to bring us a semblance of the live experience we so voracious crave. So that if we couldn’t be together on dancefloors, at the very least we’d have digitized spaces to convene and enjoy music with one another. And the pivot wasn’t some haphazard patch job either. Villages of talented creators got right to work, creating brilliant virtual worlds for us to experience while reality was much less inviting. It wasn’t perfect, because nothing beats actually being together under the electric sky, or in Grant Park, LA Historic, or the fields of Boom, Belgium, but it was enough to get us by. For that we’re thankful. Read below to see Dancing Astronaut‘s Top 10 Digital Events of the Year.
10. Cercle’s 2020 Lineup
Cercle’s video production has carried its own distinctive style, which has become almost instantly recognizable. Their projects are built upon a common goal of sharing remarkable electronic music in unique, breathtaking locations reaching all corners of the world. In 2020, Cercle showcased their most ambitious projects yet, including Lee Burridge off the shores of Bali, ZHU in Japan’s snow-capped mountains, Ben Böhmer floating through the Turkish skies in a hot air balloon and most recently, Sébastien Léger in front of Egypt’s Great Pyramids. Cercle’s sleek and explorative work has shined exceptionally this year, becoming one of the most sought-after mediums to capture an artist’s creative vision and amplify it to the world.
9. Sofi Tucker’s consistent livestreams
Shout out to SOFI TUKKER, who have masterfully championed the livestream game this year. Since the first lockdown in early April, the bubbly dance-pop duo joined Twitch and started playing daily hour-long sets for their dedicated “Freak Fam,” and haven’t stopped since. By the end of the year, they’ll be approaching one of their most unique milestones, capping in at more than a staggering 300 livestreams to round out 2020. Among the duo’s numerous releases this year was their chart-topping collaboration “House Arrest” with Gorgon City, remixes for friends like Dillon Francis and their first-ever live, interactive e-concert experience, bringing an unparalleled virtual aspect to their live music production.
8. Kaskade’s 60 Days of Music performance at the Grand Canyon
As one of this genre’s foremost cultural tastemakers, Kaskade has always been one to set the bar—and set it high. In typical Kaskade fashion, his once-in-a-lifetime livestream event for Coca-Cola’s 60 Days of Music certainly followed suit. As the first artist ever to station at the Grand Canyon’s Skywalk West, the esteemed producer was tracked by multiple cameras, bestowing fans with a full view of the immaculate landscape of one of the Wonders of the World. Ushering forth enticing and ethereal house beats during the height of the pandemic, Kaskade brought life to millions of viewers worldwide with this top-notch performance.
7. Lollapalooza’s Lolla2020
Michelle Obama at your music festivals? Sign us up. Lollapalooza has always hosted a wide array of nonmusical experiences in addition to a variety of musical genres at their annual event. This has differentiated the festival brand for years, and their 2020 virtual rendition was no exception. The festival curated a stellar lineup of artists to perform live in addition to featuring reruns of artist performances from years past. Lolla2020 also invited a variety of tastemakers ranging from Ms. Obama to Charles Reagan, giving a completely new dynamic to live streamed musical events.
6. Insomniac’s digital programming
Normally we look to festival giant Insomniac for events the world over throughout the entire year. As dance music’s most formidable events lynchpin, all eyes were on Pasquale Rotella and company to help guide us through a gutted events calendar, and Insomniac more than delivered. With consistent weekly programming, digitized renditions of existing major events properties, a trove of recorded performances, park ‘n rave events, and a hopeful outlook for 2021 with the announcement of new upcoming (hopefully) in-person events, Insomniac kept us raving in our living rooms all year, earning a deserved spot on this list.
5. Astronomical by Travis Scott in Fortnite
If there’s one thing virtual concerts did this year, it’s raising global awareness of the “Metaverse”—a virtual world where people connect via avatars. In a way, it’s always existed within online gaming, however, 2020 brought this universe into the spotlight and the music industry quickly moved in. Early on, Travis Scott’s 2020 Fortnite performance proved to a historic event for the virtual landscape.
The concert, titled “Astronomical” as an ode to 2018’s ASTROWORLD, reeled in over 12 million concurrent Fortnite players who were mesmerized by Scott transforming into a cyborg, submerging the stage under water, and bringing out Kid Cudi for a surprise debut of their new project “THE SCOTTS.” Scott uploaded the full concert to his YouTube channel, which has more than 114 million views to date. This was a record-breaking event for Epic Games, and planted the seed for follow up performances from Diplo, Deadmau5, Anderson .Paak, and more.
4. Dillon Francis Presents: IDGAFOS Weekend
Fact: Dillon Francis really doesn’t give a f*ck or shit. So much so that when COVID-19 cancelled this year’s festival season, he took things into his own hands. Francis hit the drawing board and invited Dancing Astronaut to co-host his three-day IDGAFOS Weekend livestream festival. Held over the Memorial Day weekend, viewers were privy to sets from top-tier talent like Diplo, Aluna, SOFI TUKKER, and Party Favor, crafty cool-down vinyl sessions hosted by Billy Zane, and a rare performance from Francis’ long-time confidante Gerald.
3. Porter Robinson’s Secret Sky
On May 9, more than 4 million people around the world tuned into Porter Robinson’s Secret Sky experience. The digital event, which served as the follow-up to the festival’s 2019 in-person debut, spanned over a total of 14 hours of music from 19 unique acts whose talents were put on display and helped amass more than $100,000 in donations in support of the MusiCares Relief Fund. Virtually equipped with a fully automated performance auditorium, attendees were able to digitally interact with their festival surroundings, including merchandise booths, a main stage, and more.
Notably, Robinson opened the event with a throwback electro-house style performance under the moniker of DJ Potaro, for 30 minutes fans were able to reminisce upon the sound which originally emerged the artist back in the early 2010s. The artist showcase proceeded to be filled in by the likes of Madeon, Jai Wolf, Shadient, San Holo, GRRL, WAVEDASH and G Jones among others. The event’s most anticipated performance from Porter Robinson set social media ablaze throughout his 72-minute performance as it hosted 250,000 concurrent viewers while Porter went everywhere from a “Something Comforting” versus “Sad Machine” mashup to a Lil B personal freestyle to an Avril Lavigne vs. “Language” edit to an unreleased single from Nurture. Relive Porter Robinson’s historic Secret Sky virtual festival here.
2. Digital Mirage
While certainly not downplaying any of the virtual events that had taken place in the weeks preceding Digital Mirage, the electronic music world, and the industry music at large, had next to zero inclination as to what the future held for live entertainment at the end of March. Deciding to take the digital leap and test the airwaves, Proximity partnered up alongside Brownies & Lemonade to round up an A-list registry of names of everyone from Kaskade to Alison Wonderland for three back-to-back days of dance music. With the world quarantining at home as details surrounding an uncertain pandemic crept through by the day, it felt like everyone was watching, and considering how many times Digital Mirage or a performing artist was trending on Twitter, everyone was. Digital Mirage had no festival-grade production setups or world-class visual effects, artists simply found a way to set up a stream from the comfort of their homes and brought electronic music back to its roots. Although there were certainly a fair share of virtual events that had their moments, nothing seemed to eclipse the emotions felt during the first Digital Mirage, which ended up raising more than $300,000 for Sweet Relief Musicians Fund. Eight months and three Digital Mirage iterations later, it’s clear that without Proximity and Brownies & Lemonade firmly establishing the online tone for what live entertainment would become in the months that would follow, virtual festivals may not have filled the gap as well as they did during 2020.
1. Tomorrowland Around The World
Whether it is the size, the production quality, or the lineup of artists, Tomorrowland is for the most part, unmatched year after year. When the festival made the decision to go online, the brand could have chosen to match the production quality that had become a relative industry standard for virtual events, or they could redefine what those standards were. In true Tomorrowland fashion, organizers opted for “larger than life” and got to work. The Tomorrowland masterminds created the virtual world of Pāpiliōnem that hosted performances by over 60 artists across eight stages. Viewers were immersed into an entirely new world that took a combination of four separate studios, 38 digital cameras, and over 300 terabytes of raw footage to piece together into its final production. Dimitri Vegas sums up Tomorrowland Around The World when he says, “This is not a livestream. It’s something totally different.”
Featured image: Jamie Mccarthy / Getty Images