The virtual dance music festival is officially a thing

Paul Oakenfold is part of the superstar DJ lineup for SiriusXM’s Virtual DisDance Festival.
Scott Ramsay

EDM will not be silenced. The future of electronic dance music festivals and the return of Las Vegas Strip dayclub and nightclub parties where the genre still thrives are uncertain, but the demand for those sounds is growing.

Hundreds of thousands of viewers tuned in over the weekend for a three-night livestream event that served as a virtual replacement for this year’s Electronic Daisy Carnival. Insomniac’s EDC Las Vegas Virtual Rave-A-Thon was broadcast across multiple platforms featuring live and original DJ sets from the likes of Kaskade, David Guetta, Claude VonStroke, Afrojack and many more, with impressive visual production elements raising the stakes for an online dance party.

EDC Las Vegas is currently scheduled for October 2-4 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Memorial Day Weekend, always one of the biggest dates for Las Vegas pool parties and clubs, brings another online festival to help fill the void. SiriusXM will broadcast the Virtual DisDance Festival May 22-24, featuring more exclusive, original DJ sets from an all-star lineup including Calvin Harris, Deadmau5, Steve Aoki, Tiësto, Marshmello and more artists performing from home.

“I’ve been part of the family [at Sirius] for many years and DJ’d at their events and they approached me to ask if I’d do it,” says Paul Oakenfold, the pioneering trance DJ and electronic music producer who broke ground in Las Vegas as one of the first resident DJs in the burgeoning casino megaclub scene in 2008. “I think this is the biggest lineup I’ve ever seen, bigger than EDC or Ultra.”

Also on the DisDance Festival bill are Above & Beyond, Afrojack, Alesso, Armin van Buuren, Galantis, Kaskade, Kygo, Major Lazer, Martin Garrix, Nicky Romero, Oliver Heldens, Slushii, Tritonal, Yellow Claw and dozens more.

Oakenfold has already contributed a new set to another recent streaming event from Insomniac’s Dreamstate brand and he’s been known to perform livestreamed shows and other recorded sessions at unorthodox, dramatic sites including Stonehenge and Mount Everest. He says he’s looking forward to this festival for different reasons.

“When you’re playing live at these big festivals, there’s pressure on the artist. You generally only play for an hour and you’ve gotta play the big tunes. You don’t get time to develop a real set and create a journey,” he says. “I think less is more, great quality DJs playing longer sets and telling stories through music. That’s how we started as DJs. So I’m approaching this in a different way. I’m playing three different forms of music, starting with progressive then going into house then ending up in trance.”

The London-born musician has been sheltering in place at his Los Angeles home, spending lots of time in the studio while his touring plans are paused. Oakenfold says he’s been in talks with Live Nation for some sort of drive-in show to raise money for his local frontliners and first responders.

“No one knows where this is going,” he says of the COVID-19 crisis and its effect on the club and festival industries. “In my opinion nothing will be the same until we find something people are comfortable with … but everyone is talking about next year. That said, I think we’re going to be doing a lot more online shows and we’ve got to think out of the box and start doing more interesting things, and the DJ community is in a position to be leading the way.”

Listeners can experience the Virtual DisDance Festival on SiriusXM’s BPM channel 51 and on the SiriusXM app starting on May 22 at 1 p.m. The virtual event also will feature a broadcast of a 2011 set from the late Avicii, set to air on May 23 at 3 p.m. Longtime Wynn Nightlife residents the Chainsmokers will host the fest.

DisDance is also a benefit fundraiser for the MusiCares COVD-19 Relief Fund to support music industry workers in need. More information can be found at siriusxm.com/disdancefest.

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An award-winning writer who has been documenting life in Las Vegas for more than 20 years, Brock Radke covers entertainment ...

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