DJ Tiesto perfected his trippy trances in the clubs of his native Netherlands
He is known to push the envelope with his arrangements, and on Sunday, Sept. 18, he’s taking over the Onondaga County Convention Center as a part of “Tiesto’s Club Life College Invasion Tour.”
Not only is the Club Life College Invasion one of the largest dance music productions in the country, it focuses on college students with their hip musical sensibilities. “American and Canadian college students have always played an important role in the development of musical acts and genres,” Tiesto says via email from his tour. “I hope that this tour helps to establish dance music in the same way.”
It helps that the disc-spinning legend also throws college students the tasty kickback of discounted ticket prices. He may be in his 40s now, twice the age of his core audience, but he still understands college-age budgets so he offers tickets at a wide range of prices. Be warned, however, that seeing Tiesto perform live is not to be confused with going to a club where the DJ is tucked away behind a corner table or cloaked by dark ambiance. This is hardly a glorified bar scene. In addition to their ears, Tiesto also engages his fans’ eyes through light shows, pyrotechnics and floods of color.
“The experience is going to be an unforgettable one,” he promises. “The epic production and visuals at my shows on this tour are made using the most stateof-the-art technology. It’ll be something that the fans have never seen before.” There’s no need for group dynamics or a singer’s schtick to make his musical point. Tiesto has spent decades perfecting the art of transporting listeners by using sound, chroma and light.
The key is collaboration. By mastering the art of fusion, Tiesto brings new meaning to musical harmony. After he developed his house style spinning for schoolmates and clubs in his native Netherlands during the 1980s, he sampled from the most metallic and mechanical music he could find. European nightclub tracks were about as warm and fuzzy as a David Lynch film and Tiesto’s crafty experiments earned him attention from Chemo and Coolman Records, sub-labels of Netherlands-based Noculan Records, in 1994.
His natural instinct for layering succulent clips of vocals over rib-rattling bass gave rise to a fresh take on techno. Electronic hybrids of pop hits were suddenly more about building bridges than bastardizing other artists’ efforts. With every song, Tiesto reaches for polar opposite sounds and pulls them together. As for what he considers fair game for incorporation, the question isn’t what captures his attention, but rather, what doesn’t?
“I’m inspired by a lot of things and I’m always looking to get inspiration from everything around me,” he says. “The culture in each of the cities I play in is a great source of inspiration, but I also find it in music, art, cinema and people that I meet and see.”
Keeping an open ear and being versatile has brought Tiesto into collaboration with artists like David Bowie, Nelly Furtado and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Treating music genres as elements creates endless possibilities for mixing Karen O’s hyper drive vocals over sinuous cymbals. His remix of Moby’s “We Are All Made of Stars” in 2003 created an opportunity for the two artists to travel on the same tour.
The idea of a solo DJ concert skyrocketed that year. Tiesto’s grandiose productions sold out time and again as audiences became addicted to the experience.
Before the 2004 summer Olympic Games in Athens started, Tiesto’s reputation caught the attention of planning committees who invited him to contribute.
He tuned into classical string clips and churned out several tracks for the opening ceremony. It was one of many globally minded projects the DJ has tackled.
Others include the HIV/AIDS awareness initiatives Dance4Life, Schools4Life and a benefit concert for victims of the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean.
Tiesto’s recent work extended to rapper Busta Rhymes and dubstep artist Diplo in the song “C’Mon.” The powerlifting sound of dubstep has surged to the surface in the past two years, attracting even pop princess Britney Spears to incorporate the genre’s signature grating bass into her flirty numbers. In reality, dubstep is electronica on steroids, and Tiesto knows the art of electronica as intimately as his own heartbeat.
“My approach has always been the same. I put my passion into producing music and try to bring that music to as many people as I can,” he says. “The sound has naturally progressed over the years as I am inspired by different things, but the approach has not and will not change.”
As Tiesto’s expertise reaches a new generation, his podcast, “Tiesto’s Club Life,” lends its name to the college tour. His latest material appealed to sponsors like Sony PlayStation, Armani Exchange and Heineken. Tracks that draw from diverse genres entice diverse audiences, and Tiesto’s no-holds-barred repertoire makes his music some of the most universally magnetic in the world. If you’re a fan of music, he’s probably used something you dig to season a dozen morsels from other genres.
The laws of attraction and lack of rules are fundamental to the college market and even younger audiences. Porter Robinson, Tiesto’s 19-year-old tourmate and something of a prodigy, joins him on the Invasion Tour. The North Carolina native’s stainless steel arrangements came to Tiesto’s attention in Canada.
Robinson’s hit “Say My Name” features distorted synth licks and sporadic vocals blended into more than six minutes of trance-dance. With neon Nikes and acidwash jeans back in vogue thanks to bands like Neon Trees and Foster the People, Robinson’s budding success is a sign of the next generation taking up the turntables.
Just as Pink Floyd created a multi-sensory experience with the 1980 to 1981 tour in support of the 1979 album The Wall, “Tiesto’s Club Life College Invasion Tour” understands the visual elements that set performances apart from the average night on the town. For those who missed out on the theatrical antics of psychedelic rock’s heyday, Tiesto brings a fullbodied, futuristic breed of show to the table. Expect something far more intricate than a sea of glow sticks. When Tiesto invades, his iPhone safely in hand, he ventures beyond black lights and strobes.
Doors to the Convention Center, 800 S. State St., open at 7 p.m. on show night. Tickets are $37, $47 and $100 for VIP access to drinks and food for ages 21 and older. They can be purchased at the Oncenter box office, 800 S. State St.; Sound Garden, 310 W. Jefferson St.; at upstateshows.com or by calling 435-2121.