South Florida’s tepid, but welcoming atmosphere paints the perfect portrait for Miami Music Week and the Ultra Music Festival with EDM masters like Afrojack, Eric Prydz and Tiësto. But before the latter legendary DJ and producer steps behind the turntables in the enchanting city this weekend, the Dutch maverick took a trip to one of the furthest points in Brooklyn in order to relive his humble beginnings.
After selling out in a matter of minutes, Sunset Park’s Brooklyn Hanger was packed to the masses on a wet, dreary Friday night in February. There’s plenty of checkpoints to get into the venue with security shredding your ticket in front of you to prevent scalping. You would’ve thought you were going through TSA instead of an EDM show, but with bass pulsating from my toes to my ears, it was clear the show would be something special. With over 20 years in the game, Tijs “Tiësto” Michiel Verwest has taken on sounds within the dance genre to new heights, while inspiring (and mentoring) fellow leaders of house/trance/progressive channels like Martin Garrix and Hardwell. In addition to his solo albums, Tiësto’s mixes have always garnered praise. At the 2015 Grammys, Tiësto won the golden gramophone for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical for his take on John Legend’s “All of Me.”
His connection to R&B and hip-hop goes back further with remixes from Kanye West’s “Lost in the World” to his ’09 collaboration with Three Six Mafia. His masterful collabos make him one of a kind and known to many as the “greatest DJ” in his genre.
Instrumentals and favorites from Ivan Gough, Alok and The Chainsmokers fill up the warehouse as pockets of mosh pits sprinkled the venue. His tempting singles like “Feel It In My Bones,” “Traffic” and “Red Lights” also drive constant jumps and at times, offbeat body rolls. For those questioning the art of dance music, you aren’t alone. In a 2014 interview with Spin, Tiësto shared his thoughts on the evolving genre. Much like the art of DJing in hip-hop, traditional talents these days are often ignored due to those who have mastered the aux cord.
“It’s not just pushing a button; it’s a lifestyle,” he said. “And yeah, it’s easy to DJ. But it’s always been easy: Back in the day you had turntables and you just adjusted the pitch. It’s a matter of practicing. It’s also very easy to play the piano or play the guitar if you’ve been practicing that for 10 years. I think the art of DJ’ing is still that you know when to play what records and the timing of the records and to keep people interested. If it was that simple that you just push a button, why would there be 60,000 people coming to hear it?”
Starting at the age of 14, the 48-year-old decided to go the professional route at 19. After leaving his native Netherlands, Tiësto spun records in dive bars, dance clubs and warehouses in Manhattan and Brooklyn. He didn’t make an imprint on the masses until his late twenties with the release of a remix to Delerium’s “Silence” featuring Sarah McLachlan, putting trance music on the map.
Time has been something of a golden ticket for Tiësto. In 2004, he became the first DJ to play during the Olympics and was considered the richest DJ in the world by Forbes until the rise of Calvin Harris in 2012. “I can’t complain. I’m grateful for it,” he said. “But I think people forget sometimes we’re not here for the money. It’s amazing to make so much money, but that can never be the drive. If music is not the drive… you see DJs become more miserable.”
As the night comes to a close at a jarring 4 a.m., souls are still in turn-up mode with Tiësto delivering pounds of confetti after the final drops. Connected to every transition, $100 and $20 bills go unnoticed on the floor with all eyes glued to the DJ. Speaking to CNN in 2012, Tiësto says his life goal isn’t about the fame, numbers or money. “It makes people smile, you know?” he said of his music. “It makes me smile and it makes [them] happy.”
Those with sold out tickets to Ultra are bound to have to same treatment at his set, even if they do get their phone stolen like I did.
Tiësto Miami Pop-Up
430 Lincoln Rd, Miami, FL
Thu, March 23 11AM-5PM
Fri, March 24 12PM-9PM
Sat, March 25 12PM-9PM
Sun, March 26 12PM-9PM