As I donned my white… everything and inhaled a slice of pizza to wash down my afternoon at Summersalt Festival with K Theory and friends, all I could think about how amazing, dare I say… sensational… this all-white party was going to be.
I met with my photographer, Bailey Greenwood, downtown and we rode a BART out of the city and toward Oakland. She rode, I napped, side-by-side on the Fremont-bound line as it slid under the warm water of the San Francisco Bay toward Sensation: Ocean of White at Oakland’s Oracle Arena.
They made Bailey change from black leggings into to white leggings, like I told her they would, and we returned to the entrance only to be told to circle around the stadium and wait to be escorted in by security along with some of our other media friends and colleagues. After a short wait, we were corralled inside and onto a platform on which all cameras and camera-like devices had to remain, situated near one of the two bridges connected to the 360-degree, rotating stage. After visiting the bar, I took a moment to appreciate the lengths to which ID&T goes to create an immersive environment.
The neon, dream-like atmosphere, although breathtaking, was pretty much along the lines of what I was anticipating: on another level from US decor entirely. The strict nature with which the security enforced the dress code paid off in spades when the crowd began to meld with the stunning atmosphere of floating white orbs and jellyfish filling the arena. My money says its the first time a jellyfish made an appearance at any event in Oakland without being greeted with, “gross! Kill that motherf*cker! Kill it!”
So Bailey and I waited patiently, quarantined in the $13 cocktail media pen, as the central stage sat empty and the clock approached 8 p.m. and white-covered bodies began to flood into the floor and the stadium seating surrounding the circular stage.
I killed some time with Jason and Dillon of Resound Magazine in Berkeley, a student-run publication, and offered them some of my less publicly known live coverage tactics and overall survival advice for representing the media at one of these things. Suddenly, a low rumble crept across the stage, then was mimicked by the crowd, anticipating the beginning of the show. Explosions went off on stage, momentarily illuminating the sea of white bodies while a voice said: “Welcome to Sensation.” The inaugural West Coast Ocean of White party was underway.
Jets of water erupted from the two connecting platforms spanning the gap to the central stage along with a series of fireworks. At this point, this party had already outdone four out of five festivals I’d been to in recent memory on theatrics alone. The famed icon of the long-time European festival brand, Mr. White, raised a hand, and we were off. He clapped overhead and surveyed the crowd as his booth rotated slowly, counter-clockwise, and beams of white light bent and peeked around his head and between his outstretched fingers.
Two sets of brunette quintuplets headed down the walkways toward Mr. White’s smiling face behind the spinning booth, breathing bubbles across the crowd. As they approached Mr. White, they blew a large cloud of bubbles in his direction, which clouded his face as he continued to work the crowd into the frenzy we’ve been hearing about from Sensation parties.
The fountains, dancers, fans, pyrotechnics, and of course, Mr. White, all got down into a real groove for the next hour or so, as I took note of the production value reaching new heights in their sum total.
After enjoying the entertaining Mr. White and company, Bailey and I made our way down the hall backstage, insisting to numerous disjointed security points that we were being expected and not simply wandering. While waiting in a dressing room drinking Redbull and Vodka from a champagne flute with Vibe’s team of reporters, Bailey and I were approached by a very official-looking Sensation official.
“Now, when he comes in, absolutely no pictures, and no personal questions, ok?” she told us, switching her gaze from Bailey to me and back to Bailey again with her suspicious looking camera.
“I thought there was two of them,” I replied, assuming she was referring to our scheduled chat with Prok & Fitch. “And we’ve been cleared to shoot in here, as well.”
“Thanks!” She answered, already headed over to the entryway where a mysterious figure was being ushered in. Mr. White himself emerged from the crowd, sat down at a chair in front of a mirror in the adjoined bathroom legs crossed, and a makeup artist began removing his namesake from his face, head, and neck.
“Hmmm… ‘no personal questions…’ I can handle that!” I imagined. “I mean, everyone knows his face and body isn’t really white, right? I won’t crush any dreams, I don’t think.”
“So, where you from, Mr. White?” I asked.
“You know I can’t tell you that, man,” he replied, smirking at me out of the corner of his eye as the makeup artist peeled off his white bald-cap.
“OK, fair enough,” I said. “So, what’s your personal favorite genre? You know, when you can play absolutely anything you want.”
“Mmm… house and tech house, mostly,” he said.
“Nice. And you’ve seen a ton of these, I’ll assume. What should we expect for the rest of the night?”
He turned his head and smiled up at me, forcing the makeup artist to pause and listen in, and said, “Be prepared to be amazed.”
“Sh*t! Alright, then. Will do. Thanks for your time.” We parted ways with a handshake, and he even gave me some white paint along with it to take home.
By now, the Vibe team had wrapped up their interview with Prok & Fitch, and LT3 was up.
“So how long til you guys go on?” I asked my new friends Ben Prok and James Fitch from Brighton.
“About a half hour,” they answered in unison, as they made themselves comfortable in the chairs in front of the Sensation-branded backdrop in the locker room-turned-green room, still occupied by the four of us, plus Mr. White, and his makeup artist.
What up, Mr. White. You still chillin’?”
With a thumbs-up from the makeup chair and a laugh from the four of us, I asked, “So did you guys have any other shows while in The States, or is this your reason for coming out?”
“Just for this. And we’re leaving tomorrow, going straight to Ibiza,” Prok said. “Yeah, this is our first Sensation, so we’ve been putting in a lot of work on this, and it’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time.”
“You’ve never done one in Europe?”
“No, never. This is our first one.”
“Wow, that’s kind of ironic.”
Well, this has been going on for how many years? 10? And your first-ever performance will be not in the EU but the US, and in California, no less.”
“Yeah, it couldn’t be any further away,” Fitch laughed.
“So have you done anything cool so far while in California? Besides this, obviously.”
“Probably sleep,” they answered in unison.
“I understand that. Are you staying in Oakland?”
“Yeah,” they said.
“Oh. Well, try and make it to the City while you’re here.”
“San Fran’s tight, man. Last time we were here, we went for a couple days. We went to Alcatraz, had some crab.”
“So you guys just put out a track on Toolroom with The Cube Guys. What was that like?”
“It was good, man. It was kind of done over the Internet because obviously they live in Italy, and we originally had an idea for a track, and they had a remixed for our label last year, and the deal was we would do a collab with them in return, originally for their label, but the way the track turned out, it just made more sense to put it on Toolroom. We’re doing a lot of stuff with them at the moment, and it’s great, man. They’re a perfect label.”
The guys told me about their upcoming tracks on a big Toolroom Knights compilation due out in November, and after making note, I bid the newest Knights farewell and safe travels before heading back out to the press area.
We were greeted by a string of Sensation girls tiptoeing the outer rim of the fountain pond from both sides. After taking in the production and amazing stage effects for a bit, Prok & Fitch took the stage, and brought the energy they warned me about but an hour earlier.
The Brighton boys beat down the crowd with beat after beat, including some classics like Fatboy Slim’s Star 69 as floating orbs and jellyfish pulsated with the rhythm, and the fountains erupted again. The water effects were being cued at extremely precise moments, so props to the stage team yet again.
With elements like a flying man with a pyrotechnic exoskeleton and beautiful women dancing with the fountains, the theatrics stole the show.
When Fedde le Grand made it out onto the confetti-covered stage, the sea of white became turbulent with energy. The synchronized wet T-shirt contest continued as Fedde proceeded to pummel the white-filled population from his spinning pulpit of pounding electro house as he orbited slowly. Granting the wishes of every guy in the building, the girls removed their tanks and wrang them out above their heads in sync.
Although breathtaking in spectacle, the music overall left something to be desired from a party on this level. After hearing Breach’s Jack served up four or five different ways, and recalling one of the acts playing a Fedde track just before he was to come on, I rounded up my team to beat traffic over the Bay Bridge and back into SF.
Thank you, ID&T, for a great night–a brilliant display of creativity and theme execution with ample room to improve in the lineup area. I’ll definitely be at the next one.