This year, the team at EDM.com is proud to publish four installments of “Best of 2020” coverage: Industry Leaders, Performances, Music Producers, and Songs.
With no venues to perform at in 2020, it seemed at times as if artists simply blindfolded their eyes, threw a dart at a map, and travelled to places to perform—locations that are usually pipe dreams. However, due to the dogged fury of COVID-19 and the surge of streaming, these pie-in-the-sky destinations became the new norm for DJs who wanted to connect with fans in the absence of tours.
To honor their creativity and seminal influences on the live music industry, we’ve recognized ten of the year’s best performances in dance music.
RÜFÜS DU SOL
Live from Joshua Tree
Filmed in late 2019 and released in March 2020, RÜFÜS DU SOL’s “Live from Joshua Tree” short film saw the group perform their beloved debut album SOLACE in the eerily empty, mesmeric setting of California’s sprawling Joshua Tree National Park. It is also where the group wrote most of the album, lending a special significance to the location and its spellbinding sunset allure, which proved to be an ideal backdrop for one of the year’s most memorable audiovisual performances.
Every October, the EDM community clamors in anticipation of RL Grime‘s yearly Halloween mix. This year’s edition, however, was one of his most stunning to date. Boasting his signature blend of thunderous trap and haunting bass music, a jaw-dropping tracklist, and dumbfounding features from T-Pain, Jake Foushee and R.L. Stine, “Halloween IX” sunk its teeth in and never let go. The electrifying set, which was livestreamed, also doubled as a quasi-horror film with a dazzling visual spectacle featuring zombies, hellbent robots, and bizarre monsters.
Secret Sky Festival
Porter Robinson‘s seminal Secret Sky proved to be one of the most momentous virtual music festivals of the COVID-19 epoch. While Robinson’s set was certainly one to remember, the EDM community lost its collective mind when Madeon took the decks. The French electronic music wunderkind, who was recently nominated for his first Grammy Award for his sophomore album Good Faith, dropped a hypnotic cyclone of a set while ensconced in a never-ending supercollider of polychromatic lasers and visual effects. It felt like a fever dream you never wanted to leave.
Charlotte de Witte
‘New Form’ II: Return To Nowhere
In summer 2020, Charlotte de Witte descended on Gravensteen, a medieval castle in Ghent, for a riveting techno set. There was perhaps no better stage for the Belgian electronic music superstar, as she went on to drop a kinetic, spine-chilling set flanked by the castle’s towering walls. Her gothic-styled techno and house production served to take her viewers back in time, if not to a parallel universe where techno was the official music of the counts of the 13th century.
Live from Grand Canyon Skywalk (Coke Studio Sessions)
Despite being unable to play for live crowds for the vast majority of the year, dance music’s innovators still broke boundaries, taking EDM where it’s never gone before. Kaskade, who performed a DJ set atop the Grand Canyon Skywalk, is one such artist. With his gripping performance, the dance music vet proved that DJs don’t necessarily need the crowds to deliver an awe-inspiring show. The landmark provided a backdrop of immeasurable beauty as Kaskade serenaded viewers through a mesmerizing sunset performance ripe with lush melodies and immaculate mixing.
World’s First Underwater DJ Set (Digital Mirage)
Contrary to popular belief, Chet Porter proved that it is indeed possible for an artist to play a set underwater. The renowned producer had to be especially creative in his setup for Digital Mirage, creating a custom acrylic case for the occasion in order to protect his equipment. He snorkeled his way through a vibrant, quirky, and engaging electronic set, communicating with fans via handwritten messages along the way. Porter’s set represents an ideal example of the creative boundaries that dance music artists refuse to shy away from, and shattering them in an effort to make up for the lost experiences of live concerts.
IF MALCOLM X WAS A DJ
BLVK JVCK’s blistering “IF MALCOLM X WAS A DJ” performance back in July was not only one of the hardest sets of the year, but also functioned as a conduit for the fight against racial injustice. Along with his ferocious fusion of dubstep and trap music, he delivered a powerful message streaming for Insomniac‘s “One Beat” series while raising funds for the Los Angeles Urban League. Spinning from a vacant home in Miami, BLVCK JVCK dropped a captivating DJ set that ultimately proved to be one of the year’s most memorable.
Subsidia Mix 2020 (Lost Lands’ Couch Lands)
Only Excision could deliver superhero movie-like digital effects to a livestreamed performance. Once again setting the bar for stage production and visuals, Excision’s “Subsidia Mix 2020” live set from Lost Lands‘ Couch Lands stream was a technical tour de force, reminding the bass music community why he holds the throne. While the performance represented another cutting-edge, bone-crushing annual mix from Excision, it also served as the first taste of Subsidia, his flagship record label that introduced the EDM world to a new bass music utopia.
Nora En Pure
Purified 200 in Gstaad, Switzerland
Back in June, Nora En Pure took streaming to new heights when she performed a scintillating DJ set in the mountains of Gstaad, Switzerland. Celebrating the 200th episode of her Purified Radio show, the deep house dynamo touched down in the Swiss Alps for a dreamy set that hearkened back to the halcyon days of pre-pandemic yesteryear. Perhaps no dance music producer was more fitting to perform in such an atmosphere, as En Pure’s ambrosial sound provided the perfect soundtrack for a set that echoed throughout the cavernous, idyllic glacial setting.
Camo & Krooked
Red Bull Symphonic
There’s so much more to drum & bass than, well, drums and bass. Camo & Krooked‘s Red Bull Symphonic show in Vienna, Austria was one of the best performances any fan of electronic music could witness. Performing alongside legendary conductor and composer Christian Kolonovits and the Max Steiner Orchestra, the fabled drum & bass duo stunned attendees by offering a rich, intense, and emotive concert with the help of an 80-piece orchestra. Camo & Krooked’s groundbreaking marriage of drum & bass with classical music and performance will stand the test of time as one of grace and trailblazing creativity.
Elderbrook: Live from the Aquarium
SVDDEN DEATH: VOYD EDC Virtual Rave-a-Thon Set
Ben Böhmer: Live Above Cappadocia in Turkey for Cercle
Nina Kraviz: Cyberpunk 2077
ZHU: Billings Locomotive (Tito’s Made To Order Festival 2020)
SLANDER: EYE Tour LA
Knower: Secret Sky Festival
Sub Focus b2b Dimension b2b Culture Shock b2b 1991: UKF On Air – Bassrush x WORSHIP
San Holo: Digital Mirage (World’s First Ever Slow Motion DJ Set)
Lane 8: Sunrise Set – Grand Lake, CO