Music festivals aren’t just for Europeans anymore, as Coachella and Bonnaroo proved more than a decade ago when they inspired a glut of day- and weekend-long events in the U.S. And they’re hardly the exclusive domain of bands and rappers, thanks to the recent American explosion of large-scale DJ extravaganzas like Electric Zoo and our own Electric Daisy Carnival.
We can add another electronic music fest to the roster: Sensation, an institution in its native Netherlands since 2000 and a global event since first being exported in 2005. Among dance music fans, it’s known for its Eurohouse soundtrack, extravagant and synthesized production, and all-white theme—which includes the party’s ticket-holders, all required to wear white tops and bottoms (or be refused entrance).
It’s taken the arena/stadium-sized event 12 years to cross the Atlantic, but after a successful two-night stand last October in Brooklyn, Sensation creator and Dutch music promoter ID&T has conceived a four-city American tour that, naturally, includes Las Vegas.
“We’ve [done] Sensation almost around the globe, and of course the U.S. is very attractive,” says ID&T creative director Gerard Zwijnenburg. “The scene is ready for Sensation.”
Especially Las Vegas, a fit for Sensation beyond the obvious musical connection. The audio/visual wonder of the event overlaps not only with the immersive presentation of EDC, but with the dreamlike and whimsical aesthetic of Cirque du Soleil. But while the long history of Sensation—and Europe’s rich electronic music culture—makes EDC (and our unique nightlife scene, for that matter) less of an actual influence, Zwijnenburg cites the Strip as a muse that helps Sensation differentiate from other giant dance fests.
“Sensation has a big show effect in it, and Las Vegas, being a No. 1 show city, does inspire us in our event shows,” he says. “Of course there are certain acts and ways to show [them] to the audience, which does stimulate us to not only make [the event] house-minded—the first and foremost thing about Sensation—but real show-driven in multiple aspects, [with] full-on dancers and decorations, lights, etc.”
ID&T rotates various Sensation themes—the white dress code remains consistent, its darker, all-black hardstyle events excepted—which usually begin in Amsterdam and filter out as international shows are announced and developed. The American tour’s theme is Ocean of White—a favorite of Zwijnenburg—which debuted in Holland in 2008 and marked Sensation’s Asia debut last year. It aims to turn an arena such as MGM Grand Garden into a human aquarium, with waterfalls, floating approximations of marine life and underwater lighting effects.
“Looking into the arena, there’s a lot of elements from the ocean, like the water and jellyfish,” Zwijnenburg says. “It’s really big in the show; it’s organic, it’s sexy, and the light effect on the water gives it an organic feeling.”
And then there’s the white, described by ID&T as a “core value” of Sensation, as well as a unifying agent for the tens of thousands of festivalgoers surrounding the center-stage DJs (which include Marquee residency duo Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano and Hakkasan exclusive Michael Woods) and performers.
“I think it’s pretty psychological … when people are in uniform, it bonds you in a way,” Zwijnenburg says. “The ‘we factor,’ partying together, being on the same level, going to the same show, listening to the same music, dressing the same, really contributes to the fact that, in this atmosphere, everyone is the same. There’s no differences—straight, gay, the color of your skin—everyone is dancing together to the same beat. That’s one of the thoughts behind Sensation.”
Sensation: Ocean of White October 5, 6:30 p.m., $154-$254. MGM Grand Garden, 891-7777. Note: Only those 21 and over and dressed in white will be admitted.