Criticize the rise of DJ worship all you want, but at the end of the day, there is a certain degree of performance to DJing. There’s no denying that the energy and attitude from the booth emanate to and from the crowd. This piece isn’t a blanket statement about whether DJs should wear their enthusiasm on their sleeve.
If the DJ is really feeling their own set, chances are the crowd will feel it too.
If a DJ can read the crowd, select just the right tracks, and mix them well, they already have all the necessary ingredients for a successful set. An expert DJ knows that even the most skillfully executed set can fall flat without the added energy and charisma of a great performance.
As an audience member, there is a certain joy that comes from seeing a DJ who is genuinely having a blast doing what they’re doing. It’s infectious, and it makes us smile, laugh, or shake our heads even through a low-quality video feed thousands of miles away, or years after it happens.
So without further ado, take a look at a few hand-picked sets where each DJ shows their love for the art in their own unique way.
1. Alison Wonderland – Mixmag in the Lab LA
There’s a reason this is the most popular video on Mixmag’s YouTube channel. Australian star Alison Wonderland traverses trap, hip-hop, and bass music while acting as her own hype-person for the crowd.
It works, too. The crowd is loving it and following her lead by clapping or bobbing along to the music. Why is this remarkable? Mixmag’s recorded sets tend to have notoriously stiff, stale audiences. For an LA crowd in a setting that resembles an office, Alison Wonderland is doing wonders.
2. Spencer Parker – Boiler Room Berlin
The concentration, drive, and sheer enthusiasm of Spencer Parker is on full display here. He nails a transition into DJ Gregory‘s “Krusin”, celebrates wildly, and then proceeds to rip his headphones in half.
Normally, headphone-ripping (or any abuse of sound equipment) is frowned upon, but in this situation, Spencer Parker’s headphones were malfunctioning on one side throughout the night. Rather than turn to a backup pair, he salvages the remaining half and uses it like one would for a telephone.
This 2-minute excerpt doesn’t do the full set justice. The music is fantastic, and his energy is infectious through the entire 90 minutes.
Watch Spencer Parker’s full Boiler Room set HERE.
3. Lunice – Boiler Room London
Lunice delivers trap heavy-hitters while headbanging, jumping, blowing smoke, and generally not giving a damn. For this show, Lunice’s rig consists of a laptop running Ableton and an inexpensive controller. This humble setup fits the very definition of a DJ doing amazing things with very little.
One gripe, though. The crowd for this set is nowhere near Lunice’s level. Almost comically so. It’s a shame, too because this is an amazing set backed by a DJ completely in his zone. If the crowd knew any better, they’d be headbanging, jumping, blowing smoke, and generally not giving a damn either. Too bad.
4. Jackmaster – Boiler Room Glasgow
This is a different brand of “getting really into it”. For this Boiler Room show, Jackmaster returns to his spiritual home in Glasgow, Scotland’s Sub Club. In this packed club, the world-renowned DJ receives a hero’s welcome. Revelers near him seem hell-bent on making sure he is comfortable and in top shape to practice his craft. They hand him water bottles to make sure he stays hydrated, and even dry shirts so he can wipe off his sweat.
While Jackmaster’s “NASCAR pit crew” tends to his needs, the DJ is in a fervor of concentration. He allows himself a few moments to dance in place to his tracks, but then goes right back to mixing. Jackmaster has a reputation for being a no-nonsense kind of DJ, and his serious approach is visible in this Boiler Room set.
5. Kerri Chandler b2b Jeremy Underground – Boiler Room London
This one is sure to warm your heart. For this back-to-back set, Jeremy Underground teams up with his idol Kerri Chandler, one of the foremost pioneers of deep house. It’s quite literally a dream come true for the young DJ, and he more than steps up to the challenge. At almost every track transition, Kerri Chandler congratulates, hugs, or daps Jeremy Underground. The elation in the room is palpable.
To see a snippet of a truly special moment, skip ahead to 33 minutes, when Jeremy Underground transitions into Liem’s remix of “If Only” by Fusion Groove Orchestra. As the track plays, Kerri Chandler beams at Jeremy Underground, gives him a quick shoulder massage, then a giant hug, and even bows down to him. All while the entire club sings along to the chorus word by word.
If this moment doesn’t make you a believer of house music, nothing will.
The selections above are just a small sample size of ways DJs show their enthusiasm across the spectrum.
Are there any other nominations for DJ sets you’d like to make? Let us know in the comments.
Feature image shows Alison Wonderland lost in the moment during a DJ set at Nocturnal Wonderland 2016. Image courtesy of Annie Lesser and Live Nation.