Sensation touches down in America on Halloween weekend, bringing some 25,000 all-white wearing revelers to Brooklyn's shiny new cultural touchstone, the Barclays Center.
The crowd will be heading, on Friday and Saturday nights, to take part in a long-running ritual of celebration. Sensation, the global dance event put on by ID&T, is a party which places the emphasis on environments, visuals and performance. That's a departure from many of groups that would, at first glance, be in Sensation's peer group. Though Festivals from Electric Daisy Carnival to Ultra Music Festival are also heavy on LED walls, fireworks and stage production, they essentially focus on the headliners -- culled from a relatively small selection that runs from trance heavyweights like Armin van Buuren to progressive house party rockers like Afrojack.
Sensation flips the script by creating shows that tour the world with DJs that swap in and out. In a sense, it's a bit more Cirque du Soleil than Coachella. The show that's landing in New York is called Innerspace, and has already toured much of the world. Both nights at Barclays sold out before a line-up was announced. On Friday, perennial Sensation DJ Mr. White is joined by Dennis Ferrer, Fedde le Grand, Joris Voorn and Nic Fanciulli -- hardly a Skrillex affair. (Saturday: New York legend Danny Tenaglia joins Mr. White, le Grand, 2000 and One and Mark Knight.)
In interviews with The Huffington Post, ID&T's co-founder and CEO Duncan Stutterheim and Live Nation president Jason Miller explained their vision for the events as a mature breath of fresh air for a scene that has been accused of being a one-note fad that's about to burst.
"I think we both shared the same point of view which was that we have an upscale, sophisticated event that is really geared toward adults," Miller said. "Young adults, but adults nonetheless."
That's another way Sensation will distinguish its brand from other big league raves in the United States, which are usually all-ages. Stutterheim says Innerspace is among the best work ID&T has ever put on.
"The total cost of the show is about $2.5 million," he said. "That's excluding then the research and development we are putting into one show. Because we do 22 of them, we have budgets for 22 shows. Usually you do one party and you only have budget for one event. But now we can say, 'Let's put some big time money in investments.' We invested a lot in balls which go up and down with really high speed. That system never existed, we [created] that whole system. And that's only possible because we do 22 of them."
Attendees must wear white to be admitted into the venue, a rule that hearkens back 12 years to the first Sensation. Stutterheim's brother Miles died in a car accident shortly before the event, so Duncan asked that everyone wear white as guests did at MIles' funeral. Ever since, the event has always attempted to maintain that balance of emotional depth and celebration.
As for their American plans, both Miller and Stutterheim said New York's Innerspace is intended as the break-out moment. When asked if he felt the weekend's festivities are "test case" for more U.S. dates, Stutterheim said "You can take away the word 'test.' We definitely want to travel within the U.S. with this."
Though Stutterheim anticipated putting on two to four American events in 2013, both executives said they didn't know which other cities are in play.
"This is a very important moment I think for the United States, North America in dance music," Miller said. "I think the entry of this particular brand and this particular experience, which is unique to pretty much anything else that's out there, is exciting and people wanna be a part of it."
The spectacle promises something new. What remains to be seen, however, is whether or not American dance music fans -- who are stereotyped as hungering for bassdrop-heavy and bleepy "rage" tracks -- are ready.